Monthly Archives: January 2014

Steppin’ Out – A Quest in San Diego

Canada Steak Burger 1For over two weeks during the Christmas and New Years holiday season I was in San Diego, spending some precious time with my only brother, who passed away just before Christmas at the age of 80. That is why you have been reading more about early post offices than food.

On the brighter note, I did what my brother would have wanted me to do. I took advantage of the nice weather to put on shorts and a t-shirt to walk in the sunlight and even went swimming the Pacific Ocean, although the water was a cool 58 degrees (the air was 77).

He also liked to go find different food and new restaurants to try. However, not that different since when I ordered mussels and clams at a seafood restaurant he loudly announced, “Why would anyone eat fish bait?”

The last time I was in San Diego he was recovering from a fall, so I went by myself on a quest for the best hamburger. I found a restaurant on University Avenue called Canada Steak Burger, which had won the “Best Burger in San Diego” award several times. I had to try it.

After driving around for a few minutes, I finally found the restaurant. It was a very small place on a corner, across from a strip club and a check cashing store – not the best part of town I was later told, but okay.

The food was really great and the restaurant was very busy. Somehow out of a kitchen probably not as big as  yours at home, they produce great burgers, Greek food, Mexican food and more.

I think the restaurant seats around eight inside and another four outside. The parking lot is impossible unless you have a very small car and let your passengers out before you park.

With that former success in mind, this time I told my nephew that I wanted to find the best hot dog in San Diego and started searching on the computer. Right on the top of the list was a place on a better part of University Avenue called Daddy’s Dogs.

Yelp gave it 4.5 our of 5 stars and Urbanspoon gave it a 100% rating. On top of that, hundreds of people had written pages and pages about how good the hot dogs were and how interesting the owner was. Neither my nephew nor I had ever been there so we decided to try it the next day.

After again driving around a bit, we found the restaurant in a storefront of some older buildings near Richmond Avenue in the Hillcrest area of San Diego, across the street from a new group of retail stores and restaurants.

Daddy's Hot DogsOn their webpage they not only list their menu, but give a bit of information about the place like it opens at 11 a.m., but maybe 10:30 or rarely 11:30. It was about five minutes to 11 when we got there and, no, it wasn’t open yet.

A few minutes after 11 the owner came out and informed two vagabonds, who had spent the night against the building next door, that smoking within 25 feet of his doorway was illegal and that they were supposed to be packed up and walking by 6 a.m. Apparently that is a local law which we, and they, noticed the police were enforcing across the street.

Finally the owner brought out two small, but tall, tables which he placed on the sidewalk, then went back inside and opened up a window to the street, where he takes orders and passes out food. There are no chairs, inside or out, just the two tables.

After asking a few questions about the food, like the difference between the hot dogs, beef dogs and special beef dogs on his menu, questions which he “sort of” answered, I ordered the “O,” a grilled special beef dog with bacon, grilled onions, jalapeno relish, Russian dressing and tomatoes. I don’t recall what my nephew ordered, but it had cole slaw and chili on it. However, when he ordered it the owner said, “got you covered,” and gave him something entirely different. I think the chili wasn’t hot yet.

Why anybody thinks those are the best hot dogs in San Diego amazes me. They were a regular skinless hot dog, sliced lengthwise and put on a flattop grill with a weight on top so it would get a bit of char. The buns were not steamed, but simply placed on the back of the grill to warm them.

The house made Russian dressing and jalapeno relish were nice, but nothing about the hot dogs made either of us think they were worth more than two or three stars. Fortunately, the hot dogs were only $4 each since it was $1 off Tuesday.

After a few moments spent looking at each other and deciding what to do, I drove my nephew to Canada Steak Burgers for lunch, where he had never been before. The burgers and the fries got at least four stars from both of us.

Steppin’ Out – Grand China

Grand ChinaIn November of 2006 I first had the opportunity to visit this restaurant which is located at 4340 Golden Center Drive, #D, across from WalMart and behind McDonald’s. It had been open less than a month at that time and already had quite a following.

The 3500 square foot restaurant is beautiful and wonderfully decorated, with both booths and open table seating. Last year they were closed for several months, so they took the opportunity to upgrade and replace the carpet. The place is as beautiful and clean as it was when it first opened.

What I noticed this time and seven years ago were the two huge crystal chandeliers, one over the main dining room and one in the banquet room. They told me than it was good luck to have a crystal chandelier, so I looked it up and found this interesting information: “A faceted crystal ball or crystal chandelier over the center of the dining table will help to balance chi in the room, and also helps people with eating disorders embrace healthier habits.”

