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25+ Local Eats and Drinks in El Dorado County and Foothills

02/23/2016 04:50PM ● Published by David Norby

With a bounty of restaurants in our region that offer every type of cuisine at every price point, the hardest part when dining out is deciding where to go and what to order. Thankfully, for the second year in a row, Style staffers put their taste buds together and compiled over 25 of their favorite local dishes and libations. Next time you’re in a bind about what’s for B, L or D (breakfast, lunch or dinner), let the handy-dandy list below be your guide. In no particular order

 The mixologists at The Independent Restaurant and Bar make a pretty mean cocktail, but if I had to choose just one, it would be the Gran Picard. House-infused earl grey vodka is paired with Gran Classico, and then mixed with guava purée, fresh lemon and organic agave nectar. A final float of sparkling wine makes it, literally, buzz-worthy. For some sustenance, the Ahi Niçoise Salad fits the bill every time. Fresh, seared tuna sits over mixed greens studded with fried capers, new potatoes, hard-boiled egg, string beans and tomatoes. A touch of sweetness in the scratch-made honey balsamic vinaigrette provides the perfect complement to the salad’s salty flavors. $13.50 (salad), $10 (cocktail)

 A day of wine tasting in Amador County should always include a visit to the always fresh, always flavorful, Amador Vintage Market. My go-to order is the Miner’s Reuben—grilled focaccia bread (the freshest I’ve ever tasted) piled high with shaved beef pastrami, pepper jack cheese, bread-and-butter-pickled onions (made in house) and grain mustard. Eaten with their house-made potato chips, it’s everything a lunch should be—comforting, filling and tasty—plus more. If time is of the essence, they have an online ordering form, but the establishment is so charming you might just want to stay awhile. $7.95

I don’t think people know how lucky we are to have Pupusas in Cameron Park. The quickest way to describe the Salvadorean delight to call it a meat-and-cheese-stuffed corn tortilla—thick but still flat. Fernando’s Costa Del Sol’s take on the savory, Central American snack is better than the pupuserias in San Francisco’s Mission District. $2 (a la carte with Salvadorean cabbage), $9 (two pupusas, rice, beans and Salvadorean cabbage)

If Z Pie is ever out of their Rosemary Lamb Pie, I cry a little. New Zealand lamb, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, green beans, pearl onions, balsamic reduction, rosemary and mint come together beneath a flaky crust. This seemingly newfangled joint has been around since the nineties and, based on the steady stream of patrons, is here to stay. $8.85

 The Landy Pizza at Umi Sushi fuses my two favorite foods—pizza and sushi—into one mouthwatering meal. Atop a large, crispy “chip” (sliced into individual pieces), you’ll find spicy tuna, zingy lemon, jalapeño, avocado, masago, eel sauce and spicy mayo. Named after the owner’s wife, this hands-on, chopsticks-free creation is equal parts pretty as it is palatable. $12.50

The folks at The Farm Table know their meats, so when Pork Belly is on their menu, it’s always my first choice. The chef braises the pasture-raised pork until it reaches fall-apart tenderness and richness under the crispy pork belly skin. Close your eyes to savor the first bite, but don’t forget the included sides of creamy Potato-Parsnip Gratin and sautéed Winter Greens. $22

After a day of wine tasting, there’s nothing I’d rather eat than the Risotto Carciofo at Gold Vine Grill in Somerset. The namesake carciofo, which translates to artichoke, is the dish’s star, with plenty of the meaty vegetables dotted throughout. Earthy mushrooms and tender chicken also make an appearance in the warm, elegant comfort food favorite. $17.95

 Sweetie Pie’s has been on the map for some time now, and their Ollalieberry Pie is always one of the most talked-about dishes. A cross between a loganberry (mix of blackberry and raspberry) and a youngberry (mix of blackberry and dewberry), the purple-hued fruit tastes like nectar. Found in multiple offerings at the establishment (pancakes, jam, etc.), my eye is always on the pie. A buttery, flakey crust serves as the perfect vessel for the filling, while a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream ties the dessert (or breakfast…I’m not judging) together in perfect pie harmony. $4.99 (slice), $1.25 extra for a la mode, $16.99 (whole pie)

As a self-proclaimed vodka sauce connoisseur, I can confidently say that Papa Gianni’s Ristorante makes one of the best. Rich in seasoning, the balance of cream to tomato to vodka is spot on; it’s like liquid gold. I could honestly eat it by the spoonful and be satisfied, but it’s even better ladled into the house-made penne found in their Pasta alla Vodka. Now that’s amore! $14.50

