2004 Subscribers’ Choice Dining Awards


In Auburn

1. Latitudes
2. Awful Annie’s
3. Le Bilig French Cafe

Runner-Up: Bootlegger’s

In Davis

1. Soga’s
2. Sudwerk
3. Cafe Bernardo, Redrum Burger, Seasons and Symposium (tie)

Runners-Up: Little Prague and Pluto’s (tie)

In Elk Grove

1. Silva’s Sheldon Inn
2. Elk Grove Brewery
3. Logan’s Roadhouse

Runner-Up: Romano’s Macaroni Grill

In Folsom

1. Bidwell Street Bistro and The Cliff House (tie)
2. Zinfandel Grille
3. Bailies and Scott’s Seafood (tie)

Runner-Up: Gigi’s Grill & Bar

In Roseville

1. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
2. Fat’s Asia Bistro
3. Carvers Steaks & Chops

Runner-Up: Claim Jumper

In West Sacramento

1. Club Pheasant
2. Cafe Vienna
3. Emma’s Taco House, Kings, Vientiane and Vince’s (tie)

Best of the Best (money no object)

1. Biba
2. The Firehouse
3. Morton’s, The Steakhouse and Slocum House (tie)

Runners-Up: The Kitchen and The Waterboy

Best of the Best (moderate prices)

1. Paragary’s Bar and Oven
2. Bandera
3. The Waterboy

Runner-Up: Moxie

Best of the Best (inexpensive)

1. The Old Spaghetti Factory
2. Chili’s Grill & Bar
3. Jack’s Urban Eats

Runner-Up: Cafe Bernardo


1. Tapa the World
2. T.G.I. Friday’s
3. The Firehouse

Runner-Up: P.F. Chang’s China Bistro


1. Noah’s Bagels
2. Bella Bru
3. La Bou

Runners-Up: Manhattan Bagel and Safeway

Bar Food

1. T.G.I. Friday’s
2. Chili’s Grill & Bar
3. Elephant Bar Restaurant

Runner-Up: Pyramid Alehouse


1. JR’s Texas Bar-B-Que
2. Texas West Bar-B-Que
3. Back Forty Texas BBQ

Runner-Up: Tony Roma’s

Big Portions

1. Claim Jumper
2. Buca di Beppo
3. Morton’s, The Steakhouse

Runners-Up: Mimi’s Cafe and Moxie

Bread at a Restaurant

1. Il Fornaio
2. Romano’s Macaroni Grill
3. Red Lobster

Runner-Up: Piatti


1. Cornerstone
2. Mimi’s Cafe
3. Cafe Bernardo

Runners-Up: IHOP and 33rd Street Bistro

Brew Pub

1. Brew It Up! Personal Brewery & Grill
2. Sacramento Brewing Company
3. Pyramid Alehouse

Runner-Up: River City Brewing Company

British Pub

1. The Streets of London Pub
2. Fox & Goose Public House
3. BonnLair

Runner-Up: London Fish & Chips


1. IN-N-OUT Burger
2. Carl’s Jr.
3. Ford’s Real Hamburgers and
Hamburger Mary’s (tie)

Runner-Up: Nationwide Meats

Burger, Non-Fast-Food

1. Hamburger Mary’s
2. Red Robin
3. Ford’s Real Hamburgers

Runner-Up: Chili’s Grill & Bar


1. Chipotle
2. Dos Coyotes Border Cafe
3. Baja Fresh

Runner-Up: Gordito Burrito


1. Classique Catering
2. Culinary Specialists
3. Ettore’s

Runner-Up: Bella Bru

Chain Restaurant

1. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
2. Chili’s Grill & Bar
3. Mimi’s Cafe

Runner-Up: Romano’s Macaroni Grill


1. Kurt Spataro, Paragary’s Bar and Oven
2. Randall Selland, The Kitchen
3. Biba Caggiano, Biba

Runner-Up: Rick Mahan, The Waterboy

Chips and Salsa

1. Chevys Fresh Mex
2. Centro Cocina Mexicana
3. Ernesto’s

Runner-Up: Dos Coyotes Border Cafe


1. Starbucks
2. Peet’s Coffee & Tea
3. Java City

Runner-Up: Bella Bru

Coffeehouse, Locally Owned

1. Bella Bru
2. Java City
3. Cup-A-Joe and Naked Lounge (tie)

Runner-Up: It’s A Grind

Cooking School

1. Institute of Technology Culinary Arts Campus
2. American River College (Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management)
3. Nugget Market

