If you’ve ventured off the beaten path in Amador County, you’ve no doubt found Sutter Creek, a charming wine village with the rich history of California’s Gold Rush. But nobody has been rushing to Sutter Creek for its restaurants. A quiet newcomer to the Amador restaurant landscape looks fabulous and sounds delicious but only serves breakfast and the last time we visited they refused to serve us just ten minutes after closing time: 11:00 AM. But, the menu looked much more interesting that any other restaurant in Sutter Creek. So, more on that later.
Currently, the best place to eat in Sutter Creek is Taste, which is actually in Plymouth. Well worth the 15 or so minute drive from Sutter Creek, Taste has creatively tasty delectables for those with a gourmet palate or simple wine country visitors who want to be wowed. A seemingly simple salad had amazing layers of flavor from fried chickpeas and tangy kumquats. Next a pork belly had a slightly crisp outer texture with tender salty meat on the inside with lively flavor from fennel.
The Mushroom Cigars were highly recommended by locals. Will def be back to try them!
Yes, the people at The Independent finally did it all in one appetizer. Sweet maple waffles form the buns for buttermilk fried chicken sliders with salty crisp bacon and caramelized onion, drizzled with Chipotle aioli. The slightly sweet maple waffle loves the smoky spicy aioli while the salty bacon matches the textured fried chicken bringing all four fab flavors together. This is worth the road trip to Hangtown alone!
For a chance to gaze hungrily at Dirty Harry in the flesh, and you know you want to, head to his restaurant/inn/sheep ranch, known to locals as “The Mission.” Clint Eastwood is often spotted on site and sometimes even plays piano in the restaurant’s piano bar.
The menu runs through the red meat and potato standards. But, if you’re not hungry enough for a prime rib dinner, you could always order this open face prime rib sandwich with true horseradish shavings for the true grit that feels lucky enough.
Prime Rib Sandwich
A little off the beat of Carmel’s steep sidewalks, Rio Grill is worth the drive. Clearly a local hang out, they serve pub food dressed up with just enough pizzazz. These baby back ribs tempt you with a Cayenne potato yam cake. Yet, the best thing on this plate was the coleslaw because it was laced with horseradish.
Half-Rack Barbecued BABY-BACK RIBS with coleslaw and cayenne potato yam cake. 21.50
This is a really nice bar to start off your evening or finish your long and winding day of wine tasting. They have a fun lively crew with plenty of delightful cocktails.
Their half chicken with truffle polenta and autumn vegetables was pretty good. But does this look like a red wine reduction?
Shelton Farms Half Chicken truffle polenta, autumn vegetables served with a red wine reduction
Order a cocktail and the four onion tart instead. It smelled delicious and appeared to be the chef’s specialty.
A good hearty breakfast is not just the best way to start the day. It can also warm your soul. Every wine town should have a deliciously simple country breakfast stop so be sure to seek them out before a rough and tumble day of wine tasting.
The only bad thing about Katy’s Place in downtown Carmel is that they only take cash. But it is worth the trip around the corner to an ATM. They not only have hard to find breakfast faves like potato pancakes, buckwheat cakes, and biscuits and gravy but they also have the most extensive list of eggs benedict with unique options like Canadian bacon with guacamole or Cajun shrimp. But what’s most impressive is how well they do the simple pleasures like an omelette. This one had spinach sauteed with shallots and herbs for a flavor punch and was topped with Hollandaise sauce for richness. This makes any morning better!
Ever had a Reuben Egg Roll? Just like the famed sandwich, it is filled with corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese but wrapped in a toasty shell with Russian dressing for dipping. What crispy salty tangy goodness!
Reuben Egg Rolls
Who needs the bread! It is just an empty filler! Why not make all sandwiches this way!?
The Forge also has lovely patio dining and a pretty cool bar. But do not expect good service as well. Then, you’d just be setting your expectations too high.
Once Clint Eastwood’s favorite, the Hog’s Breath Inn is a great place for a patio fire pit kind of night or Giants game in the afternoon. They serve meaty dishes like these baby back ribs with sweet potato fries. But they made the meat really tender by braising it first and then grilling it in their own succulent barbecue sauce. Ask for extra sauce.
Probably the best bet in Summerland for food quality, Cafe Luna takes rustic to a different level. While they have patio dining on several different patios, their converted home is cozy yet in need of a few updates. Let’s face it, there’s charming clean rustic and there’s barnyard rustic. Of course I’d link to their website or menu but they don’t even have a website. However, they do offer Summerland Winery wines exclusively. Showcasing local wines only takes farm-to-table to a new level. They are literally on the same block!
The food speaks for this place. This fab arugula salad with a light olive oil and lemon dressing was fantastically dressed and impressed with salty rich Parmesan.
Their gnocchi with chicken in a sun-dried tomato cream sauce was rich yet light and fluffy. Delicious is the word.
Based on smart phone maps, internet searches, and restaurant listings, Summerland appears to have a handful of restaurants all in walking distance. Who among us cannot get through a week without a handful of options for good eats?!
But, on a closer look, two of these food options are playing a little fast and loose with the term “restaurant” when “deli” is more like it. Another raves a delicious country style breakfast, which is priceless in a weekend getaway town like this and definitely worthy of trying but they close by 3PM most days. So, there’s really only 2 options for dinner and only one has a full bar, which serves unremarkable steaks, seafood, and burgers yet is packed every night of the week. Locals appear to know each other at this establishment and servers greet most patrons by first name.
You don’t have to be a restaurateur or investor to realize the value in opening a restaurant with decent food in this town! Even a wine bar with a small selection of food pairings for wine would thrive as long as they are open late. Add live music to the menu, and you’ve got a local hangout. Most people will just eat and drink there simply because it is more entertaining than being at home.