Tuesday, January 10, 2012


TUCKED IN BEHIND A STARBUCKS and a Subway in the little strip mall adjacent to our neighborhood is one of those gems hidden because we’re too much in a hurry these days to actually look for it.

The corporate outlets – Chili’s, Olive Garden, Mimi’s, Chevy’s – would have us believe that their fare is authentic. And perhaps it is. But sitting at a table, being served by the owner who grew up somewhere in the same time zone as all of Thailand brings authenticity to a much more authentic level.

BANGKOK CITY, at the corner of Rocklin Road and Sierra College Boulevard (and just steps away from the house) is a place I do not frequent enough but frequent rather frequently. Initially, I dropped in because it was really local and I didn’t want to cook. Now I drop in because I want to be transported to a place I’ll likely never visit through the strength of the cuisine – the unique sauces, the varied noodles, the shrimp, the lamb, the chicken, the curry. And the gentle caress of the owner’s voice as she shares with us the evening’s specials.

Tonight, the owner and I visited about the rosemary bacon-wrapped pork chop I didn’t cook because I so desired what on her menu is listed at “Number 52.” We started with whatever Thai is for “pot stickers” accompanied with a soy and ginger based sauce, twenty of which would have been a meal. My spouse enjoyed a vegetarian delight with noodles concocted from beans. My shrimp dish came with just enough sweet chili to remind me how flavor can truly be enhanced when the chef is an artist at heart.

Bangkok City follows the Church of the Open Road’s encyclical about buying from the little local guy. The entire wine list is comprised of Placer County wines, some of which are served in few other places. The Fawn Ridge Old Vine – we purchased their last bottle this night – seemed as if it had been vinted simply to match tonight’s fare.

Throughout each of our visits we are constantly cared for by owners and wait staff that live locally. Our dollars go directly to them and circulate directly back to our community.

WALKING HOME FROM BANGKOK CITY for the umpteenth time, I knew what I’d consumed was far better than corporate: more authentic, fresher, tastier, a bit more adventuresome and a bit less pretentious. Though liking to cook, it felt really good to eat out this night.

All of which raises the question: What local eateries in your community are those hidden gems, often lost in the glare of corporate neon?


Thai: Bangkok City: www.rocklinthai.com 5050 Rocklin Road, Rocklin, CA, 916-632-9282.

Italian: La Fornaretta: www.lafornaretta.com 455 Main Street, Newcastle, CA, 916-663-1338 – Note: We ran into Paul Newman at this place shortly before the legend’s passing a few years back.

Also Italian: The Italian Cottage: www.theitaliancottage.com 2234 Esplanade, Chico, CA 530-343-7000 – A Church of the Open Road favorite since it opened in about 1962.

Chinese: Frank Fats’s: www.fatsrestaurants.com At 8th and L in Sacramento, since 1939, the third house of the California Legislature. The “Church” ate with Jerry Brown there once, although he won’t remember.

Mexican: The Original Lorenzo’s, 3883 Taylor Road, Loomis, CA, 916-652-6218. Two words for you: “ta males.”

Also Mexican: La Hacienda, www.lahacienda-chico.com 2635 Esplande, Chico. A family favorite since 1957 when they were located on Nord Avenue at the creek. Just try to get their salad dressing recipe.

California Cuisine: The Diamondback Grill, www.thediamondbackgrill.com Downtown Sonora, CA. We’d share the address, but then you’d miss the shops on Washington Street.

Breakfast: Putah Creek Café, www.putahcreekcafe.com 1 Main Street, Winters, CA, 530-795-2682. If you can find better breakfast sausage anywhere… Wait! You can’t find better breakfast sausage anywhere.

ALTHOUGH THIS LIST IS NOT DEFINITIVE, readers get the point. The hard-working local guy deserves our business – and then our repeat business.

The Church would welcome your suggestions for local eats. Please click on the comment section and bear with the funky sign-in procedure.

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Bangkok is also one of my favorite places. I go there often and tell everyone I know how great it is.

  2. Ramona's on Northridge Blvd. Off hwy 5 in Sac. OMG, the best Mexican Food! :-) 2nd best is El Sombrero on Sierra College Blvd. at Douglas Blvd.

  3. I like El Sombrero, too. They donate to schools. They gave me a great deal when I taught a Spanish class and ordered food for all the students..and delivered :) I often get at tamales there for Christmas.

  4. I like El Sombrero, too. They donate to schools. They gave me a great deal when I taught a Spanish class and ordered food for all the students..and delivered :) I often get at tamales there for Christmas.

  5. Mehfil for Indian Cuisine in Roseville (Douglas & Sunrise). Anyone know of other good Indian places? Here in Lincoln is Simple Pleasures...best steak sandwich around. Some great ideas here. I always try to eat at local places and not chains. Oh yeah, just tried Joe Caribe up in Auburn...very funky atmosphere and nice service, good pork tacos (Caribbean style.)

  6. C J's Butcher Boy Burgers in Russellville, Arkansas. Looks like a deli meat counter filled with steaks. They take one of the steaks, grind it on the spot to make your burger, even nice and rare!

  7. http://www.lametairie.be/accueil.html
    - sigh -

  8. I discovered two on I-70 in Illinois this past weekend:



    Both worth the stop.

  9. A Moto Guzzi rider hailing from the great Midwest shares:

    Boy, around here, there are so many choices that it's awful hard to narrow it down. If you're ever in the Quad-Cities area, you'll have plenty to choose from.

