To Dine or Not to Dine

Where to dine or not to dine – that is the question.

It became apparent, after trying to decide where in the foothills to dine next, that relying on the yellow pages was not a good idea, nor was Yahoo or other paid-for sites. So in case I don’t write enough I thought I would start a little restaurant review column titled – To dine or not to dine. 

Now here’s the thing, my tastes will be different from others and I readily admit that I have no culinary background, but I do think after being alive for 50 years I know when food is cooked correctly or not, whether a drink is poured well or not and especially whether wait staff is first-rate or in need of a career change.

I hope you enjoy my take on the culinary delights and follies up here in the foothills.

(My little disclaimer:  'To dine or not to dine' is meant to be a helpful - and humorous - informational piece only. I receive no monetary compensation for this column nor do I endorse any one eatery. This is simply my opinion. My tastes will be different from others and I readily admit that I have no culinary background, but I am fairly confident I know when food is cooked correctly or not, whether a drink is poured well or not and especially whether wait staff is first-rate or in need of a career change.) 


For those of you who follow my ‘to dine or not to dine’ restaurant reviews, I apologize. I have been remiss in my duties of late, due to time and economy constraints dining out has not been on the top of my ‘to do’ list. But not to worry, I think I have found a gem here in the foothills, in fact, right in our back yard.
I am talking about the new coffee shop in Town Square in Copperopolis, Roasters Coffee Corner. A coffee shop, you ask? Why yes!
Of course, I had to visit multiple times in order to give a full review…darn…what I won’t suffer for these columns. (Please hear the sarcasm, as there was NO suffering dining at Roasters.)
First hubby and I thought we would give their lunch a shot. And what a shot it was! The combinations of meats, sauces, cheeses, toppings etc . was incredible. Combinations I would have never considered but were a delight to the palate.
Feeling in a Thanksgiving type mood, I opted for the smoked turkey on garlic herb ciabatta with spicy garlic cranberry dressing, cream cheese, lettuce and tomato. Needless to say, I did not speak until my plate was clean. And for those who know me that’s quite a compliment, as words tend to tumble out of my mouth a rapid rate and extremely often.
If your mouth is not watering after reading that delicious creation, let me tell you what hubby had!
Being a meat and potatoes kinda guy he ordered roast beef on garlic ciabatta with horseradish sour cream aioli, horseradish white cheddar cheese, onion, lettuce and tomato. Heaven on a roll!
See what I mean about the combinations you never would have thought of at home? Creative genius!
Well, since lunch was such a success, we thought, “Why not try breakfast?”
We had heard that on Saturday mornings, the owner George, makes his special biscuits and gravy, right there in my hubby’s top 2 favorite breakfasts. Now I can make a pretty mean platter of biscuits and gravy, but not once has hubby cleaned the plate like he did at Roasters. Guess my recipe was put to shame. Well done George!
As for me, you all know by now that I like my foofoo coffee. And those of you that drink foofoo coffee know how hard it is to make it just right. Mine was perfect! Just enough syrup, just enough milk, just enough coffee. Delightful. Oh, and I ordered food too! I ordered a ham and cheese croissant, fully expecting the traditional microwaved deal. Nope. Not here. The ham was a relatively thick slice grilled til slightly crunchy and then placed on a croissant and grilled til the cheese melted. Mouth watering goodness.
Each time I have visited Roasters I left with more money in my pocket than I expected, a belly full of happiness and the knowledge that I would return, and soon.
Keep in mind, this is not fast food. Come in to relax, enjoy your coffee and your food.
Clean, good service, good prices and great food.  

This weeks restaurant Andy's Mountain Grill & Deli in Mi Wuk.

The majority of us have to admit to either heading to the high country in search of the all illusive snow, or perhaps to see for ourselves the incredibly scary lack of snow, but either way, we see dotted along the roadsides a greasy spoon ere and a greasy spoon there.

So I decided to take some of the mystery out of the greasy spoon hunt for you, taking a bullet for y'all - so to speak.

So in our quest for snow, or something akin to it (you know the fake stuff some of the slopes have resorted to), we headed up towards Dodge Ridge.

The new bypass allowed us to pass by many of the older more recognized greasy spoons, like the pinetree inn and that oh so yummy Chinese restaurant in the Sears center, but oh well, there were others to be discovered.

As we head into MiWuk Village, with many store fronts boarded up, a testament to the declining economy, we found one little diner open for business, Andy's Mountain Grill and Deli advertising espressos...aha...they speak my language!

Now upon entering we discover this is the most eclectic diner we have ever visited. It has model cars, lolli pops, wines, shirts, specialty beers by the dozen, and, oh yeah, diner style tables for, yup, you guessed it, dining!

We are seated quickly and served an amazing vanilla latte...hubby went for a sure thing, He was not as adventurous as I that day.

Now the menu was something a little odd, but enticing at the same time. Breakfast quesadilla's, french toast, biscuits and gravy, linguica and eggs, and this list goes on. Odd combinations but interestingly mouth watering at the same time.

I chose the breakfast quesadilla, hubby picked the linguica and eggs.
Hubby, "Sunny side up."
Waitress, "Over easy, over hard, or over medium?" hehehe. Too funny.
"Over easy." Said with a grin.

Food was served quickly and it was surprisingly pretty darn good. Not scrumptious, but definitely good.

Well as greasy spoons go, this one I will visit again. The food was just the right proportions, the grease was VERY minimal, the service friendly and the price was right. Plus if you don't think your meal is quite spicy enough they boast a full shelf of hot sauces and if they are found to be hot enough for you, you may want to ask for Andy's special hot sauce. I was not brave enough.


This weeks restaurant Louie's Place in LaGrange.

Well what with all the holidays and me attempting to watch my ever growing figure, I passed on a lot of dining out, as dining in was simply too delicious to pass up.

But with the holidays behind me and my culinary appetite in need of whetting, hubby and I head out in search of the all illusive middle of the week prime rib. Well, I was in search of antique stores and yard sales, but he willingly came along when I mentioned I was also insearch of prime rib. Thats the real buzz word in our home.

So as he begins to don his motorcycle garb, I am realizing that my shopping experience will be limited to what I can fit in my purse...not what I had envisioned for my day out exploring. So with a little more cajoling and I admit a little whining we load into something with four wheels and (lucky me) a trunk!

Which way do we go, hmmm, off the beaten path if one is looking for treasures.

Once again our journey takes us to places where I swear I hear banjoes and I begin to have flashbacks of B movies...LaGrange.

Yup, we ended up in LaGrange. Where whadaya know? Theres a mercantile going out of business with dirt cheap antiques AND a restaurant that serves prime rib. Well prime rib sandwiches.

After spending all my $20 on bags of wonderful treasures, affectionately called junk by hubby, we strolled across the street to Louie's Place. A gem in the wilderness.

Built in 1897, the beaten wooden doors swung open into a classic old time bar. The wooden floor was aged and worn, uneven and perfect at the same time, there was heavy bar encrusted with silver dollars spelling out Louies on the top running the length of the restaurant, and a jukebox belting out country music in the back. The only thing missing to complete the home grown neighborhood country hangout was a pot bellied stove and two old men in rockers smokin' corn cob pipes.

As if the ambiance didn't take you back in time, the menu did. Delicious 100% beef hamburgers of all kinds, hearty soups and salads, deep fried pickles and the coup d'etat - a prime rib sandwich boasting a 10 or 16 oz slab of prime rib. Enough for two, but made for one.

Bring on the fried pickles of course. Hand battered and fried to perfection. Next up the bacon blue cheese burger. So large I had to smash it down to get it in my mouth! And thats sayin' a lot. Well we all know what hubby had, 16 oz prime rib sandwich skip the bread and bring on the fresh horseradish.
He was is seventh heaven. Oh and his came with a side salad made for a king, with real blue cheese crumbles and plenty of fresh greens and toppings.

Suffice it to say I was rolled out of there, leftovers are for wimps is my motto!

If you want to enjoy a leisurely drive through the foothills, I really would add this gem to your list, but go hungry, its ALL good.

Oh and I forget to mention the what would you say if I told you hubby and I got out of there with drinks included for under $30.00! Yup. I guess this would be a good time to tell you we have been back and it was just as good the first time, except I ordered less, food comas are not good on winding roads:)

And if you want to continue to explore, Coulterville is just a few winding miles up the road.

If you go on a Thursday or Saturday, say 'hi' to Mishawn and tell her I sent ya:)


This weeks restaurant - The Willow in Jamestown.

Now while I really enjoy writing these restaurant reviews it has inadvertently wreaked havoc on my waistline. So with the holidays fast approaching and that little black dress suspiciously shrinking in the back of my closet I have chosen to attempt a low carb type diet. With this said, much to my taste-buds disappointment, my reviews will be lacking in information on the best things in life, like desserts, cream soups, etc.

But the up side? Hopefully I will be able to shed some light on the best steak eateries around this area.

On a blustery day, I headed to yet another great play by the Sierra Repertory Theatre in Sonora with my good friend in tow. As has become our regular routine, we shop or we soak up culture and then we hit the Willow for a little nip of something and a tasty bite to eat. Last visit I indulged myself with the best Philly cheese-steak this side of Philly as well as some fresh bread and creamy dumpling soup. Can you see why the waistline is becoming an issue? Well I forgot to give the Willow a write up for this little side trip, so lucky me, I had another opportunity to sample their fare, only this time, low on the carbs.

