Monthly Archives: August 2011

Poor Red’s Revisited – El Dorado

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”

Luciano Pavarotti



Poor Reds revisited

A few days after I wrote about the additions to the menu at Poor Reds Bar-B-Q, the eating landmark in the town of El Dorado, I received a call from Mike Adams, the owner. He was inviting me to test a few of the menu items I had not previously tried, along with some of the regular ones.

I met he and his wife, Bree, there on a Tuesday, at about 1:30 in the afternoon. We talked about the different things they are doing to improve Poor Reds with a larger menu and special events and then moved into the dining room and sat at a table which soon became covered in food, all prepared by Chef Casey Moore.

The first dish, quite to my delight, was one of their Australian lobster tails (served only on Friday and Saturday), beautifully served fine dining style, on top of its shell. It was tender and delicious, and more than I could eat, especially with what was coming.

Next I was given a plate with one of their new lunch items, the Prime Rib Sandwich, along with my old favorite, the Pork Dip. The Prime Rib sandwich was very tender and full of flavor. I can see why it has become one of the two most ordered items on the menu. The Pork Dip, which I have been eating since I first visited a long time ago, was delicious and had the dipping sauce that you don’t tell your doctor you eat. It was very lean, maybe a bit too lean (I like a bit of fat in it, not to eat, but to add flavor). However, it was a trip down memory lane and tasted like it should.

Being that it was “Taco Tuesday,” they brought me a couple of their tacos to try. They appeared to be deep fried before adding the garnishes, but not as greasy as some fast-food ones. They sat for a bit on my plate, but were still very good. They come in corn or flour tortillas, are a good size and inexpensive.

Next came a sample of their famous pork ribs and a grilled chicken breast and leg. They are using the original recipe rub for the ribs, which I find a bit salty. However, I have seen people add salt to them and love them. Over the years I have found the ribs varied from moist and delicious to more than a bit dry. These were very moist, meaty and good. The chicken, which I have never ordered, was really good. I ate the drumstick and saved the breast to share (I took home several leftover containers). Now I wish I had kept both of them.

My final dish was a serving of their Baby Back Ribs, which have become the number one seller at dinner. I can see why. The flavor, the tenderness and the sauce were all excellent (see if the chef will tell you what is in the sauce). Ribs should be cooked to pull off the bone, not fall off and these were that way. They gave me an additional half rack to share and everyone gave them raves.

Even though I had been drinking only water while tasting, Mike asked me to try their house Regal Amber beer, which they have made for them. They gave it that name because there is an old sign on the west side of the building that says “Regal Amber.” I like hoppy beers and it was nice, right in the middle between very hoppy and slightly hoppy. Oh, he also ordered some fries to taste at the same time. I love fries, they are my downfall. These were thin, shoestring style, crisp on the outside and tender inside. They kept their crispness for over five minutes, which is excellent.

Mike wanted to make sure I mentioned that there is no added MSG in the food and that he and the staff want to know about anything that you feel can be improved upon to make sure you enjoy your visit. If something is wrong and they don’t hear about it, they won’t know.

For more information give them a call at (530) 622-2901 or visit (and be sure to listen to the song “Poor Reds” by the Golden Cadillacs). They also have a Facebook page that lists events almost every day.  Oh, when you are there next, ask them about their “Hot Wheels” races

Firewater Grill – Coloma

“Every time I east Rice Krispies . . . . . .I listen.”

Merritt Malloy


Firewater Grill

Okay, you have never heard of the Firewater Grill. Neither had I until last week. It has only been open a couple of weeks and doesn’t have a sign yet, but you can easily find it because it is located on Highway 49 in the Ponderosa Store and Café at Ponderosa Resort, in the Lotus – Coloma area, just north of the bridge over the South Fork of the American River, across the river from the Sierra Nevada House.

Now that I have got you there, you really have to try their food. They specialize in burritos, tacos and burrito bowls that are more than a bit upscale in ingredients from what you would normally find, and still affordable.

In June Tym Armstrong, of Gold Rush Whitewater Rafting moved his office to this building and reopened the general store, which is presently being expanded. He always felt his rafting customers should have the best food used chefs for the meals. Because of that he thought it might be a good idea to open a small burrito café to serve the adjoining campground, tourists and the community. He contacted his friend chef Jason Story, who has 18 years in the fine dining business, including two years as Chef de Cuisine at Sequoia, and told him what he wanted. Story took it from there, hiring Sous Chef Matt Nicholls, who worked at Amerikan Sushi in Placerville, to help him.

