Being the childhood home of Runnergirl as well as an historical and interesting place, Auburn has long held a special place in my heart. However, it’s really only in the last few years that I’ve taken the time to really investigate the good vittles up there. Sure there’s gold in them thar hills, but there’s also some pretty damn good sustenance to be had for the intelligent traveler. Here’s a trio of options ranging from snowbum casual to trustfund-bum elegant.
Ikeda’s- The iconic fruit stand cum pie stand cum burger stand is still standing strong. This is great grub whether you’re on your way up the hill or down it. Great burgers, great sandwiches, great pies, great fruit, even great salsas. Don’t believe me? Try the apple salsa. Sure it’s more sacrilegious than insisting that God be your co-pilot (rather than letting him drive of course–what, you think you’re a better driver than God?) but the chopped apple, jalapeno, and onion mixture is fantastic, especially with homemade flour tortilla chips (by homemade I mean you have to make them, they’re not sold at Ikeda’s).
The burgers are pretty damn tasty, but vegetarians are also welcome as the tofu burger might be the best tofu burger north of the county line (not much competition in that area when you really think about it). And epicureans are also invited to come browse the aisles of homemade pastries, pies, and specialty groceries that you can’t get anywhere else in Placer County. It’s hard to improve on a family owned business that believes in local produce, fair wages, handmade desserts, and killer burgers. You’ve got to love Harry & David quality crammed into a roadside burger shack.
Ikeda’s- 13500 Lincoln Way (Off I-80 at Foresthill Rd)
Auburn Alehouse- Old Town Auburn manages to be visitor-friendly without being touristy. Somehow all the kitschy, undesirable aspects that infect Old Sacramento are conspicuously absent. Gone are the t-shirt shops and seedy food stands. Gone are the crappy bars and bizarre gift shops. Instead, the small stretch that constitutes Old Town Auburn seems like it’s equally as desirable for locals as it is for tourists, a concept that Old Sac is just starting to embrace.
One of the oldest businesses in that stretch was Shanghai, a iconic Chinese restaurant that was said to have been around since the Gold Rush days. Shanghai unfortunately closed a few years ago, but a new enterprise, Auburn Alehouse, has taken over the building and done some rather amazing things with it. The interior can best be described as brewery moderne, with steel beams and gleaming tanks, but the menu is well above the standard brewery fare tha one would expect. Try the sweet potato fries with chipotle and red pepper aioli, or the fish tacos, or the surprisingly elegantly presented fish and chips. They’re all well above average.
As far as the beers go, there are hits and misses. The IPA is ridiculously hoppy, while the Shanghai Stout on nitro tap is smooth and delicious. The brown ale fell a little flat, but the brewer’s special Dead Man’s Ale more than made up for it.
Auburn Alehouse has some damn fine brews, true. But it’s also that rarest of breeds: a brewery that you’d go to for the food.
Auburn Alehouse- 289 Washington Street in Old Town Auburn
Latitudes- Upscale, eclectic world cuisine in an old Victorian with a totally cool bar in the lower level. I had my wedding reception there, that should pretty much tell you all you need to know about what I think of this place. This place is sphisticated, beautiful, and well worth the trip.
Latitudes- 130 Maple Street