Restaurant Reviews

Papa Murphy’s – Placerville

“Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”

Dave Barry



Papa Murphy’s 

I like pizza, especially the ones that you can cook at home. Hot from the oven and cold the next day are my favorite times to enjoy them. Beside that, in most cases they are cheaper than already cooked pizza and you don’t have to wait for a delivery person.

I am especially fond of the “deLITE” pizzas that Papa Murphy’s makes because of the thin crust, lighter topping and lower fat and calories, and I recently had the opportunity to try their latest creation, the Thai Chicken deLITE.  Beginning with a cracker-thin crust, the pizza is topped with sweet chili sauce, 100 percent real mozzarella cheese, zucchini, grilled chicken, a mix of white, red and green onions, and finished with a dusting of crushed red pepper flakes. More about that later.

The concept of “Take ‘N’ Bake” pizza started with Papa Murphy’s in 1981. Since then, Papa Murphy’s has established itself as the largest “Take ‘N’ Bake” pizza company in the world – and is now the fifth-largest pizza company in the United States with over 1,200 stores in 37 states (59 in the greater Sacramento area). Papa Murphy’s corporate headquarters are located in Vancouver, Washington.

The core values at Papa Murphy’s are :“Great quality; Great value and Great customer service.” Because of this, Papa Murphy’s was voted “#1 Rated Pizza Chain” by participants in Zagat Survey’s 2010 Fast Food Survey and is a four-time recipient of “Pizza Today’s” Chain of the Year award.

Locally we have three Papa Murphy’s stores: 65 Fair Lane in Placerville – (530) 626-8997; 3440 Palmer Dr # 8F, Cameron Park – (530) 676-4557 and 2209 Francisco Dr # 180, El Dorado Hills – (916) 933-7276.

Patrick Stewart owns the Placerville store and was kind enough to provide two of the new

Thai Chicken deLITE pizzas for our test taste. The store in Cameron Park is owned by Raman Dhillon and Greg Wellington owns the El Dorado Hills store, along with others. Wellington is also the regional manager for the area and made sure we knew about the new pizza by sending us a news release.

Papa Murphy’s has a large list of different kinds of pizzas and often has discount coupons inserted in issues of this paper. But, even without a coupon, they point out “our whole menu is a value menu.”

In the category of deLITE pizzas, which make up one-third of their sales, is found the Chicken Bacon Artichoke deLITE, Herb Chicken Mediterranean deLITE, Veggie deLITE, Meat deLITE and the Pepperoni deLITE, in addition to the new Thai Chicken deLITE.

Their Signature pizzas includes Papa’s Favorite, Murphy’s Combination, The Cowboy, Gourmet Chicken Garlic, Papa’s All Meat and Gourmet Vegetarian.

They also have four “Stuffed” pizzas, including a 5-Meat Stuffed, Chicago-Style Stuffed, Chicken Bacon Stuffed and Big Murphy’s Stuffed.

Side items include chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Cheesy Bread, Cinnamon Wheel, salads, S’Mores Pizza and soda.

Each pizza comes with full baking instructions and a baking tray. And, if you want crispier crust, slide it off the tray after ten minutes directly onto the oven rack. To get it out of the oven, slide it back onto the baking tray.

So, how was the Thai Chicken DeLITE? Very good. It was not too spicy, but did have a slight bite, and it had a somewhat sweet taste, due to the sweet chili sauce. It was also not too filing and I had to put it away so that I didn’t eat it all at one sitting.

For more information, visit or go to Facebook at

Shoestring Chili, FreshMex Horchata – Placerville

“Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!”

Albert Einstein




Bearing gifts

A couple of weeks ago we had a party at my daughters house in Fair Oaks honoring our May birthdays, which is most of the family. My son Steve’s birthday is May 22 while his son James was born on May 4, as was my granddaughter Stella, but seven years apart. Harris, my other grandson, has his birthday on May 14.

My daughter, Erika, invited all of Stella and Harris’s friends, along with family, to the party and she decided to serve good, skin-on Casper’s hot dogs. Well, what is a hot dog without chili, so I decided to stop by Shoestring, the great hot dog stand on Broadway, and pick up a quart of the delicious chili they put on their famous chili-cheese dogs. Not that turned out to be one of the hits of the party.

My daughter and my daughter-in-law, Mel (James’ mom), are also great fans of fresh made horchata, the Mexican drink made from rice milk, cinnamon, sugar and other ingredients. I decided to treat them, so on my way to Fair Oaks picked up a couple of large cups of it from Fresh-Mex Express Mexican Grill, which is on Missouri Flat Road, across from K-Mart. While I was there, and since it was Saturday, I also got a container of pozole, the pork and hominy soup traditionally made that day, along with a side of shredded cabbage, limes, cilantro and chopped onion to add to it. I had also packed a ripe avocado to cut up and put on top of the pozole.

The pozole became lunch for my daughter and son-in-law, Roy, and they literally vacuumed it up it was so good. My daughter especially loved not having to fix lunch as they got ready for the party. The horchata brought big smiles to both her and my daughter-in-law.

The next time you go to someone’s house for a similar event, take along something that you like from a local restaurant, but call first to make sure they have it. People love surprises, especially good tasting ones. Oh, I also always take my daughter fresh flowers, from my gardens if possible.

Brick Oven Pub – Placerville

“There are five elements: earth, air, fire, water and garlic.”

Louis Diat (1885-1957)




Brick Oven Pub

Last week I got word that the Brick Oven Pub, which is located at 2875 Ray Lawyer Drive, next to where the old movie theaters were (now Napa Auto Parts) has some new things going on. I hadn’t visited with the owners, Ken and Karrie Fay, in some time so I dropped in that afternoon. Ken was there to fill me in on what what going on while he waited on a number of customers and Tony, the man in the kitchen, fixed food.