Seeing as how I woke at zero dark thirty to get some extra work done, by the time we finished with the play I was certain it was five o'clock somewhere, time to imbibe in a little refreshment...low carb of course.

Entering the Willow saloon, you immediately take a step back in time to a by-gone era reminiscent of our areas gold mining history. The bar is studded with welcoming locals and tourists alike, all blending together in a happy chatter throughout the place. The wood burning stove it the back giving off the perfect amount of heat to welcome us in from the cold and rain.

After a few warming nips we are escorted to a comfy booth and given a menu with such a wonderful selection chicken, steak, ribs, pork, seafood, and of course mouth watering sandwiches and pastas. Though my heart is screaming fettuccine Alfredo or a turkey waist tightly smooshed into my 'fat' jeans is saying steak and fresh veggies. Ok, waist wins, after all I need to breathe!

I order a culotte  steak with Gorgonzola and a double side of fresh veggies due to the fact that I declined the surely scrumptious baked potato. My friend, not counting cards, ordered the special - filet Mignon, lobster tail and baked potato, oh and cheese fondue dip! (I may need to rethink my dining partners during this carb counting phase of life.)

Well my meal was not wanting for anything as the steak was the largest culotte I had ever seen and the veggies were seasonal and perfectly al dente with a lightly seasoned olive oil dressing. Conversation stopped for many minutes, which for my friend and I is unheard of as we both talk enough for at least three people. Half of my steak gone, all my veggies consumed and I was in low carb heaven. As for my friend, she devoured her lobster and fully loaded potato, but the filet was so large it was not possible to finish, however I had to give her an 'A' for effort. She and I both had lunch for the following day, as we took home our yummy leftovers.

Oh and the specials were eclectic and vast, from buffalo to fresh fish, seafood to lamb. All sounding mouthwatering delicious.

Bottom line; the serving sizes were huge but comparable to the price. The food was near perfection. The service was friendly, informed and efficient. The ambiance was warm and welcoming. The booths were comfortable and clean. The prices reflect the quality of the food and the dining experience, a tad high for our area but well worth the quality of dining experience you receive.

I can't wait to go back!

If you pop into the bar for a quick warm up on a cold day say hi to Joel or Bruce....mainstays of the place for years:)


This weeks restaurant Payless IGA.

A grocery store? you ask. Why yes!

I have found, multiple times, that I want a homecooked meal in my home that I have not cooked. Sound familiar?

Well, all you need to do is call the deli at Payless IGA and order up some yummy fried chicken and jojos, or a juicy bacon cheeseburger, or a stuffed breakfast burrito. It seems as if the sky is the limit.

After a long day of doing absolutely nothing, one can become extrememly exhausted and wish for someone else to make dinner. Unfortuantely when you have spent the day doing absolutely nothing with your other half, they are hoping the same thing, for someone else to make dinner.

Light bulb time. Fried chicken with freshly made potato salad, cole slaw and some jojo fries would hit the spot and all just a phone call away. You can even pick what pieces you want; breast, thighs drumsticks, etc. Made just for you, ready at the time you want and just a quick drive into town.

In my infinite wisdom I always order a few pieces more in case I'm wanting someone to make a home cooked lunch the next day and that someone is not me.

The service is cheerful and helpful, the prices are reasonable and the food is always freshly made and cooked to your liking. Does it get better than that?
 This weeks restaurant... Mi Pueblo in Sonora.

Sometimes the hidden places are simply the best finds.

On a little jaunt to explore the Halloween Fantasy faire, hubby and I changed our minds (meaning I did) and we headed to the last outdoor produce market of the season in old town Sonora...only to find it closing up.

Well luckily for me I happen to know of a great yarn shop just a street away. Of course I announced this with excitement, but my excitement was met with a less than enthusiastic 'ok.' I'm usually pretty good in yarn shops, I like to look and touch, but know better than to buy unless I have a project in mind or I end up with a towering pile of yarn with no colors matching and not enough to complete anything...hence the mass amounts of scarves I create....I digress once again.

A little disclaimer - If you have not read a to dine or not to dine before, you may need to adjust to my wanderings.

So after two strikes and one base hit with the yarn store we wander about downtown Sonora with no plan in mind, just a nice stroll on a nice day, when we notice a set of stairs heading down toward the little creek that runs through town. Hmmm, where do these go?

At the top of the stairs we see a menu posted. Its Mexican, hubby likes that, and the menu has MANY items with a chili icon next to it, meaning HOT. More points for this restaurant in hubby's mind. Down the stairs we go.

Dine in or out? Well out of course, right along the creek. Lovely.

Seeing as how we imbibbed a bit too much the evening before Menudo was on my husbands is his favorite Mexican dish as well as he swears it cures a hangover....I will never know. I oredered something safe and recognizable, a chicken chimichanga.

The chips and salsa were fresh and the flour tortilla chips were freshly made. Yum!

Lunch came and the servings were HUGE.

There was very little conversation as we ate...the food was that good. My chimichanga was so full of meat it was easily a meal for two, but I did my best to finish a large portion of it. The beans were perfection and the rice, which I rarely eat, was delicious. When I finally came up for air I asked how the Menudo was. Being a Menudo aficionado - for a gringo- my husband said it was the best he had ever had. That is saying a lot as he eats it where ever he can. I will have to trust his judgement as I still refuse to even try it. I am no Andrew Zimmern here.

The setting was pleasant and simple. The wait staff was efficient and friendly and the time of service was spot on. The food was delicious and well worth every penny. We got out money's worth here and will return as there are many items on the extensive menu that I would like to try.

The also offer a full bar and a children's menu.

Mi Pueblo is located at 126 S. Washington Street, Sonora. Open 7 days a week (menudo only on Saturdays and Sundays...hmmm...there may be something to this hangover medicine idea that I missed). 532-3640

This weeks restaurant Rods Grill in Angels Camp.

Unfortunately this experience left much to be desired.

After a moving experience at the 4th annual Live-On suicide prevention walk-a-thon hubby and I headed to Rods Grill located on Main St across from the Angels Camp Museum. We had heard it was a family style 'greasy spoon' much like a Denny's.

After we were greeted by a sweet young hostess we walked down a carpeted walkway that was so stained and soiled it looked as if a food fight had taken place and had been hastily wiped up, I attempted to slide into my booth. That was no easy task as my bare legs (I was in a dress) stuck to the seat from some unknown sticky substance.

Water, tea and coffee were served quickly and our orders were taken.

The menu was clever with cute car terminology for food items, like lubricants listed all the drinks, etc. The menu boasted some mouthwatering foods. I choose an artichoke omelet, not sure but it sounded delicious, never had one of those before. Hubby chose eggs sunny side up with linguica.

About 30 minutes after our order...seriously, we were about to leave, our plates were delivered. The waitress asked hubby "Hope these eggs look ok." That was a clue. They were pitted and covered with some gelatinous goo that had clearly been sitting under a heat lamp for some time. His linguica seemed to be attempting the make the letter 'C' as it curled from the plate. After eyeballing his plate I became concerned with my own. The cheese that at one time had been covering the top of my omelet had long since melted off and was pooled around the edges. But the potato wedges looked tasty.

Questioning whether either of us should even eat what was placed infront of us the waitress appeared with two more eggs cooked sunny side up. She informed us the owner had cooked them. Hmmm, the owner had made an appearance, this would explain the sudden arrival of people actually scurrying about and working...oh I forgot to mention not one refill of coffee while we waited...not sure about you but most people like refills while they wait, and I find that it is customary, but when in Rome...

So with tummy grumbling we decided to give our meals a try. First few bites of the omelet were ok, nothing special, but certainly not bad. Come bite four I crunched into egg shells. Trying for the glass half full philosophy I was pleased that at least they were using real eggs. I moved onto my potato wedges. As if the eggshell clue in my omelet was not enough, I found more egg shells adorning my potato wedges. Not sure I wanted to eat possible raw eggs, I was done with my meal...and I was still hungry darn it!

Hubby finished all of his meal, all the while grumbling, relinquishing power over the fork to his tummy.

Oh and we had the privilege of paying $24 dollars for this dining experience.

I can only hope this was an isolated experience as I have heard good things about this restaurant, but I, myself, will not be back.

The bright side again? Real eggs! Oh and really fun decor, antique trinkets and pictures.  

This weeks restaurant is Jebs in Sonora.

Two words.... ARRIVE HUNGRY!

Some of you may remember when you would roll out of bed at the crack of dawn, forgo brushing your teeth or your hair for that matter, pull on your worn jeans and mud encrusted boots, slip into your beat up old coat and don your hat as you headed out the door to feed the many animals in your care. Robotically you complete your morning chores, half asleep and fully miserable wishing you could have stayed in your nice warm bed. Yet, as you finish and get closer to home you smell the tantalizing and all to familiar smell of fresh bacon frying in a skillet. You pick up your pace because you know in your current mud covered condition you will not be allowed at the table. You rush through your morning clean up and head to the kitchen table where you are awarded - for all your hard work - a plate heaped high with eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy and a side of toast.  It certainly makes all your morning chores worth it!

For those of you that remember this or those of you that can envision this, the picture you see in your mind is exactly what you get when you dine at Jeb's.