This time I went and took with me one of my neighbors, Larry Stiles. He and I had planned on grabbing a sandwich for lunch, but when I received a phone call from Vince Hoang  the manager at Grand China, asking me to come by, we decided to go there instead.

When we arrived, Hoang, who with the owner’s son, Chris Liang, make sure everything runs smoothly, immediately seated the two of us at a booth in the middle of the restaurant. He then gave us menus and asked what we would like. I asked him what the most popular dish was and he immediately answered, “Sesame Chicken, would you like that?” I said, “Yes, and then surprise us.”

The first dish to arrive was Happy Family, which consisted of stir fried scallops, shrimp, beef, chicken and lots of vegetables (I think we counted 10 different kinds). It was very delicious, The seafood tasted fresh and the vegetables were crisp and nicely cooked. This dish, like all of those that followed, was not overpowering so you could taste each ingredient. That is important.

Next came Garlic Green Beans. This was an immediate hit with both of us. Lightly cooked, still crisp green beans with a delicious garlic sauce.

That was followed by another delicious dish, Chicken Chow Mein. The noodles were not overcooked and everything in that dish was also delicious (three for three so far). Then came the Sesame Chicken.

This dish was superb. Lightly breaded pieces of white meat chicken with a light, sweet sauce.  Larry later told me that when he was dividing up the leftovers he thought about keeping all of what was left.

Vince Hoang stopped by our table several times while we were there to deliver dishes and talk with us. He always poured me more tea and said, “It is the custom for the younger people to make sure that the older ones always have tea in their cup. I learned that from my mother.”

He also explained the dishes he had chosen for us. “You have a meat dish, a vegetable dish, a noodle dish and a deep fried dish,” he said, “A nice variety of dishes to try.”

I was delighted with the menu at Grand China, which is several pages long. There are dishes from numerous parts of China, with origins in Hunan, Szechuan, Peking, Canton and other places. There has to be something there for everyone.

Although the place is a delight for dining, and very popular with the seniors who live nearby, many people order the food for take-out.

They prepare everything when the order is called in but don’t start cooking it until you arrive. It only takes a few minutes and then, if you happen to be delayed, you still get it fresh and it is fresh when you get home. And, if you are eating in, they ring a bell for the server just before your food is done, so that it doesn’t sit at all.

“During the winter months,” added Hoang, produce is very expensive, but we still buy it to make sure that all of our ingredients are the freshest they can be.”

Grand China is open daily from 11 a.m until 9 p.m., with a luncheon special every day from 11 until 3, featuring lunch combinations of Wonton soup, egg roll, steamed or fried rice and your choice from 29 different reasonably priced entrees. Several people ordered the luncheon special when we were there and it was a very full plate of food,

Stop by and give them a try. I am sure you will like the food and service.

For more information or to call in a take-out order, call (530) 621-1882.

Post Offices of El Dorado County, Part 5 – “C” – “E”

In El Dorado County there were, at one time or another, over 100 post offices with some 120 different names. Some had a short life and some apparently never even existed at all, although history books make reference to them. The latter were appropriately called phantom post offices. Many others, once established, continue to operate until this day.

Cool 1896

Cool 1896

COOL: There are two schools of though about how this community in Cave Valley, six miles south of Auburn and at the northern intersection of Highways 49 and 193, received its name. Some say it was named for P. Y. Cool, an early miner, while others insist it simply was a reference to the weather.
The Cool Post Office was established on Oct. 20, 1885, with Henrietta Lewis serving as the first postmaster. It remains in operation to this day.




Culloma 1850

Culloma 1850

CULLOMA: This is the name first given the Coloma Post Office. The postmark included “Alta Cal” until statehood, and a short while afterwards. The name is derived from the name of a nearby Native American village.






Diamond Springs 1854

Diamond Springs 1854

DIAMOND SPRING / DIAMOND SPRINGS: This early mining location is most likely named for the crystal clear spring at this important intersection of the Carson Immigrant Trail with the main north-south road through the Mother Lode (now Highway 49). However, some believe it was named for the diamond like, clear quartz crystals found there.
Four miles south of Placerville, the post office was established here on Oct. 17, 1853 with Chauncy N. Noteware as the first postmaster. Since the town was alternatively known as Diamond Spring and Diamond Springs over the years, on July 1, 1950, the Post Office Department officially changed the name to Diamond Springs, at least for post office purposes.
This post office has been in continuous operation since it was first opened and, during the short life of the Pony Express, served as a station for it.

