Restaurant Reviews

Steppin’ Out – Denny’s Bigger, Bolder Burgers

Recently Denny’s restaurants, often known as “America’s Diner,” announced that they have added three new burgers to their new “Burgertown U.S.A.” menu. And, these are not just burgers, they are ‘you’re-going-to-need-two-hands-to-enjoy,’ hand-pressed 100 percent beef burgers. And, best of all, they are available morning, noon and night.

The new lineup includes the America’s Diner Cheeseburger – A burger that lives up to its name, featuring caramelized onions and classic American cheese covered with Denny’s new All-American sauce and then served on a fresh brioche bun.

The Spicy Sriracha Burger – Offering fiery flavor in every bite, this burger features Cheddar cheese, bacon, jalapeños and a creamy Sriracha sauce. Each burger is served with lettuce, tomato, red onions and pickles on a brioche bun.

Finally, the Bacon Avocado Cheeseburger – This modern favorite includes crispy bacon, fresh avocado and melted cheese and is served with mayo, lettuce, tomato, red onions and pickles on a brioche bun.

A good friend invited me to lunch at the Denny’s at 99 Fair Lane in Placerville, and I immediately said, “Yes!” How could I turn down a chance like this to taste one of these beauties.

Even though it was half past noon (figure that one out kids), it wasn’t real crowded, but was a bit understaffed.

My friend decided on the Bacon Gouda Burger, made with bacon strips, caramelized onions and shredded Italian cheeses atop a hand-pressed 100 percent beef patty, then covered with Gouda cheese sauce and served with lettuce, tomato, red onions and pickles on a brioche bun. Although you have your choice of wavy-cut fries, hash browns or seasonal fruit, she opted to pay a bit more and get the Bacon Cheddar Tots. Oh, my, was I glad she did that. They were great.

I thought about the Spicy Sriracha Burger for a moment, but the Bacon Avocado Burger drew me in and I ordered it. In an attempt to be at least somewhat healthy, I went for the Seasonal Fruit rather than fries. Next time, the tots, you bet. I walk daily and go to the gym four days a week just so I can afford a few more calories.

The burgers were both big, juicy, delicious and worthy of several napkins, which our server provided beforehand without asking. They were properly prepared and, as my friend said about hers, “Very Gouda.”

Both of us cut them before eating, which made it a bit more difficult to hold them together, but that didn’t interfere with how great they tasted. I guess if you left them whole like they came, with the large toothpick in them, you might get away with keeping them together. But, they are large burgers, so it should take two hands.

The Bacon Cheddar Tots were crisp, crunchy and very full of Cheddar flavor. Yes, I was able to get one to try, but there wasn’t an offer of a second.

If the three new burgers are not something you crave, they still have their long-time favorites like the Bacon Gouda Burger, my friend had, Bourbon Bacon Burger, Double Cheeseburger, Denny’s famous Slamburger and the Classic Burger to satisfy you.

As a perfect complement to this bold burger menu, Denny’s is also serving up an all-new creamy, hand-dipped Horchata Milk Shake made with premium horchata ice cream and topped with whipped cream, in addition to many classic shake flavors

Denny’s is one of America’s largest full-service family restaurant chains, currently operating over 1,700 franchised, licensed and company-owned restaurants across the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guam, the United Arab Emirates, Curaçao, El Salvador, the Philippines, Guatemala and the United Kingdom.

For more information you can call our local Denny’s, which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at (530) 626-1086. To view their menu go to

No dinner for me tonight.

Steppin’ Out – Main Street Melters

About a week ago, while taking my morning walk along Big Oak Road, I was thinking about a restaurant to check out. I asked my friend, Mike Long, who, with his two dogs walks with me, if he had ever been to Main Street Melters, which is located at 589 Main Street in Placerville, which is at the corner of Main and Clay streets.

“Several times,” he instantly replied, “I always have the Reuben with extra sauerkraut and extra 1000 Island dressing.”

“I think I have been there twice,” I told him, “once when it first opened and had a different name, and then later when it had this name.”

When I got home I checked, and found out I had been there four years ago when it was Old Towne Deli, and two years ago when the name had changed to Main Street Melters. It was time to go again.

A week ago last Thursday was convenient for both of us and since we both had errands to run in town, we decided to just meet there at 11 a.m., right when they open. That turned out to be a good idea.

