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Best piece of beef: Matteo’s
Chef Matt Woolston’s 10-ounce Angus sirloin steak is rubbed with pink peppercorns and cumin, doused with Burgundy demi-glace and topped with assertive blue-cheese butter.
Best drunken brunch: Sweetwater Restaurant and Bar
I wondered why Sweetwater was so packed at Saturday brunch until I discovered the unlimited Bloody Mary bar.
Best Benedict: Venita Rhea’s
Sleepy’s Benedict features poached eggs and crab cakes on an English muffin, doused with a red-pepper hollandaise.
Best road food: Road Trip Bar & Grill
Stop in this biker-friendly Capay roadside grill for A Big Frick’n Cobb Salad or a bowl of Crazy Good Chili Stock, served (if you ask) with a generous sprinkling of chopped red onions and grated cheddar cheese.
Best Sunday supper: Hawks
Chef/owners Michael Fagnoni and Molly Hawks offer an affordable four-course prix fixe Sunday supper, served family-style.
Best eclectic menu: Tower Cafe
Where else can you order an East African veggie burger, Irish beef stew, Nicaraguan black bean soup and Thai green curry, all off the same menu?
Best place to pretend you’re in France: La Bonne Soupe Cafe
French-born chef Daniel Pont’s soups are legendary—and don’t miss the chvre and fig sandwich.
Best fish fry: Spataro
The excellent fritto misto is a mixed fry of Monterey Bay squid, jalapeo peppers, chickpeas and lemon, served up with a garlic mayonnaise.
Best place to dine with your book club: Tazzina Bistro
This charming little Woodland restaurant is a sweet place to meet with literary-minded friends. Oh, the food’s really good, too.
Best after-soccer spot: Luigi’s Slice and Fun-garden
Bring the whole team for gargantuan slices of pepperoni or pineapple-ham-jalapeo pepper pizza.
Best Bolognese: Cafe Vinoteca
Meaty, juicy, tomatoey and luscious, this Bolognese sauce transforms spaghetti into a luxurious dish.
Best place to eat Brussels sprouts: Magpie Caterers
Give the much-maligned vegetable a chance at Magpie’s market/cafe, where the cabbagey heads are roasted until they’re sweet and caramelized on the outside, tender and delicious inside.
Best restaurant hideaway: Paragary’s Bar and Oven
The well-loved, secluded patio out back features pretty olive trees, roaring waterfalls and lots of potted plants.
Best little restaurant: Formoli’s Bistro
This East Sac restaurant looks like someone’s living room. We’re crazy about the warm goat cheese and pancetta-stuffed Medjool dates.
Best late-night dining: Ink Eats and Drinks
Ink stays open until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights—good to know if you’re craving spinach and artichoke dip or hot wings in the wee, wee hours.
Best picnic takeout: My BBQ Spot
Planning a picnic in the park? Why cook? The tender baby back ribs and barbecued half chickens here are great.
Best pozole rojo: Zócalo
The pozole rojo soup—a red chili broth crammed with fork-tender pork and hominy and served with cilantro, onion and cabbage—is deeply restorative.
Best creative sandwich: Dad’s Sandwich Shop
Try the Bad Breath Special, made with garlic spread, pepper plant and horseradish sauces, and roasted red onion.
Best brand extension: Taylor’s Kitchen
When the owners of Taylor’s Market decided to go into the restaurant biz, they had an instant success on their hands with this friendly, comfortable Land Park fave.
Best potato knish: Freeport Bakery
Freeport Bakery bakes up a daily batch of potato knishes that are as delicious as they are homely.
Best gumbo: Celestin’s
Celestin’s house gumbo is stuffed with fat tiger shrimp, silky scallops, chicken chunks and thick slices of andouille sausage. Tip: One order easily feeds two.
Best place to remember the way things were: Espanol
This East Sac institution serves hearty, old-fashioned Italian cuisine such as eggplant Parmesan, and spaghetti and meatballs. Every dinner includes minestrone, green salad and spumoni or vanilla ice cream.
Best catfish in a pot: Lemon Grass
Fresh Louisiana catfish is simmered in a sweet, caramelized fish sauce and served in a traditional Asian clay pot with hot jasmine rice. Heaven.
Best vegetarian fast food: Sunflower Natural Foods Drive-In
Dine with the roaming chickens while enjoying wholesome falafels, millet burgers and nutty tacos.