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Because Missing Out Is Never Fun!

Fresh Freeze

Follow the arrows to YUM!

Fresh Freeze
3023 F Street
Eureka, CA

I love, love, love a good diner when I’m travelling.  How can you go wrong with a burger and a malt?  You can’t.

I stuck to all-American cuisine during a recent visit to Humboldt County since the week leading up to my trip was full of Asian and Mexican food.  I love both, but needed a break; and when I happened upon an old-fashioned diner that could have been plucked right out of the 1950s, I knew I was in luck.

Clue #1: Big sign out front.  HUGE, in fact.  And lit with neon!  I treasured my parking spot right next to it.

Clue #2: Lots of locals in line, many of whom called in their orders.  These people could be trusted.

Clue #3: Both kids and adults with sky-high dipped cones.  The kind you stare at if only to catch a glimpse of that first bite which could easily turn into a disappointing battle against gravity.

I ordered my Cheeseburger, Onion Rings and Rocky Road Malt (WHAT!) and got comfy in a booth.  Stomach growling, the wait was a little painful, but surely rewarding.

“Cheeseburger” was a misnomer.  More appropriates names would be “Giant Cheeseburger”, “Colossal Cheeseburger”, “You Won’t Have Room for Onion Rings after Eating This Cheeseburger” or “No, Seriously… You Won’t Have Room for Onion Rings after Eating This Cheeseburger”.  Although full, I was shamed into finishing off those crunchy rings.

I always seem to have room for dessert, so that Rocky Road Malt?  No problemo.  Heavy on the malt powder, thick, sweet and crunchy from peanuts (an unexpected, delicious choice), it provided a tasty dip for my last onion ring.  Besides, you should never let a perfectly good vegetable go to waste…

Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant

Look familiar?
Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant
24505 West Dorris Avenue
Coalinga, CA

You see them for miles before catching your first glimpse of the restaurant: cows.  Lots of cows.  I’m talking thousands upon thousands of cows.

Let’s face it: travelling up and down Interstate 5 can become a little boring at times.  Harris Ranch is a nice break from boring.

Harris Ranch supplies grocery stores and restaurants with some of the tastiest beef around.  You can try it for yourself here at the Harris Ranch Restaurant, pick out your own steaks inside of the Country Store, or grab a few on your next visit to your grocer.

I made the unfortunate mistake of scarfing down a huge breakfast before hopping on the 5 this particular morning, so my digestive track was still in full effect as I pulled up to the ranch to stretch my legs.  Lucky for me, however, I’m never too full for sweets, and I located a bakery case in the Country Store chock full of fresh-baked cookies.

Life often presents difficult decisions: White Chocolate Macadamia or Toffee?  Snickerdoodles or Macaroons?  I pulled out a twenty-dollar bill and realized I didn’t have to choose!  I bought them all!  I figured I’d munch on one now and save the rest for the long drive home.

Well, you can guess how that turned out.  Fresh-baked cookies are almost always amazing.  These were tender, chewy, and not at all skimpy on the ingredients.  Thirty minutes later all four cookies had vanished.  I figured it was my reward for sparing a cow that day.

Rio City Cafe

Even better than it looks!

Rio City Cafe
1110 Front Street
Sacramento, CA

With a sepia-toned Instagram filter, any photo taken in Old Sacramento may very well trick the casual observer into thinking it was taken during the height of the gold rush - so long as Round Table Pizza isn't in the background.

In Old Sacramento you can buy taffy out of barrels, take horse-drawn carriage rides, and enjoy events like the annual Jazz Festival.  Plenty of scrumptious cuisine is also available, and I chose Rio City Cafe for a recent Sunday brunch with some pals.

We came for bottomless mimosas and bellinis, but stayed for the gorgeous weather.  Dining riverside in Sacramento can be a treat, and the view from the restaurant's cafe this particular morning was spectacular.  Sunlight bounced off the water and onto the H Street bridge, glistening in all its glory and capturing our attention until we noticed a boater violently bludgeoning something inside his boat.  We crossed our fingers and hoped it was a fish as our waitress approached.

Even that little episode couldn't deter me from my goal: a meal of gargantuan proportions.  I looked down and stared at my Crab Cakes Benedict with just the right amount on hollandaise sauce atop two crispy cakes.  English muffins sopped up the sauce, lightly garnished with tomato and green onion, and all the while my home fried potatoes and onions were largely neglected until then.  A side of fruit was completely ignored.  Sorry, melon slices!  I had to save precious stomach room for more bellinis.

Soon enough, I felt borderline comatose and the bludgeoning boater was nowhere to be found.  The next order of business was to stroll around Old Sac to work off some of the calories…or to find some taffy for dessert…

Splash Cafe

Here comes the lunch crowd (at 9:30am)...

Splash Cafe
197 Pomeroy Avenue
Pismo Beach, CA
Splash Cafe on Urbanspoon

Splash Café is located across the alley from another establishment that also serves clam chowder.

I feel sorry for the other place.

I’d read up on the café, and most articles suggested getting in line at breakfast time to enjoy hot chowder for lunch.

Although we’d just enjoyed a sugary carb bomb at Old West, we noticed a line starting to form around 9:30…and joined it.  Soon thereafter, while still waiting to order, the line grew, starting to snake around the building even before 10:00.

I ordered what 90% of the crowd was ordering: Chowder in a Bread Bowl.  An additional buck got me “extra seafood”, which proved to be a healthy portion of imitation crabmeat.  The steaming, creamy rich chowder arrived in a chewy bread bowl, and the “lid” of the bowl had been buttered and grilled to add a little crunch.  After a generous sprinkling of pepper, I gobbled it up as if I had just expended as many calories as the half-naked surfers in the room with me.

Finished and ready to explode, I proceeded out the door, vowing to eat nothing else for the rest of the day…and glad I’d worn loose clothing.

Al the Wop's

Old-school sign, old-school charm!

Al the Wop's
13943 Main Street
Locke, CA
Al's Place - Al the Wop's on Urbanspoon

Sometimes, I can’t believe what unfolds in front of my very eyes when I’m dining in a restaurant.

On the way back from the Isleton Crawdad Festival, my buddy and I stopped in Locke for a bite to eat.  Al the Wop’s had been on my list for a while for two reasons: providing an abbreviated menu of specialty steaks, burgers and pasta dishes that are raved about, as well as a questionable name I’m not sure should offend people.

One thing this restaurant is not is pretentious.  What you see is what you get.  What you see as you walk in is a typical locals’ bar with friendly bartenders who greet you as you walk in the door as they attend to boisterous bikers, locals and tourists.  What you get is a room toward the back where you can enjoy a nice little meal at an affordable price.

I guess I got the bonus plan on this particular visit.  In the middle of my juicy Al’s Burgers, grilled to perfection and piled high with tomato, lettuce and red onion, a couple walked in…and that’s when the show began.

They ordered salads and voiced their dissatisfaction with the types of dressing that were available.  They ordered pasta dishes, then complained yet again when those arrived.  They ordered an entire bottle of wine, then sent it back after two sips.  The manager was gracious enough to offer another bottle of their liking, and they balked after a few sips of the wine that they had picked out.