Duroc 1859 "via Panama"

Duroc 1859 “via Panama”

DUROC: This post office was originally known as El Dorado Ranch. The El Dorado Ranch post office was located half way between Mud Springs (El Dorado) and Clarksville, being eight miles from each on the main east-west immigrant road, according to the application filed in Washington, D.C., although the exact location is unknown (a “ghost” post office).
The proposed name for the post office established at this location on June 19, 1857 was Deer Creek, although El Dorado Ranch ended up being the actual name. Lyman A. Hoyt was the first postmaster and on Sept. 14, 1858 the name of the post office was changed to DuRoc, the name likely coming from the name of a French family in the area.
The first postmaster at the DuRoc (later Duroc and even later Durock) Post Office was Theron Foster. On Nov. 23, 1864, about same the time the railroad reached Shingle Springs and the traffic on the road decreased substantially, the post office closed. A portion of the old road still from Shingle Springs to Cameron Park still has the name Durock and there is a monument to the Pony Express  near the bend in the road where it turns into Cameron Park Drive .

ECHO: This post office serving the vacation resort area at Echo Lake, was reported as being ten miles west of Lake Valley and eleven miles east of Slippery Ford. It was established on Aug. 16, 1888 with Ollie Watson as the first postmaster, and discontinued on Dec. 15, 1910. Only a month later, on Jan. 28, 1911 it was reestablished. It was again discontinued on Oct. 31, 1913. On Dec. 11, 1926 it was reestablished and renamed Echo Lake Post Office. On Jan. 31, 1961 it became a rural station of the Vade (Phillips) Post Office. On Sept. 2, 1961 it was changed to a rural station of the Little Norway Post Office. It was again discontinued on Jan. 15, 1973, but reestablished on June 1 of that year, again as a rural station of the Little Norway Post Office. In 1974 it was dropped as a rural station by the Post Office Department.

El Dorado 1857EL DORADO: This early post office was originally known as Mud Springs, a name given this location because the thousands of immigrants traveling along this part of the immigrant trail watered their stock here, muddying the spring and the surrounding land.
The Mud Springs Post Office was established prior to Nov. 6, 1851, the date it was approved in Washington, D.C. Darwin Chase was the first postmaster. On Dec. 15, 1855, the name of the post office was changed to El Dorado with George W. Critchfield serving as its first postmaster.
Named after the Spanish word for “The Gilded One”, because of the number of rich gold mines in the area, the El Dorado Post Office has continuously operated since it was first established.

Sources for this story include, “History of California Post Offices, 1849-1976”, researched by H. E. Salley (1976); “The Gold Rush Mail Agents to California and Their Postal Markings”, by Theron Wierenga” (1987); “California Town Postmarks, 1849-1935”, by John H. Williams (1997); “Short Stories Regarding The History of South El Dorado County”, by D. A. Wright (undated); the “History of El Dorado County”, by Paolo Sioli (1883), reprinted and indexed by the El Dorado Friends of the Library (1998); and the archives of the Mountain Democrat, Empire County Argus and Placer Times (on microfilm at the El Dorado County Main Library).

Post Offices of El Dorado County, Part 4 – More “C”

Camp Sacramento

Camp Sacramento

In El Dorado County there were, at one time or another, over 100 post offices with some 120 different names. Some had a short life and some apparently never even existed at all, although history books make reference to them. The latter were appropriately called phantom post offices. Many others, once established, continue to operate until this day.

CAMP SACRAMENTO: This summer or seasonal post office was first established at this location in the American River Canyon, twelve miles east of Kyburz and three miles southwest of Vade (Phillips), on June 17, 1929 with Pearl Chapell as postmaster. Originally it was at Lover’s Leap, one mile to the west, before being moved to this location.
The Lover’s Leap Post Office, named for the legend of an Indian girl who plunged from the adjacent 1,285 foot high rock because her love was unrequited, was established on October 30, 1919 with Annie M. Scherrer as the postmaster. As previously mentioned, it was discontinued in mid-1929 and moved to Camp Sacramento.
The Camp Sacramento Post Office was discontinued on October 31, 1940 and the mail moved to Kyburz.

Canyon 1898CANYON (CREEK): The Canyon Post Office was located five miles to the southeast of Shingle Springs, and named for its location on Big Canyon Creek, once a trading center for the mines in the area. It was established on August 27, 1897 with William A. Green as postmaster. Less than nine years later, on May 14, 1906, the post office was discontinued and the mail moved to the Shingle Springs Post Office.

