Restaurant Reviews

Plymouth Hotel – Plymouth

“The greatest dishes are very simple dishes.”

Auguste Escoffier


Plymouth Hotel

I often rely on people to tell me about interesting places to eat, places that I might not find myself. One of those is hidden away in the city of Plymouth, the first place you come to in Amador county when you go south from here on Highway 49. Called the Plymouth Hotel, it is located at 9356 Main Street in downtown Plymouth. A right (west) turn on Main street will get you to it, a left turn will take you to Fiddletown or the Shenandoah Valley and its many great wineries.

The Plymouth Hotel was built in 1882 and still looks much like it did then. Outside, the building hasn’t changed, while inside, the bar area looks as much like a 19th century bar as I have ever seen, from the original back bar and bar, to the upright piano and pictures of John Wayne on the wall.

Diane Walton, who purchased the hotel in 1995, is refurbishing the place, to bring the upstairs hotel rooms up to today’s standards without losing the old atmosphere. “People don’t seem to like the small rooms with the bathroom down the hall,” said Walton. “And, even though I didn’t want to, I made other changes in the building like putting  a new floor in the bar area. It was made of fir and on day a leg of one of the bar stools went through a thin spot, surprising the person sitting on it.”

Also on the main floor is the lobby for the hotel and what must have been a parlor, being converted into a Victorian era billiard room, complete with overhead lampshades hand made by Walton.

The walls throughout the hotel are covered with as eclectic a collection of of paintings that I have ever seen, many of them original works. “Most of my paintings are for sale,” added Walton. “One day a man came in an wanted to buy cigarettes. I told him he would have to go to the store down the street to get them. On his way out he met a customer smoking and asked for a cigarette. While he was smoking he leaned in and asked if a certain painting was for sale. I said, ‘Yes.’ He then asked how much and went back to smoking. Then he asked about another painting and the price. He finished his cigarette, bought both of them and left.”

I could go on an on about the building and the interesting owner, but I better get to the food.

Walton was a caterer with a café and a bakery in the Bay Area during the 70s and 80s. She also likes to travel and has spent a lot of time in Italy. She calls her menu “American with an Italian twist.”

It starts off with Paninis: Italian grilled sandwiches. These are not the familiar small buns often seen at restaurants, she makes them like you would find in Italy, on special rolls baked for her that are a few inches wide, just about an inch high and over a foot long. You can order a ham, salami, pastrami or Chipotle beef (I tried that and loved it. Lots of meat and delicious bread) Panini, with your choice of cheese. And there is a very special “Panini Martini Lunch Combo,” any Panini with a gin or vodka martini for a special price. I was tempted, but…

The menu also includes “Other Yummy Stuff” like tri-tip hot on a roll, a meatball sandwich, the Hotel Club, a chicken breast sandwich on a roll or bagel, an egg salad sandwich, a tuna melt, grilled cheese, hot link on a bun or a foot-long hot dog. There is also a chicken salad with light curry, apples and celery topped with cashews, homemade potato and pasta salad, garlic and rosemary soft breadsticks and, for dessert apple or cherry pie (ala mode if you wish) and cheesecake with fresh strawberries. She makes most everything and everything I tried was great.

There is seating at the bar, at several tables or outside in the beautiful courtyard you really have to see.

The Plymouth Hotel is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 until 7 and ond Friday and Saturday from 11 until 9. Live acoustic music on Fridays from 6 until 8.

For more information call (209) 245-4544.

By the way, the Amador County Fair, will be held on July 28-31 this year, just down the street from the hotel. And, if you can’t make the fair, Plymouth is just a neat place to visi

BJ’s Brewhouse – Folsom

“Mother Nature clearly intended us to get out food from the ‘patty’ group, which includes hamburgers, fish sticks and McNuggets….”

Dave Barry



BJ’s Brewhouse

A friend of mine was in town on business last week. He had ridden the bus to Placerville, so afterwards I offered to drive him back to Folsom, where he lives. He offered to buy lunch and recommended BJ’s Brewhouse, which is located at 2730 E. Bidwell Street, kind of across the street from Home Depot.