The servings are ginormous (yes, thats a word...I looked it up) and the taste is just like home.

I would run down the list of everything our family consumed in one sitting but I would be suffice it to say we were stuffed to oblivion and cannot wait to go back.

The portions were huge, the cost was very affordable, the restaurant was clean and the wait staff was friendly and efficient.

I have been back multiple times and look forward to my next dining experience at Jeb's.

Jeb's is located at 729 Mono Way (Across the street from Orchard Supply Hardware)

P.S. Wear your stretchy pants:)

Charity Maness


This week’s restaurant is the Seven Sisters at the Black Oak Casino in Tuolumne.
Of course you can correctly assume I was headed to Black Oak to take advantage of all the fun they offer…like bowling and skee-ball and…wait! You thought I was going to gamble?
Well ok I confess I left some of my hard earned money in more than one of those darn penny eating machines. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was not smarter than the sensory overloading money depriving electronic  thingy-magigs. Thank goodness our reservation at the Seven Sisters was not long off or I would not have the money for what I was told would be a memorable meal.
Anticipating the meal we arrived a smidge early and sat comfortably in the small yet airy lounge area awaiting the beckoning of the hostess. Soon we were seated at a lovely table in a large dining area yet decorated and furnished to create an intimate atmosphere...perfect for hubby’s surprise birthday dinner.
The wine list was extensive, yet I suppressed the urge to sweetly say to the waitress “I’ll have one of everything.” I know… you must be impressed by my inner strength. I did however succumb to ordering an absolutely beautiful Moscato with a bit of a sparkle and a rich earthy oaky smoky merlot for Hubby.
After perusing the menu the task at hand became very difficult…what to choose, what to choose. Crab cakes are a must, and the three cheese Blue Moon fondue sounded way too scrumptious to pass up. So appetizers ordered the main meal became an issue. There literally was not one single item on the menu that I would not have loved to dine on with gusto, but alas, I had to choose one. Filet and lobster it is!
Realizing we may have ordered a tad too much we asked if we could split the main course. The waitress assured us this was perfectly fine. We certainly did not expect what came next.
Our plates were served FULLY loaded with golden buttery potatoes, lightly steamed fresh veggies, a half of a filet and a half lobster tail with a small ramequin of melted butter. If this was a split plate I was in heaven! I had never seen a restaurant go to such lengths when a meal was split.
Now to the taste….mouth watering. Each delectable bite was sinful and heavenly at the same time.
I hope to go back soon…really soon. I have been told that their Sunday buffet is phenomenal. I will have to try that.
The cost was directly related to the whole experience and well worth every penny. I was actually expecting a larger bill so was pleasantly surprised. But do not come expecting to dine on the run. Everything in this restaurant is geared towards slow enjoyment.
So with this said I would give this restaurant 5 gold stars out of 5. I will go again.

This weeks restaurant is Angelo's Steakhouse in Murphys.

Headed up to an evening of guaranteed enjoyment at Murphys Creek Theater under the stars, we allotted ourselves some time to peruse Murphys for a bite to eat. We didn't peruse far as our stomachs were growling, so we stopped at the first restaurant we saw...lucky Italian steakhouse! What with my love for anything Italian and my partner in crimes love of steak we hit the jackpot!

The outside dining looked perfect for a nice romantic evening, but alas, each seat was taken...dining inside it was. The tables were a bit tight and the chairs were really uncomfortable but the wine was divine! Oh what one will not endure for an amazing glass of grape juice:)
First choices were the veal marsala and the spaghetti with two 1/2 pound meatballs, but once we were told of the the surf and turf special, the waitress need say no more. As we happily munched on fresh bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic (which we had to ask for three times) we discussed the upcoming play and the ambiance of the restaurant. Pub chairs sat at the bar for presumably bar dining, while tables set for two, four and six, lacked any decoration other than salt and pepper shakers and dining implements. Half of the restaurant was painted with soothing and welcoming hues as well as artwork with Italian flair. The other half was clearly older with much of the original wood and ceilings left intact adding romance to the tapestries hanging on the walls.

Dinner was served and the turf was four shrimp grilled on skewers with some summer squash. My partner in crime for the evening was seriously disappointed, yet by the end of the evening there was not a shrimp left. The petite filet was wrapped in pancetta and grilled to perfection. I probably could have cut it with my fork but manners made me use my knife. The only down side was it was covered in a brown sauce that much resembled a strogonoff sauce. I would have perferred my steak as a steak should be...sauceless, especially a filet. But my plate was cleaned by the end of the meal.

The serving size was perfect, not too much, not too little. The pricing was a bit high seeing as how the turf was shrimp, not prawns, but shrimp. The setting was nice, the bus boy helpful and cheerful, the waitress definitely designing her trips to the table to allow for a slow meal.

I might try this one again, but I think I will steer clear of the special and go with something on their main menu, tried and true Italian meals.

For more information on Angelo's Steakhouse visit

This weeks restaurant is the Hillbillies Restaurant in Murphys.

Suffice it to say, the name itself should tell you of the fixin's offered inside.

After passing a rustic penitentiary wagon in the parking lot you enter a place not like any other in the foothills, filled with kitchen gadgetry of a bygone era, clothes hangin' from a  line, saddles perched precariously about and a covered wagon in the corner. With all this decor one would think I would have become distracted, by no, I curiously felt right at home.

We were seated quickly and served our drinks. However the wait for service after that seemed interminable. Then we noticed the house seemed to be shorthanded and the single waitress was handling the whole restaurant with as much efficiency and grace as possible given the size of the crowd.

This wait gave us a bit more time to peruse the menu. A menu that consisted of pretty much every rib stickin' meal you could think of, from chicken fried steak to fresh omelets, locally renowned hillbilly bowl with eggs, potatoes, sausage and cheese inside a bread bowl covered in gravy to fish and chips to frog legs. Yes, Hillbillies has frog legs, and you know my philosophy by now...when in Rome....
Frog legs is is!

I noted heaping platefuls of food passing by and quickly whittled down my order to simply frog legs and fries. Ok, I admit I was a bit nervous about the frog legs, so my partner in crime took the bullet for that one and ordered the frog while I ordered the fish and chips. That was a mistake. One taste of my fish and I could tell it was not was frozen. The fries however were divine and the frog leg I stole from my partners plate was crunchy, flavorful and did not taste like chicken. It had its own wonderful, non-gamey, rich taste.

So all in all, I would like to give Hillbillies one more chance and try one of their specialties, however this experience was lacking. The ambiance - hillbilly eclectic - was cute, yet many items needed dusting. The tables were not all that clean...but the service - when she could get to us - was pleasant, helpful, and courteous. The prices were affordable and the servings large.

Hillbillies Restaurant is located at 55 Highway 4 in Murphys.


This weeks restaurant is Pete's Family Restaurant in downtown Jamestown.

While spending a day running the innumerable 'catch all' errands up the hill, one tends to get hungry right between Sonora and Copper...luckily there is a variety of restaurants to choose from in Jamestown...a perfect midway point for a snack.

On just such an errand run I discovered Pete's. What was once Azzo's famous Italian restaurant is now an American and Greek cuisine eatery. It is a small restaurant tucked away along the main drag of Jamestown with little curb appeal but a menu worth a look.

Once inside with a nice glass of ice water my companion and I perused the expansive menu offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. New York Steak and eggs, omelets, pancakes and more on the breakfast side...but it was 2 in the afternoon...I would behave and eat a lunch even though my mouth was watering with the mere thoughts of waffles with fresh strawberries. On to the lunch menu.

Indeed there was a vast array of American eats like hamburgers and salads but what intrigued me were the items I could not pronounce let alone try to spell without the menu in front of me. Forget phonetics with some of these Greek words, but when in Greece....

 I ordered a Greek plate with Pita bread, lamb gyro meat, tomatoes, klamata olives, cucumbers, dolmas, tzatziki and Spanakopitta (see why I needed the menu to rewrite this?). My buddy wanted to order a Rueben sandwich....nope...we were going Greek today!

Not sure what we had ordered we sat in nervous anticipation. When the plate was delivered we both must have looked a bit confused. I admit the only thing I recognized were the tomatoes and the patient waiter explained what each item was. Well, whats the point of trying something new if you're not going to dig with napkin in lap I began to pile all the items on the pita, added a little of the tzatziki and voila a mouth watering, groan inducing, flavorful experience was the result.

Conversation died and we consumed everything on our plate. Oh and I almost forgot...we ordered the Portabello mushroom sauteed with fresh spinach, shallots, garlic and pancetta in a cream wine and butter sauce with crumbled feta on top. Divine! I'm pretty sure I ate more than half of that plate:)

These two items totaled less than $20 and filled two people full. The ambience is lacking as is the curbside appeal, however the chef knows how to create palate pleasing foods and the waiter was friendly, knowledgeable and service oriented.

All in all a good dining experience. I look forward to returning to try out their dinner menu.

Petes is located at 18228 Main Street, Jamestown 209-984-2077.

This weeks restaurant - The House of Beef in Oakdale

While some of us head up the hill for our weekly shopping spree, many of us head down the hill into the 'Cowboy Capitol of the World'....Oakdale.

Full of country charm and lots of shopping venues, Oakdale has more than enough to offer us foothill folks out on the town for a day. In fact I'm thinking it may take more than a few days to sufficiently scour this town for good eats.