Runners-Up: Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op and Whole Foods Market


1. David Berkley Fine Wines & Specialty Foods
2. Corti Brothers
3. Bel Air

Runners-Up: Nugget Market and Sam’s Kosher-Style Restaurant & Delicatessen


1. Rick’s Dessert Diner
2. Ettore’s
3. The Firehouse

Runners-Up: Freeport Bakery and Max’s

Dining and Dancing Spot

1. Harlow’s Restaurant and Nightclub
2. The Cliff House and Tunel 21 (tie)

Dining Entertainment

1. Garbeau’s Dinner Theatre
2. Max’s Opera Cafe
3. The Kitchen

Runner-Up: Suspects Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre

Dining Secret

1. Moxie
2. Horseshoe Bar Grill
3. Il Fornaio, The Kitchen and Tower Cafe (tie)

Runner-Up: Granito’s


1. Squeeze Inn
2. Eddie’s on Broadway
3. Cornerstone, Simon’s Cafe and Zelda’s (tie)


1. Frank Fat’s
2. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
3. Fat’s Asia Bistro

Runners-Up: Chinois City Wok and The Mandarin

Chinese, Hole in the Wall

1. Fortune Garden (formerly Wonderful House Chinese Restaurant)
2. Capital Tea Garden
3. Forbidden City


1. La Bohème
2. Danielle’s Village Crêperie & Gallery
3. Le Bilig French Cafe

Runner-Up: Bidwell Street Bistro


1. Sudwerk
2. Cafe Vienna
3. Sam’s Hof Brau

Runner-Up: St. Pauli Inn


1. Greek Village Inn
2. Kabob House
3. Symposium

Runner-Up: Crest Cafe


1. Kaveri Madras Cuisine and Sher-E-Punjab (tie)
2. Bombay Bistro and Taste of India (tie)
3. Mother India

Italian, Family-style

1. Buca di Beppo
2. The Old Spaghetti Factory
3. Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Runners-Up: Espa¢ol and Olive Garden

Italian, Upscale

1. Biba
2. Il Fornaio
3. Piatti

Runner-Up: Romano’s Macaroni Grill


1. Mikuni
2. Hana Tsubaki
3. Benihana, Edokko and Fuji (tie)


1. Ernesto’s
2. Three Sisters
3. Centro Cocina Mexicana

Runner-Up: Chevys Fresh Mex

Mexican, Hole in the Wall

1. Vallejo’s Mexican Restaurant
2. Luis’ Mexican Food
3. 524 Restaurant and La Placita (tie)

Runner-Up: Jimboy’s Tacos

Middle Eastern

1. Marrakech Moroccan Restaurant
2. Casablanca and Kabob House (tie)
3. Crest Cafe

Runners-Up: Cafe Morocco and Maalouf’s Taste of Lebanon


1. Mikuni
2. Samurai Sushi
3. Taka’s Japanese Cuisine and Sushi

Runner-Up: Nishiki Sushi


1. Thai Basil Cafe
2. Lemon Grass
3. Amarin Thai Cuisine

Runners-Up: Thai Palace and Thai Palms (tie)


1. Bobo Cafe
2. Lemon Grass
3. Andy Nguyen

Runner-Up: Pho Bac Hoa Vietnamese Restaurant

Family Restaurant

1. The Old Spaghetti Factory
2. Mimi’s Cafe
3. Brookfield’s

Runner-Up: Buca di Beppo

Fish Market

1. Fins
2. Whole Foods Market
3. Scott’s Seafood

Runner-Up: Bel Air

Food Court

1. Galleria at Roseville
2. Arden Fair
3. Downtown Plaza

Runner-Up: Market Square

Garlic Fix

1. Granito’s
2. Arco Arena
3. Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Runner-Up: Jack’s Urban Eats

Gourmet Takeout

1. Selland’s Market Cafe
2. David Berkley Fine Wines & Specialty Foods
3. Spoons Market Cafe

Runners-Up: Nugget Market and Whole Foods Market (tie)