All the while, their server and her manager attempted to meet their every demand – with smiles on their faces.  No arguments, no eye-rolling.  The same server also made sure everything was going smoothly at our table, and I nodded happily as I shoved ketchup-laden French fries into my face.

Like I said, what you see is what you get.  A Michelin-rated restaurant this is not; but that’s fine.  Perfectly fine, in fact.  We left more than satisfied after wolfing down burgers, pasta and beer and tipped our server a little extra for her graciousness and to make up for the wine snobs who more than likely snubbed her.

Freeport Bar & Grill

My only suggestion?  Bigger spoons!

Freeport Bar & Grill
8259 Freeport Boulevard
Sacramento, CA
Freeport Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

You hear about "hidden gems" all the time, and this is certainly one of them.  Off the beaten path, you either pass it unintentionally, or are brought here by locals who know where to find some of the best ribs in the area.

Dress up.  Or don't.  Anything goes.  I arrived wearing jeans and a hoodie, and was outdressed by only one lady at the bar in a beaded outfit, obviously enjoying the happy hour libation specials.

I was told "everything is good here".  Really?  I immediately challenged that by ordering a bowl of Clam Chowder, which arrived with a light sprinkling of shredded Parmesan and a dusting of chopped green onions.  Green onions?  Seriously?  I dove right in, discovering a generous helping of whole clams (no minced junk here) and a thick, complex soup with a myriad of flavors I could not immediately identify.  Additionally, I was convinced that ALL chowders should be topped with green onions.  What a delicious touch!

Soon thereafter came an embarrassingly large platter of St. Louis Ribs, slathered with barbecue sauce and topped with a large handful of fried shoestring onions.  As if that weren't enough, it was accompanied by a baked potato in GOLD foil and a side of sour cream, again topped with green onions.  Fancy!

It was love at first bite.  Was the giant knife on the platter meant to be used to hack into that baked potato?  Clearly, the ribs needed no assistance as the the pork delicately slipped off the bone upon each bite.  They were smoky, sticky and tender...much like the lady at the bar.

Half an hour later, I spent a portion of my food coma pontificating whether country music was the only option on this karaoke night.  I decided to call it a night and not find out.

Blue Point Coastal Cuisine

Oysters' reproductive organs contain both eggs
and sperm.  Bon appetit!

Blue Point Coastal Cuisine
565 5th Street
San Diego, CA
Blue Point Coastal Cuisine on Urbanspoon

A funny thing happened while I was planning my last trip to San Diego: my cousin asked, "There's a place in the Gaslamp Quarter with $1 oysters during happy hour.  Wanna go?"

I had to chuckle since my answer to that question will always be "HELL YES" followed by "stop asking dumb questions".

So there we were, butts atop barstools shoveling order after order of oysters and jumbo shrimp (oh yeah, those were a buck apiece, too) into our mouths as if we hadn't eaten huge pancake breakfasts and deep-fried lunches already.  Every now and then we'd mix it up with some bread, but those juicy bivalves were the highlight.  Truth be told, we wanted to wait for the rest of our party to arrive before starting, but our 90-minute window was quickly shrinking!  At least that's what we told ourselves as we slurped from dozens of shells.

If I received a buck for every time we uttered, "Another order, my good man!" to our server, I would have used them on more oysters.  Or, perhaps, a bigger tip for our server for acting so condescending.

Firewood Restaurant

Burgers: appetizers for pizza.

Firewood Restaurant
420 Main Street
Murphys, CA
Firewood on Urbanspoon

Truth be told, I was a little leery of Firewood Restaurant on my first approach; I mean, the menu included everything from seafood pizzas to carnitas tacos to turkey burgers.  I thought, how could an establishment crank out Italian, American AND Mexican dishes with consistency in quality?  But after peeking in on what the diners were inhaling, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.

A buddy and I spent the previous couple of hours at beautiful Ironstone Vineyards, touring the grounds and taking in the beautiful scenery, and that kind of stuff always leaves me hungry.  I needed something carb-y, protein-y and substantial to keep me from dropping forty bucks on impulse purchases at the candy shop down the street.

My first choice had to be a huge slab of rare beef with loads of toppings, so their Bacon, Mushroom & Swiss Burger was an appropriate choice.  I noticed that pizzas with golded brown crusts were on nearly every table top, so we also chose the White & Green with fresh spinach, mozzarella, caramelized onions, and lots of roasted garlic in order to meet our daily requirement of vegetables (ha!).

At that point I was starving, so a wait of less than ten minutes seemed like an eternity.  When our order finally arrived, it was a feast for my eyes and my mouth.

Wood-fired pizza is special.  Its unique crust is crisp, chewy AND flavorful, reminding you that you’re not eating at Domino’s.  The fresh ingredients, specifically the roasted garlic and splash of lemon juice, took it over the top.  I inhaled a couple of slices before investing still-clean fingers in the juicy burger, dripping with melting cheese and tender, sliced mushrooms.  Crispy bacon?  Check.  Bloody beef as requested?  Yep.  I smirked at the fries that went largely ignored.

To-go boxes weren’t necessary.  I devoured half a burger along with half a pizza (less a slice or two – I swear!) and my buddy took care of the rest, saving our busser that much more trouble as he cleaned our table.  Aren’t we thoughtful?

Palace Saloon

It's a historical landmark, but do you
need more reasons to drink here?

Palace Saloon
353 Main Street
Ferndale, CA

Palace Saloon is more than a mere watering hole for tourists who just inhaled way too many free samples at nearby Loleta Cheese Factory.  It’s home to one of the best Amaretto Sours I’ve had in Humboldt County.

This drinkery with a Victorian façade bills itself as the most Westernly bar in the continental United States.  I’m too lazy to research whether that’s true or not, but it sounds cool!  What I do know is that the barkeep is genuinely friendly, the locals were gracious and engaging,  and my drink was heavy on the Amaretto.  Plus, the exterior of the building is super cute – which should attract chicks, right?

My visit took place the weekend of the Kinetic Grand Championship, but well before the bar became packed as crazy-ass homemade sculptures made their way up the street to complete the final leg of the race.  Wacky or not, the event is good for business – it’s Palace Saloon’s busiest weekend of the year.  And who wouldn’t want to take shots as giant homemade moving poodles, bananas and pirate ships are heading your way?

Berry Patch Restaurant

Berry good BBQ here!

Berry Patch Restaurant
900 Newville Road
Orland, CA
Berry Patch Restaurant on Urbanspoon

I pulled up to the restaurant, and not one berry patch in sight!  I did notice a rather strong scent of barbecue smoke wafting my way, however, a good sign considering I was still inside my vehicle.

I’m going to pretend that all of the stares I got as I walked in were the locals’ way of welcoming me and not because I was a female dining solo.  Additionally, I’m going to pretend that the continued stares were the result of other diners’ attempts to telepathically suggest what to order for lunch.

