— J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
I first heard about this new restaurant on Highway 50 about three weeks ago from someone in Kyburz. Then, like magic, a business card appeared in my mailbox at the paper with a note to call.
The Merry Woods is located where the St. Pauli Inn was, at 10120 Highway 50, about 10 miles east of Pollock Pines and less than a mile east of the crossing of the American River at Riverton.
I walked in last Friday and was immediately and very pleasantly greeted by a young lady I later found out was named Stacy. The Merry Woods is owned by Mary Wood, and run by her and her two daughters, Stacy and Jackie, thus the name.
“People stop by and ask if we serve German food, like the previous restaurant,” said Mary. “I tell them no, what we serve is comfort food. I learned to cook old-fashioned mid-west style and, although our menu varies depending on what is freshest and available, we always have a meat dish, a seafood dish, a vegetarian dish and a poultry dish, and, if I find something else I like, a special. With the cooling weather, our soups are becoming very popular.
“We serve something for everyone, even the kids. And if you want to know exactly what is on the menu on a given day, give us a call.
“We buy as much as we can locally, and even go to the farmers markets for the freshest goods and are working with local meat markets. We are very particular about our ingredients, and, along with that, keeping our customers happy.
“I know the sign says, ‘fine dining,’ the painter just put that there because I didn’t know what to tell him, but don’t be put off by the sign, we are a casual restaurant serving great food and family friendly. What we serve is what we like to eat ourselves and, oh,” adding with a smile, “our food is as fine as anyone else’s.
“I spent over a year working on the building. It had been closed for some time and needed a lot of work. I kept the woodsy feel and added some warmth. We have only been open for five weeks, but people are beginning to find us and we are already getting repeat business.”
The evening I was there the menu included beef Stroganoff, poached salmon, lasagna (meat or vegetarian) and roasted turkey breast. I was offered a sample of the turkey and tried it.
The turkey was fresh, moist, tender and delicious. Like most other dinners, it came with soup (always homemade) or salad, homemade stuffing and gravy, a vegetable, cranberry sauce and a choice of potato.
I am not a real stuffing fan, but it was very good. You could taste the ingredients, which included fresh mushrooms and turkey sausage, and it was moist, not dry, without the gravy. I also sampled the green beans and the potatoes au gratin and the yam-sweet potato mixture. I was impressed and pleased.
The lunch menu, which is served on Saturday and Sunday, also varies, depending again on what is fresh and available. That weekend it was a cooked-to-order third-pound burger on a Kaiser roll (Boca burger can be substituted), a clubhouse sandwich, salami and cheese sandwich and a grilled chicken sandwich. Lunches come with potato salad, chips or other choices.
All the desserts are made at the restaurant, which can include a variety of pies, cheese cake, German chocolate cake, apple crisp, sundaes, brownies and other delicious items. I tried a half-piece of cheesecake and it was perfect: smooth and not too sweet. The crust was excellent.
“Our desserts, like are meals, are appetite satisfying,” added Wood. “Most of the time people share a dessert, which is fine with us. We always work with the customers to make their dining experience as perfect as we can.
“We have windows overlooking the river and the highway. We get reservations, which are always appreciated, so we can estimate the crowd, from people who want to enjoy the river or want to keep an eye on their dogs in the car. We can take care of both. We are working on opening the deck for dining. It will be a great place for a summer meal,” MAry said.
The Merry Woods is open from 5 to 8 p.m. on Fridays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It is only open these three days a week, but the restaurant will be happy to open for a special party or event the other days. For more information call 530-293-3384.