    Some of my favorite stops in the QC, though, are:

    Arthur's Deli in Rock Island, IL (3727 46th Avenue, Rock Island, IL 61201)

    The Village Corner Deli in The Village of East Davenport, Davenport, IA (1030 Mound Street, Davenport, IA 52803)

    Mound Street Landing in The Village of East Davenport, Davenport, IA (1029 Mound Street, Davenport, IA 52803)

    Boozies in downtown Davenport, IA (114 1/2 W 3rd St, Davenport, IA 52801)

    Governor's in Bettendorf, IA (3470 Middle Rd Bettendorf, IA 52722)

    A few of my favorites outside the QC are:

    Argo General Store in Argo (LeClaire), IA (23941 Territorial Road, LeClaire, IA 52753, between Pleasant Valley and McCausland)

    Big Dave and Holly's in LeClaire, IA (1204 N Cody Rd, Le Claire, IA 52753)

    Sneaky Pete's in LeClaire, IA (207 North Cody Road Le Claire, IA 52753)

    Those don't even begin to scratch the surface of the amount of places to eat around here, but they're a few off the top of my head that I like to frequent.

    When I'm up north, a few of my favorite stops are:

    Durty Gurt's in Galena, IL (235 N Main St Galena, IL 61036)

    The Barn in Sherrill, IA (5090 Sherrill Road Sherrill, IA 52073)

    Breitbach's in Balltown, IA (563 Balltown Road Sherrill, IA 52073)

    The Stadium Bar & Grill in Guttenberg, IA (919 U.S. 52 Guttenberg, IA 52052)

    Dubuque, IA also has a ton of eateries, but when me and my buddies are up there, we usually like to stop down at Paul's Tavern (176 Locust Street Dubuque, IA 52001).

    And out northeast of IA City, I love stopping at the Sutliff Bar & Grill in Sutliff, IA (5546 130th Street Northeast Lisbon, IA 52253, between Solon and Lisbon)

  10. And from New York State comes this:

    When I am traveling I carry copy of Roadfood:



    Lots of mostly out of the way places you would probably miss if you didn't know they were close by.

    In Western New York:

    Grovers http://www.roadfood.com/Reviews/Overview.aspx?RefID=3309

    Barbill http://barbill.com/

    Duffs http://duffsfamouswings.ca/content/home/home.html

    Dinosaur Barbecue (also Syracuse and New York City) http://www.dinosaurbarbque.com/locations/rochester/

  11. From Alabama, we hear:

    Or you could just bookmark Urbanspoon's website and browse reviews for restaurants in the areas you're gonna ride. I've been using their website since last Winter and I haven't been disappointed with the food at any of my stops.

  12. I don't eat out much, which is sad considering all the affordable, local fare in Chico, CA, but when I do my favorite is Farm Star Pizza. In fact maybe we'll have their seasonal White Rabbit tonight. I just saw that today's the last day they'll offer it this winter.
    The Esplanade, Chico.

    I also like Sol on the Esplanade at the north end of town, and all three taco trucks on the Esplanade. So affordable and delicious, you wonder how Taco Bell survives in this community.

  13. Cirino's on Broad St. in downtown Nevada City. Favorite/only place to go for date night.

  14. Dear Open Road Press, there is a great restaurant that I learned about in Gilbert, AZ that I wasn’t able to go to yet. We are going there during Spring Break - it was featured on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives: http://joesfarmgrill.com/

  15. From a BMWMOA member:

    Thurman Cafe, Columbus Ohio
    Los Tortugas Deli Mexicana, Memphis TN

  16. And another:

    I see you're in NorCal, Jax! Have you visited The Woolgrowers in Los Banos? Yum!

  17. This MOA tip:

    Look for the places that have lots of work trucks parked outside. The more ladders, the better.

  18. Southern California Beemer rider:

    For Huntington Beach California heres my recommendations.
    Ohana Breadcrumb. Beach and Garfield. Lunch also
    Sugar shack. Main st. Breakfast and lunch
    Mexican. Las Barcas. Beach Atlanta lunch dinner
    Johns Philly grill. Beach blvd.
    Harbor House. Coast Highway open 24/7
    Cappies west Newport breakfast lunch
    All are locally owned, friendly staff and great food

  19. None of these are on the open road. I seldom travel via highways.

    Blowing Rock, NC: Woodland's BBQ
    Damascus, VA: Old Mill Inn & Restaurant
    Asheville, NC: Moose Cafe at the Western NC Farmer's Market
    New Bern, NC: Capt'n Ratty's Seafood

  20. Great blog! I noticed you hit Sonora... A bit south is Mariposa. a few great restaurants there. Savoury is fine dining, Charles Street Dinner House is steak, Pony Expresso is local coffee with local pastries, plus, for a sandwich to take into Yosemite, try Deli Garden Cafe at the River Rock Inn. They also do dinners some times. Just don't go to Pizza Plus for pizza... They have great breakfast & burgers, but the pizza stinks compared to Pizza Express...

  21. Joe's Giant Orange, Exit 684, Shasta Lake.

  22. Is Joe's still there? I used to love the Giant Orange! Cool!

  23. Yet another BMW MOA member:

    Amore Pizza, Newark, DE
    Amore Pizza, Bear, DE

    Both are very safe and well protected by the county and state PD! HUUUUUGE portions and expansive, inexpensive menu.

  24. Some other favorites:

    Woodstock Station Brewery, Woodstock, New Hampshire
    Durham's Best BBQ, Elkton, MD
    Black Hog BBQ, Frederick, MD
    Hank's Place, Chadds Ford, PA

  25. There are some websites dedicated to non-chain restaurants:

    I can't vouch for their choices, but it's a good place to start.