Doug Noble

Taqueria El Carnaval – Placerville

“Salsa has now passed ketchup as America’s favorite condiment. Isn’t that amazing? You know it’s bad when even our vegetables are starting to lose their jobs to Mexico.”

Jay Leno, the “Tonight Show”




Taqueria El Carnaval

Taqueria Carnaval, which is located at 4340-C Golden Center Drive (off Missouri Flat, near McDonald’s and across from Wal-Mart) has recently changed owners and name. And, in celebration of this, on May 5, Cinco de Mayo, they will be holding their grand opening with live music and food specials, an event you really won’t want to miss.

The new owners are three brothers, Jesus, Julio and Manolo Abarca, and the restaurant’s new name is Taqueria El Carnaval. Jesus, who is the chef, and his brother Julio both work in the kitchen at El Carnaval, while Manolo is in charge of the front of the house, as it is called. It is a real family owned restaurant.

I had a chance last week to spend some time talking with Jesus, who everyone seems to call “Chuy.” He has been working in the restaurant business for 20 years, as far away as Chicago, but mostly in northern California.

For the past five years, they were partners with others at La Fiesta Taqueria on East Bidwell in Folsom, where he and his brother Julio worked their magic in the kitchen. La Fiesta, according to everything I have read, is a very highly rated restaurant.

The sign outside Taqueria El Carnaval  says, “New Owners, New Food, New Taste” and the new menu reflects that. The Abarca brothers have expanded the menu to include a greater choice of meats and a greater variety of items. There are not a large number of Mexican restaurants in the area where, in addition to the regular chicken, pork, and beef choices, you can also get tripa (tripe), lengua (tongue), buche (pork stomach) and chorizo (Mexican sausage) on your taco or in your burrito. And, how about a seafood tostada that comes with both camarón (shrimp) and pulpo (octopus). That is just a sample of new things on the menu. There are a lot more.

The three page menu includes quite a list of tacos, taco salads, enchiladas, nachos, tortas, quesadillas, burritos, tostadas, mariscos (complete plates), special plates, combo plates, seafood tostadas, seafood appetizer and soups, including the seven mares and three mares seafood soups, and more. Yes there is also a kids menu and on both Saturday and Sunday they have menudo and pozole.

Drinks include fountain sodas, traditional fresh Mexican drinks, Mexican bottle sodas, fresh squeezed orange and carrot juices and both imported and domestic beers.

The salsa bar has not only several salsas of different spiciness, but also some interesting marinated onions, cactus and peppers, along with jalapenos and radishes. Chips and salsa are complementary with your meal.

If you are looking for something different, they also serve quite a list of Mexican inspired breakfast dishes all day, every day.

Taqueria El Carnaval is open from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m., daily. They not only have a clean, well tended dining room, but a large patio dining area.

Although you order at the counter and then find your table, the servers, who bring your food to you, also constantly come by to make sure everything is good with you. Our fantastic server, Roberto Castillo, is a graduate of El Dorado High School and was working at the Folsom restaurant before they opened here. Even though the restaurant was rapidly filling up as the noon hour approached, he and the rest of the staff made sure everyone was happy and enjoying their meal.

For more information or to make telephone orders, call (530) 344-7246

About The Author

Doug, Korea, 1958 winter fix2

Korea 1958

A professional writer for over 25 years, Doug Noble has been published in newspapers, magazines and books.

As a writer for the Mountain Democrat in Placerville, California, he has authored a weekly column called “Stepping Out,” documenting local restaurants, events and occasional “wanderings.” He also writes a second column with articles on historical figures, mines, transportation and other subjects in the Mother Lode.

If that isn’t enough Doug also reviews wine, chili and other fine delicacies in his spare time.

You can normally find him at a local flea market or thrift store scoring “finds.”

If you would like to contact Doug, you can do so here:

Capitol Dawg – Sacramento

Capitol Dawg

In our never ending quest for the ultimate hot dog, my friend Russ Salazar and I dropped in on Capitol Dawgs, which is located at 1226 20th Street in midtown Sacramento. We wouldn’t have driven this far for a hot dog, but Russ had some business nearby, so we grasped the opportunity.

Capitol Dawg probably gets an “A” for variety, so we had to spend some time deciding which we wanted to try. They have eight kinds of dogs from regular to turkey and veggie, most of which you can have grilled or deep fried and served 25 or more different ways.

We finally decided on a “Prop 51 Dawg” (Chicago style with mustard, green relish, onions, tomato, kosher dill pickle spear, sport peppers and celery salt in a poppy seed bun), “Delta Dawg” (West Virginia style with mustard, chili, onions and cole slaw) and the “Governor Dawg” ( their own Texas Tommy style with a deep fried American and Swiss cheese stuffed beef frank wrapped in bacon, cheddar cheese, cheddar cheese sauce and tomato).

The “Prop 51 Dawg” was good, but not the best Chicago style dog I have tasted. It did have the proper neon green relish, sport peppers and poppy seed bun, but seemed to lack a bit in overall flavor. It may have needed more celery salt. The “Delta Dawg,” which we got in order to try the chili, was my favorite, since I like cole slaw on dogs and pulled pork sandwiches (I was born on the wrong coast). The chili was more like “Coney sauce,” thin and light, but good. Russ liked the chili, but did not like it having cole slaw on it. The “Governor Dawg.” which we tried because the hot dog was deep fried. Both of us liked it, but maybe had too much going on with all the ingredients.

For more information on Capitol Dawg, call (916) 444-1226 or visit

The Donut Factory – Placerville

“To the trained palate the flavor of food comes in bits and pieces, like words in a sentence.”

Hsiang Ju Lin and Tsuifeng Lin “Chinese Gastronomy” (1969)


The Donut Factory

I like apple fritters. I mean, I really like them and really good ones are often hard to find.

During Apple Hill season, several places make them with fresh apples, but that is only for a few months. What do I do the rest of the year?

My very favorites come from a place called Spudnuts Donuts at 2445 Arden Way in Sacramento. If you are old enough you may recall that Spudnuts was a chain started in 1946 that used potato flour to make donuts. They went out of business, but the name is still in use around the country. I don’t know if they have any potato flour in them, but they are really good and when still warm, wonderful.

Locally I have tried apple fritters from every place I can find them: grocery stores, donut shops, bakeries, etc. I like the ones from some place for awhile and then maybe they would change staff and they just wouldn’t be the same. So, I would go looking again.

A couple of months ago I was having lunch at the Taco Bell Express in County Fair Shopping Center on Fair Lane in Placerville (Rite Aid, Big Lots, etc.) and when I had finished, I walked around the corner of the building to check out The Donut Factory, which faces Placerville Drive. I asked if they had apple fritters, they said yes, so I bought one. It was big, crunchy and delicious, so I have been going there ever since. And, they are only $1.35.

The Donut Factory has a lot of different kinds of donuts, cinnamon rolls, pastries, etc. that they make there. They also have espresso and coffee drinks, smoothies, milk and other things that go well with donuts.

They are open from 5 until 2, Monday through Friday, from 5:30 until 2 on Saturday and from 6 until 2 on Sunday. For more information give them a call at (530) 626-1320.

By the way, like the donuts I break in two, I cut the apple fritters into three pieces and eat one piece each day. I find that a whole one at a single sitting is a bit of an overload for me. Yes, you can freeze them.