Steppin’ Out – Taqueria El Dorado Mexican Grill, El Dorado Hills

Since Russ Salazar and I had planned on visiting Taqueria El Dorado a couple of weeks ago, we made it our next stop and dropped in on a Tuesday, about 1:30. The restaurant was about a third full.

You order at the counter, pay and they give you a number to take to a table. After the kitchen prepares your food, they bring it to you.

The menu is large and located above the counter, but if you have a cricky neck, you might not be able to read all of it. Fortunately, off to the side are paper menus.

Outside on a chalkboard were listed a few specials. They had a Super Burrito and drink that I decided upon. Russ was going to order three meat tacos and a drink, another special, but when he got inside and looked at the big menu, he changed his mind, ordering instead a Carnitas Torta, a Mexican sandwich of roasted pork on a torta roll. I asked for my “Mexican restaurant test meat,” chile verde, in my burrito. Russ ordered horchata to drink, I went for iced tea.

They have a nice salsa bar and chips for you to enjoy before and with your meal, so we each grabbed some salsas and a container of chips. I was happy they had two of my favorites, the spicy onions and sliced radishes, with the salsas.

The food soon arrived and they had cut each of them is two so we could share. We started with the burrito. It contained the chile verde, rice, pinto beans, salsa, sour cream, guacamole and cheese. I like black beans in my burritos, but Russ told me they are considered Cuban, not Mexican.

Russ doesn’t really like restaurant burritos. “They shouldn’t be so big you have to eat them with a fork,” he told me. “At home burritos were  smaller and also made with a thicker tortilla. I liked them better.”

We both liked the burrito, me especially, but also noticed something about it. The texture of the chunks of pork in the chile verde varied from dry, to solid to soft and perfect. Most restaurants make a large batch of it at one time and it is all the same. They may have been mixing batches.

Before I get to the torta, I want to same something about this Mexican sandwich that is becoming more and more popular at restaurants.
In Mexico, a torta is served on an oblong 15 cm (six inch) firm, crusty white sandwich roll. Depending on the region, this is called a bolillo, telera, birote, or pan francés. Tortas can be eaten cold or hot, and grilled or toasted in a press in the same manner as a panini or a Cuban sandwich.

You can buy the rolls at most grocery stores. They vary in texture and sweetness. Russ thinks the ones at Costco are best.

The torta was our favorite of the two things we ordered. It contained the carnitas, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, cheese, lettuce and tomato. It was a really great sandwich and the bread portion was very good.

We were trying to figure out what really added to the flavor of both the burrito and torta. There was something in both that was the same. I think it must have been the salsa-sour cream-guacamole combination they both had added to the taste.

As I mentioned, the menu is huge. Be sure to take your glasses if you want to read the paper one.

They have tacos, taco salads, enchiladas, nachos, tortas, quesadillas, burritos, tostadas, mariscos (seafood), special plates, combo plates, a kids menu and even breakfast.

Their meat choices include asada (beef), carnitas (roasted pork), pastor (marinated pork), tripa (beef tripe), pollo asado (grilled chicken), pollo desebrado (shredded chicken), buche (pork stomach), lengua (beef tongue) chorizo (Mexican sausage) and chile verde (pork in a green sauce).

With all that to choose from, I am sure there will be something to delight you.

Taqueria El Dorado Mexican Grill is located at 3955 Park Drive, Suite 6 in El Dorado Hills, just north of Highway 50. If you drive in Saratoga Way it is between Bella Bru and Taco Bell.

It is open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily, with extended hours until 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. For more information call (916) 933-8877.

Since they are in El Dorado Hills, where rents, etc. are higher, their dishes are a buck or two more, but not that bad.

Now, this is a question I have asked several people. What is “Authentic Mexican Food?” Is it food prepared the way it is served in Mexico? Is it food made with ingredients commonly found in Mexico?

Russ reminded me that the food in Mexico City is often very European, adding his answer to me question that authentic Mexican food is food made the way his grandmother made it.

