“Lunch should be a social experience. Good food adds to it, but is not a requirement.” That is what my friend Russ Salazar said as we walked out the door of The Independent Restaurant and Bar, which is located at 629 Main Street in Placerville.
Russ had been after me for some time to give The Independent a try and then he said the magic words, “My treat.” It was a very nice experience.
He had enjoyed dinner there a couple of times recently and was excited about their food. I hadn’t been there in several years. It was good then, but now it is fantastic.
We decided on lunch and planned to meet there around 12:30 one Thursday afternoon. I had a few chores to do that morning and arrived about 10 minutes late, just to find that my “always a bit late” friend had arrived on time.
He had picked a table in the corner of their patio, under an umbrella. It was sunny and around 70 degrees: perfect weather for outdoor dining.
Russ had already decided he wanted to try the Ahi Niçoise salad. It contained ahi tuna, seared rare and placed over mixed greens with egg, tomato, olives, new potatoes, Blue Lake green beans and fried capers, all with a light honey-balsamic vinegarette.
I looked over the delicious list of salads, burgers and sandwiches and finally settled on their Pilsner Beer Battered Fish & Chips (true cod) with their fantastic turnip fries (Russ insisted I have them and I found out why).
While waiting a few minutes for our food, I looked around. The patio was about half full, with smiling people who seemed to be enjoying their food very much. It made me anxious to taste what we had ordered.
Our server arrived with our food and she spent a minute or two helping Russ correctly pronounce “Niçoise” (ne’swä), and as she turned to leave, he looked and saw my turnip fries, several of which he immediately grabbed and dipped in the house-made remoulade sauce that came with the fish.
Remoulade sauce is a wonderful cold sauce that has its origins in France and was then popularized in New Orleans. It has a mayonnaise base and, as my grandmother would have put it, contains “Everything but the kitchen sink.”
We got an extra plate so we could share dishes and Russ divided them, eating turnip fries as he did it.
The seared ahi was crusted with sesame seeds and delicious. The mixed greens were crisp as were the green beans (yes, I dipped them in the sauce). There were also several kinds of olives in his salad along with the egg and potatoes. The dressing was not overpowering and Russ described it as “giving dry lettuce character without affecting its taste.” I guess he was being poetic that day.
The fish had a thin, delicious battered crust and, yes, it was perfectly cooked moist and flaky cod. The remoulade sauce really added to its flavor. The turnip fries, which I was now hoarding, were nutty and delicious.
The Independent has several menus, so I am going to start with the lunch menu.
It has several “Beginnings” such as Smoked Salmon, Calamari, those wonderful Turnip Fries, Tempura Prawns, Beer Battered Leek Rings and more. Salads go from simple mixed greens and “The Wedge” to the Ahi Niçoise and even Prawn Strawberry.
From the grill you can order their Classic Independent Burger, Salmon Avocado Burger, Portobello Veggie Burger, a petite Certified Herford Filet Mignon, Alaskan Salmon and Seared White Polenta Cakes. Sandwiches include Pastrami, California Chicken, French Dip, BBQ Pulled Pork a BLTA and the Independent Philly Cheese Steak. There are also the Fish & Chips and Blackened Salmon Tacos.
For dinner the Appetizers list includes Asiago Garlic Spread, Ahi Tartare, Calamari, Free Range Chicken Satay, Polenta Crusted Smoked Sausage and more. Salads include the Caesar, Spinach, Mixed Greens and more, along with House-crafted Soup.
Under Steaks & Chops are found a Certified Hereford Miso Marinated Skirt steak, Dry Rubbed Ancho Crusted Ribeye, Certified Hereford Filet Mignon and New York Strip, a Molasses Brined Pork Chop and a Dijon & Tarragon Crusted Lamb Rack.
They also serve the Independent and Salmon Avocado Burger at dinner and they are followed on the menu by additional entrees such as a Free Range Buttermilk Fried Chicken Breast, Free Range Herb-Roasted Chicken, Orange Glazed Salmon, Ancho Rubbed Ahi, Papardelle Pesto Pasta and Prawn Saffron Risotto.
Finally, their Sunday Brunch (10 a.m.-2 p.m) menu includes beechwood Smoked Salmon, Steak and Eggs, Indy Denver Omelette, a Breakfast Burrito, Eggs Benedict, a Buttermilk Belgian Waffle, an Avocado or Bacon Mushroom Scramble, lots of sides and much more.
There is a full bar, a nice wine list and the normal beverages, including coffee and espresso.
Whoops, almost forgot the dessert list which includes Crème Brûlée, Cheesecake of the day, Affogato Espresso with Vanilla Ice Cream, Fruit Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream, Chocolate Pot de Créme with Whipped Cream, Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream.
By the way, now that I have done all this typing, I should mention that their menus are all on their webpage at www.independentplacerville.com/menu.
he Independent Restaurant and Bar is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner: Monday through Thursday from 11 until 9, Friday and Saturday from 11 until 10 and Sunday from 10 until 9. For more information give them a call at (530)344-7645.
Oh, not only does the patio have umbrellas, it also has a fireplace and overhead heaters for cooler dining hours.
Enjoy. I know you will.