When we published “Folsom Life,” a few years ago, I had written about BJ’s, but it wasn’t open at the time and this was my first chance to try it out.

It was about 11 a.m., and they had just opened , so they were still a bit empty. Thus we had our choice of places to sit and chose a table near the bar. The restaurant is very attractive, clean and pleasant inside and the help turned out to be very courteous and also pleasant.

BJ’s Brewhouse makes their own beers, but being that it was still morning and both of us had important things to do the rest of the day, we ordered ice tea.

Looking over the lunch specials on the menu I ordered a bowl of their Piranha Pale Ale Chili and a half roasted turkey Cobb sandwich, both of which sounded interesting and were. My friend ordered the same chili, which he had recommended to me, along with a salad.

They have quite a selection of delicious looking burgers, but again it was a bit early in the day to eat a large burger or something else heavy, and, besides, my sandwich came with their thin cut fries that I wanted to try.

The Piranha Pale Ale Chili, which is made with  pork and beef, pinto beans and their own Piranha Pale Ale, came hot with melting cheese and a dab of sour cream on it. The chile was a lot better than most restaurant chiles, although a bit hard to eat because the melting cheese kept stringing out from my spoon and trying to get on my shirt and beard. Fortunately, they provided me with a nice, large napkin.

The sandwich was made with roasted turkey breast, tomatoes, avocado, applewood smoked bacon, bleu cheese dressing, lettuce and Dijon mayonnaise and was served on a toasted garlic cheese French roll. I loved it. And just a half sandwich, to go with the chili, was perfect.

The thin fries were served very hot and were well cooked with that crispness I like. There were a lot of them and they stayed good and hot for quite a while. As I always say, fries, soup and chile; if they aren’t served hot, they shouldn’t be served at all.

BJ’s has a very large menu including: appetizers, snacks and small bites, deep dish pizza, garden and speciality salads, “enlightened” (low cal) entrees, gourmet burgers and sandwiches, pasta dishes, speciality entrees, culinary creations, desserts, kids menu items and even gluten-free dishes. They have curbside take-our and can even host your event.

The Folsom BJ’s Brewhouse is open from 11 a.m. until midnight Monday through Thursday, until 1 a.m. on Friday; from 10 a.m. until 1 a.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. until midnight on Sunday.

For more information call (916) 404-2000. You can get a lot more information on BJ’s by going to their web page at You will be delighted with the number of delicious looking items they serve.

Sweet Spot Sandwich Shop – Placerville

“Too few people understand a really good sandwich.”

James Beard


Sweet Spot Sandwich Shop

Some time ago someone told me about a place called the Sweet Spot Sandwich Shop, which is located in Placerville’s Creekside Place, the mall where you also find the Creekside Cantina and Café Luna. Their web page says, “Not only will you will be greeted with enthusiasm and passion, you’ll be provided with an inviting setting, delicious custom made sandwiches, gourmet cookies, and other tasty treats.” What they say is true, when I walked in a was enthusiastically greeted by Larry Mosher, who with his wife April, own the business which they opened in January.

Mosher has a passion for the business and is enjoyable to talk with. “We are friends with Kelli of Kelli’s Gourmet Cookies and thought we might like to open a sweets shop,” said Mosher. “We talked with business people downtown and they said a sandwich shop would be nice. We have four kids so we figured we knew all about sandwiches, and when we found this place, it was perfect and had all the equipment.

“My wife April is a professional event planner and I worked in sales and marketing, but I always though ‘If I could have a job where I could talk to people, I would love it,’ and here I am.

“We try to price are sandwiches they way they should be. We kept the price around $5 for a good, big and delicious sandwich so that they are affordable. The only thing we charge extra for is guacamole, and that is only 49 cents more.

“Be buy our breads and make our own croissants, but we plan on making some of our breads in the near future. We are just waiting on some equipment.

