Steppin’ Out – Oktoberfest at Wienerschnitzel

The last time I visited the Wienerschnitzel in Placerville they were having problems finding someone who would replace their aging carpet with tile. Then, after months of looking, they finally found someone and it was done.

Well, that and the fact that they always have great sausages this time of year, was more than enough to cause Russ Salazar and me to check things out.

The new tile has done wonders to the look of the restaurant. I really like it. It feels more bright and open to me. You should stop by and see.

I have to start with a warning that I am going to use more often, since people sometimes yell at me when the specials are no longer available.
Like most other fast food restaurants, a lot of their specials are for a limited time only, appearing and disappearing without notice. By the time I write this and it is printed, some items may no longer be available.

Not only is Wienerschnitzel celebrating Oktoberfest with those great gourmet sausages, but something new, Chicken Schnitzel sandwiches.
First the sausages.

Last year they had a quarter pound Bratwurst on a pretzel bun, served a couple of ways. This year they have both a quarter-pound Bratwurst and a quarter-pound Italian sausage and they are on “Brat Buns.”

The Bratwurst comes with mustard and grilled onions, while the Italian sausage comes with mustard, grilled onions and grilled peppers.

I really liked the Italian sausage, but at first thought the bun was a bit tough. Then they told me they use this special bun because a regular hot dog bun would not hold up. Ah, now I understand and take back my complaint about the bun.

Russ liked the Italian, but thought the peppers in the sandwich were a bit overdone. I told him I liked them and that is the way they are supposed to be cooked. He still wanted them crisper.

The Bratwurst was similarly excellent. They do a really good job selecting their sausages. I wish they had them all year. Fortunately they do have a Polish sausage on rye bread all year. I love it too.

The Chicken Schnitzel sandwiches come three ways: Classic Ranch, BBQ Bacon and Blazin’ Bacon Guacamole (spicy, but not that hot).
They had a one day special where you could get a Chicken Schnitzel sandwich with the purchase of a sausage sandwich, so we tried two of them, the BBQ Bacon and Blazin’ Bacon Guacamole.

I liked the way the chicken patty was breaded and cooked. The BBQ Bacon one was okay, but not something I would order again. The Blazin’ Bacon Guacamole was much better and actually quite good, but for some reason the lettuce, coated with guacamole, kept falling out on my lap.

They have also increased the size of the patty in their hamburgers, something I had never tried (with all those hot dogs and sausages, why would I?). So, a few days ago I again dropped in just to try one.

You can get their hamburger four different ways: Classic, with lettuce, tomato, pickles and Thousand island dressing, BBQ Bacon Cheese, Chili Cheese and Blazin’ Bacon Guacamole. I opted for the Classic.

It was very good and more like a burger you might fix at home than a restaurant burger. Like many, the beef patty was a bit on the dry side, given the fact that restaurants panic at undercooked beef (and for a good reason), but overall I really enjoyed the burger.

I had a small order of fries with the burger. I like mustard on my fries and they are the only place that has both catsup and mustard you can pump into those little containers in which to dip your fries. That sure beats the difficult to open little packages of mustard.

One thing I have not tried is their new “Bold” chili cheese fries. You can get them with Thousand island, Green Chile and Bacon or Blazin’ Bacon Guacamole.

Oh, you have probably noticed from their signs that they always have specials on multiple dogs, corn dogs and the such to feed a group or family.

Our Placerville Wienerschnitzel also has a drive-thru, in addition to inside seating, and is open daily from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. (11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday). They can be reached at (530) 295-8255.

It’s a happy place with friendly people.

Their public relations folks told me that we can expect pastrami back around the first of the year. I love their pastrami because it has just the right amount of fat to give it a great flavor.

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

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.