Their menu is basic, but the selection of meats and other ingredients is unique. They build your order as you request, right in front of you, and even have a list of suggested combinations if you would like to try something they have found works well and is delicious.

The meat selections include: pork carnitas, spicy pineapple pork, guajillo chicken, beef barbacoa and citrus cilantro mahi. If you are a vegetarian, you can try sauteed onions and peppers, ginger soy tempeh and falafel. They have two kinds of beans: refried pinto (made with butter) and vegetarian black beans. There are also two kinds of rice: garlic cilantro rice and Mexican style rice, which is vegetarian. At that point you can have them add cheese, onions, cilantro, cabbage, guacamole, sour cream and anything else from the fresh vegetable bar. Now, with your burrito, taco or burrito bowl completed to your exact specifications, you probably want some sauce. How about chipotle BBQ, verde, enchilada, wasabi aioli, jalapeno aioli, tahini vinegarette or coconut curry. (mouth watering yet?)

I tried a taco made with the citrus cilantro Mahi and a burrito made with spicy pineapple pork and garlic cilantro rice. I asked Chef Story to make it them both as if he was going to eat them and they turned out to be absolutely delicious and moist enough that I didn’t have to or want to add more salsa.

A large burrito is usually all I can eat at one sitting, but I was able to eat both it and the taco, along with some chips, so that I could try the selection of salsas.

The salsa bar is quite large and includes mango salsa, marinated onions, marinated jalapenos and carrots, pico de gallo, tomatillo, guacamole vinegarette, roasted corn and a rojo, which is made with different kids of chiles and is hot. I sampled each of them and also the sauces that I hadn’t tasted in my food, like the coconut curry, which I loved.

There is a limited amount of seating inside and a nice patio to which they are adding a plants, a waterfall and a fire bar (Thus the name Firewater).

As I have said before, I guess I could add more to this, but why don’t you give Firewater Grill a try. They are open from 11 until 8 daily, and until 9 on Friday and Saturday. And, this weekend, like the last one, they are offering a BOGO, a buy one, get one free deal on their food.

For more information call (530) 295-8380.

Wanderings: Los Angeles

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame …”

Thomas Wolfe, “You Can’t Go Home Again.”


Los Angeles

A couple of weeks ago a friend invited me to ride with him to the Los Angeles area and stay for a couple of days. He grew up there and returns often to put flowers on family graves at Rose Hills in Whittier. My grandparents and an aunt and uncle are buried there and I had never been to their graves, something I have meant to do. That was a good enough reason to go, but, knowing me, he also mentioned that he knew some famous sandwich places that we could visit.

We left on a Monday morning and stopped at Harris Ranch on I-5 for lunch. He said he loves liver and onions and it was the only place he would eat it. I love it too and used to stir-fry it pink, so I tried it rare (yes, they will cook it anyway you want it). It was really good, but I think next time I will try it more towards medium, since the texture was a bit softer than I thought it would be. After buying my grandson, Harris, a Harris Ranch hat (they need to have kids sizes in the shirts), we headed towards L.A.

After checking in to our motel, we had dinner at The Hat, a place well known for their pastrami dip sandwiches for the past 60 years (10 locations in southern California). We split one of their delicious pastrami dips (great pastrami – just enough fat and lots of choices in condiments) and a small order of fries, which turned out to be half a paper bag full and very good. Before we left, I bought a t-shirt.

The next day, after spending the morning putting flowers on our relatives’ graves and spending some time there with them, we headed to Philippe – The Original Home of the French Dipped Sandwich, on Alameda Street in downtown L.A., near Union Station.

Philippe’s started at a different location in 1908, but didn’t serve sandwiches until moving 1918. Open daily from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., it has been at this location since 1951 and is really popular, but has lots of seating. They also have sawdust on the floor to take care of spills.

We split a really good lamb dip and added an order of “excellent for a restaurant” cole slaw and two bowls of chili, with beans (also available without). I have never had restaurant chili that good: thick and delicious. I was told it is Delores Chili, which comes in a brick and can be purchased at Smart & Final stores.

Philippe’s has a huge menu and still serves coffee for nine cents, plus a penny tax. Decaf costs 60 cents. You can look at the menu and their extensive wine list at

Much of the rest of the day we spent driving around remembering growing up in that area. We even went to Pasadena, where I grew up and spent the first 19 years of my life. But if you put me in the middle of town I would be lost. I only recognized a few buildings. It was sad.

Dinner that evening (that is why we split orders) was at Original Tommy’s. Tommy’s has been around for 65 years and now has 31 locations in southern California and two near Las Vegas, NV. We went to the one on Whittier Blvd. in Pico Rivera.