“We are not a deli, we are a sandwich shop where you select your bread from a list including a croissant, French roll, wrap, sliced sourdough, gluten-free, rye or a wheat Hoagie, then add the meat: turkey, roast beef, pastrami, salami, ham, tuna, bacon or veggie bacon, and then the cheese: American, Swiss. provolone, Cheddar, pepper jack and even cream cheese. For $1.99 more you can add a soda, iced tea or slushie and chips or fruit and make it a full meal. We also have salads, a half sandwich and salad and kids meals.

“We have Kelli’s gourmet cookies, which are all natural, along with chips, smoothies, slushies, coffee (brewed – frozen and Iced), soda, energy drinks and other tasty treats.”

Sweet Shop Sandwich Shop is family friendly with seating inside and in the courtyard. Set back from the street, it is the ideal place for families, friends, and local businesses to gather for a yummy bite to eat and a break from their daily routine. The hours are from 9 until 4, Monday through Friday and from 11 until 4, Saturday and Sunday. For more information call (530) 316-4541 or visit

Rafferty’s Candies – Garden Valley

“Anyone who uses the phrase ‘easy as taking candy from a baby’ has never tried taking candy from a baby.”

Author unknown


Rafferty’s Candies

Last week I received a call from my long time friend, Rick Siegel of Shoestring fame. He owned Shoestring in Placerville, before selling it to his sister, Debbie, and now his daughter and her husband run the Shoestring restaurant in Garden Valley.

He called to tell me that a brand new candy store opened in the same shopping center as Shoestring, which is located at 4862 Black Oak Mine Road in Garden Valley. He said everything they made was great and that I should come over and sample what they had. Their grand opening was last Sunday, so I drove over there to see for myself and I was delighted.

Brad and Lori Rafferty run the business, but for the opening Brad’s father, Raff, was there to help (while everyone else had the list of items on the back of their tee shirt, his said, “Raff’s Back”).

Raff opened the first Rafferty’s Candies in 1967 at Sun Valley Mall in Concord, CA. After that he opened stores in places like Modesto and El Cajon, and at one time had four stores going.

“Brad grew up in the business,” said Lori, Rafferty, “and ever since I met him has talked about opening a candy store of his own. Now we have done it, right here in Garden Valley where we live. And, the community support has been fantastic. We have only been open three weeks and people are finding us and loving what we make.”

While I was there Raff was making pecan brittle and I got to watch the process. After the brittle was cooked, it was poured from a copper kettle out onto a marble slab. “We had to special order the slab from Vermont,” said Lori. “It is three by eight feet and had to be four inches thick to properly cool the brittle. It weighs about 700 pounds.”

As the brittle cooled, it was flipped, pulled, pressed and thinned and then cut into pieces, which would be then broken in the proper size. The whole process took just a few minutes and it was thin and delicious, as were several other brittles I tried.

They have peanut, cashew, almond, macadamia nut and pecan brittles, with more to come, English toffee, honeycomb, fudge, pecan caramel delights, “ugly cups” (chocolate and peanut butter treats that are only a bit “ugly,” but I am sure are delicious), rocky road, divinity, chocolate covered nuts, caramel and cinnamon apples and lots more. Oh yes, milk, dark and white chocolate. All of this is on the top shelf.

On the second shelf are items they don’t make like salt water taffy (regular and sugar free), Jelly Bellys, jawbreakers, gummy worms, chocolate malt balls, pastels, cinnamon bears, orange sticks, raspberry sticks, licorice bridge mix and even more.

They will be adding more items as they go along and yes, everything I tried was excellent, especially the dark chocolate honeycomb and the dark chocolate English toffee.

“We’ve got candy making down to an art,” added Lori. “Once people try our hand-dipped chocolates and hand-stretched, thin brittle, they won’t be satisfied with any others.”

Rafferty’s Candies is open daily from 11 until 5 ( “If we’re here, we are open,” added Lori) and can be reached at (530) 333-1633 or visited at