The Favorites List: Proceed at Your Own Risk

In writing about restaurants, one tends to put himself in the work. It’s inevitable, really. Food, restaurants, people, likes, dislikes, cannot be written about with the cold, impartial pen that so many professional journalists carry. There are certain things I like, certain things I love, others I can’t stand, and some I simply tolerate. This makes me human, makes you human, makes all of us human (except for that Chris Matthews guy, who I swear is a muppet). So, this means, every now and then, you may disagree with a review. I’m totally cool with that.

I’ve come to conclusion that there is no way that my expectations, prejudices, leanings, and passions can be superimposed on some faceless recommendee. My opinion is not universal, but I think it’s a good divining rod for a large portion of the eating public. Nevertheless, there will be those that have an entirely different idea as to what the average dining experience should be and to them, I wish nothing but good tidings. In order to be a mature and thoughtful writer, one needs to not only acknowledge that others are entitled to their opinions (a premise on which we can all probably agree), but to understand how those others can actually form opinions different from one’s own. So, to help you figure out where I (and subsequently you) stand, I offer you this list of my favorite places in the Sacramento area. If you’ve gone to these spots and totally disagree with me, then odds are you’re not going to do well by following any advice I dish out. But, far be it from me to stop you from trying:
Favorite Overall: Moxie

Favorite Pizza: Giovanni’s

Favorite Taco: Angel’s Fresh Mex

Favorite Place To Blow $100: Il Fornaio

Favorite Italian: Café Vinoteca

Favorite Mexican: Sal’s Tacos (but this changes weekly)

Favorite Sandwich: Dad’s

Favorite Chinese: The Mandarin

Favorite Breakfast: Pancake Circus

Favorite Burger: Squeeze Inn

Favorite Atmosphere: Plaza Hof Brau 

Favorite Service: Thai Cottage 

23 thoughts on “The Favorites List: Proceed at Your Own Risk”

  1. The only places on your list that I have been are Pancake Circus, II Fornaio, and The Mandarin..oh, and Squeeze Inn. I agree that they are all very good..I love the atmosphere at Pancake Circus. I want to try Hof Brau due to the retro experience I will have (as you have talked about before).

    I, for one, love hearing about people’s opinions when it comes to food. Dave and I really need to get out more. 🙂


  2. Pancake circus? Really? Between the 40 minute wait, the roaches, the health department reports (although, really, some of the places with the worst reports do have the best food) and the completely average menu, I have to admit I wasn’t impressed. It just seemed like fast food to me. I thought Market Club, at 3/4 the price for twice the (better) food, was much better, but everyone, as you note, has their list.

    Sal’s is great, and I can’t fault the rest of your list at all. I do need to try the Mandarin, though, after your review the other day!


  3. they call me “sugar” at Market Club. Libby, the angry lady who used to work there, sometimes called me sugarpants and my wife sugartits. That was scary.


  4. Haven’t been to all of your choices, but certainly agree with Mandarin and Plaza HofBrau, both of which we frequent. On the other hand, we quit going to Vinoteca, despite the fact that it’s near our house; last time we were there, my wife’s meal was so terrible, we said we’d never return–and we haven’t.

    Best place to blow $100? Can’t really argue with your choice; it’s pretty good, but I think we’d rather spend big bucks at Bibba’s,Slocum House or LaBoheme. Anyway, keep checking out these places for us.


  5. Sam’s Hof Brau is one of my favorites and one that should be visisted by all not for the atmosphere, although very chic in its german authenticity but for the hot pastrami. Mmmmmmm. Get double cut, it’s quite special.;)

    You should also try Sutter Lawn Tennis Club’s cheese burger. Anyone can go there off the street to eat. Another secret spot to get away from the fray.


  6. You’re absolutely correct on everything except Cafe Vinoteca. 15+ years ago it was wonderful and then began declining; about three year ago the new owners really turned things around. It was the same great service with some new menu items. The last year has been increasing disappointing. The quality became really uneven and some original recipes had cheaper pre-prepared ingredient swapped out.