On this day though I was traveling with my 15 year son, you know the age- the hollow leg age - when I ventured upon the House of Beef, corner of Yosemite and 3rd Avenue. (Just so happens I have a meat locker there too, mighty convenient).

'Come on in and sit down a spell' is the sense you get upon entering this establishment. Dated pictures from the turn of the century and farm implements large and small adorn every section of each wall.

The menu was not really a surprise as it bespoke of the restaurants name....beef, beef and more beef. Perfect for a growing young man! If you are not a beef lover no need to be put off by the main items on the menu as they also have fresh soups and a salad bar with more toppings than I could possibly use. The menu also offers a nice selection of appetizers to whet your appetite. Unfortunately I ordered appetizers and was full before my main course arrived. Appetizer servings are not lacking in size or taste.

I did however have to at least try a bite of my tri tip sandwich....heaven! Sheer deliciousness wrapped in fresh bread. I would drive to Oakdale just for this sandwich!

My little mack truck had a 1/2 pound hamburger. While many don't place much weight in a 15 year olds opinion he rarely tells me something is good - besides Micki's potato salad - so when he said with a muffle voice due to the burger in his mouth "this is real good" I know I have hit the motherlode.

Upon exiting the restaurant we noticed a craft store with yarn across the street....being ever so discreet little mack truck says "look mom, they have yarn, guess we will need to come down here again." That was a hint the size of the Hindenburg!

We will be back.

Service was cheerful and quick. Food was flavorful and more than could be consumed. Prices were reasonable and the setting was quaint. All in all a great dining experience. Perfect for the family or just stop in for a bite on an afternoon drive.

For more information of the House of Beef visit


This weeks restaurant Sonora's Thai Cuisine...

Never one for to turn down a meal -my figure can attest to that- I once again find myself with a good friend that would like to treat me to lunch. After a calm tea at Heart Rock Cafe on Washington Street  in downtown Sonora its just a hop-ski and a jump to Sonora's Thai Cuisine.

Having not indulged in Thai food, suprising I know, I was a bit leary at first. I had heard that Thai food can be quite spicey...but none-the-less I found myself comfortably sitting at a table for two in a rustic style setting. The style was goldrush meets Thailand as the art and knick knacks were clearly Thai inspired yet the wooden floors and high tinned ceilings were from a time period long ago. Somehow it worked.

The menu was what I considered to be an eclectic array of odd combinations of foods. Chicken in coconut milk? Never had I thought to combine the two. The list of those combinations goes on and on, yet each one seemed to be tantalizingly more desirable as I put some thought into what they might taste like. This adventure was opening up a whole new culinary world for me.

I was assured that I could dine quite comfortably on non-spicy food and allowed my friend to order. Its quite interesting listening to an English speaking person order in what I perceived to be fluent Thai. Quite impressed.

The  first course was a light shredded salad with a peanut ginger dressing. If I could have licked the bowl I probably would have. Delicious. Next up a chicken lightly steamed with a lemon glaze of sorts to be dipped in yet another peanut concoction served with crisp seasonal vegetables. Though the servings were small I was actually getting full. Add some incredibly rich brown rice and I was almost topped off. Yet the main portion had yet to be comsumed....the chicken in coconut milk soup. Yup, I was feeling adventurous.

After two servings of the scrumptious soup I was sure that a nap was in order. But napping chairs were available in this establishment.

I did have a chance to peak at the bill and for all that we ate, filling two tummys, the total tab was just over $20! An incredible price for a perfect meal.

The surroundings are a bit noisy as the older building doesn't do much to diffuse sound and the chairs were a bit uncomfortable, but the cuisine was spectacular and the price was beyond reasonable.

I will be back to experience more items on their menu.


This weeks restaurant - Talulah's in downtown Sonora.

I have to say that I have walked by this cute little gem nestled among shops on Washington Street a few times and thought the cuisine looked amazing in the menu...but the doors were closed.

So lucky me, on a day out with the girls, Talulah's was open! The small cafe style entrance gives way to a much larger dining area that begets friendship and a wonderful dining experience. Tables were simply decorated and the ambiance was wonderful, tin ceiling, Fleur de lis crown molding and hard wood flooring harking back to a day of rustic elegance. In addition, the art that graces the walls are from local artists.

Greeted by Mark, a waiter with more energy and panache than I have witnessed in the foothills, we are quickly seated and sipping iced lemon waters...bubbly on the way.

The menu was both eclectic and mouthwatering. Each entree was so different from the next that everyone's palate was sure to be pleased.
 The meal began with a fresh baked baguette drizzled with olive oil seasoned with basil, chili peppers, oregano, garlic and an unidentifiable delectable spice. We had two servings:) The soup of the day was a tomato basil with chunks of tomato and thick with spices and flavor.

Partner in crime number 1 ordered spaghetti with meatballs. Just the right amount of noodles al dente with huge meatballs covered in a savory marinara with fresh parmesan. Number 2 had a difficult time deciding but finally settled on the steak salad which was heaped high with perfectly cooked steak, toppings and more. I, falling back on my all-time favorite, ordered an eggplant mozzarella panini. What can I say, I have a soft spot for eggplant, when cooked correctly it is divine, though when not cooked correctly it would certainly cause someone to not try it again, mine was sheer perfection. My panini was a bit overcooked on one side, but other than that, it was a dish I will gladly order again.

Though most would be full with this lunch, this was a party, so we spoiled ourselves with a little dessert. Caramelized topped cheese cake and an Italian creme cake with a vanilla creme filling and a lemon glaze. The lemon glaze was without a doubt the best lemon glaze I have ever tasted, bordering on sinful.

Owner Katharine Payne stopped by our table on occasion to make sure all was to our liking. At times our responses were muffled due to the food in our mouths at others we were clearly complimentary.

A 'must dine' restaurant in the foothills.

I am looking forward to visiting Talulah's for dinner.

For more information of Talulah's visit

Charity Maness

This weeks restaurant... the 'V' Bistro in downtown Murphys.

  It may seem as if I have been spending a lot of time dining in Murphys as of late, I can only claim the luck of the Irish for that one, as the dining is always interesting and the variety of culinary treats plentiful in Murphys.

  As my birthday stretched out I had the opportunity to dine with some good friends at a wine pairing at the V Bistro. Having never been there before I was delighted at the intimate nature of the restaurant yet the exquisite cuisine offered by such a small establishment.
   We chose to hit the back of the V first as that is where the bar is and where the glass shelves lined with top notch liquors were calling my name. Not wanting to spoil my much anticipated dinner I passed on the chambord creation I so desired and asked to be paired with a wine. Yes, pair me with a wine. I told the wonderfully cheerful and knowledgeable bartender what I preferred and she matched me perfectly with a dry Muscat, just the right hint of sweet with no overpowering dessert wine taste. My friends too were matched perfectly. and as we sipped we chatted with those around us making fast friends.
  When it was our time to dine we were escorted to a beautifully set table ... fireside. If you want romance...this is it! But alas not tonight...this was a dinner with friends. Our waiter was quick to serve us yet more delightful certainly had the makings of a great evening early on...and we were handed the pairing menus. Each course would be paired with a local wine perfectly suited for that particular meal. Before I begin I must tell you each course was absolutely mouth watering.
   The initial course was by far the most delicious rice porridge I had ever consumed as it was blended with honey macadamia crusted scallops, curry and scallions. Sweet, spicy, and oh-so savory. Next up balsamic braised veal shank served over white polenta with a tomato-red pepper relish. The veal literally melted in your mouth. I wished for seconds. The final course was a chevre cheesecake 'diassembled', meaning the graham cracker crumbs were intricately laid out on the plate with drizzles of huckleberry lazily crossing through the design and a nice dollop of chevre cheesecake - sans crust - in the middle. A great dessert for those that love to clean their plate. Pretty sure not a crumb was left on mine.
   With all this said I must say that the cost of the meal absolutely included the cost of the ambiance as the portions did not match the price but the quality of the ingredients did. If you are wanting a huge meal for your money, then pass. If you are wanting a quality meal made with the finest ingredients that just fills you nicely, then the V is a good bet. The wait staff was very knowledgeable, even though many had two or more jobs they knew their culinary treats and their wines. The seating was a bit cramped but the V is clearly shooting for romantic settings or at least cozy for a gathering of great friends not nervous about knocking elbows. Either way it seems to work as the meal is not hurried...we were there a good 2 hours. So again, not fast food and not inexpensive...but soooo worth it!


This weeks restaurant is Aria Bakery in Murphys.
So I'm pretty sure the best thing about birthdays - seeing as how it can't be that we are getting older - is that people love to feed you! You get morning coffees, lunches, dinners and sometimes even lovely cocktails and cakes!

So if you can follow this line of thinking...I got stuffed the other day and as my daughter tells me I am now of a respectable Grandmother age...whatever THAT means!

Back to Aria Bakery.

So I had wandered past this heavenly smelling bakery in the past and worried that the mere inhaling of the delicious scents would cause me to somehow consume calorie infused air so chose to walk by briskly. I was told that I had made a mistake by not at least poking my head inside. So with this said, my buddy and partner in crime for the day, took me to Aria for lunch. Yes, lunch.

After I pulled my eyes from the display case of divine pastries from tarts to croissants, and key lime pies to macaroons - all freshly made that morning- I found myself pleasantly surprised by their eclectic and full menu of lunch fare. All sandwiches were offered with Aria's own little twists and tweaks to make them more scrumptious.

