Restaurant Reviews

Steppin’ Out – Take a Bite Deli, Lotus

So, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I was enjoying a great lunch at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Placerville, and talking restaurants with Troy Duncan, who with his wife and parents own the place. I don’t know how it came up, but he asked me it I had ever been to “Take a Bite.” I looked at him and said, “If that is a restaurant, No.”

“It’s in Coloma,” he said, “in the Chevron Station just beyond the bridge. It’s a deli, but they serve fantastic cheesesteak sandwiches and burgers. The lady who owns it is named Lindsey and I think they have been there for ten years.”

I love cheesesteak sandwiches and burgers, so I looked the place up online and asked my friend, Mike Long, if he was interested in lunch. He had a lot of other things going on, so I figured I might just go by myself.

I happen to have a friend named Larry Stiles, who used to walk with us, but is now recovering from a work related injury. For several weeks he hasn’t been able to drive and he just happened to call me, asking if I could take him to the store, adding, maybe we could have lunch at the same time. The following day we were on our way to run some errands and have lunch at Take a Bite.

Take a Bite is actually in Lotus, even though it is sometimes known as “Take a Bite of Coloma,” and very easy to find. If you are heading towards Cool from Placerville, drive across the bridge, go a few hundred feet and there it is in the Chevron Station on your right, just before the Coloma Club.

Find a place to park. Then go in the main door of the service station and turn to your left. You can’t miss it.

We walked in and were greeted by three lovely smiling ladies, the lady who runs the station, deli owner Lindsey and her helper and friend, Chevon, who is also a nurse at a local school.

We ordered a Cheese Steak sandwich, a Pastrami Burger, a couple of drinks and an order of fries. When I started to orders more fries, Lindsey immediately replied, “One order is enough for two people.”

When I mentioned who I was, she said that another paper had written a story about her place some time ago.

“They never really mentioned my food,” she said, “It was all about me.”

“People want to know about you,” I told her. “Everyone wants to know how it is you have a restaurant. A lot of people want to own a restaurant.”

While she lovingly fixed our food, she told me her story, which I shortened.

“Well,” she said, “I’m from New York. I met someone right here at the gas station who I would soon date and later marry. I told him I was looking for a job. He had a friend who had this place and was looking for help. He asked where I was from and when I told him New York, he said, “You’re hired. I’m looking for someone who doesn’t have a lot of local friends who will give away sandwiches.”

“In 2005 my in-laws opened ‘Take a Bite.’ she continued, “and since we got along great, my mother-in-law and I ran the place. When she retired, she gave it to me and here I am. Now I run it and hire my good friends to help me. I love what I do.”

There is no inside seating, so when our food was ready, we took everything, including a number of napkins, outside to some picnic tables they have under an oak tree, a place where we could eat and watch the “passing parade.”

Larry started with the Cheese Steak which, along with a lot of meat, included sauteed mushrooms, onions, jalapenos, seasoning, melted cheese and mayo.

“This is great,” Larry told me. “The meat is really tender and good.”

I started with my half of the Pastrami Burger, which had lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, mayo and mustard on it. From the first bite I was entranced. It was one of those burgers cooked on a flat-top grill that is juicy, runny and absolutely full of flavor. Every bite was as good as the first. I hated to have it end.

I turned to Larry and said, “This immediately reminded me of one of those burgers I used to get from a diner at the end of a fishing pier and is just outstanding.”

As Larry started on the burger his first remark was, “This is a great burger.” I nodded in agreement.

Part of the secret, Lindsey tole me is that she hand forms the one-third pound plus patties herself.

As I started on the Cheese Steak, I made a similar remark to Larry’s. I like cheesesteak sandwiches in the “Philly” style, with lots of sauteed peppers, but even without them, it was really, really good.

The fries were well done, crunchy and delicious. Again, like those from an “end of the pier” diner.