I had one craving today: MEAT!  Lots of it!  With as few accompanying carbs as possible, thank you.  I settled on the Bar-B-Q Pork Sandwich, justifying the sandwich roll solely as the means to transport meat into my piehole.

Moments later, it arrived.  A toasted, sturdy roll was piled high with ten to twelve slices of smoky, fork-tender slices of pork, with just enough sauce for moisture.  No other condiments or toppings were needed.  A toothpick held the monstrosity together.  The small side dish of cole slaw went completely ignored.

If only I could have gone ignored!  I felt a few eyes on me as I scarfed down that delectable sandwich.  Did they think I was going to dine and dash?  While waiting for a to-go box for the second half of my sandwich, I grabbed my purse and made my way to the ladies room to see their reactions.  They were nonplussed.  The mystery remains.

Manny's California Cafe

I've been coming here for over three decades!

Manny's California Cafe
1612 Pacific Avenue
Stockton, CA
Manny's California Fresh Cafe on Urbanspoon

How much do I love Manny’s?  Well, I named my Chihuahua after the place.  Does that give you a good idea?

Raised by single-income parents who knew how to perform miracles in the kitchen, I always looked forward to Fridays, which usually meant dinner out.  And when my dad said, “Let’s go to Manny’s!” it incited a Pavlovian reaction in me that still occurs today.

Step into Manny’s during typical lunch or dinner hours and there will be a line.  Get over it, because it’s worth it.  If you’re lucky enough to snag a booth, you’ll witness a steady stream of diners wearing everything from pajama pants to three-piece suits, clamoring for burgers, fancy sandwiches (i.e. sandwiches with sprouts), and the BEST fried chicken in town.

After three decades I’ve established a short list of items I keep in heavy rotation.  Their Fried Chicken is crispy, juicy, tender and not overloaded with a ton of unnecessary spices.  The Grilled Cheese is oozy, epic, and made with the best honey wheat berry bread on earth.  The best Tuna Sandwich I’ve ever had is also here, and I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to recreate it in my own kitchen, only to fail each and every time.  Finally, their Café Burger on its chewy roll with melting, stringy Swiss cheese is so amazing that I forgive them for trying to fit a round patty into a rectangular bun.

I hope Manny’s outlives me.  After such Stockton closures as the Bagel Kitchen, Prime Rib Inn, and Bow Bow’s, I can’t take much more heartbreak.

Grange Restaurant & Bar


Grange Restaurant & Bar
926 J Street
Grange Restauarant on Urbanspoon

I choose Grange when I'm in the mood for unique and ever-changing menu options, a semi-upscale atmosphere, and a complimentary carb-laden basket of goodies that beg to be slathered with the provided flavored butter-du-jour.

On this particular day, it seemed everything on the menu was new to me.  I started with the Parsnip Soup with Crispy Onions and Smoked Bacon.  Did I know what a parsnip was?  Nope.  I actually had to Google it to learn it's related to the carrot.  Fair enough.  I chose appetizers for my main course, the Fritto Misto as well as Anson Mill Grit Fritters, then started poking around the bread basket.  Today's offering included Bacon Cheese Biscuits...SCORE.

Since this was my first experience with parsnips, I didn't know what to expect; but I certainly didn't expect such a creamy, mild soup with so much natural, organic flavor that the onions and bacon were an afterthought.  I wasn't particularly famished, but do remember being disappointed when that last spoonful was gone.   Who would have thought a root vegetable would make me so sad?

Luckily my thoughts turned to the fritters which arrived shortly thereafter on a hot cast-iron skillet, small nuggets all browned and crisp from their panko-like breading.  The crunchy exterior gave way to a smooth interior, which was a nice contrast when dipped into the barbecue sauce and green onions.  Deep-fried paradise!

Not wanting to offend the chef, I decided to finish off the bread basket.  I wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, after all.

Sylvester's Burgers

No false advertising here!

Sylvester's Burgers
1099 Santa Ynez Avenue
Los Osos, CA
Sylvester's Burgers on Urbanspoon

I’ll be honest: I came for a free birthday burger.  I didn’t know that it required I take a Facebook photo in a ridiculous hat from their personal collection, but I obliged for the Hana Burger.

Sylvester’s boasts a pretty comprehensive menu of burgers, sandwiches and sides in addition to complete breakfast offerings.  A handful of burgers come dripping with their own Sylvester Sauce, which was perfectly fine in my book.

My Hana arrived, “Big Hot N’Juicy” like their outdoor sign suggested. Layers of bacon, Swiss, pineapple and teriyaki sauce mingled with the Sylvester Sauce in one awesome creation.  I had long forgotten the fact I’d just stuck my head into a red hat with tentacles as so many patrons had done before me.

I left with a Sylvester’s hoodie, part souvenir and part method to hide my post-birthday burger gut.  Class act.

Jamie's Broadway Grille

(I should have put the cornbread in the foreground.)

Jamie's Broadway Grille
427 Broadway
Jamie's Broadway Grille on Urbanspoon

Holy Jebus, this place was delightful.  I was iffy about my boyfriend's instructions to "just push my way through the hallway to get to the bar", but it worked.  I settled atop a cushiony barstool next to an older lady plowing her way through a rather large fish entree.

My boyfriend pointed out that one of the bartenders sounded like Robert Downey, Jr.  Agreed.  When he began insisting he looked like it too, I politely asked him to stop drinking.

Calamari and Clam Chowder were ordered and subsequently devoured.  Best Clam Chowder in Sacramento?  Perhaps.  We split an embarrasingly large platter of BBQ chicken, ribs and links, and then I took a bite of the BEST THING EVER.  At least here.  And that would be the cornbread.

Cornbread everywhere else:  YAWN.  Cornbread at Jamie's:  "^&#* YEAH!"  

It's buttery.  It's spicy.  It's full of cheese.  It's just perfection.  I ordered an additional side of it and wasn't charged.  Dude!  You're the best, Robert Downey, Jr.

Woodlon Diner

Cheap AND delicious!

Woodlon Diner
24335 N. Highway 99
Acampo, CA
Woodlon Diner on Urbanspoon

I’ve probably travelled the stretch of Highway 99 between Sacramento and Stockton a jillion times.  Each time, the Woodlon Diner seemed to beckon “Stop and eat here.  Wait!  Where are you going…?” as I sped by.  But when I was tasked to choose a casual breakfast spot for a gathering of my screwball friends, I knew this was the perfect place.

Woodlon diner is a cool little truck stop in Acampo.  Minutes away is a skydiving facility where mere mortals voluntarily throw themselves out of airplanes; the only risk I was willing to take on this particular morning was to eat an enormous breakfast, knowing full well I had lunch plans with family a few hours later.
A no-frills atmosphere can be found here, and the only drawback for the other patrons was the lack of upholstery to help absorb my group's boisterous laughter this morning.  They seemed not to care, reading newspapers while sipping on coffee and stabbing piles of scrambled eggs with their forks.  Our cheery waitress took our orders (and apologies for our behavior) before scurrying off to the kitchen.