I opted for the spinach ricotta quiche. This was the fluffiest quiche I had ever consumed...and I have consumed a lot of quiche. It was almost three inches high and filled with just the right amount of ingredients. The shell was not like a pie pastry but more of a light croissant pastry. Delectable. My partner in crime had the soup of the day - black bean soup. Seeing as how our conversation died after it was delivered I would have to say it must have been delicious. Now she also ordered something I thought to be questionable... the Elvis panini. A peanut butter, banana, and bacon panini. Again conversation stopped and every last piece of that panini was gone. She swears it was interestingly delicious, a great combination of sweet and savory. I will take her word for it.

Each day Aria has a soup and sandwich of the day and apparently culinary creativity is their forte.

The area to dine is tight and a bit cramped. The outside dining in minimal but very pleasant. The best to do would be to grab it to go and head to the park.

The staff was cheerful and knowledgeable. The prices were a tad on the high side but well worth the quality of the ingredients used.

The key lime pie is calling me....I will be back.

Aria Bakery is located in downtown Murphys across from the Murphys Hotel. They offer a full line of freshly made breads and pastries as well as breakfast and lunch items.


This weeks restaurant is Eddie's Grill in Valley Springs.
On a visit to our daughter-in-law in Valley Springs we managed to fit in a little dining experience...imagine that...I have a talent for either fitting in shopping or dining...either one and I'm a happy camper.

I digress. So on this fateful day our daughter-in-law suggested Eddies. Hubby craving Mexican was a bit put-off, but with two hormonal women in the car knew better than to complain and off we headed to Eddies.

I opened the door and was instantly enveloped in the tantalizing scent of roasted garlic. I knew I had come to the right place. We were greeted by a sweet waitress (Liza) and seated immediately. Drinks were easy to was not. The menu was extensive and the selection was all over the culinary map. My brain still stuck in garlic over-drive I knew I had to have whatever they were making that created that delicious scent. Lucky was garlic fries! I was pretty sure garlic fries were not considered a meal so I also ordered a half BLT...just to cover my bases. Hubby ordered hot pastrami and daughter-in-law ordered Cobb salad.

The soup of the day was clam chowder. (Served only on Fridays.) As I am not one to pass up a bowl of clam chowder...ever...I ordered some. I would have to say that with my mass consumption of clam chowders over the years, I kind of know my clam chowders and this was by far and above the best clam chowder I had ever tasted! Full flavored, spicy without too much spice, thick, creamy, chunky and full of clams. I begrudgingly let hubby try a bite or two, but promptly removed the spoon from his hand so I didn't have to share anymore. If I hadn't have known my garlic fries would be coming to the table next I would have had another bowl. (Guess you know where to find me on Fridays!)

When the food arrived I didn't even glance at what everyone was served, my whole line of vision was zeroed in on the fries. Elbows on the table, double dipping pleasure is what those were.

Coming out of my garlic haze I asked about the others meals. The Cobb salad was so full of meats and toppings that she couldn't finish. The pastrami sandwich was so full of meat it was easily 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick of just meat, not to mention the grilled onions, cheese and fresh roll. Definitely a full meal. None of us ate dinner that night we were still so full from lunch.

So I did rant a bit on this particular column, but this is the first restaurant that I have done a critique on that has received full stars from me. It was clean beyond squeaky. The staff (Liza) was cheerful, helpful and efficient. The food portions were huge and delicious. The prices were extremely fair and the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. I cannot wait to go back again. Hopefully I will be able to get over my garlic fries addiction so that I can try some other items on the menu.

This weeks restaurant Morelia's in Jamestown.

So have you ever itched for authentic Mexican food? The real deal? Well then you might want to try Morelia's in Jamestown.

I readily admit to being a gringo Mexican food lover, meaning I order American Mexican food like quesadillas and enchiladas. Run of the mill stuff. Well, when you go to Morelia's and order run-of-the-mill, that's exactly what you get...but when you order authentic Mexican dishes, the chef puts his heart and soul into each dish.

Your meal begins with fresh chips - flour and corn - served with a sharp and tangy salsa almost pureed, not chunky stuff from a jar. As you peruse the menu you will see the obvious dishes with a few hidden surprises between the lines, like homemade menudo, carnitas, and wet burritos. The serving portions are large but not so large it cannot be consumed in one sitting.

We hit Morelia's after an exhausting Walmart shopping trip for our new little addition to the family, so we were just stopping in for a quick bite to eat. Hubby, being a regular, knew exactly where he wanted to dine. Me being a bit new to the Morelia scene and a little naive and wimpy I ordered taquitos, our son ordered super nachos and hubby hit up the tortilla soup.The taquitos were not your average pull-out-of-the-freezer-drop-in-the-fryer taquitos. They were full of meat and tasted as if the tortilla wraps were fresh. The nachos had more toppings than chips...which in my world is nacho perfection. However, the tortilla soup was simply a broth with tortilla strips and some melted cheese. Luckily there was plenty of super nacho toppings to share which helped spice up the soup.

If you are used to ordering American Mexican that is what you will get... try ordering the real deal and you will be pleasantly surprised. Cleanliness is not a top priority, as the building is knocking on the door of historical structure, yet service is friendly and relatively quick. The price is reasonable and the atmosphere is simple.

I am certain that I will return to attempt a 'real' Mexican meal... though menudo will not be on my list...ever!

1- 4 -13
 This weeks restaurant is the Copper Grille in Saddle Creek.

Waking up on a lazy Saturday morning is the perfect time to enjoy NOT making breakfast. So with that thought in mind, after multiple cups of caffeinated fortitude, hubby and I, with son in tow, headed out to the Copper Grille in Saddle Creek.

Dress is anything from casual to golf attire to Sunday best. All but four tables have perfect views and the mimosas are fresh and delicious, as is the coffee. Choosing what to eat is relatively simple due to the fact that the breakfast selection is small yet varied. Son chose breakfast burrito, hubby some scrambled egg dish and me... a vegetarian omelet. Though I gladly call myself a carnivore, sometimes a vegetarian meal just sounds like it would hit the spot.

I was not disappointed. My omelet was made with very fresh ingredients with the mushrooms perfectly sauteed prior to being placed in the omelet - just the way I like it. The serving was way beyond what one person could eat AND it came with a small cup of fresh fruit and a side of sourdough toast (wheat or white if you so choose). My son's burrito was also a meal made for two, however as a growing boy he managed to consume the entire thing and was hungry an hour later. The only down side to the burrito was the large amount of potatoes within the wrapped creation. The burrito did not lack in flavor, just in heartiness. Hubby's scrambled egg concoction also was filled with an excess of potatoes however, it too did not lack in flavor.

Visiting just this once for breakfast was certainly not enough. I will be back to sample more yet will request 'light on the potatoes please' when I order.

The service was good, the waitress was cheerful, and the restaurant receives an A+ for cleanliness. Do not expect fast food, the Copper Grille is what may be termed as a 'leisurely dining experience.'

This weeks restaurant is Columbia Kate's Tea House in Old Town Columbia.
Nestled just one block behind the main drag of Old Town, Columbia Kate's Tea House is a gem of a find.
'What if I don't like tea?' you ask...well not to worry as the menu is so deliciously varied and rich that there is surely something that will tempt your senses and please your palate.
Entering through the door your are greeted with a taste of old England mixed with tantalizing smells and old country charm. Every available wall space is utilized with pictures, tea saucers and cups as well as arts and crafts handmade by locals and for sale. 
Greeted quickly by a server you find yourself seated at a table for two (or four or six etc) with a collection of mismatched tea cups and saucers awaiting your choice of teas. Apple spice for me please. Whereas my shopping partner in crime Maggie ordered an apricot something or other that when served smelled simply delicious...I wouldn't know though as sharing is not much of an option here...once you have what you have ordered and taste it sharing is not on your mind.
We did however order a scone to share. An english toffee and nut scone. Decadent, flaky and dense at the same time. Served with butter, sweet cream and jam. I cut..she chose - fair. Probably the best scone I had ever had.
Though the menu had much to offer along the lines of quiche, chicken pot pie, sandwiches and salads, I chose the spinach ricotta quiche. Definitely NOT a mistake. It was literally filled with spinach and cheese and so large I was fairly certain I would not be able to finish it. It was served with a baby green salad sprinkled with cranberries and Gorgonzola crumbles and drizzled with a raspberry vinaigrette. Maggie had a sandwich combination... unfortunately I did not spend much time perusing or admiring her selection as I was too involved in consuming my own.

As if that was not enough our waitress kindly handed us a dessert menu. Lemon bars, macaroons, cheesecake, bread pudding and so much more. Where does one start? I choose the lemon bar and Maggie chose the Praline pecan pear pie...say that ten times fast!
So at the beginning of the feast I was certain that I could not eat it all...let me tell you, there was not one crumb left on either my lunch plate nor my dessert plate. Delicious to the last crumb.
A definite 'go to' restaurant if you are in the area. If you are not in the area I would make the effort to head that direction. And since it is a tea house you can have your tea dream fulfilled and purchase some to take home.

There is outside dining with a heater. It is wonderful to look out at the garden, but bring a sweater. This is not 'quick' dining. Kate's is a sit-down-enjoy-the-scenery- and-ambiance kind of restaurant. Relax and let the tea you have chosen work its magic.