Good sandwiches are few and far between, but the Hang Loose at Mr. Pickles is one of my favorites. The marriage of hot pastrami, bacon, cream cheese and avocado is one that my taste buds will never fall out of love with. Crunchy, creamy, meaty and filling, you’ll need to tuck your napkin into your collar for this one: It’s going to get messy. $8.49

 The first time I tasted brie, my eyes went wide, my stomach smiled and I seriously (almost) ate the entire wheel; so when I spotted a Baked Brie Bruschetta on Snooty Frog’s menu recently, I knew I had to indulge. Toasted bread is served alongside the creamy cheese, apricot preserves and walnuts. Sweet, salty and crunchy, it hits every flavor and texture note in perfect harmony. $8.95

Even though I’m on the “see food” diet, I do love a good seafood dish and the Pan Roasted Halibut from Henry’s Steakhouse is one of the better fish offerings out there. The fresh, firm and delicate-tasting halibut is given a light char before being ladled with a wine-herb reduction. Served alongside pea and potato hash and an heirloom tomato confit, it’s well balanced and healthy while still appeasing my appetite. $38

 Cascada offers a lot of ways to enjoy fresh Mexican food, but the Pollo Invierno is my favorite. Chipotle cream sauce covers chicken and mushrooms served alongside fresh veggies and cilantro rice. It may not be completely guilt-free, but who cares…it’s good! $15.95

A pint of Steampunk Strong (malty, toffee-like flavors with a hint of caramel) and a Poke Bowl from Cool Beerwerks is all I need to abate my hangriness. The microbrewery’s new partnership with Kuru Sushi and Poke Bar is one that I hope lasts a lifetime. Pick your protein (tuna, salmon, shrimp or tofu) and sauce (sesame, soy, ponzu or spicy pepperfin) and let the cooks work their magic. You can even add in additional toppings for an extra chunk of change. $8.95 (small poke), $12.95 (large poke), $5 (pint)

On a chilly evening, nothing is better than takeout with a side of Netflix. The Pad Thai at Thai Unique is scrumptious both dining in and taken to-go, as they package their silky rice noodles in foil to keep them moist, along with fresh lime, chopped peanuts and crunchy bean sprouts to mix once you get home. Partner with your couch and a pair of chopsticks for guaranteed comfort. $10.95

 Bricks Eats and Drinks Sweet Potato Planks (served with buttermilk ranch that’s good enough to eat by the spoonful) are perhaps even a smidgen better than their already delicious French fries. Generous, freshly cut slabs of sweet potato create a savory, satisfying treat, as a side or all on their own. Paired with the namesake Brickface cocktail—which is a tasty blend of Jack Single Barrel, amaretto, orange curacao, SoCo and lime—is the recipe for a fun, albeit drunken, night. $6.95 (planks), $10 (cocktail)

For lunch, you can’t beat the Beef and Bleu Sandwich from Two Cooks on Main, an eatery that reminds me of walking into Gram’s house. Upon biting into the grilled roll that’s smeared with just-enough mayo, you’ll be greeted with crisp green leaf lettuce, roast beef, roasted garlic and pungent blue cheese. It’s a combo of flavors that works in all kinds of amazing ways. Plus, the sub is served with chips and—to clean your palate—an orange slice. These namesake two cooks definitely know a thing or two about appeasing appetites! $9.50, 530-626-6546

 You can never go wrong with the pizzas at Sauce’d Pizza and Cocktail House in El Dorado Hills, but the Garlic Wild Mushroom Pizza is what food was meant to be: lush, earthy and wholesome. Crimini and portabella mushrooms lend just the right amount of meatiness to this veggie delicacy, while sharp arugula, sweet scallions and rich truffle oil finish up the ensemble, making for a sublime supper. $14.95 (medium), $21.95 (large)

For dinner, I love Pizza Bene’s Carnivoro Pizza (pepperoni, salami, sausage, mozzarella) and their House Salad (onions, olives, pepperoncini, heirloom tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles, walnuts and your choice of house-made dressing). All of the ingredients are beyond fresh and everything is made from scratch; plus, the pizza is done in true Napoletana-style—using unbleached, all-purpose flour, which results in a thin doughy crust that’s brick-fired in a 750-degree oven (hello, perfect char). Bellissimi! $18 (12-inch pizza), $27 (16-inch pizza), $7 (small salad), $12 (large salad)