We were the first customers and sat at the bar inside where it was cool. Mike had one of the craft beers they have on tap, while I stuck with water and rapidly went over the menu. He had already decided on his custom made Reuben

Two sandwiches on the Grilled Sandwich part of their menu immediately caught my eye: the Beef & Bleu (roast beef, Marableu jack cheese and crispy fried onions on sliced sourdough) and the Angry Irishmen (corned beef, pastrami, hot pepper spread, cream cheese, Havarti cheese, grilled onions and jalapeños on sliced sourdough).

I decided to find out why a bunch of Irishmen were angry and ordered the latter. It turned out that it obviously wasn’t the sandwich that upset them.

Each sandwich is hand made, so it takes a bit of time (a good reason to get there early), but soon they showed up hot and all wrapped to eat there or take elsewhere.

While we had waited, I had an opportunity to talk with Nancy Stone, who with family members, Bret, Alex and Ryan, are the owners. In April of 2015 they bought the restaurant from the owner of Olde Towne Deli, Igor Khavin, and have been going strong ever since. They were all busy prepping for the day.

We both bit into our sandwiches and there was little conversation other than “yum,” “I love it,” and the such. Mine was a wonderful combination of flavors with a little bite and absolutely delicious.

Mike was loving his Reuben and mentioned that it did have the extra sauerkraut and 1000 Island dressing he had requested.

When I looked at my previous stories on my webpage – – I noticed it was the Reuben I had loved the last time I was there.

With half our large sandwiches gone, we decided to take the rest home for later rather than overeat and wish we hadn’t, something I should do more often. Besides, that way I didn’t have to decide what to have for dinner.

Now, the food it great, but there is something else about this restaurant that is almost as good – the view. They have outside seating on the porch and under umbrellas and a tree where you can sit and “watch the passing crowd” along that part of Main Street. As I found out last time, you can also answer questions by people who are new in town or visiting and trying to find a certain business.

It really is a great place to enjoy a great lunch, especially with the Ivy House parking lot next door.

Their menu starts out with several salads, including turkey, a Caesar and a unique, Nothing But Veggies. The “Kids Corner” lists a PB&J and a grilled cheese. Sides include Mac N Cheese, a side salad, potato salad and a bag of chips. Oh, oh, I just noticed they have a “e” on potato.

The “Grilled Sandwich” list includes sandwiches with very interesting names, most of which I am sure you can probably figure out: The Hammy, Swiss Piggy, The Jalapeno Popper, Beef & Bleu, The Avocado, Little Philly, Big Kahuna, Thanksgiving, Hot Ace (spicy), Mac N Cheese Melt, Lean On Me, Loaded Irishmen and the two we ordered, Angry Irishmen and the Reuben.

The “Massive Melters” with double meat and “hot off the grill,” include The Standard, Double Irishmen, Double Angry Irishmen, The Cali Club, The Rancher, Big Bird, Italian Hero, Double Reuben and The Philly.

“Cold Sandwiches” (your choice of bread or roll) includes the roast beef, pastrami, Bird, ham, turkey, B.L.T. and The Tuna.

They will also make you a grilled cheese sandwich on your choice of bread and any one of eight cheeses.

Finally, if you can’t find something you love on the sandwich menus, you can build your own sandwich by selecting your choice of bread, meat, cheese, condiments and veggies.

Drinks include soda, beer, wine, smoothies and more.

Main Street Melters is open daily from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

For more information give them a call at (530) 303-3871 or visit their webpage at

Oh, they will deliver to businesses in downtown Placerville. There is a minimum order and a small delivery charge.

Oh, Mike pointed out to me that when you are eating the first half of your sandwich, turn the other half over so the bottom doesn’t get soggy.

Steppin’ Out – Iron Wok, Placerville

Just a short time ago a new Chinese restaurant called the Iron Wok opened at 545 Main Street in Placerville. But, their history doesn’t start there, it goes back many years.

A family run business, they first opened in San Francisco and then, about ten years ago, moved to Elk Grove. A search of online reviews shows that they were highly rated and very popular. In fact, there are several sad comments about their closing their Elk Grove location and being replaced by a Vietnamese restaurant. After leaving Elk Grove, the family moved to the town of El Dorado.

When the European restaurant between Bagel Works and Town Hall closed, Iron Wok took over that location and from my and my friends observations appears to be doing quite well. There is a good reason for this: the food is really good, as are the portions, and the service is excellent.

