Steppin’ Out – Gold Vine Grill

gold vine grillMy first story about this wonderful restaurant in the quaint town of Somerset was written about 10 years ago when they were celebrating their second anniversary. I was impressed by their food then and have been ever since. In fact, I don’t think I have ever met anyone who didn’t have a good meal there.

Mary and Greg Kemp are the owners and operators of Gold Vine Grill. They met while working on a cruise ship and opened Gold Vine Grill in 2003.

Greg, who is the talented chef, not only worked in the kitchen on cruise ships, but was also a sous chef at the highly rated restaurant at Chateau Souverain. He is an artist and perfectionist in the blending of flavors and balance of everything goes on the plate. His soups and sauces are really outstanding and nothing leaves Greg’s kitchen that isn’t pleasing to the eye.

Mary, who also has excellent cooking skills and an great background in the restaurant and hotel business, runs the front of the restaurant. Previously she and Greg ran a catering business and she was the Culinary Arts instructor for the Central Sierra Regional Occupation Program at El Dorado High School.

Their talent shows in their food, service and wine knowledge.

You will find that the restaurant is warm and casual, but classy. When you enter you are always greeted with a smile, and, in fact, everyone in the restaurant is smiling. It has a happy atmosphere like an old-fashioned diner.

I had eaten dinner there several times, so Russ Salazar and I dropped in on a Friday for lunch. We were greeted by our friendly server, Jordan, who seated us at a table by a window and handed us luncheon menus.

I wanted to try one of their famous burgers and, from the list selected the Grizzly Burger, made with seasoned all beef patty topped with fire-roasted jalapeños, bacon, grilled onions and Provolone cheese. I asked Salazar what looked good to him and he said, “I want to try the crab cakes from the appetizer menu. They sound really good.” (Smiling, he told Jordan he really wanted the Pastrami Panini, only because they took it off the menu).

We gave Jordan our order, asking for a mix of regular and sweet potato fries with the burger. Salazar added a cup of clam chowder with two spoons, something else I didn’t expect. I have to tell you, I was quite surprised with Salazar’s choice of the crab cakes instead of a sandwich, but also delighted. I could write a whole story just about them.

The crab cakes were exquisite. They came panko breaded and were served with a chipotle and lemon caper aioli. I have eaten crab cakes on both the east and west coasts, but these were better and almost entirely real crab meat. They were so good that I took smaller and smaller bites so they would last longer. I don’t think there was anyone in the restaurant, which had a steady lunch crowd, that didn’t know how much I liked them.

The burger was delicious. The bun was excellent, the lettuce and tomato were fresh and the meat told you it was good quality. Every now and then I would get a bit of a bite from the jalapeños, but it was a good bite and really added to the burger.

The fries were nicely done and were especially good with the left over aioli from the crab cakes. Salazar, who is not as big a fan of fries as me, really enjoyed them, especially the sweet potato fries.

At that point Mary Kemp, who had come in and graciously greeted us, handed us a dessert menu. It was loaded with great sounding treats. Salazar was fascinated by the Croissant Bread Pudding, made with sun-dried cranberries and served with Crème Anglàis (English cream, a soft pouring custard) so we ordered that with two forks. Heavenly – not a crumb left.

The Luncheon menu, which is only served Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., includes several delicious appetizers and a number of salads such as a baby spinach salad, traditional Caesar salad, organic Somerset greens and Gold Vine House salad. The sandwiches on the lunch menu include a half-dozen burgers with local names, like the Gold Vine Burger, Buck’s Bar BBQ Burger, Omo Ranch Burger, Grizzly Burger and the Somerset Burger, a Garden Burger Patty with avocado, tomato and sprouts on a wheat.

Gold Vine Grill also serves a variety of other sandwiches at lunch, including a Turkey Reuben Panini, Grilled Vegetable Panini, Philly Steak sandwich (I am sure that would have been Salazar’s second choice), a Grilled Chicken Breast sandwich and an Almond Chicken Salad sandwich, which is served on a Croissant.

The dinner menu is even more spectacular, starting, like their luncheon, with a number of delicious appetizers and salads. For entrees, how about a rib-eye steak, Somerset Broil, Rib of Pork Chop, Chicken Scallopini Picatta or Marsala, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Chef Greg’s Famous Calamari Dore, Fresh Pan-Seared Tilapia, Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi, Seafood Vol Au Vent, risotto Carciofo, Mary’s Wild Salmon Filet and Goat Cheese and Arugula Ravioli.

From their dessert list you might want to try what we did, Croissant Bread Pudding or one I have enjoyed before, Carrot Cake with maple cream cheese icing.
Wednesday is Burger Night, Thursday is Fresh Cod and Chips and on Friday and Saturday evenings, Steak and Lobster.

Gold Vine Grill is open for lunch from 11:30 until 3, Friday through Sunday and for dinner from 5 until 9, Wednesday through Sunday. The wine bar is open, serving local wines and small plates from 3 until closing, Wednesday through Sunday.

You really have to visit the Gold Vine Grill for lunch and dinner. To assure yourself a table on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night, reservations are almost mandatory. And, on Wednesday and Thursday, a good idea.

The Gold Vine Grill is located at 6028 Grizzly Flat Road in downtown Somerset, and can be reached at (530) 626-4042. Also check out their webpage with complete menus and special events at

If you are not familiar with the town of Somerset, it is located at the corner of Mt. Aukum, Grizzly Flat and Buck’s Bar Roads, a few miles south of Pleasant Valley

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