Hotel Restaurant

1. Dawson’s, Hyatt Regency Sacramento
2. Chanterelle, The Sterling Hotel
3. Vines, Hyatt Regency Sacramento

Runner-Up: Basil’s by the Lake, Radisson Hotel Sacramento (formerly Palm Court)

Hot-Fudge Sundae

1. Leatherby’s Family Creamery
2. Baskin-Robbins
3. Vic’s Ice Cream

Runner-Up: Coldstone Creamery

Irish Pub

1. Regan’s
2. Gallagher’s and O’Mally’s (tie)
3. Fox & Goose Public House

Runner-Up: The Streets of London Pub

Late-Night Dining

1. Tapa the World
2. Ink
3. Denny’s

Runners-Up: Esquire Grill, Harlow’s Restaurant and Nightclub and Lyon’s (tie)

Low-Carb Menu

1. Carl’s Jr. and T.G.I. Friday’s (tie)
2. Mace’s Restaurant
3. IN-N-OUT Burger

Lunch, Budget

1. La Bou
2. Taco Bell
3. Jack’s Urban Eats

Runners-Up: IN-N-OUT Burger and Subway

Lunch, Business

1. Esquire Grill
2. The Firehouse
3. Il Fornaio and Paragary’s Bar and Oven (tie)

Runner-Up: La Bou

Mall Restaurant

1. California Cafe
2. Max’s
3. Il Fornaio

Runner-Up: California Pizza Kitchen

Neighborhood Restaurant

1. 33rd Street Bistro and Tower Cafe (tie)
2. Applebee’s and Moxie (tie)
3. Bella Bru, Chili’s Grill & Bar and Mimi’s Cafe (tie)

New Restaurant

1. The Melting Pot
2. Lucca
3. Cascades

Runner-Up: Joe’s Crab Shack

Old Favorite

1. The Firehouse
2. The Old Spaghetti Factory
3. Paragary’s Bar and Oven

Runner-Up: Club Pheasant

Outdoor Dining

1. Slocum House
2. The Firehouse
3. Paragary’s Bar and Oven

Runner-Up: Rio City Cafe

Out-of-Town Restaurant (within a one-hour drive)

1. The Buckhorn Steak & Roadhouse (Winters)
2. Zachary Jacques ( Placerville)
3. Horseshoe Bar Grill (Loomis)

Runner-Up: Silva’s Sheldon Inn (Elk Grove)

Pasta Selection

1. Romano’s Macaroni Grill
2. Olive Garden
3. Il Fornaio

Runners-Up: Biba and The Old Spaghetti Factory (tie)


1. Round Table
2. Steve’s Place
3. Zelda’s

Runner-Up: Roma’s Pizzeria

Pizza, Non-Pizzeria

1. Paragary’s Bar and Oven
2. Il Fornaio
3. Zinfandel Grille

Runner-Up: California Pizza Kitchen

Prime Rib

1. Carvers Steaks & Chops
2. Morton’s, The Steakhouse
3. Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus

Runner-Up: Cattlemens

River Dining

1. Rio City Cafe
2. Chevys Fresh Mex
3. Delta King Pilothouse

Runner-Up: Joe’s Crab Shack


1. Slocum House
2. The Firehouse
3. The Melting Pot

Runners-Up: The Cliff House and Delta King Pilothouse (tie)

Salad, Caesar

1. Paragary’s Bar and Oven
2. La Bou
3. Jack’s Urban Eats

Runner-Up: The Firehouse

Salad, Cobb

1. Mimi’s Cafe
2. Bella Bru, Esquire Grill and Max’s (tie)
3. Andiamo, Elephant Bar Restaurant, Fresh Choice and La Bou (tie)