I planned to meet a friend there for lunch and arrived a bit early. While I was looking over the menu, a family group came in to eat and it turned out they had driven from Elk Grove just to have the food they loved and renew their friendship with the owners. When people go out of their way to get food that they like, that gives you a really good feeling about a restaurant.

They aren’t the only ones, by the way. Several people have commented on social media that they have made the same trip, just to have the food and reconnect with the owners.

When my friend arrived, we decided to split two of their Special Combinations, which are served all day. Each combination comes with a choice of soup, a veggie egg roll and a choice of steamed or BBQ pork fried rice.

Our selections were Cashew Chicken and Sauteed Prawns with Vegetables. My friend chose egg flower soup, I, hot and sour. We also decided to order both the steamed and pork fried rice.

As expected, the soup arrived first. The egg flower soup was delicate, delicious and fresh. The hot and sour soup was more hardy, but not overpowering in its flavor. It also was very fresh tasting.

When our main dishes arrived, they were both beautiful. Presentation is so important at a restaurant. And, there was so much food, my friend ended up taking almost half of it home.

The cashew chicken was, like the egg flower soup, delicate in its flavor. It was also full of lightly sauteed vegetables with just the right amount of crispness, a crispness also found in the cashews, which can often be soggy. The BBQ pork fried rice was very flavorful without overpowering the rest of the food, albeit a bit dry if eaten by itself, but who does that?

The sauteed shrimp with vegetables was loaded with large shrimp, perfectly cooked. We divided that dish and continued to find more shrimp hidden among the delicious vegetables as we ate. The steamed rice had that slightly sticky texture that helps me keep it together and off my lap.

To top things off, even the veggie egg roll was fresh, light and delicious, and there was that yummy sweet red sauce for dipping.
All in all it was a fantastic lunch, high above my expectations. My friend commented that it was a step above the other local Chinese restaurants.

In addition to the two dishes we ordered the Special Combinations portion of the menu includes nearly a dozen more, made with chicken, pork, beef or just vegetables. Included on this list are numerous favorites such as Beef with Broccoli, Sweet and Sour Pork, Mongolian
Beef, Kung Pao Chicken, General Chicken and more.

The regular part of the menu, which has a greater variety of dishes, starts with half a dozen appetizers and seven kinds of soup to start your meal. These are followed by seven pork dishes, sixteen chicken dishes, fourteen seafood dishes and eleven beef. There are also ten delicious sounding vegetable dishes.

To round out your meal you will find seven different kinds of fried rice, made with barbecued pork, shredded pork, beef, chicken, prawns or a mixture of several. And, if you prefer chow mein or chow fun, there are eight different kinds of those, followed by three kinds of steamed and seasoned vegetable dishes.

Iron Wok, Chinese Cuisine, is located a 545 Main Street in Placerville, and is open six days a week: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. until 8 p.m and on Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Closed on Tuesday.

Oh, they have both inside and outside seating should you wish to enjoy watching the passing crowd.

For more information give them a call at (530) 903-3358. Or, just show up and enjoy.

Steppin’ Out – Grizzly’s Pub & Grub, six miles east of Somerset

Even though I had read a bit about this new restaurant that has only been open since November, I really didn’t know what to expect. Well, I was both surprised and delighted. This place and its owner are treasures.

Grizzly’s Pub and Grub is at 8331 Grizzly Flat Road at its intersection with Sweeney Road. Yes, where Peart’s Place used to be, just six miles east of Somerset.

When we arrived I immediately noticed that a lot of work had been done to the place and it looked good. The owner, Leanne Aalmo, delightfully greeted me and my friend, Mike Long, and then, to our delight, started on a list of what we HAD to try.

Helping her that day was Terri, and in the kitchen, preparing our food, was Amanda.

“You have to try ‘The Baloo,’ as a burger” started Leanne, “it has our homemade balsamic, bacon, onion jam on it that you will love. It takes two hours to make a cup of it. Also, you need to try ‘The Mountain,’ with my house smoked tri-tip. It is very popular, so popular that I used to smoke eight tri-tips a week and now do fifteen.

“Like all our speciality sandwiches, those two come with a choice of side or half an appetizer,” she continued. “I’ll bring you a mixture of fries and onion rings that we call ‘frings,’ some of our red potato salad, a sample of our sweet battered corn nuggets and some Cheddar cheese curds to go with it.”

