Carniceria Y Taqueria Soto – Placerville

“Food for thought is no substitute for the real thing.”

— Walt Kelly


Carniceria Y Taqueria Soto

Some time ago I wrote about this great little restaurant, which I called the most hidden taqueria in the county. It is located at 175-A Placerville Drive in Placerville, right across the street from Raley’s, tucked in behind Placer Title. What is so great about this place is that it is not just a taqueria, it is part of a Mexican market (mercado) and meat market (carniceria).

If you want something for Cinco de Mayo, a fiesta, an authentic Mexican dinner or some other event, this is the place to shop. They have things for sale that I have literally never seen before.

I first talked to the owner and butcher, Beto Soto, who explained all the different cuts of meat they have displayed in the meat case. Most of the beef and pork is in thin cuts with names in Spanish, but he and his wife, Vicky, can explain them to you in perfect English.

“We have cuts of meat not found in most grocery stores,” said Soto. “Even when you do find meat cut for something like carne asada in a regular grocery store, it is often from the wrong part of the beef and it makes a big difference. For instance we use flank steak for our carne asada. Ours is like what you find in Mexico and we keep the prices low so people can try it.”

In addition to the sliced beef and pork, they also have a lot of other meats, including chicken and two kinds of tripe, along with Mexican style cheese, chopped cactus, fajita mix, their own chorizo and more.

“We also sell mesquite charcoal to grill the meat,” added Vicky, “that is the way it should be cooked. Some people even put a bit of olive oil on the coals for added flavor.”

The market portion of the store has the needed produce for Mexican dishes along with row after row of packaged and canned goods, Mexican sodas, locally baked and freshly delivered breads and pastries (pan dulce), piñatas and much more.

Over in one corner is what I came for, the taqueria where you can sit and enjoy, or take home, a large number dishes from the posted menu. I was able to sample a number of them and enjoyed every one.

We started with a taco filled with chorizo, which had lots of good flavor and very little fat. That was followed by something I had asked to taste, the chile verde, one of my favorite dishes. I picked up some in a tortilla and it was tender and delicious.

Then we had a grilled fish taco (basa). It was perfectly cooked, but needed a bit more seasoning, which I did at the table. Next came a carne asada taco, which was also tender and flavorful.

I was pretty well satisfied when Beto cooked up some camarones rancheros, shrimp in a delicious sauce with tomatoes, peppers and onions. I left none of it on my plate.

Well, I was now full, but Beto decided I should have a burrito to take with me. I had admired the marinating adobada in the meat case, so I chose a regular burrito made with that for later. It was very good, full of the tender marinated pork, rice, beans, cheese and salsa, and made a nice dinner. By the way, I slowly warmed it in the microwave on low, so it didn’t get tough.

The menu includes a number of different kinds of tacos, seafood dishes, burritos (regular and super), combination plates and tortas (Mexican sandwiches) in which you can put your choice of nine different meats. There is also quite a list of drinks including horchata, pina (pineapple) and tamarindo, bottled sodas and more.

On Saturday and Sunday there is menudo and birria (a kind of beef stew) available. You can also get my favorite dish, pozole, even though it isn’t on the menu.

They also have reasonably priced lunch specials every day and there is a coupon for a free taco in the Mountain Democrat’s July Crazy Coupon book or online at

Stop by and check the market and meat market out, and for sure, while you are there enjoy some great Mexican food from the taqueria to eat there or take home. And, if Beto is cooking, I understand he sings when he is cooking.

The market and meat market are open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Sunday. The taqueria is open from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. and on Sunday at 9 a.m.

For more information call at 530-295-8121.

Blimpie Subs and Salads – WalMart, Placerville

“The small businessman is smart; he realizes there’s no free lunch. On the other hand, he knows where to go to get a good inexpensive sandwich.”

— Adam Osborne


Blimpie Subs and Salads

“Blimpie, you say, where around here is a Blimpie?”
Most of you walk right by it and don’t see it. It really doesn’t have an address, it is the food franchise deli inside Walmart on Missouri Flat Road in Placerville.

For a while, when it first opened, Wal-Mart ran the deli themselves, but a number of years ago it became Blimpie, a franchising company that started in Hoboken, N.J., and has been around for more than 40 years.

I stopped in there when it first opened and it was good, but things were a bit crazy. That was some time ago, so I decided it was time to give them another review.

I walked up to the counter and asked my favorite question, “What is the number one seller?”

Sylvia, the very pleasant and professional lady behind the counter said, “Given the state of the economy, the six inch Italian classic, which has ham, salami and provolone on your choice of bread for only $2.99.” That is honesty at its best.

I had her make me one on zesty Parmesan bread, and added a drink and some potato salad for a couple of bucks more. The other choices with the combo were a cookie, chips or macaroni salad, but I like to try potato salads when I get a chance.

I also asked if I could try a sample of the chili and she said, “Sure,” and put some in a small cup. I am glad I did that.

I had her put all the fresh vegetables on my sandwich, except jalapeños, which I love, but are unpredictable and now and then too hot even for me. I skipped the salt and the vinegar and oil, but did say yes to some pepper, mayo and mustard.