I guess it is just what each of us think it is.

¡Buen provecho!

Steppin’ Out – Panera Bread, Folsom

Some time ago my daughter and I visited a Panera Bread restaurant in Sacramento. It was not a good experience: very poor service, the order was screwed up and some of the ingredients should have been tossed rather than served. I was not happy, so I contacted both the store and the company itself. They never even replied. Thus, I wrote nothing about them.

Jumping forward a few years, my friend Russ Salazar has been after me for some time to go to the Panera Bread at 380 Palladio Pkwy, Ste 301 in Folsom. We had driven by it several times, but never stopped.

I am sure you recall, he loves good bread, so a few weeks ago he gave me a gift card to Panera and told me that now we had to go there. After all, they deserved another try.

We has originally planned on visiting Taqueria El Dorado in El Dorado Hills, but when we got there he mentioned that later he wanted to visit the Hospice Thrift store in Folsom. I told him that if we were going to Folsom, we might as well visit Panera at the same time. So, we did.

Indoor parking is available right next to Panera, so, depending on the time, you might be able to park only a short distance from the front door. For some reason, we ended up on the second story of the parking structure, but since I have traded my walker for a cane, it was okay.
At Panera you order at the counter and then find a table. Or, you can order electronically from some computers they have. This was Russ’ first time, so he decided to do the ordering and from a real person.

There was a couple in front of us ordering when we arrived and it seemed to be taking way too long for them. Why would become apparent to us when we ordered.

The menu is a bit confusing to a first-timer, with several sizes of sandwiches and a lot of opportunities to order what they call a “Pick Two.” On top of that, both Russ and I were having a very difficult time understanding the person taking the orders.

Oh, it wasn’t a language thing, he was speaking English, but just too low and too fast. It just got more and more complicated as we tried to order two different sandwiches, a soup and a salad, all to share.

Finally we ordered a half Roasted Turkey and Avocado BLT and a half Steak and White Cheddar Panini, along with a Watermelon Feta salad and a cup of Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice soup. Russ added a soda, I chose water.

The sides came with a choice of a soft dinner roll, whole grain roll, a baguette, chips or an apple. We chose the baguette, it being a bakery and we wanting to try as many of their breads as possible.

While Russ went looking for drinks other than coffee, the vibrating unit that they handed us went off. As I stood there, a kind lady directed me to where to pick up the food. Next time I will know where everything is located.

The two sandwiches were both excellent. The Turkey BLT was on sourdough bread and the panini on a Hoagie roll.

Most of the greens in the Watermelon Feta salad were arugula, which I really like and thought went well with the watermelon and the bit of added mint. Unfortunately, to Russ arugula is like eating cilantro, something he does not do. But, he was game and tried it.

Russ really liked the Chicken and Wild Rice soup. He thought it reminded him of that served by Canter’s, a famous Jewish Delicatessen in Los Angeles. I liked it, but thought it was lacking both in chicken and wild rice.

The baguettes were disappointing. Russ thought they would be crunchy on the outside, but they were really kind of tough. He felt that a place known for its bread would have better baguettes. Taste-wise, they were okay, especially when slathered with butter.

Russ kept going to the drink area and trying the various juice combinations. Then he would come back and say, “Try this.” There was some really unusual combinations of juices, but he thought they all tasted a bit watered down. It turned out they were flavored waters, not juice drinks and, therefore, weak. They need more signs to explain things like that.

Panera Bread has quite a large menu of very different salads, soups and sandwiches, along with their baked goods, a kid’s menu and, yes, breakfast items including sandwiches, yogurts and souffles.

Because they try to use the freshest ingredients, some of their menu items are seasonal, such as the watermelon salad. You can read and even print both their regular and catering menus at www.panerabread.com.

The Folsom Panera Bread restaurant is open from 6 until 9, every day but Sunday, when they don’t open until 7. For more information you can call (916) 984-4953.

Free Wi-Fi and there were a number of people there with their computers, nursing a cup of coffee.