Sandwich Shop

1. Togo’s
2. Subway
3. La Bou

Runner-Up: Quizno’s


1. Scott’s Seafood
2. Joe’s Crab Shack
3. Red Lobster

Runner-Up: Fins

Soup Selection

1. Fresh Choice and La Bou (tie)
2. Hannibal’s and Mimi’s Cafe (tie)
3. Whole Foods Market

Runner-Up: Danielle’s Crêperie & Gallery

Special Occasion Restaurant

1. The Firehouse
2. Slocum House
3. Morton’s, The Steakhouse

Runner-Up: Biba


1. Morton’s, The Steakhouse
2. Carvers Steaks & Chops
3. Outback Steakhouse

Runner-Up: Chops

Sunday Brunch

1. Basil’s by the Lake, Radisson Hotel Sacramento (formerly Palm Court)
2. Slocum House
3. The Cliff House

Runner-Up: Vines, Hyatt Regency Sacramento


1. Jimboy’s Tacos
2. Taco Bell
3. Adalberto’s Mexican Food and Baja Fresh (tie)

Runner-Up: Chipotle

Theme Restaurant

1. Elephant Bar Restaurant
2. Joe’s Crab Shack
3. Buca di Beppo

Runner-Up: Hard Rock Cafe


1. Sunflower Drive-In
2. Fresh Choice
3. Julianna’s Kitchen and Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op (tie)

View at a Restaurant

1. Rio City Cafe
2. The Cliff House
3. Chevys Fresh Mex and Delta King Pilothouse (tie)

Runner-Up: Joe’s Crab Shack

Wine List

1. The Firehouse
2. Enotria
3. Morton’s, The Steakhouse and The Kitchen (tie)

Runners-Up: Horseshoe Bar Grill, The Melting Pot and Piatti

“Worth the Wait” Restaurant

1. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro
2. Mikuni
3. The Firehouse

Runner-Up: Claim Jumper

Best Reason To Visit Davis: Sophia’s Thai Kitchen

Show up early to grab a table in Sophia’s serene outdoor dining area, surrounded by leafy bushes and sheltered by the overhanging branches of an enormous tree. Set back off the street behind a fish and chips shop, the restaurant and its outdoor patio emanate a feeling of privacy and coziness. Service is attentive and the food is fresh, colorful and complex. I would travel from just about anyplace to order Sophia’s yam bpla muk, a ravishing, spicy, warm “salad” of fork-tender calamari tossed with generous amounts of cilantro, lime juice, lemon grass and red onion. The yellow curry is another favorite—sweet pineapple squares, wide strips of red bell pepper and chunks of chicken float in a lush, coconut curry sauce that just begs for a big mound of rice to absorb every last bit of goodness. I recommend a lunch visit rather than dinner—a boisterous student crowd in the evenings can rob you of a peaceful meal. 129 E St., Suite E, Davis; (530) 758-4333 —Kira O’Donnell

Friendliest Cafe in a Rural Setting: Putah Creek Cafe

You’ll marvel at fecund fields of tomato plants and gorgeously yellow sunflowers as you zip down county roads on the way to Putah Creek Cafe in Winters. Keep your eyes open and you’ll spy U-pick farms, slumbering tractors and hawks hovering in the air. Make sure to bring a robust farmer’s appetite to this cheery restaurant, which attracts hoards of hard-core weekend bicyclists and sun-toughened locals for breakfast. Waitresses dart from table to table, delivering honest plates of bacon and eggs and large pancakes, refilling coffee mugs and cooing over babies. Huge picture windows invite guests to gaze out at lovely downtown Winters as they wait patiently for their meals. Don’t miss the house-baked cinnamon rolls or the fluffy waffles, and if you’re really hungry, go for the Putah Creek Scramble: eggs scrambled with cheddar cheese, green chiles and chorizo, served with warm tortillas and housemade salsa. Tropical tablecloths, comfy green vinyl booths and gentle country music playing in the background all conspire to make this a neighborhood gem that’s well worth the drive. 1 Main St., Winters; (530) 795-2682 —Kira O’Donnell

Best Quick Meal at a Megamall: Nordstrom Cafe

Having lunch while shopping at the mall usually means getting something quick at a food court—but not if you know what you are doing at Arden Fair. Head for the third floor of Nordstrom and visit the cafe, which specializes in fresh, fresh food—hot or cold, snack or sandwich, sweet treat or just a cup of tea. You place your order at the counter, pay, then find a seat inside or outside, where the staff delivers your order. They keep checking on you, too, to make sure everything is all right. The dining area has semiprivate areas where a mom and her brood can practice dining-out manners while indulging in familiar food. The menu includes soups, salads, sandwiches and pasta. 1651 Arden Way, Sacramento; (916) 646-2400 —Gloria Glyer