I sat down at a table with a view of the passing crowd (a must at Wal-Mart) and picked up a copy of “Globe,” that someone had left.

The sandwich was great, especially on that bread. It was just the right size and full of flavor. The potato salad, which Sylvia told me they don’t make there, but is made from red potatoes, just needed a bit of pepper to pick it up and it, too was very good. The small sample of the chili had two beans and five chunks of ground meat and had an excellent taste. Most chilis at these kinds of sandwich shops are primarily beans, but not at Blimpie. I was impressed.

Overall, everything was much better than one would expect, other than the “Globe,” which was a bit boring (I liked the “Weekly World News,” before it became history).

The menu at Blimpie contains a number of “deli classics” like the “Blimpie Best,” with slow-cured ham, salami, cappacola, prosciuttini and provolone; the roast beef and Provolone; the club; the ham and Swiss; the turkey and Provolone; the tuna; the BLT and the “veggie supreme.”

The “hot subs” include the meatball Parmigiana, chicken cheddar bacon ranch, grilled chicken teriyaki, Philly cheese steak, hot pastrami and French dip.

The grilled panini sandwiches, which are served on cibatta bread, include the Sicilian, with slow-cured ham, prosciuttini, pepperoni, Provolone, roasted red peppers and creamy Italian dressing; the Buffalo chicken; the Tuscan, with oven-roasted turkey, pepperoni, Provolone, roasted red peppers and creamy Italian dressing, and the “ultimate club,” made with beef, turkey and Cheddar cheese. The sandwiches, other than the panini, come on a choice of bread: Italian white, whole grain wheat, honey oat, jalapeño Cheddar or zesty Parmesan. Sandwiches can also be made as a wrap.

Salads, soup, that great chili, chips, desserts and drinks are also served and there are free refills on the soda as long as you don’t leave the deli to go shopping.

The Blimpie at Walmart is open weekdays and Saturday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. and on Sunday from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. There is also catering, party trays and sandwiches up to six feet long.

I was seriously impressed with the people and the food, so stop by and give Blimpie a try. Have a sandwich, soup, salad or just a drink, but be sure to sit so you can watch the people in the store.

burgers ‘r us – Pollock Pines

“You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars.”

— Charles Kuralt


burgers ‘r us

Late last fall I stopped by 6454, Suite 1, Pony Express Trail in Pollock Pines, to talk with the really nice folks who were in the process of opening this restaurant, Jim and Sylvia Young.

If I lost you with that, it is the former location of the Burger Shack, which is right in front of the CVS pharmacy.

They were working hard fixing everything up and still hadn’t fully decided exactly what they were going to do besides burgers.

“We owned fast-casual restaurants in Southern California and came up here to retire in 2006,” said Sylvia. “We looked around, found this location and said, ‘why not’ and opened another fast-casual restaurant.”

Since my hot dog and hamburger loving friend, Russ Salazar, lives near there, I invited him to join me for lunch last week to try a couple of things from the menu.

The speciality of the house at burgers ‘r us is the juicy Lucy burger, a stuffed burger made with fresh, not frozen, 100 percent Angus beef.

If you have never had one of their stuffed burgers, they make two patties and between them put American cheese, Cheddar cheese and bacon, pepper jack and jalapeños, bleu cheese and bacon or Swiss and mushrooms. Then they cook it and put it on a bun with lettuce, tomato and dressing. When you bite into it, it bursts open with flavor, surprising your taste buds.

We chose the half-pound bleu cheese and bacon juicy Lucy burger and then decided to also try a juicy Lucia burrito, which is a flour tortilla stuffed with rice, beans, cheese slices, tomatoes, lettuce and, chicken, pork or beef. We chose pork, since Salazar reminded me that a burrito should be made with pork.

We had them split the two orders between us, which, in the case of the burger might not have been a good idea. We didn’t get the full effect of the cheese bursting out into our mouths.

The burger was good, really good. The meat was not overcooked (thank you, thank you, thank you) and the bun was excellent. The cheese in the middle was a real treat.

The fries that came with the burger were hot and good (you can also order sweet potato fries and onion rings). I like mustard on fries, and they had pourable mustard, which is best.

The burrito was good, but not exceptional (I’m spoiled by our local taquerias). Salazar said that he prefers them grilled, like his mother made them, so they have a bit of crunch. It came wrapped in foil, which did keep it hot and moist. They are nice people and would probably grill it if you asked.

The burrito came with a small container of salsa and chips, which were both good. But I keep forgetting to mention to restaurants (not only them) that Tabasco is not really a Mexican hot sauce. There are a lot of better ones out there with more flavor, such as Cholula and Tapatio.

In addition to the juicy Lucy burgers they also serve specialty burgers such as the awful awful burger (awful, awful good, they say) and other burgers like chicken, turkey, fish and black bean.

Along with the burritos they also offer nachos, a quesadilla, enchiladas and salads. They also have a special menu for small kids and big kids (10 and under and 60 and over).

Beverages include sodas, brewed ice tea, milk shakes, floats, coffee, hot tea, hot chocolate and milk.

Hours for burgers ‘r us are daily from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. and can be reached at 530-344-7908. You really should stop by and try one of the many burgers. They are really that good.