The menu also includes a number of other delicious items, including the Coloma Taco, a BLT, Cheeseburger, “Best Burger (thick bacon, onion ring, BBQ sauce and American cheese), Mushroom Burger, “Burger By the Bay” (your choice of cheese and the works) and a Spicy Black Bean Burger. You can also get meat and/or cheese sandwiches.

They also have specials and you can get the Cheese Steak made with chicken or “veggie.”

“I have a family,” Lindsey said, so we are only open from 10 until 3, weekdays and we are closed on the weekends.”

For more information you can call (530) 642-8482. Or, just stop by during business hours. You will love the food and the people.

Steppin’ Out – Picking up the Loose Ends

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

In last week’s El Dorado County Fair program was a coupon for Dickey’s. It said that for $7 you could get a Classic Sandwich, a side and a “Big Yellow Cup.”

My neighbor, Mike Long, had mentioned Dickey’s because of a coupon he had previously received in the mail. He had not been there, but I had, if you recall, when I wrote about them last year. There were things I still wanted to try, so we decided to go.

We caught them just before the lunch rush and ordered two sandwiches: pulled pork and beef brisket. When Mike saw they had creamed spinach, he immediately picked that for his side. Although I too like the spinach, I decided on cabbage slaw, because I wanted it to put on my sandwich.

As we sat down, Mike mentioned to me how much he loves creamed spinach, but usually only finds it at good steak houses. “That and Mac & Cheese,” he said.

While waiting for our sandwiches and sides, we filled up several containers with pickles, onions and barbecue sauce, of which they have three: Original, Spicy and Sweet.

The sandwiches come bare, so you can add as much of their sauce as you wish.

The sandwiches and the sides were great, as were the pickles and onions, of which we ate more than our share.

A couple of day’s later I was in the area again, so I got another coupon and went back to try their Polish Kielbasa sausage in a sandwich. That is when I discovered you can order the sandwich with pickles, onions and cheese. Because I had ordered the sausage, I went for all three. I think the other meats are fine without cheese. But, that is just my opinion.

The Kielbasa sandwich was very good. It is a real sausage, so it does have a skin, which makes it a bit chewy.

While I was there, I had a nice chat with Troy Duncan, who with his wife and parents, own this Dickey’s. He is another “Foodie,” like me, and gave me some hints about a couple of restaurants I have not tried.

As I mentioned last time, they have a menu that includes not only fantastic barbecue, but stacks and tacos, along with desserts.

Something else that is great is their catering, from full service to box lunches. Ask them,

The Placerville Dickey’s is located in the Country Fair Shopping Center at 21 Fair Lane, next to Rite Aid and is open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily. Give them a call at 530-748-3445.


Fresh Mex Express Mexican Grill

There are several new things on the menu at this favorite of mine. Among them are a shrimp salad and, just recently, pork al pastor (this you have to try – delicious).

Almost every time I am there they are preparing dishes for an event they are catering. I have attended a couple of those and their food is always a hit.

Located at 3970 Missouri Flat Road, next to Anytime Fitness and across from K-Mart and Save Mart, they are open 9:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily. Give them a call at (530) 642-9778.

Togo’s Sandwiches

I tried the Pretzelrami sandwich at Togo’s in Cameron Park. One-quarter pound of pastrami on a pretzel roll with mustard, pickles and white Cheddar. It was very, very good. For a limited time it is their Monday Special Sandwich at a reduced price.

Join their Reward’s Club and you get $3 off a sandwich.

Located between Taco Bell and McDonald’s, they are open daily from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m., and hour later on weekends. Give them a call at (530) 672-9295.

Fresh Beef at McDonald’s

I finally got to try the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with their fresh, cooked to order burger patty. Overall it was a lot better than the pre-cooked frozen patty.

I tried it at the McDonald’s on Missouri Flat Road, across from Wal-Mart, and was helped by their outstanding manager, Donecia. McDonald’s is open from 5 a.m. until midnight or later. Phone (530) 626-1234.

Years ago they had a “California Burger” with beef, lettuce, tomato, etc. I wonder if they will bring it back. I like a burger with vegetables and have been disappointed with the Big Mac recently.