    It’s our neighborhood place, so the improvement and subsequent decline is really a let down


  7. I don’t have a nickname at the Market Club, but my friend Harry has his drawings on the wall…

    In his drawings, Tuesdays, are the dog’s favorite day!!!

    You’ll need to visit to learn why you won’t be dissappointed.


  8. John, excellent knowledgification about dropping in for the Sutter Lawn cheeseburger. I have fond memories of the ham and cheese as well…


  9. I also would love to blow $100 at Slocum House, or Enotria or even Esquire Grill (on a weeknight) but I love me some Eye-talian.
    As for Vinoteca, I’ve had nothing but great service and exceptional food the last three visits. If you don’t like the service or food there, they’re very receptive to feedback at
    And yes, the food at the ‘Brau is almost as good as the atmosphere.


  10. sac-eats. Yes it is. I have been a member since the late 70’s and grew up eating from the snackbar. The lunch crowd is mainly old men and women in there tennis all whites. Let me know if you ever want a tour.


  11. Hmm, is Tuesdays the broasted chicken, short ribs or corned beef & cabbage at the Market Club? Are are just incredible. I think they’re the only place in town that actually makes their own corned beef.


  12. JLT, I do not doubt the greatness that is The Market Club. I love its divey scrumptuousness myself. But I’d like readers and eaters to quit using the “homemade” monniker as the end-all-and-be-all of goodness. I know plenty of places that make their own potato salad, for example,who make shitty potato salad. So just because a place makes something in house, doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good. I would say that the odds are better that it’s going to be good, but it’s not a guarantee.


  13. Favorite Overall: Mulvaney B&L
    Favorite Pizza: Luigi’s
    Favorite Taco: Tres Hermanas (Fish Tacos)
    Favorite Place To Blow $100: 55 Degrees
    Favorite Italian: Cafe Milazzo
    Favorite Mexican: Tres Hermanas
    Favorite Sandwich: Taylor’s
    Favorite Chinese: Golden Dragon
    Favorite Breakfast: Crepeville
    Favorite Burger: Fox & Goose (Veggie)
    Favorite Atmosphere: Zelda’s
    Favorite Service: Moxie (though i haven’t been in a while)

    Making this list really reminded me that I haven’t been eating out much lately. And worse yet, two of the greatest staple cuisines, Italian and Mexican, have all but been eliminated from my diet due to other peoples’ weird, fad diets… and I’m the one who doesn’t eat meat!

    I’m hitting the town this weekend… hungry and alone.


  14. Well, JLT, there are things that are usually made better by someone or some company that specializes in such things, rather than the restaurant itself, things like bread, beer, wine, and tortillas. And some of these items, even though not technically made “in-house” are still fantastic items with limited availability.


  15. I agree. But if the centerpiece of your restaurant meal is a pre-cooked / prepared porkchop, corned beef that’s produced somewhere else, packaged salad mix, etc. – that’s usually a sign to stay away.


  16. I agree as well, but need to say something to temper that agreement in some thoughtful way so as to continue this discussion, so I’ll agree in principle without “wholeheartedly” agreeing.


  17. JLT, Tuesdays— Short ribs at the Market Club. They are chock full of fatty gristle any short rib fan would enjoy. Get there early; 11:30 would suffice, since they always run out.

    But yes, there corn beef and cabbage is my close second. Cabbage a bit watery but what cabbage isn’t?

    A good hoagie— the Nugget in West Sac. If you like people watching, you do get some wonderful biscuits walking by while chowing down.


  18. I went to Vinoteca with a work friend today, and it’s a good thing that we’d blocked off more than an hour in Outlook to be out. We got there at 11:40, finally had our orders taken at 12:00, received our order at 12:30, and got an apology and single cookie for us to split at 12:50 to make up for the looooong wait.

    The food was good, but the lunch menu prices seem higher than they used to be. The service, while friendly, was horribly slow. We were there before the lunch rush, and we should have gone to our usual Danielle’s instead.


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