Chewing shuts us up quickly, and I have the feeling the kitchen was highly motivated to serve us as fast as possible.  Huge platters arrived, and my go-to breakfast of Chicken Fried Steak came on TWO platters, earning me ridicule from each knucklehead in my booth.

Then, silence.  Forks scraped plates as I sawed into my crispy steak smothered in country gravy and half a shaker of pepper.  Protein is good for you, right?  I wasted not a morsel as I methodically moved from steak to perfectly runny sunny side up eggs to toast (the dessert portion of breakfast).

At least two out of four of us soon sat back with our eyes rolled to the back of our head.  Stomachs? Extended to capacity.  Lunch?  Definitely not an option.  Dinner?  Well, a girl has to keep up her strength…

Flaming Grill Cafe

Your mouth better be open for these
mammoth burgers, too.

Flaming Grill Cafe
2319 El Camino Avenue
Sacramento, CA
Flaming Grill Cafe on Urbanspoon

I haven’t seen this many exotic meats since the last time I was in San Francisco’s Castro District!

Flaming Grill Café’s menu is designed for repeat visits.  I came for the Ostrich, but ended up ordering the Wild Boar Café Burger, and created a mental checklist to come back for the llama and yak.

Although watching other patrons systematically devour a zoo’s variety of meats had me nearly salivating, my burger was only half-eaten because (a) of the sheer size and (b) my server unknowingly sabotaged my appetite by convincing me to substitute my fries with blue cheese and bacon fries, which I couldn’t stop eating.  Damn you, bacon.

Next time, the Carne Asada Fries…because my digestive system is a glutton for punishment.

Samoa Cookhouse

Arrive early to beat the crowds.

Samoa Cookhouse
908 Vance Avenue
Samoa, CA
Samoa Cookhouse on Urbanspoon

Samoa Cookhouse has been on my must-visit list for quite a while now, and for good reasons:  first of all, the last surviving cookhouse in the West has been serving customers since the late 1800s (a feat in itself), when they fed workers in the nearby lumber and logging industries.  Secondly, the fare is all-you-can eat, AKA “lumber camp style”, and servers bring the food to you at your request, something I appreciate since I typically make 4-5 embarrassing trips to any given buffet.  In fact, I wore stretchy yoga pants in preparation for this hearty meal.

I headed to the cookhouse early on a Sunday morning, ravenous after a day traipsing through redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants.  As I stepped inside I found rows upon rows of long tables covered with old-fashioned red and white-checked tablecloths.  A few families and solo diners were already digging into their breakfasts, and the air had a slight smell of cinnamon.  I was seated, immediately offered water, juice and coffee, then told the biscuits and gravy would arrive shortly.

The cookhouse has a set menu each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Today’s menu board revealed that the biscuits and gravy would be follow by French toast, sausage and eggs; I tried to pace myself, but ended of gorging on a couple of biscuits with warm, buttery milk gravy.  I spied the chef behind the counter dipping thick, hand-sliced homemade bread into a vat of cinnamon egg mixture at a furious pace, keeping up with the steady stream of customers coming through the front door.  At the same time, he scrambled eggs and made sure there were enough hot sausage links to go around.

I declined a second round of biscuits and gravy (!) and cleansed my palate with a little OJ before the main event.  Moments later, I was presented with a pile of golden French toast, sizzling sausage links and fluffy scrambled eggs.

Few things top the taste and texture of home-baked bread; and, as a result, this might have been some of the best French toast I’ve ever had.  I drenched each rich, chewy bite with butter and syrup and watched as dozens of loaves behind the counter were being sliced up for the next day’s breakfast crowd (only day-old bread will hold up to that thick egg batter).  It was so good that even after the first helping AND my previous biscuits and gravy, I asked for seconds.  The sausage and eggs proved to be a nice balance to all of that carb-loading.

Completely satisfied, I lumbered (ha!) into the next room for a trip back in time.  The Logging Museum houses antique equipment and tools and displays turn-of-the-century photos of workers who likely dined at the cookhouse decades ago (just not in yoga pants).  Rigorous work under dangerous conditions can work up quite an appetite, which is why the cookhouse’s meals are indeed “fit for a lumberjack”.

Lou's Drive In

The lipstick on my straw means one thing:

Lou's Drive In
6229 Watt Avenue
North Highlands, CA
Lou's Drive-In on Urbanspoon

To passersby, Lou's may seem like your typical, mild-mannered drive-in burger joint.  Walk up to the window, however, and you'll be bombarded by the enthusiasm that can only come from someone who truly enjoys his job.

I was privy to two Lada Gaga jokes, compliments of a male cashier, as I completed my debit card payment.  I settled in at an outdoor table and patiently waited for my order; in the meantime, that same cashier called patrons' names so boisterously it caused one customer to comment that he hadn't been yelled at like that since he lived with his parents.

The menu here is basic: burgers, dogs, drinks and a few fried items to round out the offerings.  I picked up my Chili Burger and large Chocolate Malt at the window and couldn't unwrap that sandwich quick enough, already salivating over everyone else's shakes and burgers.

All burger joints should take note: a little mustard makes a good chili burger a GREAT chili burger.  Lou's also goes so far as to add a little pickle relish.  It added to the mess, although slightly, but provided a new flavor profile to contrast with the thick, rich malt.  Genius.

For a few bucks, this is your best bet in North Highlands.  Watt are you waiting for (come on, that's clever)?

Webster's Country Burger Drive-In

I told you so!
Webster's Country Burger Drive-In
18737 E. Highway 88
Clements, CA
Webster's Country Burger Drive on Urbanspoon

My mom and I were surrounded by cocks the moment we got out of my car.  Really, we were!  Several roosters and chickens were taking shade in some brush in the corner of the parking lot.  Get your mind out of the gutter.

Webster’s is a true roadside joint in every sense.  Pull up, order at the window, grab a table and ask your stomach to stop grumbling while you wait for your food.

A wide variety of burgers, dogs and chicken are available, alongside salads and kiddie treats like grilled cheese and PB&J.  I chose the Ranch Burger, with two beef patties on a French roll with all the fixings.

Great choice.  Juicy beef with crisp lettuce, red onion, and sweet tomatoes slathered with their house sauce on a sturdy, chewy roll.  No clue what’s in the sauce, reminiscent of Thousand Island dressing, but it was amazing and I made sure not to waste a drop.

Completely sated, my mother and I headed out to the next culinary destination. After a few more cock jokes, of course.

Loree's Little Shack

Small in size, big on entertainment!

Loree's Little Shack
4835 Pacific Street
Rocklin, CA
Loree's Little Shack on Urbanspoon

Sometimes my GPS fails me.  I search for the closest taqueria only to find it's closed that day, out of business, etc.  That's what happened twice before I came across Loree's.

I parked out back in the gravel lot and chuckled at the permanent "Free Beer Tomorrow" sign as I walked in.