CEDARVILLE: The Cedarville Post Office was established on November 22, 1853, probably seven miles northwest of Indian Diggings where the road crosses Cedar Creek. The exact location is unknown as there is no record of that in the archives of the Post Office Department in Washington, D.C.
It was discontinued on November 12, 1863 and the mail probably moved to Indian Diggins. Because of the lack of solid information, the Cedarville Post Office is often called a “ghost post office.” The first postmaster was Joseph M. Hawley.

Clarksville 1856

Clarksville 1856

CLARKSVILLE: The post office at this early mining location on the main east-west immigrant road, near the western edge of El Dorado County (25 miles east of Sacramento and 7 miles west of Shingle Springs), was established on July 14, 1855. This post office was discontinued on August 30, 1924 and then reestablished a short time later on February 24, 1927. On May 31, 1934, service was discontinued and the mail moved to Folsom City. The first postmaster was David Cummings.




Cold Spring 1857

Cold Spring 1857

COLD SPRING: This early post office at a location six miles northwest of Placerville, which is now called Cold Springs, was established prior to January 21, 1852, that being the day that its first postmaster, John M. Goetschines, was finally confirmed by the Postmaster General in Washington, D.C. Like many early mining camps, this one soon became a ghost town and on June 11, 1874 the post office was moved to the southeast and renamed Granite Hill with William P. Vernon serving as the Granite Hill Post Office’s first postmaster.
On February 29, 1908 service at the Granite Hill Post Office would be discontinued and the mail moved five miles north to the Coloma Post Office.


Coloma 1858

Coloma 1858

COLOMA: Jacob (John) T. Little came to California (Coloma) in 1849 and established one of the first stores for general merchandise. The first post office was operated out of Mr. Little’s store, with him serving as the first of twenty-five postmasters that would serve this post office over the next 150 years. It was officially registered with the Post Office Department in Washington, D.C. on November 8, 1849, however, the earliest known postmark from Coloma bears a manuscript marking of October 20, 1849, proof that Coloma had a post office established earlier than the official record (Special Agent Allen’s letter of August 29, 1849 places him at the site in the latter part of June or first part of July of 1849 when he established the post office).
The early postmarks spelled Coloma as “Culloma” and added “Alta Cal”, for Alta California. After California was admitted as a state in 1850, the “Alta” was no longer used.
The Placer Herald for 1853 indicated that Coloma was then the principal post office in California. There were six different “pony expresses” running between Coloma and surrounding mines to deliver the semi-monthly arriving mail, charging one dollar per letter for delivery. The Empire County Argus also reported on April 15, 1854 that over 4000 letters and packages left the Coloma Post Office for the Atlantic States. The Argus periodically published a list of names of people who had letters waiting unclaimed at the post office. This list frequently contained several hundred names. As a result wagon loads of unclaimed letters were sent to the Dead Letter Office in San Francisco.
Many of the post offices in gold rush towns discontinued service and were closed as the miners and prospectors moved on to new gold fields. They were reopened as people came back to the areas and the towns became viable again. The Coloma Post Office has never closed. The service has remained uninterrupted since 1849, when it was the first post office in what would become El Dorado County.
Mr. Little’s store, and the first post office, was located on the north side of the river, across from the present town. subsequently the office was located in various buildings around Coloma and is currently on Main Street (Highway 49) in the heart of Marshall Gold Discovery State Park.

Gold Discovery  Centennial Stamp 1948

Gold Discovery Centennial Stamp 1948

A “First Day Cover” with a stamp celebrating the centennial of the discovery of gold was postmarked and issued at the Coloma Post Office on January 24, 1948. On November 8, 1999, a special cancellation was applied to letters to celebrate the sesquicentennial of this historic post office.
Note: Much of the above information was provided by the Coloma Post Office.
Sources for this story include, “History of California Post Offices, 1849-1976”, researched by H. E. Salley (1976); “The Gold Rush Mail Agents to California and Their Postal Markings”, by Theron Wierenga” (1987); “California Town Postmarks, 1849-1935”, by John H. Williams (1997); “Short Stories Regarding The History of South El Dorado County”, by D. A. Wright (undated); the “History of El Dorado County”, by Paolo Sioli (1883), reprinted and indexed by the El Dorado Friends of the Library (1998); and the archives of the Mountain Democrat, Empire County Argus and Placer Times (on microfilm at the El Dorado County Main Library).