Midtown’s Most Soul-Satisfying Calories: Sandra Dee’s

Knee-weakening aromas smack you in the face as soon as you walk in the door of this popular barbecue restaurant, located on a sun-dappled corner of midtown Sacramento. Brick and faux-brick walls lend a no-nonsense, masculine vibe, while the leopard-skin elbow cushion hugging the curves of the bar adds whimsy and a touch of camp. Yes, come for the ribs, which ooze smoky, moist, seductive flavors and slather your hands with grease. But don’t ignore the side dishes, which share star billing with the excellent barbecued items. The macaroni and cheese—pasty, glutinous and really cheesy—may be the most comforting dish I have ever devoured. Dive into the assertive, peppery collard and mustard greens, punctuated with bits of smoked turkey, and slip your spoon into Sandra Dee’s enticing, mahogany-colored baked beans. Save room for the puddinglike sweet-potato pie and the fiercely magenta, banana-flavored red velvet cake. 601 15th St., Sacramento; (916) 448-6375 —Kira O’Donnell

Best New Deli: Dominick’s Italian Market and Deli

The best of the new when it comes to delis is Dominick’s Italian Market and Deli. The fragrance of the food at this stylish deli makes you want to stay all day and work your way through the delicious and colorful food. Start with a salad of ripe tomatoes, spheres of fresh mozzarella, red onions and extra virgin olive oil, followed by lasagne or eggplant parmigiana, or maybe a grilled panini such as the Sicilian (mortadella, imported cheese, grilled eggplant and sun-dried tomato pesto vinaigrette) finished off with a sfogliatelle (crispy pastry filled with a citrus cream). There’s room to eat inside or out, if the weather is good, but the deli is geared to packing its delights for the road. There’s a full line of gift items for the gourmet and gourmand, plus wine, beer and sodas. I can hardly wait to return. 8621 Auburn-Folsom Road, Granite Bay; (916) 786-3355 —Gloria Glyer

Favorite Roadhouse: The Willo

New York steak leads the menu and you can pick a size to suit your appetite, from small (8 ounces) to large (16 ounces). Salad (with choice of dressing), beans, a sinfully buttery toasted roll and a scoop of ice cream are included in the price, which ranges from $13 to $18.50. It’s a roadhouse, which means there is a lounge (complete with old-fashioned shuffleboard) with libations for all tastes, from straight shots and beer to lemon drops and cosmopolitans. The Willo is good for a multigenerational family gathering; the staff is quick to whip tables together for large groups and reservations are happily accepted. Bonus: The Elvis clocks decorating the dining room are for sale. 16898 Highway 49, 2.5 miles from Nevada City on the road to Downieville; (530) 265-9902 —Gloria Glyer

Best-Kept Secret on Alhambra Boulevard: Red Square

Red Square’s location has little to recommend it. It perches on a corner facing busy Alhambra Boulevard, and its big windows offer patrons dizzying views of traffic. The rickety outdoor tables crammed between car fenders and the cafe entrance are equally unappealing. However, this humble establishment offers Sacramentans three important incentives to visit: delectable crêpes, creamy frozen yogurt and gracious, cheerful service. Step off the sidewalk into the tiny cafe and order yourself a No. 7 crêpe, loaded with smoked turkey, fresh spinach, and mozzarella and Swiss cheeses. Make sure to ask for pesto (50 cents extra), which brings the ensemble alive in your mouth. Vegetarians should opt for the No. 6, bursting with ripe red tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, large wedges of avocado and mozzarella cheese. Crêpes are cooked directly in front of patrons and, lest you think they’re low-cal, are generously smeared on both sides with butter to ensure proper browning. Finish off your feast with a cup of frozen yogurt, loaded with one of the many toppings offered at this quirky little restaurant. 1121 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 454-0214 —Kira O’Donnell