   This week’s featured restaurant is Gus’ Steak House in Sonora.
   At first glance the entrance lacks curb appeal with a seedy appearance and parking sparse, but upon entering you realize you have entered an establishment that has made its mark and is simply showing signs of age. Dining with a time limit is not my preferred method of dining yet my husband and I were the proud owners of two tickets to a Sierra Repertory play at the Sonora playhouse and did not want to be late for the performance so we shot for the early bird special and were pleased to be seated and served quickly.
   The early bird menu boasts a nice selection of entrees from Italian to steak house fare. I selected my favorite all-time meal, veal parmesan and John selected a beef something-or-other, that actually turned out to be a stew…John doesn’t do stews. This did not bode well in his book. However, my veal parmesan was scrumptious. Perfectly cooked, just the right amount of marinara and a healthy sampling of heavenly mozzarella melted to perfection. Served with grilled red potatoes and seasoned squash, this patron was a happy camper. The portions were just right, not too much and not too little.
The cost for the two meals was only $19.95. For the amount of food, this price I feel could not be beat.
   Now for the down sides. The atmosphere was loud, the waitress was clearly not enjoying her chosen line of work (yet she was training a young lady that was exuberant and cheerful…I will hold out hope for her success)and the wine was of poor quality.
   So with all this said, if you simply want a delicious meal and are not discerning in the areas of ambience or service, then I would recommend Gus’s. After-all when you pay $19.95 for two meals…you most often get what you pay for…and I felt my food was well worth each penny.

This weeks restaurant is Grounds in Murphys.

  Don’t let the cute name fool you, it is so much more than coffee.
  Wandering about Murphys can be a fun (and expensive) day with all the shops and wineries advertising their wares and fineries, it is a shoppers dream come true. So when you find yourself in the need of a bit of a pick-me-up, code for copious amounts of caffeine to continue burning up the credit card, you might want to stop in Grounds.
  Over the years Grounds has been the official ‘birthday’ party place for me and my girlfriends, as they offer just the right atmosphere for laid back fun with a touch of class. While many complain if a chef never changes a menu, the menu at Grounds hasn’t changed in years…there is a reason…everything on that menu is phenomenal. For some reason I find myself stuck on the eggplant sandwich and do not seem to vary as I have never had a sandwich so incredibly delectable and find myself thinking of it from time to time wishing I lived just a tad bit closer so I could have it more often. Eggplant? You ask in horror. Yes. Apparently the chef has a way with eggplant, as it is lightly grilled in fresh evoo with some herbs I have yet to figure out, placed on lightly toasted fresh sourdough bread drizzled with evoo and topped off with a pesto to die for and melted cheese. My mouth is watering as I write.
  Now don’t think this is the only item on the menu, but as I have yet to plow through the entire menu I cannot tell you about the other options other than my friends tend to leave nothing for the dishwasher when our meals are complete. Suffice it to say, the meals are scrumptious.
  As for ambiance, during a morning brunch it can be hectic, but early afternoon and late afternoon are perfect. The outside seating offers a nice respite from their indoor dining and the service is timely and always nice. The price is just a smidge over what I would prefer to pay, but the food is definitely worth it, as is the drive.

Charity Maness

For more information on Grounds visit

This week I have chosen Bristols' Ranch House Cafe in Arnold.

   If you have read my To Dine or Not to Dine articles before you can probably surmise that I thoroughly enjoy dining out...anyone else cooking for me and then washing the dishes, is far and away the best! So suffice it to say when I visit a place where I walk in and am greeted like family, treated like family and fed like family...I know I have found home! Bristol's Ranch House Cafe is home.
   After discovering the serene beauty of Whitepines Lake while on a photo hunt for new views to see through my lens, I had worked up an appetite. After all, sitting on a white sand beach, my feet sunk in the sand, watching the kayakers and ducks paddle through the crystal clear water and the fishermen casting again and again, had me exhausted! Dragging myself to my car I ask a local enjoying an early lunch on a nearby picnic bench where I might stop for a nice bite to eat. Bristols was the first and only restaurant that came to mind. Bristols it was.
   Located right on Hwy 4, you would think it would be easy to spot, but ha, its wood cabin exterior nestled into the pines may cause you to miss keep your eyes open. When you pull into the parking lot its much like pulling into a campground. Squirrels, birds and pine needles everywhere! I entered the door and was instantly greeted by the owner Richard who had been sitting with a customer chatting. Quickly seated with menu in hand and coffee on the table I perused the menu. As it was morning the menu offered everything you could want for a hearty country breakfast. An elderly lady at the table next to me leaned over and whispered...'try the biscuits and gravy, they're the best, I come each week just for that!' I took a look at her plate...wiped clean. I took a look at her frail frame and wondered just where she had put all that food.
   Not able to make up my mind I watched as plate after plate of food appeared from the kitchen and was delivered with friendly chatter to the tables. Watching the plates made my decision even more difficult as the omelets were bursting at the seams with vegetables, meats and cheeses. The biscuits and gravy servings were so huge I was surprised it fit on the plate. I was pretty sure my ever widening rear was not going to appreciate what I was going to order, but I did it anyway. Oddly enough I ordered a Belgian waffle with seasonal berries.
   Now my experience with waffles and fruit is limited to Ihop and places like that where its basically pancake batter made into a waffle and the fruit is frozen and tasteless. Not at Bristols. Have you ever seen a waffle that takes up an entire plate? Not kidding here. That waffle was piled so high with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, whipped cream and berry drizzle it had to be at least 4" high! 'Thighs and rear end be damned...I am eating it all' I said to myself. About 1/3 way through and a couple of grunts to Richard when he came to ask how the meal was, I was pogged! No more could fit in. I noticed I was not alone as many were rubbing their tummies and staring at what remained on their plates. I paid my incredibly affordable bill, slogged it home to Copper and napped like a baby.
   So not being able to resist the pull of the lake, especially now that I knew what dining establishment was in close proximity, I once again found myself communing with nature, working up an uncanny appetite just by adjusting my zoom. Off to Bristols again.
   This time I asked if there was a special menu....lo and behold...there was! I knew it! Patty Ellington, the culinary creator of all that comes from the kitchen was certain to have creations above and beyond the boundaries of any menu. On that day I knew right away I wanted to try the Mediterranean sandwich. This sandwich is made with grilled zucchini, squash, eggplant, red onion, spinach, Gorgonzola cheese and pesto aioli on a sour dough roll. GROAN!!!
   Dining alone is not an option when you are at their sign says, when you are dining here you are family. So Richard accompanied me though most of my meal as I simply groaned and grunted responses while I devoured my meal. How a sandwich could be so decadent and so flavorful with the ingredients Patty had chosen was beyond my comprehension. Only able to finish half, I sheepishly wiped the mess from my mouth, chin and shirt front while Richard took it all in stride. Probably a common sight at Bristol's.
   The following day I finished the other half. It was almost just as good the next day!
   I would have to say that this dining experience is one that will gladly be repeated as often as I can get to the Arnold area. The atmosphere is homey, the staff (including those in the kitchen) remember your name, the portions are massive, the food is divine (chef kudos), and the prices easily fit within my budget.
   Bristol's Cafe is not open for dinner. Closed on Wednesdays. For more information visit their facebook page at   Bristol's Ranch House Cafe or call 209-795-2091


This weeks restaurant... Drifter's Marina and Grill.

   Having only dined there once many years ago, on a recent visit I was completely and totally taken by surprise at the extensive menu, the staff and the overall general atmosphere of Drifter's Marina and Grill. It exceeded even my highest expectations.
      On an impromptu boat ride, meaning we hitched a ride with someone who actually owns a boat...hubby points out that we do own boats... they are small and orange and commonly referred to as kayaks. I myself prefer the ones with motors if I am wandering say more than 50 feet from shore...I digress. So enjoying the company (that is code for boat) of our host and good friend Jimmy, we find ourselves tootling along at a quick clip of 5 mph through the Kiva area. This exhilarating speed with which we traveled caused us all to become famished. Jimmy pulled us into Drifter's. We take one look at our apparel and realize some of us will be staying on the boat.
   Interestingly enough, as the only female on the boat I was the only one with enough clothing on to accompany Jimmy to the restaurant. Once we walked the length of the dock and visited with people we knew along the thatched roof outside dining area (all the while wondering why these folks hadn't told me about this great hide-away) we finally made it inside. We were greeted with smiles galore and blessedly cool air. How it was cool was beyond me as I saw a freshly made pizza moving through an open brick oven, hot flames licking the pizza.
   Luckily Jimmy knew what we were going to eat for if I had to choose something from the menu it would have been an order that sounded something like this, "Um, well, one of everything please." 15 minutes later we headed back to the boat with to-go containers for all along with ice and drinks for the cooler on board. So this is really hard to picture, but when each testosterone filled creature bit into their lunches, the groans they produced were primal. Keep in mind...Jimmy had ordered all of us hotdogs. Yup, that's it, hotdogs. But evidently not just any hotdogs because these hotdogs had these guys groaning like there was no tomorrow. Lets not even talk about the beer batter french fries. The poor ducks begging by our boat went hungry that day for not one french fry was left, not even a small scrap of bun. Gone, devoured.
   As they all lay back with their eyes rolling back in their heads succumbing to some sort of hotdog coma my son in law began the clean up process. It turned out not to be too hard, because the sweet waitress had seen us cleaning up and met him halfway to collect our trash. Now THATS service!!!
   I hear from Jimmy that each time he has dined there it has been a great experience. Not one to take someone's word for such a thing I will just have to dine there again...and again...and again.