Steppin’ Out – Timmy’s Brown Bag, Placerville (a Revisit)

Well, I may have had the best sandwich of my life right here in Placerville, just a couple of weeks ago. That is a difficult thing for me to say since in my 80 years I have eaten a lot of sandwiches and still have memories of a local chili-cheese dog “to die for” and a “perfect” meatball grinder I bought from a food truck parked in a Safeway parking lot in southern California, decades ago.

What made all of these great was a perfect combination of bread and ingredients that worked so well together it imprinted the flavor in my memory.

This adventure started one day, not too long ago, when my morning walking buddy, Mike Long, came across an article in the recent “VIA” magazine. They had asked readers for their favorite sandwich and right at the top of the list, with a picture, was the Smoked Oyster and Bacon sandwich from Timmy’s Brown Bag at 451 Main Street in Placerville.

“We should go there,” he said, “I don’t know if I would like that sandwich in particular, but I stopped by and looked at their menu. They have great sounding sandwiches.”

I hadn’t been to Timmy’s in over two years, so was now anxious to go back. We arranged and cancelled a trip there a couple of times and, finally, on the spur of the moment met there for lunch a couple of weeks ago.

The menu at Timmy’s hangs from the ceiling on pieces of cardboard, each one listing a sandwich and its ingredients. If a sandwich is available, there is a clothespin on the card: no clothespin, not today.

The cards are easy to read, since they are close to you, the whole restaurant, kitchen and all, occupying a bit less than 200 square feet of space. Don’t worry, there is plenty of seating in the adjacent patio.

We looked at the menu over and over while asking a lot of questions. Finally, Mike said he wanted the “Timmy’s Cubano Chicken Pollo Nugget Cordon Bleu” made with chicken nuggets, yellow mustard, ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and Hollandaise slaw on Ciabatta.

I was still arguing with myself, trying to decide between the Timmy’s Tater Tot Poutine!!! and ¡Kaeng Kari! Po’ Boy !, when I finally bit the bullet and ordered the Smoked Oyster with Pressed Pepper Bacon, with Polish dill pickles, Thai mignonette, mixed greens and P’yatdesyat sim mayo on Brioche.

It took several minutes for them to put together the sandwiches, but soon they showed up in a brown paper bag, complete with several napkins and some Hershey’s Kisses. They even delivered it to a table we had selected in the back of the patio area, overlooking Hangtown Creek.

We split each sandwich and started with the Smoked Oyster and bacon.

Our initial thoughts, and one that almost kept me from ordering it, was that the smoked oysters would overpower everything else. WRONG! The sandwich was so well balanced with just the right amount of everything that each bite was spectacular and a nice mixture of textures and flavors.

We were actually becoming full from that sandwich, but given the experience we had both enjoyed with the first sandwich, we bit into the Cubano.

“Not only is this on the correct bread,” Mike said,”but this is wonderful. I don’t know how they do it.”

I thought the same: the crunch, the taste – texture and flavor. Perfect.

Both of us slowly enjoyed the sandwich and then noted that we had way too much to eat and one sandwich would have been enough. But then we wouldn’t have enjoyed the experience of both.

On our way out, we dropped our trash in the trash container and our recycles in the recycle container, Mike noting that many people did the opposite and obviously couldn’t read.

We thanked the people at Timmy’s and slowly and happily made our way back to our cars.

As I mentioned, Timmy’s menu changes, depending on what is available. It is posted daily on his webpage at (You have to check out the webpage.)

he menu may include things like Timmy’s backyard BBQ Puerco en Adobo with Onion Rings, Vada Pav Hash Brown Potato Patty X2 ,Timmy’s Tater Tot Poutine!!! with Spam & Jalapeño!!! ,Spam and Kimchi!, Chicken Satayayam, Smoked Paprika Balsamic Roasted Portabello with Leek marmellata and more – way more.

To accompany your meal they have fries, special fries, truffle fries, tater tots and truffle tots.