Steppin’ Out – Wayback Burgers, Folsom

Originally started as Jake’s Burgers in 1991, at a location in Delaware, Wayback Burgers specializes in hand-pressed, never-frozen burger patties, hand-scooped milkshakes, turkey burgers, chicken sandwiches and monthly specials. From this simple start, Wayback Burgers has grown into an expanding chain of restaurants with 120 locations in 27 states and several foreign countries. Their future plans include a number of restaurants in the United States, the Mid-East and Northern Africa.

Wayback was chosen as the name for the restaurant because they want to provide food the way it used to be. They pride themselves in moving backward in that one sense.

Russ Salazar and I were on our “first Saturday” trip to all the Hospice Thrift Stores to buy things we really don’t need for 50% off and decided to stop at the Wayback Burgers at 1300 East Bidwell in Folsom. We had passed it on other Saturdays, and this was going to be our first visit.
It is the corner business in a small mall on the north side of East Bidwell, just east of Blue Ravine. The outside walls are all glass, giving it a great natural lighting.

It was very clean and the decor is “retro,” like “burger joints” from the 1950s.

You order at the counter and they give you a number to take to your table, then deliver your food to you when it is ready.

Since I am still a bit “out of sorts” with my new knee, Russ ordered while I found a table. For our test meal, he decided on a Crispy Chicken BLT that stood out on a poster in the window and a single cheeseburger with American cheese, “their way” – lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions. To this he added an order of “O-Fries” which are a mix of onion rings and French fries (like the “Frings” we got in South Lake Tahoe). He had considered a chili dog, but remembered neither of us needed a third sandwich (or a second one for that matter).

As we were waiting for our food, I noticed a picture of a Triple-Triple burger that you can purchase for about $18. It is not three burger patties and three slices of cheese, but nine of both (2200 calories if you wonder). I still haven’t figured out how you could eat that one…or why.

Soon the food arrived, delivered by a very happy and friendly young lady, who would later even refill our drinks for us.

The sandwiches were both cut in half, as Russ had asked, and I started with the burger. It was very good and both Russ and I both commented that the bun was different and excellent. The bun was a bit yellow and the nice young lady told us it was an egg bun.

The Crispy Chicken BLT was likewise very good. Russ liked the crust on the chicken. I thought it might have been cooked a bit too long, but was still very good.

When I first looked at the picture of the Crispy Chicken BLT I mentioned to Russ that the bread looked like a hamburger bun that was upside down. Sure enough, I was right, the young lady said. Inside out buns for non-burgers, a novel idea.

We both really liked the onion rings and the fries. The onion rings were nicely cooked with a great crust and the skin-on fries were crispy and full length. There were very few little pieces in the container. Russ said he likes the little pieces since they are usually crisper.

All in all, the food was very good and much better than I had expected.

The menu are Wayback Burgers is fairly large. They have quite a list of burgers and other sandwiches, including a Cheeeesy, Chipotle, Rodeo, Philly and a Cheesesteak. There are also chicken, turkey and veggie sandwiches, hot dogs several ways, chicken tenders and a WB Cod sandwich. And a selection of specials.

Their real speciality is you creating your own burger. You start with a Single, Classic (double) or a Triple patty burger, select your cheese, top it off their way or your way and add your choice of sauce. They will even let you select the spices for the meat. I usually look at those lists and have the person make it the way they like it. It saves a lot of decisions.

For sides they have fries in many combinations, Mac & Cheese Bites, House-Made Chips and something called Irish Nachos, which have no connection to Ireland other than the fact that the jalapeños on them are green.

They also have salads, several kids meals, fountain drinks and real milkshakes and malts, made the way they should be with hand-scooped ice cream.

The Wayback Burgers in Folsom is open daily from 10 until 10 and can be reached at (916) 597-2697. You can also look at their menu and find other locations at www.waybackburgers.com.

As an interesting side note, because of a larger Islamic population in that area, their location in Milpitas, CA serves Halal meat.