For more information on Drifter's Marina and Grill visit

By, Charity Maness  
6-22-12 Panini's Italian Grill in Copperopolis

This weeks restaurant – Panini’s, Copperopolis
First I must point out the obvious attraction of Panini’s…location, location, location. No matter where you live in Copper Panini’s is just minutes away, in the new Town Square. The second best attribute is the option for outside dining; fans in the summer, propane heaters in the winter.
   Now, on to the food. As per my usual MO (modus operandi) I tend to dine a few times at a restaurant before I can make an somewhat educated critique. This proved to be helpful for Panini’s…no so helpful for my waistline. When the weather was cooler I went through a soup phase, you know where the craving for soups won’t stop…much like my craving for tootsie rolls and hostess cherry pies with my pregnancies (hence the whale status at the ob gyn) I digress… when the weather was cool I visited at least once per week sampling each of their rich and creamy soups. Scrumptious! It was the soups that had me back for more.
   Thankfully open 7 days a week, when the urge strikes you for someone other than yourself to cook, they are readily available. As the ownership changed, the atmosphere and the food changed also. The transition seemed to be awkward at first, wait staff not certain as to how to behave, and food less than yummy; disappointing. But soon Panini’s hit their stride and service leveled out to classy, timely and efficient Yet the best news is that the food has definitely become above average with prices to suit my pocketbook.
   The menu offers tasty treats from simple salads and stuffed mushrooms to scampi, New York steak, stuffed pork loin and yes, a heavenly eggplant parmesan for you vegetarians. While the menu is expansive, Panini’s offers a bit of a twist. While dining I find that many restaurants ‘specials’ are really things that need to be cooked and served or become a negative number on the books. Panini’s is just the opposite of this. Their specials are clearly fresh and most definitely delicious. The offer dungeness crab cioppino, rack of lamb, surf & turf and more. But you must make reservations for these specials as they go quickly.They are only available on the weekends.
   While my palate loves different tastes and textures preferably with lots of vegetables (jalapenos do not fall under the vegetable category in my book, they are placed under fire hazard) my husband’s palate desires spicey and bold. So while I studiously work my way through every item on the menu – still managing to use one chair for my ever expanding bottom – hubby sticks with his tried and true Italian sausage sandwich creation. Bold, spicy and, I must say delicious, even though he only let me have one bite…once.
   For more information on Panini’s Italian Grill visit
By, Charity Maness

5-11-12 El Jardin Columbia
This weeks restaurant... El Jardin in Old Town Columbia

   Excited about an evening of SRT - Cash  'Ring of Fire' - my husband and I found ourselves in Columbia extremely early. Much to my dismay we were too late to shop as most of the shops were closed, but luckily my second favorite thing to do was readily!
  El Jardin seemed to be in close proximity of the Fallon so we decided to give it a shot. We had not heard anything about this restaurant before so this was a 'going in blind' experience.
   As first we thought how brilliant we were to dine before a play, however we quickly discovered the foothills are full of brilliant people. Once we entered the garden like setting of El Jardin we realized we may have a bit of a wait. Surprisingly there was available seating outside. Though the tables are close the outside patio setting with plenty of foliage and forest-like ambiance allowed us to feel as if we were in a more intimate setting. Dress code was from pearls to Birkenstocks and everything in between.
   Service was relatively quick considering the packed house. The beer was exceptionally cold and the wines offered were mostly local... good thing as I love Ironstone symphony. The salsa was homemade and full of big yummy chunks of fresh tomato and finely chopped onions. A side bowl offered an interesting shredded cabbage concoction that was delicious on chips with a bit of salsa.
   Venturing from my tame 'a quesadilla please' order I went all out and ordered carnitas. Am I glad I did. The carnitas was fall-off-the-bone tender in just the right amount of sauce that when loaded on the warm flour tortilla with some pico de gallo and some beans that just a bit of the hot liquid would run down my hand. That to me sings perfection. Running to your elbow...too watery, not runny at all...too dry, just running to the wrist...perfection!
   I am sorry to say that I was in such carnitas heaven I completely forgot to ask my husband how his meal was. Suffice it to say there was little or no conversation as we ate, which of course means, it was good.
   The wait staff, overworked with the crowd, served with a smile. Refills were a bit slow as the restaurant was swamped. The seating, though it offered a nice ambiance, was uncomfortable and small. Not enough room on the table top for basic food stuffs. As with many of the restaurants I have critiqued in the foothills, the portions were huge, yet unlike other restaurants, the prices seemed a bit high for the meal.
   However, all this said, I would definitely dine at El Jardin again.

By, Charity Maness

4-20-12 The Pickle Patch San Andreas
This weeks featured restaurant - The Pickle Patch, San Andreas
   Eclectic with a bohemian flair.
   Since there is no foot traffic to speak of near the Pickle Patch, I cannot use the excuse that I tried this restaurant because of my exhaustion from 'touristing' - (shopping). So I will stick to the facts.
While attending a beautiful garden wedding I sampled some light fare and was pleasantly surprised at the non-traditional wedding spread. There was no shrimp swimming in cocktail sauce, no unidentifiable pastries fried golden brown, no, there was a colorful and creative display of culinary delights that I had never seen...nor heard of. Well with my curiosity piqued...I sampled them all! Of course I did this under the guise of filling a plate for my husband and one for myself..though he never saw his plate:)
   Within a few weeks I was invited to go to lunch at the Pickle Patch, finally I was blessed with an excuse to go all the way to San Andreas, not exactly the 'hub' of metropolis. My first thought upon entering the Pickle Patch was...hmmm...'50's dinner meets Berkeley with a little country deli thrown in. Not daunted by the lack of any particular decor I grabbed a menu hanging from a rake nailed to the wall. Can you say 'eclectic'?
   While many of the mainstays of deli style shops were present, ie: turkey sandwiches and BLT's, there was an odd selection of daily specials that certainly were created with a more nutritional flair...lots of sprouts and things of that sort, a sort of flow with the garden name of the restaurant (lots of vegetarian fare.) Again I plowed on, and I must say I am happy I did. With Thanksgiving a distant memory my stomach growled at the thought of a turkey and cranberry sandwich. Taking my little number to my table and filling my glass of ice with a soda from the glass front refrigerator I patiently awaited my meal.
   Choosing to sit outside on a rather cool morning, the covered deck with tall propane heaters provided the perfect 'I'm dining outside' feeling without the chattering teeth, and a breathtaking view of their beautifully manicured garden. When my sandwich arrived it was literally so full of turkey I had to press it down to fit a bite in my mouth. Fresh sliced turkey on sourdough so fresh it stuck to the roof of my mouth and just the right amount of cranberry. YUM!
   Not sure why the portions seem to be so big at the restaurants here in the foothills, but I am not complaining! I went home full and had enough left over for dinner.
   So, in the interest of reviewing this restaurant well, I felt I needed to dine there again..and again. Each time I was rewarded with the same large portions, the same cheerful service and prices within my budget. The only thing that I have yet to enjoy are their soups. Maybe its me but I tend to think of potato soup as creamy, it wasn't. I tend to think of bean soup as rich, it wasn't. But again, if you are looking for an amazing deli sandwich, you may just want to swing on by... go slow or you may miss it.
   P.S. They usually have police cars, fire engines or county cars out front, this is not a crime scene, this is where those with discernible palates dine in San Andreas.

By, Charity Maness

W. St Charles Street San Andreas.  209-754-1978

4-13-12 The Homeplace Sonora
This weeks featured restaurant – The Homeplace in Sonora...

   If sporting a name like ‘The Homeplace’ leads you to believe that this is a restaurant where you will dine on hearty home-style meals in an atmosphere that exudes country warmth, then your instincts are spot on. If the name also implies that you may need to unbutton the top button of your trousers so you can eat more, you may be right…then again maybe that’s just me, I’ve learned to wear my ‘stretchy’ pants when dining here.
   My favorite haunt after a long strenuous trip to Walmart with a little JoAnns thrown in for good measure - and maybe a bit of the Tractor Supply Store - is hands down the Homeplace. Featuring mouthwatering burgers made with their own Montezuma grass-finished beef , served with a choice of fries, kettle chips or salad, their burger plates are a meal big enough for two or one teen aged boy – you know the ones with the hollow leg and the words always coming out of their mouths “when do we eat?” 
   I would love to tell you how delicious their fries are yet unfortunately I am shamefully addicted to their kettle chips, freshly made and served hot , they are simply delicious. It might be against all rules of etiquette, but I dip my kettle chips in ranch…scrumptious! Seriously folks, those etiquette classes that my mother, much to my dismay, forced me to attend at a very young age went out the window when my plate was served. Not to say I don’t know when to employ the proper rules, but sometimes…rules were meant to be broken.
   The menu is not limited to their delectable burgers though. On their long list of country sized sandwiches to fit every taste is everything from Pulled pork sloppy joes to the ranchers Rueben, from a veggie sandwich to a Diestel turkey club and everything in between. Specialty salads are also on the list with my favorite of all being Angela’s Apple Cranberry Blue with smoked chicken. If you don’t see what you like you can build your own, but beware, their sandwiches are not for those counting calories, no, their sandwiches are rich and filled to the brim with layers and layers of meat, cheese and more!
   If this hasn’t made you want to stop in and say ‘hi’ this just might…there is not a single item on the menu that has a price tag over $9.99. Yup, you read right.
   Oh wait! Deserts! Did I forget to mention their homemade tarts? Strawberry rhubarb, apple, peach, to name a few. And homemade cookies and chocolates. P.S. They can pack these to go, I know this from experience:)
   The walls covered in historic foothill memorabilia – photos, news articles, cattle brands – take you back to a time when life was a bit more slow - meals with family and friends were enjoyed. So don’t be surprised that this is not fast food, it comes quickly enough, but as each order is cooked to order, there may be a bit of a wait.
   In the winter it is not uncommon to wait for a seat, yet you can sit in a rocker by the fire and enjoy the smells coming from the kitchen as you wait. In the summer the rocking chair in front – seating for two - is a welcome rest prior to or after a meal.
   Sorry folks, no down side at all to this restaurant, not a one.
   Located right across from the street from the Savemart shopping center on Sanguinetti Road, The Homeplace is open M-F 11 am – 7 pm and S-S 6 am to 7 pm. 532-4113.

