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Take the valley's enviable agricultural bounty and combine it with our noted cultural diversity and ever-growing appreciation for all things food, and it's no wonder the region's dining scene is fl ourishing. It seems our appetite for dining out is as strong as ever, with many new restaurants sharing the spotlight with tried-and-true favorites. Here, we present this year's dining awards as chosen by Sacramento magazine and e-newsletter subscribers (winners are marked with a and begin on page 108), and a delicious assortment of picks from dining writer Kira O'Donnell and dining editor Marybeth Bizjak. Dig in!
Best fried chicken: Cafeteria 15L
This fried chicken is crunchy on the outside, moist on the inside. But here’s the kicker: It comes with gravy, a crispy waffle, pecan butter and warm maple syrup.
Best place to take out-of-towners: Cosmo Cafe
Want to show ’em how cool our dining scene really is? Take them to Cosmo Cafe, a striking space featuring intricately laid black and white tile floors, chartreuse bar stools and a “Mad Men” vibe, then go next door to the Cosmopolitan Cabaret for a live show. They’ll be impressed.
Best meatball: Aoli Bodega Espaola
Aoli’s albondigas todo ajo are springy beef meatballs swimming in a garlicky tomato sauce with garbanzo beans and an egg cracked into the hot sauce just prior to serving.
Best pasta: Ravenous Cafe
We would drive from just about anywhere for chef Mark Helms’ knockout pastas, including orecchiette tossed with roasted tomatoes, shrimp, caramelized onions and red chili flakes.
Best community table: Masullo
Come on a weekend for a thin-crust pizza, and you’ll rub hips with strangers at one of the family-style tables.
Best pancakes: Katrina’s Cafe
This always-crowded Auburn hole in the wall whips up the most delicate, flavorful lemon-yogurt pancakes in the world.
Best place to eat like a caveman: Petra Greek
Gorge on gyro meat sliced deftly off vertical rotisseries. But don’t stop there: The charbroiled Greek sausages, pillowy pita bread and dolmades will satisfy that manly appetite.
Best bread: Grateful Bread Company
Walk into Grateful Bread Company, and the wondrous, toasty, bready smells will instantly revive your spirits. You’ll feel even better after a couple of slices of the bakery’s Asiago garlic bread, sourdough walnut bread—or a bite or two of the celestial cinnamon rolls.
Best cheese menu: Tucos
This intimate Davis wine bar/cafe serves a top-notch selection that includes Haystack Mountain Snowdrop (a bloomy rind goat’s milk cheese from Colorado) and Queijo da Serra Beira Alta (a Portuguese soft raw sheep’s milk cheese).
Best place to eat before a Mondavi Center performance: Seasons
This pretty Davis restaurant, with its seasonally inspired menu, is a favorite with UC faculty and staff.
Best Mex without the Tex: Lalo’s
Lalo’s dishes up the real thing; no hybrid Tex-Mex creations here. Try the flor de calabaza (gourd flower), hongo (mushroom) or pancita (tripe) quesadilla.