Loree's is half dive bar, half old-school restaurant with truck-stop style comfort food.  A couple of locals were at the bar, already hammered at 9:15 in the morning.  One guy said he "only had to win two more tournaments to become a millionaire in the World Series of Poker".  Sheer entertainment.

The food took longer than expected even though there was only a family of four and a couple who ordered before me.  But, I passed the time checking out the large collection of kitschy items hanging all over the walls and ceilings surrounding me.

To satisfy my ever-present tortilla craving, I ordered the 2 Taco Scramble. Two grilled tortillas were filled with fluffy scrambled eggs, melting cheese, crisp lettuce and juicy tomato, dusted with parmesan, and accompanied by a side of piping-hot home fries.  Wow!  I would return just for that damn breakfast.

Come here for cheap eats and highly amusing people watching!

Jack's Prime

Prime parking can be found in their private lot, too.

Jack's Prime
3723 S. El Camino Real
San Mateo, CA
Jack's Prime on Urbanspoon

I can agree with most diners on the following points: Mouth watering burgers.  Delectable shakes-to-be-shared.  Sides which catapult an already diet-defying meal into a coma-inducing event.

But attentive, thoughtful service on top of that?  Rarely does that ever happen.

Long story short, I dined with an old friend.  That friend arrived at noon, two toddlers in tow.  The host grabbed crayons and art paper to keep the kids occupied.  Our server cleverly allowed the kids to order first, allowing my buddy and I to peruse the menu at our leisure while the kids gnawed on oversized crispy chicken fingers.  Timing was perfect, as they were back to their iPad activities by the time our food arrived.
Angry Cowboy = Happy me!

Why don't all restaurants time it that way?  So simple.

The food?  Not so simple.

These are big burgers with big flavor.  The Maytag Blue Ribbon is an upgrade from the typical blue cheese burger with its caramelized onions and house Prime Burger Sauce.  Crisp lettuce, juicy beefsteak slices and dill pickles finish it off.  Their popular Angry Cowboy features smoked bacon, cheddar, onion rings, and a unique red onion and jalapeno relish. Too spicy for you?  Be sure to have a Chocolate Malt nearby to quell the fire. You'll need it to dip your beer-battered Fried Pickles into, anyway. Trust me.

Better than fries.

Lockeford Meat & Sausage

Lockeford has a true wiener on its hands!

Lockeford Meat & Sausage
19775 N. Cotton Street
Lockeford, CA

With the exception of a handful of female college classmates I'd rather forget about, few can call themselves "sausage masters".

Lockeford Meat & Sausage is everything it should be: a purveyor of reasonably-priced high-quality meats displayed in a pristine glass case with product clearly marked to facilitate ease of browsing, ordering and payment.  Employees are helpful, willing to answer questions and happily offer cooking suggestions.

That being said, the meat, of course, is the star here.  Bacon, tri-tip and a variety of jerkies are available, but it'd be sheer blasphemy not to try the sausage.  From the moment I sank my teeth into my first bite of a Hawaiian Luau, my mind raced: Why haven't I tried this sooner?  Why is Lockeford so far from Elk Grove?  Where did these voices come from?

The casing provided a nice snap.  What followed was a taste explosion of sweet and savory, highlighted by the caramelization of what I assumed was pineapple juice combined with brown sugar.  Or, liquid heaven.

Either way, I dream about it quite often; and girls who attend 12 years of Catholic school are taught not to worship meat, if you catch my drift.

Mickey Fine Pharmacy & Grill

I needed the calcium.

Mickey Fine Pharmacy & Grill
433 Roxbury Drive
Beverly Hills, CA
Mickey Fine Grill on Urbanspoon

Chili and a Chocolate Malt for breakfast.  Oh, yeah!

Mickey Fine claims to be "the only original pharmacy with a soda fountain in all of Los Angeles".  The Grill is located in the back of the pharmacy, and the pricing is impressive: a few bucks got me a generous cup of steaming-hot Chili, garnished with a precise amount of cheese and onions.  On the side, a Chocolate Malt...because that's how I judge the quality of soda fountains.  If you're lacking on the malt powder, you fail.

Mickey Fine earns an A+ in the Chocolate Malt department.  The A is for the rich, luscious ice cream and strong malt flavor, and the extra credit is for the leftover malt served on the side, enough for another person.

I left full and satisfied for less than ten bucks.  Where else is that possible in Beverly Hills?

Plainfield Station

Just use your GPS.  Trust me!

Plainfield Station
23944 County Road 98
Woodland, CA
Plainfield Station on Urbanspoon

Holy hell, this place is in the middle of nowhere.  Seriously.  If you were to give directions, it would go something like this: Go a block past the old lady selling cherries on the side of the road, hang a left at the third corn field (by the way, how can you tell where one corn field ends and another begins?), drive just past the second burned-down barn you see and hope to God you find the place before sundown.

The Pounder is no joke.  Before I ordered, the cook told me it's "a burger with two patties"...and I expected the typical stack of two thin patties on a regular old bun.  But, this burger was ENORMOUS. The patty was distinctively flavored and piled high with fresh, crunchy produce; the bun held up till the end without collapsing in a sad pile of disappointment. And steak fries on the side?  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Great tacos, too!

Friendly, unpretentious crowd...back-to-basics home cooking...can't go wrong here!

Madison Bear Garden

I can bear-ly contain myself!

Madison Bear Garden
316 W 2nd Street
Chico, CA
Madison Bear Garden on Urbanspoon

MBG has all the charm of a college Greek system hangout, but with some seriously awesome cuisine to back it up.

The ambience is LOUD, both visibly and audibly.  A giant statue reminiscent of Bob's Big Boy holds a burger and mug of Sierra Nevada and smiles as you make your way to the restrooms.  Chico State memorabilia hangs everywhere.  Several TV screens broadcast different games, and there are arcade games for both kids and adults who want to remain single for the rest of their lives.  Multiple bars.  Karaoke.  Dancing.  Pool tables.

All of that aside, the food is amazing.  The Thunder Humper may sound like a typical chili burger, but it's far from it.  The beanless chili is meaty, smoky and dark, as if it had been simmering for hours. Slop that over an open-faced burger, top with diced onions and finely shredded cheddar, and you'll have to force yourself to come up for air once you dive in.

Do yourself a favor and order the Onion Rings, if only to make use of the bottle of J. Lee Roy's Dippin' Sauce at your table.  The label states you can use it as a "buffet dip", whatever that is.  All I know is that the spicy, sweet, tangy sauce takes onion rings to the next level.

Shaw's Steakhouse & Tavern

Three!  Three!  Three meals in one!

Shaw's Steakhouse & Tavern
714 S. Broadway
Santa Maria, CA

When in Santa Maria, eat Santa Maria BBQ.  Duh...

Shaw's was highly praised all over the web, so I gave it a try.

I dig dimly-lit steakhouses, so this certainly fit the bill.  As I followed the server to the table, I passed a large window allowing diners to watch the inner workings of the kitchen; more specifically, a gargantuan grill used to prepare their delectable BBQ meats.