4-6-12 Griff's BBQ in Copperopolis 
This weeks featured restaurant - Griff's BBQ, Copperopolis

   No need for a 'stroll' to work up an appetite for Griff's BBQ. With a menu both expansive yet streamlined, Griff's offers up a plethora of choices to tempt, tease and please any palate.
   Unfortunately (said with sarcasm) to properly gauge the menu and all its benefits I had to dine at Griff's numerous times. We (being hubby n me) started with the pulled pork nachos - chips smothered in bbq'd pulled pork and cheese served with sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo - a great idea, only the serving size was definitely made for two, or one with a hearty appetite. Apparently I have a hearty appetite...and I guess I eat like a slob for napkins miraculously showed up on our table while I dined. Very subtle hint, but taken, and thankful for if they had not showed up the sleeve of my husbands jacket was looking mighty tempting and utilitarian as a potential 'clean the bbq sauce of the face' wipe. From there we headed on to the three meat combo with your choice of chicken, pork, brisket or pork ribs. While I firmly hold to the "I can cook chicken at home" husband doesn't, and subsequently ordered the chicken, pulled pork and ribs. Suffice it to say I cannot cook chicken at home like Griff's. No way. Though I was stuffed from the pulled pork nachos I found just enough room for a fork-full of each fall-off-the-bone-lip-smacking meat.  Leftovers, if there are any - are almost just as good.
   So, with my appetite whetted, a few days later I felt the need to try some more of the items on the menu and quickly discovered Griff's fried pickles...I was hooked. If you have not tried them, do! Tangy pickle slices, dipped in a light breaded batter and deep fried to perfection  served with a ranch dipping sauce...need I say more? I have converted many a pickle hatin' people with these deep fried pickles.
   Now the owner Griff, not one to let someone just gorge on only one of his menu items convinced me to try the deep fried artichoke hearts. I was converted from a pickle loving freak to a fried artichoke heart lover. Suffice it to say, I find it much easier to get people to try these than the pickles. But if you ever see me dining on either of these southern type delicacies, don't expect me to readily share...though I'm working on that.
   While we sampled only a few of the items on the menu, if the caliber of those items is any reflection on the rest of the menu, I look forward to trying the rest, working my way from the top of the menu to the bottom...not all in one sitting of course:)
   The wait staff has always been more than pleasant, though it seems to change rather regularly with the exception of Chris, the always smiling waiter extraordinaire and Griff standing sentry behind the bar ready to serve whatever drink you desire (no hard alcohol). The atmosphere has a 'come sit down and enjoy yourself' feeling to it; music just at the right volume, temperature perfect and staff not pushy or hurried, but definitely efficient.
   Trying to find a down side to my dining experience at Griff's is near to impossible with the one exception that when dining at a BBQ restaurant its a good thing to keep in mind that salads are not their specialty. Go in with an appetite for meat, and meat BBQ'd to perfection.
By, Charity Maness

Note: Griff's proudly carries a line a USDA Longhorn meat dishes from Longhorn beef raised right here in Copperopolis.
For more information on Griff visit

3-30-12  - Hooligans in Jamestown.
   As with most folks that frequented - or even knew of - Azzo's in Jamestown it was a sad day when the doors of that fine dining establishment closed. But as with the restaurant business...the property did not sit vacant long. Soon Hooligan's opened its doors advertising 'Pub and Eats' leaving no one confused as to what type of dining experience they would have.
   On a nice stroll through downtown Jamestown,  if you read my last column you would know that stroll is code for shop, as I was saying, on a nice stroll through Jamestown my husband and I worked up a pretty good appetite. We had heard of Hooligan's through the grapevine, as convoluted as that is in the foothills, and thought we would give it a try.
   We were greeted by wonderfully cheerful and helpful waitress who seated us quickly and told us of the specials. Not one that subscribes to the theory that seafood should not be eaten so far from the coast, I once again ordered calamari. It was perfect. Crisp, not chewy, light seasoning, with a smooth herb dipping sauce. With my seafood appetite not quite quenched I ordered the seafood chowder. Heaven in a bowl. So many flavors, just the right consistency and perfectly seasoned. My husband ordered the fish and chips. Are you seeing that this Irish pub was more of an English Pub as far as dining? They even offer bangers and mash. So the fish and chips were fried, not in the traditional rather greasy beer batter, but with a crispy seasoned batter. Almost no need for the malt vinegar, but alas, I love my malt vinegar. Hubby only shared one bite with was that good.
   The prices were extremely affordable and the amounts were just a bit larger than expected for the price. We left stuffed ... that was because our plates and bowls were wiped clean.
   I would tell you of the drinks and how they were poured, but it was only noon and that whole 'its five o'clock somewhere' thing doesn't work with me unless I want to fall asleep at 7 pm...which I did not want to do as it was Karaoke at the Sports Pub that night.
   So that was the good news...
   While we knew not to expect a 'fine' dining experience, we were a bit disappointed with the atmosphere. It was cold and dark and the patrons at the bar were loud and obnoxious with a bartender not able to take care of the situation. Keep in mind it was only noon. Though our waitress was quick and efficient we noticed other waitresses spending more time chatting with each other than serving the customers.
   With all that said, I would still go back for another helping of their seafood chowder.

By, Charity Maness

3-23-12 - Murphys Hotel, Murphys
So, tada, here is my first installment of  …
To Dine or Not to Dine
This week I will be featuring the Murphys Hotel.
   Of course my husband and I chose the perfect weekend to be in Murphys for it was the Irish Day Parade. Now don’t let the singular use of the word ‘day’ confuse you…these Murphy folk turn this ‘day’ into an all weekend event. Oh, and did I mention everything was green? Hair, coffee, nails, drinks, clothes, you name it, everything was green, except for the enterprising man that dyed his beard and hair red for the event only to be told the dye was not wash out. He quickly informed us that he would be sporting a shaved head come Monday….brrrr. Oh what some will do to get in the spirit of St Patty’s Day.
   So beginning our day at the Murphys Hotel bar we had appetizers, and yes, cocktails – mine was green. My husband feeling a bit daring chose the alligator, I chose the calamari. Both were a wonderful surprise. The alligator was a bit tough on the sinewy side, so hubby whipped out his handy dandy pocket knife and put it to use, however the flavor was excellent. Rich, not gamey at all, with a hearty well seasoned rub. And, no, it does not taste just like chicken. My calamari was a bit on the chewy side – I like mine crunchy - but that little imperfection was forgiven after my first bite. The calamari had been fried, as usual, but then it was lightly tossed in a chipotle cream sauce. Just the right amount of spice and flavor.
   We walked a bit to work off our appetizers, that’s my code for shopped – and shop I did! Quickly my husband claimed we had ‘walked’ enough, plus we were soaked by the lovely weather pouring down on us - back to the Murphys Hotel Bar to warm up by the fire and contemplate dinner.
Dinner consisted of more appetizers, soup and some pasta.
   We shared stuffed mushrooms that were too good to be true. I would love to tell you what they were stuffed with but the myriad of flavors bursting in my mouth made it difficult to break the ingredients down. Suffice it to say, I will drive to Murphys just to get some more of those. We had French onion soup that lacked flavor and was more of a broth than a soup. There was escargot that I simply stared at with no desire to even poke with my fork. After one bite my husband declared them bland and chewy. A no vote, whew, I was given a reprieve from trying them. And finally the fettuccine alfredo. It was by far the best fettuccine alfredo I had ever consumed ( I inhaled – I didn’t share). The cream sauce was perfection with a hint of Italian spices and the pasta was superbly al dente.
   The wait staff was fun and engaging. They were prompt and efficient. The bar staff was also fun and incredibly quick with the amount of people they had to serve.
We came back for breakfast the next morning. We shouldn’t have. Unfortunately breakfast was a disappointment. The food was tasteless, the wait staff was unorganized and my mimosa was flat. I probably could have lived with the rest, but a flat mimosa? Never!
   I think that we will make this trip to Murphys Hotel again soon.
By, Charity Maness