Their speciality is chili burgers and chili dogs, so we ordered one of each to split, along with an order of fries which were crisp on the outside and nice and soft inside. We tried the dog first and it was really good with a nice snap. The burger had cooled when we got to it, but is was still excellent. You can buy their chili to take home, but bring a big plastic bag to put the container in since it will leak (and an ice chest if you are planning on taking it very far). Oh, I also bought a t-shirt there there.

For breakfast the next day we stopped at a restaurant called Hecho En Mexico, on Huntington Drive, for chorizo and eggs. The meal was excellent, and the salsa was especially delicious, but I still can’t eat a whole meal using torn flour tortillas instead of a fork.

On our way home, we stopped at a rest stop on I-5 to stretch our legs. To my surprise there was a vending machine that sold ice cream. You put in two bucks and make your selection. A freezer opens and a funny looking metal cylinder with a rubber tip slowly drops into the proper location and grabs your selection and then releases it into the slot where you can pick it up. Ice cream in the lower San Joaquin Valley on a hot day is delicious.

For dinner we made a stop at Pea Soup Andersen’s in Santa Nella, a very interesting and family-friendly restaurant with a large gift shop and dining room. I had a bowl of their always great spit-pea soup and a half chicken salad sandwich. As I mentioned, the soup was excellent, but the sandwich was just so-so. No kids t-shirts there either.

Well, Tommy’s told me what kind of hot dogs they use, but we couldn’t find them before we left L.A. We did get some Farmer John “Dodger Dogs,” which I shared with my friends at Shoestring. They are good for a long, regular hot dog, but we are on a quest to get Tommy’s

Poor Red’s – El Dorado

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la mΛme chose.” [The more things change, the more they stay the same]

French proverb



Poor Red’s 

A couple of weeks ago I stopped by Poor Reds, a landmark in the town of El Dorado, to pick up a couple of t-shirts for my son and one of his friends. It had been a while since I had been there, and a few years since I had written something about the place. I knew they had added to the menu, but, as a friend of mine would say, Wow!

My failing mind recalls that a few decades ago, their lunch menu had only their famous pork dip, a hamburger (“You want cheese on it, you bring it!” they would yell at you), a ham sandwich and a steak sandwich, which wasn’t really a sandwich, but a large steak with a couple of pieces of bread. Lunches came with a small, green salad (they fancied it up with a slice of pickled beet at dinner) and some great fries that still had the skins on them.

For dinner you had a choice of their famous ribs, chicken, a couple of steaks and I think ham, accompanied by a baked potato and the fancied salad.

It was that way when I first visited the place in the mid-1960s, and stayed that way until not too long ago. Now, you can still get those those items, and a lot more.

Added to today’s lunch menu are thing like a prime rib dip, cheese burger, bacon cheese burger, cowboy burger, 8 oz. ribeye, chicken strips and a chef salad. According to second generation bartender, Mike Speegle (Jr.), the pork dip and prime rib dip are the favorites of the lunch crowd. My favorite was always the pork dip, which was better late in the week for some reason.

The new dinner menu has added to it baby back ribs (by far the new favorite over their famous pork ribs), a cheeseburger, chef salad, steak and Bleu salad, an 8 oz. filet, along with a 12 and 16 oz. ribeye.

On Thursday and Sunday, they add a 12 and 16 oz. cuts of  prime rib to the menu and on Friday and Saturday, a lobster dinner, along with combinations of the lobster and any of the three steaks.

The have also added to the menu appetizers, something you used to have to bring with you if you wanted them (lots of purses had cans of nuts in them when they arrived). You can choose from potato skins, chicken strips, buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks, jalapeno poppers, onion rings (you can also get a sampler plate with those last three), fries, garlic fries, cheese fries and Bleu cheese fries.

I understand from Speegle, that Casey Moore, a talented local chef, came up with a number of the new items in the few years he has been working there. I had talked with Moore a few days before, and he too was excited about the new menu.

The bar opens daily at 10 a.m. and stays open until late. Lunch starts at 11:30 (noon on Sunday) and continues until 4:30. Dinner is served from the start of lunch hours until closing, which is normally 9, and 10 on Friday and Saturday. You get fries with dinner until after 5 p.m, when baked potatoes are available.

For more information, drop by one of El Dorado County’s most famous landmarks or give them a call at (530) 622-2901.

Oh, remember that for years they only had Bud on tap? Now they have a much greater selection of beers.