After a nearly six-hour road trip, I was dying for a bite.  With a weekend of food ahead of me, I wanted something simple - maybe a small salad with some BBQ and healthy veggies on the side.

Fail.  Epic fail.

My server asked if I preferred salad or Beer Bacon Cheese Soup.  Um, were there really two answers to that question?  That was followed up with a listing of the daily specials, from which I chose the Tri-Tip & Linguica Combo.  My salivary glands started working overtime.

A cup of cheesy, porky goodness arrived, topped with more grated cheddar.  Freshly ground pepper added a kick to the rich, earthy broth, and after the bowl was licked clean I had no idea how I'd have room for my entree.

And what an entree it was!

A platter large enough to feed 2-3 people was placed in front of a blushing me.  It looked like a freaking masterpiece - and tasted like it, too.  The spicy linguica and tender tri-tip were grilled to perfection and accompanied by a dipping sauce that baffles me to this day.  It was rich, sweet...and those are the only adjectives I can use because I've no clue what other ingredients were involved.  All of this was served with a fully-loaded baked potato as well as garlic bread.

I barely made a dent in the platter, and thanked my lucky stars my hotel room had a kitchenette.  I ate the leftovers for two days straight.  Three fantastic meals for twenty bucks?  Steal.

Vista Grille at the La Contenta Golf Club

Each meal here is a hole in one!

Vista Grille at the La Contenta Golf Club
1653 Highway 26
Valley Springs, CA

What's better than a near-perfect BLT, chock full of thick-cut bacon and the right amount of mayo nestled between layers of juicy tomato and crisp lettuce?

The view from a window seat at the Vista Grille.

Precisely manicured greens, a lovely outdoor balcony, and tiny birds fluttering around the hanging moss-filled baskets of perennials created a breathtaking backdrop.  I typically prefer at least a little soft background music when I dine, but the silence of the room allowed me to appreciate the surrounding beauty and calm.

Now, if I could only figure out how those golfers managed to avoid work for a day...

Richmaid Restaurant

Be the first to order Liver & Onions
 a la Mode!  I dare you.

Richmaid Restaurant
100 S. Cherokee Lane
Lodi, CA

Richmaid is a long-standing fixture in Lodi.  Though the building's exterior may shows signs of wear, the food being served inside is the reason this place is still around.

I came here for a second (!) breakfast on a Sunday morning to "kill time" before a poker tournament at the card room down the street.  Church-goers made up most of the crowd, peppered with families with small kids and, of course, a couple degenerate gamblers at the counter (of which I was one).

I needed something quick and delicious, and Biscuits and Gravy sounded like a nice little snack.  In the meantime, I watched as order after order was cranked out of the kitchen, bells being rung for pickup by the servers.  Omelets, wet burritos and chicken salads seemed to be all the rage this particular morning.

Moments later, my plate arrived with steam rising from the rich and buttery gravy atop two very large, fluffy biscuits.  The biscuits were hearty, holding up to all the gravy and generous handful of sausage pieces sprinkled on top.  Some additional black pepper brought it close to perfection, and that plate was killed in a matter of minutes.

This may be my new go-to destination these weekly poker tournaments.  I'll probably pass on the Liver and Onions, but a Banana Split sure does sounds good right about now...


Best.  Gravy.  Ever.

456 Grass Valley Highway
Auburn, CA


I would come back here just for the gravy.  Not the Biscuits and Gravy, although the biscuits are pretty dam perfect; but I could just eat a bowl of gravy. Full of chopped meat (Ham? Bacon?), they could serve it in a bowl and I would slurp it down.

BELIEVE what the locals say.  Our food arrived super fast, and the quality was fantastic.  My homemade Corned Beef Hash was phenomenal and could easily feed a family of four.  My boyfriend's pancakes were so thick and luscious he could only eat one of them!

Get here early, because the tiny dining space fills up quickly.  You don't want to be famished, sitting a few feet away from me on a bench, salivating over my leftovers.

Silver's at the Wharf

Check out my mussels!

Silver's at the Wharf
32260 N. Harbor Drive
Fort Bragg, CA

It took a bit of research to find a "nicer" restaurant open past 4pm on a Saturday night in this sleepy town, but we found one.  On the water? Bonus. Too bad it was too dark to enjoy the view, though.

Silver's was one of the only restaurants in the area that I noticed had tablecloths.  I thought to myself, "Great!  I'll fit right in with this cocktail dress!" Apparently, the other diners thought, "Great! I'll fit right in with these jeans!"  I suppose they already knew that the air conditioning runs on full blast, nighttime or not.

Luckily, our server's cheerful demeanor warmed me up, as did the fresh French bread and appropriately-softened butter.  I scanned the menu, hoping to fulfill my craving of seafood, and chose the Mussel Steamers; they sounded light, somewhat healthy, and a good pick after all of the candy and other crap I had devoured earlier in the day.

The mussels arrived.  I SWEAR I do not purposely order the largest physical dish on the menu when I go out to eat.  It just happens.

A substantial bowl was placed in front of me, piled high with steaming (of course) mussels swimming in a luscious, buttery wine sauce. This mountain of shellfish carefully concealed a rather large supply of chopped garlic, adding a kick to each and every bite of these phenomenal bivalves.  I went to work, systematically transferring mussels to mouth and empty shells to extra bowl.  When finished, I sopped up the wine sauce with bread.

So much for a light meal...there's always tomorrow.

Bob's Big Boy

Too many of these might turn me into
a Big Girl.

Bob's Big Boy
4211 West Riverside Drive
Burbank, CA

Ignored was the fact that I had just inhaled a rather substantial grilled lobster Mexican feast. I was on vacation, dammit.  I wanted a picture with that Big Boy statue, dammit. And no dinner while on vacation is complete without dessert.

Bob's Big Boy is like stepping onto the set of Happy Days (or so I assume...that show was too squeaky-clean for me).  This particular Friday night found me freezing my rear end off in a strapless sundress, quickly making my way through the weekly classic car show so I could accumulate 1,200 more calories for the day.  A buddy and I snagged a couple of seats at the counter instead of waiting for a table like the other chumps in line. I was on a mission, after all.

I think I glanced at the menu for .0001 seconds before demanding the Decadent Hot Fudge Cake.  I caught a few annoyed looks from folks still in line who wished they'd made our move to the empty seats.  I sent some looks back for holding the door open the entire time they were in line, sending a chilly breeze throughout the counter area.  Brrr, for crying out loud!

A towering mass of moist chocolate cake, piping hot fudge and sweet whipped cream soon arrived, and I felt eyes of envy descend upon me.  A young man seated next to me stole a glance at my plate, likely wishing he'd saved room for dessert.

The first forkful of thick, warm hot fudge against the tender crumb of chocolate cake was enough to send me swooning.  This is what a diner experience is all about.  Scan for available counter seating at all times, people, and you will be rewarded handsomely.

Ice Burgie

Keep those eyes wide open in Gridley!

Ice Burgie
1575 State Highway 99
Gridley, CA

Don't blink, or you'll miss the Burgie.  Then you'll go home, read this article, and wish you'd been more vigilant.