“Cheese curds?” I asked. “They put those and brown gravy on fries in Canada. They call it ‘Poutain.’ I haven’t seen cheese curds locally. Do you make Poutain with them? ”

“We tried making it,” she said, “but we can only get breaded cheese curds from our supplier.

“Our fish and chips are sensational,” she continued, “ and so are our chicken breasts. I’ll get you a sample of those to try and wait until you taste our homemade tartar sauce on the fish. It is wonderful,” adding with a smile, “Is there anything else you want to try?” first pausing and then adding, “It is taco Tuesday. You probably can’t eat a whole taco, but I will bring you some taco meat to try.” It turned out to be delicious.

First to arrive was “The Baloo.” made with a half pound of Angus beef and the special jam, lots of blue cheese crumbles, fresh lettuce and a nice big tomato slice on an artisan bun. It was fantastic. The combination of good beef, blue cheese and her special jam gave it a delicious taste unlike any burger I had tried before.

“I season the meat with a special seasoning I have a friend bring me from a little store at South Lake Tahoe,” Leanne said. “That’s why the burger tastes so good.”

Next to arrive was our tri-tip “Mountain” sandwich. It came on a Hoagie roll that contained about an inch of meat and lots of grilled mushrooms and onions, all smothered in Swiss cheese. At first I thought it might need something to dress it up a bit, then the wonderful smoky flavor of the meat came through and I decided it was great just the way it was served. Again, a delicious, unique sandwich with an outstanding taste.
While we enjoyed the sandwiches, Mike and I tasted the fries, onion rings, chicken, corn nuggets and fried cheese curds.

With them she had brought us three dipping sauces: Ranch dressing and two homemade ones, chipotle aioli and blue cheese dressing, along with her own tartar sauce.

Mike immediately commented on the fries, onion rings and fish. “These crispy fries are great and the onion rings hold together so you don’t end up with a cooked onion and a hand full of empty breading. And you gotta try this fish. It is fantastic. It has just a thin coating on delicious fish (Alaskan Cod) that is great with or without their tartar sauce.”

As usual, I had to agree with him, adding that the chicken was also moist and tender. The fries and onion rings were hot, crisp and outstanding and the fish just the way I liked it too.

The cheese curds were good, but tasted more like mozzarella than cheddar, but then, I have never had them before. The corn nuggets were like my grandmother’s corn fritters and excellent with all the dipping sauces. Mike liked them so much that he nabbed the last one from in front of me when I turned to talk with Leanne.

While we were really enjoying the food, we asked her about here previous restaurant experience, believing anyone who could produce food this good must have been in the business for some time.

“Nope,” she said. “I drove a tow truck in Tahoe for thirty years. I just love good food and know other people will love it too. I shop around and only buy the best. If my regular suppliers don’t have it, I drive to where I can get it.

I was impressed.

The menu starts with quite a list of appetizers, including what we tried, along with fried zucchini sticks, Jalapeño poppers, mozzarella sticks, deep fried mushrooms, spicy cauliflower florets, salads and soup (seasonal). Specialties include the sandwiches we had along with “The Western” with sweet BBQ sauce, “Blackened” with Cajun seasoning and Chipotle Aioli, and three burgers, including a vegetarian, black bean burger. The sandwiches come with a choice of meat: chicken, Angus beef or tri-tip.

Other Favorites include a Grilled Cheese Basket, Fish and Chips Basket, Chicken Strips Basket, a grilled chicken breast sandwich on grilled Parmesan sourdough called “The Pioneer,” a BLT on the same grilled Parmesan sourdough called “The Big Ben,” “The Gold Rush,” a smoked tri-tip sandwich served cold and “The Miner,” an Alaskan cod fish filet sandwich with all the trimmings.

Yes, they are very family friendly, so there is a “Little Cubs Corner” kids menu.

To accompany your meal, lemon infused water, soda, domestic and import beer and wine by the glass. By the way, if you want to bring your own wine, there is no corkage. And, since the meals are large, no charge for an extra plate to split the meal.

“I hate it when they do that,” Leanne said, “That is why I don’t charge.”

Hours are from 11 until 9, Sunday through Thursday and 11 until ? on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call (530) 303-2136. You can also get more information on their Facebook page.

“There are several thousand people living near and beyond here,” said Leanne. “Call in an order and pick up you food on your way home on a snowy, wet day or a day you just don’t feel like cooking. To-go orders are our specialty.”