Paying homage to the region, the friendly folks at Shilla Teriyaki & Sushi Bar have a special (and rather mouthwatering) roll on their menu: the Apple Hill. Filled with deep-fried shrimp and crabmeat, the exterior is topped with scallops, avocado and special sauce. Fresh, huge and beautifully presented, this roll—and the owner’s hospitality—brightens the greyest of days and fills the emptiest of stomachs. $10.95, 530-644-5047

 The Ramos Deluxe Nachos (add shredded beef) from Casa Ramos rival any I’ve had south of the border. Freshly fried chips are piled high with melted cheddar cheese, jalapeños, salsa, green onions, sour cream, guacamole and your choice of beans (refried, black or rancho). Shared with a friend, alongside a top shelf margarita, and you’ll enter the gates of Mexican food heaven! $8.99 (add $1.59 for meat)

I have a special place in my heart for a good burger—one that boasts a juicy, well-seasoned patty, soft bun that’s lightly buttered and toasted, fresh fillings, melty cheese…you get the picture—and The Exception at Hop House fits the bill every time. The aforementioned qualities are all there, while the addition of a fried egg and crispy bacon make it far from being basic. Do yourself a favor and order the House Made Potato Chips, too—they come with your burger and are out of this world. $13.99

I love the sweetness of the fruit on the Pear & Gorgonzola Pizza at Wally’s Pizza Bar. Mixed with the sharp cheese and topped off with peppery arugula—all atop a thin, cracker-like crust—it beats your basic pepperoni pie any day of the week. They serve up some tasty local brews and have various events throughout the week, too, making Wally’s a great place to gather. $12 (personal), $18 (medium), $24 (large)

 Fish & Chips is my go-to order when it comes to pub grub, and 36 Handles’s customizable version is the best around. With a batter that’s light and delicate but still crispy, the flavor of the fresh fish really shines through. Pick between traditional or panko batter and salmon, cod or haddock to truly make it your own! Paired with a pint of Boddingtons Pub Ale, tasty tartar sauce and thick-cut, salty fries, this meal transports me across the pond without a passport. $13 (cod), $14 (haddock), $15 (salmon), $5 (pint)

You never feel cheated from a full meal when you order the Roasted Butternut Squash Salad from Heyday Café, which comes atop a bed of fresh spinach, with meaty bacon crumbles, toasted almonds and crisp red onion, all tossed with their homemade brown sugar cider vinaigrette. Rumor has it this winning combination will be topping their signature thin crust pizza soon! $13.50

The Salted Caramel Cookie Sandwich from Selland’s Market-Café is amazing! Two caramel-flavored cookies are held together with a caramel cream filling before being sprinkled with sea salt. The juxtaposition of sweet and salty is a match made in dessert heaven. Warning: These confections are so good you’ll start craving them morning, noon and night. $1.75 (each), $20 (dozen)

 When brunch beckons, the Country Eggs Benedict (served with home-style potatoes) at California Kitchen heeds the call with a hearty portion and plenty of down-home flavors. A buttery biscuit is topped with country-fried steak, two perfectly poached eggs (i.e. smoth, unbroken yokes with creamy whites), and a splattering of country gravy that’s stick-to-your-ribs good and worth every calorie. $12.99, 530-622-7500

I can’t get enough of the Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich at Cameron Park Coffee and Deli. It’s the ultimate guilty pleasure sub—spicy, roasted jalapeños mixed with melted pepper jack, cheddar and cream cheese on buttery, grilled-to-perfection Truckee sourdough. Their Carrot Cake Muffin is also a fav. Surprisingly it’s gluten-free (which you’d never be able to tell) and made fresh in-house every morning using quality ingredients. Moist and lightly spiced, these muffins are a perfect way to rise and shine. $5.50 (sandwich), $3 (muffin), 530-350-8146 

 There are so many favorites to be had at Allez!—from authentically French escargot and a crab cake sandwich on fresh baguette, to tarts of every type (fruit, lemon and chocolate, oh my!)—but the Paella is unlike any other, and my absolute fav. Studded with shrimp, chicken, Andouille sausage and veggies, with herbs and spices that work in perfect harmony with the saffron rice, it’s the ideal meal morning, noon or night. $14  

Photos by Dante Fontana © Style Media Group

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