“For a gourmet wine is not a drink but a condiment, provided that your host has chosen correctly.”
— French author Edouard De Pomaine
The Independent Restaurant and Bar
All upscale restaurants need a few weeks or even months to iron out their menu, service, etc. It is a normal part of the business; every restaurant goes through it. Therefore, I often wait some time before dropping in to talk with the owners
The Independent, which is located at 629 Main St. in Placerville, is the newest of these restaurants and has been open about three months. So when I was invited to a business lunch there, I jumped at the opportunity to see how things were going.
The Independent is operated by the same folks have the very successful Heyday in Placerville: Jeff and Judy Thoma and Ben Carter. A couple of days after I ate there, I sat and talked with Carter about the restaurant.
“We don’t want to be known as a steakhouse, but something more,” said Carter. “We serve regional American cuisine, with dishes from the east, the south, the heartland and even some Creole ones. And, to accompany this food, we stock quite a number of domestic wines and beers. I take care of the food and service, Jeff is in charge of the day to day operation and Judy adds the artistic element. We are very proud of the way the place looks. She did a great job.
“We are also very proud of our food. We use the best ingredients we can. The Classic Independent Burger you had a couple of days ago was made with prime Herford beef from Kansas. All our beef is prime Herford and you can taste the difference.”
I had to agree, the burger was different and very good, and the turnip (yes, turnip) fries that came with it were outstanding.
“We spent a lot of time training our help and kitchen staff to make sure the dining experience would be something special,” added Carter. “They spent a month working together and getting to know each other before we opened. It is well known that good service can save a bad meal, but a good meal cannot save bad service. Our goal is to make both excellent.
“We bake our own breads and even at our bar we make everything from scratch. We don’t buy flavored liquors, we make them, using real flavors, not chemicals. And, we make our own juices.
“Our executive chef is Matt Brown,” continued Carter, “he is industry trained and very creative. He was a sous chef in Sacramento and has 15 years of experience in the business.
“People like our menus. The burger and our grilled New York steak sandwich, along with the roasted chicken Cobb salad seem to be the lunch favorites, while at dinner the rosemary lamb rack, seafood Creole risotto and slow-roasted prime rib top the list. Prime rib is not a special at our restaurant, it is on the menu.”
Both the lunch and dinner menus start with a list of “Beginnings,” appetizers that are also an excellent accompaniment for people just meeting for a drink. Among other things it includes house-cured salmon lox, grilled artichoke halves, the turnip fries, and, at dinner east coast style crab cakes and a charcuterie board. There are usually two soups and the salads include duck confit, Belgian endive and the chicken Cobb (lunch menu). The menu continues with half a dozen sandwiches including the steak and burger selections and a vegetable Romesco at lunch and dinner, along with barbecued chicken, vegetable Romesco and focaccia Caprese at lunch.
Items from the grill include salmon, certified Hereford filet mignon and grilled polenta cakes at lunch and the filet, lamb rack and a certified Hereford New York strip at dinner. Also at dinner from the rotisserie is prime rib and herb chicken, along with buttermilk fired chicken (served with cheddar grits), the risotto and a different recipe grilled salmon.
Desserts include crème brûlée, gelato and at dinner the restaurant’s take on ‘smores.
The Independent Restaurant and Bar is open for food Wednesday through Monday from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. on weekdays and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. It is closed on Tuesday. The bar stays open from 11 a.m. until the customers leave, or 2 a.m. They also serve “small plates” from 9 p.m. until 11 p.m. on weekends. Ask about them.
For more information call 530-344-7645.