The have bottled and canned soda and juice and hope to have beer in the near future.

Timmy’s Brown Bag is open Monday through Saturday from 11 until 3 and can be reached by phone at (530) 303-3203. You can actually order by phone starting at 8 a.m. for 11 a.m. pickup.

Timmy has mastered the art of sandwich making, How he does it, I don’t know, but I have never had sandwiches this good. You should try them.

Steppin’ Out – El Forastero Mexican Food, Placerville

Recently there has recently been a lot of “back and forth” on the Internet’s social media pages regarding the new restaurant in the old Schlotzsky’s location behind the Arco station on Forni Road.

El Forastero (someone who is or comes from another place “The Foreigner”) is its name and it is part of a small chain of nine restaurants, mostly in the Sacramento area, but as far south as Manteca. The first one was opened in 2007 by three brothers from Mexico, Jose, Javier and Eduardo Davila. Obviously they have been very successful.

Apparently when this one first opened they were understaffed and people commented about the service and waiting time. Now they seem to be fully staffed and both those problems seem to be in the past.

Their drive-thru is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, while their restaurant, with tables and booths, is open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily. There are a lot of opportunities for you to give them a try.

Last Friday, just before noon, I decided to drop in and try something from their very large menu. The place was clean and about one-third full at the time, but it would soon become busier, mostly with to-go orders.

I looked at the menu for several minutes (they were very patient and nice) and finally decided to try a super burrito, with adobada as my meat choice. Adobada, also spelled adovada, is marinated pork and is not only one of my favorites, but not widely available, which led to my choice.

While waiting for my food, I visited the chips and salsa bar, where I picked up some chips and samples of several salsas, all of which were very good. It is free and included with any food purchase.

In just a few minutes I picked up my burrito, which was very large and stuffed full of beans, rice, meat, guacamole and sour cream. It was just on the edge of being too big for one person, but I took my time and finished it. It was very good and high on my list.

The flour tortilla was fresh, everything was warm and the meat had great flavor. The beans were refried, and, although very good, I think I would ask for whole beans next time. I think they go better in a burrito. They didn’t ask when I ordered it, but I know they have other beans.
This is why I have come to prefer the kind of “fast” Mexican restaurants that make your meal in front of you. It allows you to substitute, leave our or add different items.

As I mentioned, the menu is very large and includes: 19 Combo Plates, seven Breakfast Burritos and four Breakfast Plates (breakfast is served all day and includes free coffee), along with 18 different Burritos, seven different Tacos, Crispy tacos, Mini-Tacos, and Rolled Tacos.

The menu continues with Enchiladas, Tostadas, Tortas, Nachos, Quesadillas, Chimichangas, Mexi-Bowls, Shrimp dishes and more.

For us folks who can’t make up our minds easily, they have a number of Daily Specials, which include the most popular dishes.

Menudo and Pozole are also available, but only on Saturday and Sunday.

They have a great list of meat choices including: Carne Asada, Steak, Carnitas, Chile Verde, Fish, Machaca, Shredded Beef, Chicken, Chile Colorado, Adobada, Ground Beef, Lengua and Shrimp.

El Forastero is located behind the Arco Station, next to Office Max and near In-N-Out Burgers, and can be reached at (530) 621-1814.

Again, the dining room is open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily and the drive-thru 24 hours a day.

Discount coupons are available on their webpage at


In-N-Out Burgers

Speaking of In-N-Out Burgers, I stopped by ours one Saturday morning about quarter to 11 a.m. (10:45 to you in the digital age). There were about a dozen people there and a few minutes after I received my food, a bus loaded with about 30 young people showed up in the parking lot.
I immediately thought, “Oh boy, this will be a problem,” but no. Like a “well oiled machine” the employees automatically switched jobs and completed each of the new orders in about the same amount of time it took to do mine. Then the employees went back to doing what they had been doing before the rush.

I commented to the manager that I was impressed and sent a note to their corporate offices. That is a well trained crew.