Ice Burgie has been around for a long time, and will likely continue to as long as they keep cranking out quality burgers, fries and shake.  There's outdoor seating in the front for those like me who find it somewhat peaceful to watch traffic cruise by, and additional seating out back for those too shameful to admit they just ordered two shakes...for themselves.

I stopped by between lunch and a visit to a penny candy store, so I went easy and just ordered a small Chocolate Malt.  Yummers!  The chocolate was luscious and creamy, made thicker and richer from a generous helping of malt powder.  Under three bucks?  I can swing that, for sure.

Next time, the Peanut Butter Shake!

Race Street Seafood Kitchen

When I seafood, I eat it!

Race Street Seafood Kitchen
247 Race Street
San Jose, CA
Race Street Seafood Kitchen on Urbanspoon

I loved the charm of this place.  Half market and half restaurant, it was really fun to browse the fresh fish counter while waiting for my order.  It was also fun salivating over everyone else's orders, as usual.

I pretty much wanted to order one of everything on the menu.  But in the interest of looking at least somewhat ladylike, I settled for the giant Grilled Ahi Sandwich.

Ahi grilled to perfection arrived on grilled bread (!) with shredded lettuce. I forgot to add tartar sauce, but honestly, it didn't need it (neither did my hips, although I did sneak a couple bites of delicious cole slaw).  My dining partner's shrimp and chips looked equally amazing.

Everything's made to order behind a glass barrier, which is especially fun to watch when they fling giant planks of pescado towards you.  Did I mention all of their grilled items can be made into a sandwich at no additional charge?  Clearly, I need to move closer to this place.

Dairy Belle

Riptide!  Riptide!

Dairy Belle
2285 W. Tennyson
Hayward, CA
Dairy Belle Freeze on Urbanspoon

I love, love, LOVE places like this!  Sure, it looks and feels like a Dairy Queen knock-off, but can you really pass up a roadside joint run by Asians that serves burgers, ice cream...and Mexican food?

Skip the Mexican food.

Order the 1/4-lb. Burger with its perfectly toasted bun and charred patty, piled high with juicy tomatoes and pickles and crisp lettuce.  Bypass the soda in lieu of a Riptide: soft-serve blended with your choice of candy or fresh fruit...I highly recommend strawberry!

So, so yummy.

And if you're lucky, maybe you, too, will be forced to witness a single mother breast-feeding three feet from you!  Egad.

Burr's Fountain

Shhh...a master's at work.

Burr's Fountain
4920 Folsom Boulevard
Sacramento, CA
Burr's Fountain on Urbanspoon

What's better than watching food being prepared on television?  Watching food being prepared right in front of you.

Lucky for me, all of the counter seats were available during my lunchtime visit.  I plopped down on a comfy, padded stool and tuned out the nonsense of the boisterous crowd behind me.  I instead focused on my sandwich and soda fountain options, trying not to salivate down the front of my hoodie.

Corned Beef Sandwich and Chocolate Phosphate, please!

I then turned my attention to a quiet, reserved older gentleman manning a station piled high with sandwich fixings, alongside two industrial-sized panini presses atop bread shelves filled with sourdough, 7-grain and both light and dark ryes.  After only a few moments, I realized this individual was single-handedly cranking out each and every food order, from hot dogs to Reubens to turkey salad...with nary a word spoken to the young men and women picking up and dropping off their orders.  He moved gracefully, yet speedily, as if to say, "A party of 20 just walked in?  Bring it on."

I was enjoying the show so much I was almost disappointed when my order came, providing a slight distraction from the one-man machine.  It was a delicious distraction, however: the perfect combination of juicy corned beef and rye, all washed down with a fizzy chocolate beverage that told me I wouldn't be needing another meal for hours.

The food and fountain treats are reason enough to come back, but the one-man show is the real highlight.  His frenzy likely started well before I arrived and ended quite some time after my departure.  I'm looking forward to that quiet entertainment again.

Squeeze Inn

Drool much?

Squeeze Inn
Various Locations In & Around Sacramento, CA
Squeeze Inn on Urbanspoon

The Squeeze Inn was one of Sacramento's best-kept secrets until the establishment was featured on the Food Network.  As if the lines weren't already long enough, all hell broke loose and today, the now-franchise is a true legend in Northern California.

I come often for burgers and tacos, but mostly to watch the creation of the Cheese Skirt.  Fistloads of shredded cheddar are dropped over sizzling patties on a flat-top grill, and the intense heat proceeds to morph that queso into a crisp, chewy topping, flavor concentrated by the heat and evaporation of some of the cheese's moisture (there's a bit more to it but I won't ruin the fun for you). The result is a "skirt" of cheese that is often 6-7 inches wider in diameter than the patty itself.  You have to see it to believe it.  And you'll have to taste it to experience it.  It's the icing on the cupcake, if the cupcake were a juicy, beef patty coupled with fresh produce on a perfectly chewy bun.

Over the years, Squeeze Inn has expanded to locations in Galt and West Sacramento and is still on the move.  No matter which location you choose, expect a wait.  Squeeze Inn doesn't rush the process just because there's a line out the door.  Impatient?  Chew some gum and wait your flippin' turn.  You won't be sorry.

Ludy's Main St. BBQ and Catering

This should hold you over till dinner.

Ludy's Main St. BBQ and Catering
667 Main Street
Woodland, CA
Ludy's Main Street BBQ and Catering on Urbanspoon

This is real stick-to-your-ribs kind of food.

Get it?  Ribs?  BBQ?  Am I amusing only myself at this point?

The line was ten deep when my buddy and I arrived.  The wait was long, but so was the menu; it gave us plenty of time to decide what 5-6 meats we wanted to try.

Yep, I said 5-6!

BBQ Brisket Sandwich, Pork and Beef Ribs, Chicken, Tri-Tip, Hot Link and Western Chili.  Yum!  Tangy sauce with a bit of zing without being overly spicy.  Tender smoked meats with layers of flavors.  Generous piles of brisket atop a soft roll, just absorbent enough to soak up all the juices without becoming too soggy.  Out-of-this-world Dill Potato Salad and Cornbread, served with butter and honey.

I think I just gained a couple pounds writing this article.

Tadich Grill

Culinary gold can be discovered here.

Tadich Grill
240 California Street
San Francisco, CA  94111
Tadich Grill on Urbanspoon

Tadich Grill has had a long, storied history with San Francisco since the gold rush.  Their food has had a long, storied history with my mouth since the early 1990s.

Arrive before lunch and dinner rushes if you want a first-come, first-served seat at the bar, where most great dining experiences occur.  The servers might look more like dentists in their white coats if they weren't floating around behind the bar meticulously preparing place settings and individual sourdough bread and butter portions for each guest.

Running nearly the entire length of the dining room, the bar allows diners to see what everyone else is chowing on, from Louie salads piled high with fresh crab and shrimp to cioppino, pork chops, pastas in meat sauce, and dozens of fried, sauteed or broiled seafood dishes.