Best Sushi in the ‘Burbs: Blue Nami Sushi & Sake House

It was more than a year ago that we last visited Joon Cho at Blue Nami. At that time, we thought he was at the top of his game as sushi chef. That’s no longer accurate. He’s gone beyond. With a number of new items Cho has added to the menu, his creativity and artistry have risen to a new level. His dishes are a visual feast. This guy is a sculptor in his own Renaisushisance. Don’t look it up; I saw it carved on the back of a pew in the Duomo in Florence. Swear to Buddha. Sushi names like Catch a Wave, Scorpion and Black Sand Paradise deliver on the promise. The textures vary, and sauces and flavors from the combinations of ingredients explode across the palate. Sushi purists who just want to dip into some wasabi and soy, stay home! Or come prepared for an exhilarating dining experience. 8807 Greenback lane (at Hazel Ave.) Orangevale; (916) 988-2300. —Steve LaRosa

Best Place To Get Abuse at the Cheapest Prices in Town: Eddie’s on Broadway

He’s the Don Rickles of Dining. Appearing daily—it’s the Eddie Fong show, at popular prices. “I piss off one person a day . . . two or three on weekends. Everybody waits for it,” claims Fong. Like NBA veterans, regulars know the drill and get even more slack. But they also know to get their own coffee if Eddie’s busy. “Newbies,” as they are called, learn quickly to be “ready for Eddie.” Some advice: Know what you’re going to order. Don’t ask stupid questions. Forget substitutions.

Eddie serves a sumptuous breakfast and lunch, with standards like bacon and eggs, omelettes and a $1.75 kids’ menu. For lunch, feast on salads, burgers, sandwiches and hot plates such as chicken-fried steak. With nothing on the menu priced higher than five bucks, Eddie’s is the best bargain cafe cabaret in the capital. And, like Rickles, Eddie is the nicest guy around and beloved by his customers. 1517 Broadway, Sacramento; (916) 441-1297 —Steve LaRosa

Best Reason To Forgo Froufrou and Arugula: Myrle’s Trails

Founded more than 60 years ago by Myrle Nahas, the Trails must be doing something right. What does go on at the Trails is honest food, enjoyed by a steady band of clientele seeking items like meatloaf with mashed potatoes. It was time for me to visit the Trails for my first time to see what has allowed it to stay in business for six decades. It’s great, right down to the roping cowboy wallpaper and the day’s specials proudly displayed on blackboards. The menu spellings tend to be a little quirky, but any diner can figure out what is meant. The meatloaf, by the way, is formed and baked in a flaky crust and is delicately seasoned. The ribs are a big favorite, if what other lunchers ordered is any indication. Basic iceberg lettuce salad is an accompaniment, and if the season is right, strawberry shortcake is on the menu. 2530 21st St., Sacramento; (916) 456-9811 —Gloria Glyer

Best Dream Team: Pat Murakami, Kim Anderson and Marion Walker, Ambrosia Cafe and Catering

Between the three of them, they’ve worked at some of the top spots in town, including Chinois East-West, Paragary’s Bar and Oven and Cafe Ettore. And now, they’ve combined their super-powers to form a super-group. The result—super food, including great grilled panini, savory salads, dangerous desserts (try a Carmelita) and special specials, like potato lasagne and Southwest enchiladas. I know that sounds like a pitch from a cheap copywriter, but I promise you it’s true—and I’m not on the payroll. And, finally, where better to situate this “Haute-ly” Trinity than just across the K Street Mall from the Cathedral? 1030 K St., Sacramento; (916) 444-8129 —Steve LaRosa

Best Second Life for a Black Cat: The Black Cat Cafe

The title refers to the relocation from Folsom Boulevard to 56th and H streets. This incarnation of the Cat, which has been in its new location for nearly a year, brings just a few changes that will certainly delight long-standing customers. Beer and wine have been added to the menu. Also, bowing to its nocturnal instincts, the Cat now stays open later for dinner. Virtually the same menu of panini and crêpes is offered, but the later hours make its motto of “Dolce far niente” (chillin’ in the abridged Italian) in the casual, cozy atmosphere more appealing. Also new to the “Catalogue” is brunch, which includes a great selection of crêpes. There’s a wonderful one with egg, mushrooms, spinach, Gruyère cheese and tomato. And what better way to sweeten the kitty than its new gelato truffles and fresh-fruit sorbet in an orange shell? 723 56th St., Sacramento; (916) 451-9100 —Steve LaRosa