The Brick Oven Pub not only has 25 different craft brewed beers from all over the world on tap, and a number of others in bottles, but local wine and quite a menu. “We vary the beers by season and have dropped a few because they were inconsistent from keg to keg,” said owner Ken Fay. “Our customers know their beers and tell us if something has changed.”

The menu starts with build-your-own pizza and calzones, all from their brick oven. You can get the pizza open faced on French bread or on a small or large thin crust. They come with three toppings and they have quite a long list to choose from, such as meats like salami, ham, bacon, pepperoni, Italian sausage, roasted chicken, or vegetables such as mushrooms, black olives, fresh garlic, spinach, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, pineapple, red onions, jalapenos and more. They also serve speciality sandwiches (hot), made on their own bread like barbecued turkey, roast beef or chicken, pesto chicken, French dip, pastrami Reuben and a meatball sub. The cold sandwiches, which you can also get hot, include ham, turkey, chicken, salami, pastrami and roast beef.

Salads? They have the chef, pesto chicken, BLT Caesar, Caesar and house. They also serve a number of side dishes and soup.

The newest things on the menu are the half-pound burgers with all the fixings and an interesting sausage sandwich made with a pork/beef sausage, sauerkraut and spicy mustard. it comes with a side of salad or soup. “We tell people it is Oktoberfest every day,” said owner Ken.

They also have a lunch special from 11 until 1 weekdays. It consists of a half sandwich and a cup of soup or small salad.

A new event at the Brick Oven Pub is Family Night on Mondays. From 5 p.m. until 9 p.m., if you buy any menu item you can get another for half price (equal or lesser value). Wednesday is Happy Hour all day with beer, wine and appetizers at $1 off and at 7, on the first and third Wednesday of the month, free live music jam. Thursday at 7 p.m. they have their famous Pub Trivia game with prizes. Once a month on Fridays they have live entertainment and on Saturdays at 7 p.m. Karaoke.

For more information call (530) 622-7420.

Charlotte’s Bakery and Café – Diamond Springs

“I like the philosophy of the sandwich, as it were.  It typifies my attitude to life, really.  It’s all there, it’s fun, it looks good, and you don’t have to wash up afterwards.”

Molly Parkin




Charlotte’s Bakery and Café

Talking with Carolyn Kumpe, the owner of Charlotte’s Bakery and Café at 493 Pleasant Valley Road in Diamond Springs, is always a delight, and you better keep good notes. As she tells you about her business and hands you samples to taste she tosses in bits and pieces of cooking and baking knowledge that you really want to write down and remember. I could probably write ten pages about her, but I will try to summarize in the space I have.

I first met her when she opened Charlotte’s Bake Shoppe in the town of El Dorado ten years ago. As we talked about her 20 (now 30) plus years of culinary experience, she would break off a piece of something fresh from the oven and hand it to me to taste while telling me about the ingredients she used and what she did to make it better.

Where did she get her experience? In summary, she lived in several regions of France, worked in San Francisco for many years and after selling the first Charlotte’s, was a culinary instructor for three years before opening this restaurant. Unlike most of us, she seems to have remembered everything she learned.

Kumpe has a simple philosophy that gets longer every time she tells it to me. Basically it is: “Use simple recipes and great ingredients, keep it fresh and support local businesses.” She also tries to use as many organically grown ingredients as she can and even has to-go cups and utensils that are biodegradable. And many of the local ingredients she uses she also sells, including Mad Dog Mesa olive oil.
Charlotte’s has two menus, one for breakfast and one for lunch, that are really checklists for you to fill out. For breakfast you can have a baguette with Nutella, cinnamon toast, toast with jam and butter, a bagel with cream cheese, Greek yogurt with seasonal fruit, cherry almond granola with yogurt or a steamed granola bowl, using low fat or non fat milk, soy milk, almond milk or coconut milk. The granola is made there and it is wheat free. You can also create your own breakfast sandwich, choosing the bread, meat, cheese if you want, spreads and fresh vegetables. Until she gets into her new kitchen going, her breads arrive daily from the Village Bakery in Davis and they are really good.

For lunch you can have a half sandwich with fresh made soup or salad, quiche with soup or salad or just the sandwich, soup, salad or quiche. And you get to choose what you want on your sandwich from a long list of breads, spreads and dressings (including fresh made mayo), cheeses if you want, meats and vegetables. You can also get Paninis when the weather is cold.

The coffee and coffee drinks are made with Equator coffee, which is organic, fair traded and delicious. There are also a large variety of Equator organic and other teas and Kumpe blends her own chai spices for Charlotte’s Masai Chai and makes her own vanilla syrup for the drinks.

Of course, Charlotte’s has the wonderful baked goods that it is known for like a variety of pastries not found anywhere else, along with cookies, brownies, scones, muffins and the famous cheese sticks. Try one of their great smoothies to accompany them.

I sampled a number of wonderful things, including a savory quiche made with blue cheese and a grilled chicken sandwich made with brie, house jam and baby spinach. Both were outstanding and I specifically mention them because she has three kinds of quiche available: vegetarian, gluten free and meat lovers and if you let her help select the ingredients for your sandwich, it will be fantastic.

Kumpe takes Charlotte’s goodies to many of our local farmer’s markets and will soon have an additional place in Cameron Park, behind Safeway where she will be doing a lot of her baking.

So, that is all I have room for. You will have to stop by and find out everything else. Charlotte’s Bakery and Café is open from 6:30 until 5, weekdays and from 7 until 3 on Saturday. Presently it is closed on Sunday. For more information call (530) 642-1500.