San Francisco is already well-known for its clam chowder, but Tadich Grill knocks it out of the proverbial park.  A standard mire poix is the basis for one of the thickest, chunkiest chowders you'll ever try.  No skimping on clams here, and the potatoes are diced large enough to hold their shape and not dissipate into the soup.  Just be sure to save some of your bread to clean the last traces of it out of your bowl before your dentist - er, server - swipes it from you.

Bottley's Bar-B-Que

"Love At First Bite?"  Exactly.

Bottley's Bar-B-Que
2210 Country Club Boulevard
Stockton, CA
Bottley's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Nearly 20 years ago, my late father hired Bottley's to cater his company's annual picnic.  I distinctly remember one dish: Dirty Rice.

Fast forward two decades, and I'm standing at the counter inside their newest location, talking to a family member who not only remembered catering that function, but my father as well.  Unbelievable!

Unfortunately, they no longer offer Dirty Rice as a menu option; however, I was given a sample of the Boudin, which is a spicy meat and rice mixture formed into sausages.  Odd-sounding, but mighty delicious.

I ordered the Pork Ribs Lunch Plate which included four fall-off-the-bone ribs in my choice of sauce (medium), a scoop of tangy Potato Salad, two slices of soft white bread and a choice of sides (in my case, creamy Macaroni and Cheese).  For $8, it was a bargain of a deal, especially when factoring in the genuine hospitality emanating from each and every employee.

The food is prepared with care, the walls are covered with decades of local sports memorabilia, and the operation is family-run. There's little room for improvement as far as I'm concerned.  On second thought, if they could wave a magic wand and make it all fat-free, then that would be perfect.

Deb's Great American Hamburgers

Tasty, even when completely sober!

Deb's Great American Hamburgers
3340 Redwood Drive
Redway, CA
Great American Hamburger Co on Urbanspoon

First impression: That's quite an extensive menu on the wall.  Do I want a burger, taco salad, or egg rolls? Apparently Humboldt County residents are pretty specific about their munchies.  I guess being the only diner for miles also lets you get away with charging nearly nine bucks for a Patty Melt.

Twenty minutes later:  This is a pretty f**king good Patty Melt.  I'd pay nine bucks for this again.

Contrary to most online reviews, Deb's isn't swimming in Betty Boop memorabilia.  Sure, there are items on the wall, but it's no Mel's Drive-In or Hard Rock Cafe, for Pete's sake.  Settle down, folks.  I was able to thoroughly enjoy my Patty Melt, juicy and rich with sugary caramelized onions on toasted rye, and wash it down with a creamy shake without feeling like a thousand female Depression-era cartoon faces were staring me down.

Then again, I did not partake in any pre-meal recreational "fun" as was evident by a handful of patrons.

Egghead's Restaurant

There's no place like...THIS place!

Egghead's Restaurant
326 N. Main Street
Fort Bragg, CA
Egghead's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

I'm one of "those people" who is thoroughly creeped out by The Wizard of Oz, largely due to those crazy Pink Floyd rumors and disturbingly bad special effects.

But, when I heard a Fort Bragg restaurant served up some wicked awesome breakfast fare, I was willing to patronize an Oz-themed establishment.  Oh, the sacrifices I make for you people.

The decor was more cute than obtrusive; more private collector than in-your-face Planet Hollywood.  That's a good thing.  One wall was painted with silhouettes of the Oz cast, and on the floor was a "yellow brick road".  Other Oz memorabilia peppered the walls and tables, but it didn't make me want to kick the Tin Man in his...tin can, so to speak.

Torn between my duty to order a famed Benedict and the desire to not blow up like a balloon on the first day of vacation, I chose the Dorothy's Delight.  English muffins were topped with poached eggs, melted cheddar, salsa and sour cream and were accompanied by home fried red potatoes.  It was more than someone who'd been dieting for the last five days could handle, but well worth it as the eggs passed the OSBPEYT (Official Stacy Barawed Poached Egg Yolk Test), all runny and mingling with the spicy salsa and cool sour cream.  I'm salivating just thinking about it.

A side of Grilled Cinnamon Raisin Bread was also ordered, and in my mind I pictured a small order of cinnamon French toast.  Wrong. So very wrong!  What arrived was a nearly five-inch high hunk of warm, chewy bread, slathered and soaked with maple syrup and topped with a generous scoop of whipped butter.  Dessert at 9am, anyone?

Good thing Fort Bragg is a walking community!

Capitol Garage

All other Eggs Benedict dishes should BOW DOWN.

Capitol Garage
1500 K Street
Sacramento, CA
Capitol Garage on Urbanspoon

I won a $25 gift card to Capitol Garage because a local newspaper thought one of my article comments was awesome.  That's right.

I'd heard about their benedicts, and I was in the mood to make a slimy, runny, yolky mess all over...something.  The Garage Benedict proved memorable, as their spin on this classic included roasted apricots, arugula, pine nuts and creamy, melted brie.  Additionally, it easily passed the OSBPEYT (Official Stacy Barawed Poached Egg Yolk Test) which, to benedict connoisseurs, is more crucial a detail than one might imagine.

A simplistic, yet artfully presented breakfast, earned with the power of my own humble little brain...that's how you kick off a weekend!

Heidi's Pancake House

Corned Beef Hash: go crispy, or go HOME.

Heidi's Pancake House
3485 Lake Tahoe Boulevard
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Heidi's Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Heidi's.  It looks fun.  It sounds fun.  It tastes fun!

Some complain about an oft-packed house with lackluster service, but I experienced quite the opposite at 10:00 on a crisp Sunday morning.  It was busy, but I was able to get a small booth for two right next to the podium belonging to a hostess who gave a myriad of mysterious hand signals to another hostess at the front of the restaurant. Fascinating!

Breakfast offerings were numerous and we had a tough time deciding between health-conscious omelettes (ha) or platters large enough to feed two lumberjacks.  I chose the Corned Beef Hash, extra crispy (soggy is for SUCKERS).

Lord almighty, it was one of the best hashes I've had in years.  Perfectly crispy, just salty enough, topped with runny yolks from two sunny-side-up eggs.  With a side of three fluffy pancakes, it was indeed enough for two lumberjacks...or, in this case, one ravenous little Asian chick.  Score.

Bartels Giant Burger

No, it's NOT a gas station!

Bartels Giant Burger
22355 Corning Road
Corning, CA

It was by sheer coincidence that I stumbled upon this place.  I was actually heading south on I-5 and exited intending to head over to the Olive Pit because of their 327 billboard ads I had seen in the last 3 miles. But who can pass up an inconspicuous roadside burger joint?  Not this girl.

I could tell Bartels is probably packed at lunchtime and on weekends with their no-nonsense burgers, fries and shakes.  They asked me how I wanted my burger (surprising when it comes to $3.95 burgers)...and when I said "still mooing", they obliged.

Crisp lettuce and extra onions and tomatoes topped a bloody patty, just like I asked for. This is my new favorite place!  I'll be coming here every time I pass through Corning, wherever the heck that is...

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