From hole-in-the-wall hidden gems to high-end eateries, our region’s top chefs are dialed into the dining scene. Curious where they go and what they order? Here’s the dish on their local foodie favorites.
Nicholas “Nick” BlessingExecutive ChefScott’s Seafood Roundhouse824 Sutter Street, Folsom, 916-989-6711, scottsseafoodroundhouse.com
Starting out as a dishwasher at the age of 15, Nick Blessing has worked his way up the culinary ranks. Currently, he serves as the executive chef at Scott’s Seafood Roundhouse, where he puts his own modern-upscale spin on seafood favorites like cioppino and fish & chips.
Your last meal out was: The Double Juicy Burger at Moksa Barrel House.
Best piece of cooking advice: Be yourself and never give up.
Favorite meal to make at your restaurant: Chargrilled branzino with farro, roasted shallots, summer squash, artichoke hearts, and buttermilk beurre blanc.
Favorite coffee shop: Sociology. They roast their beans in-house and have the best quality coffee I’ve come across; plus, they make all their sourdough bread and pastries from scratch every day.
Favorite pizza: For me, pizza is about simplicity and quality, and Campelli’s Pizza has the best crust and sauce you can get around town, hands down. Even though I’m a pepperoni guy, they have lots of fun creative pies to try.
Favorite burger: The Divided Sky Neighborhood Tavern recently opened and I’ve never been disappointed with anything on their menu—you can taste the love and passion in every bite—but their cheeseburger (two, four-ounce American Wagyu beef patties seared on a flat-top grill over high heat with house-made umami aioli, thick-cut American cheese, lettuce, pickles, and grilled onions on brioche) has a great balance of flavors.
The Divided Sky Neighborhood Tavern
Favorite dessert: I’m not really a dessert person, but churros have a special place in my heart. At Nixtaco, they make theirs from scratch and top them with dulce de leche. What else can you ask for?
Nixtaco; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Favorite special-occasion splurge restaurant: My wife and I always celebrate our anniversary at Allora, and they make it extra special with a custom menu and glass of champagne. Being a chef, I’m a sucker for hyper-seasonal menus and Allora’s never disappoints.
Brewery: Burning Barrel Brewing Co. Their ever-rotating beer list is amazing—from the rich stouts and dank IPAs to the smoothie sours.
Winery: All the wines at Willamette Wineworks are delicious; I also like the fact that you can blend your own.
Dean Hiatt; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Executive ChefPoor Red’s Bar-B-Que6221 Pleasant Valley Road, El Dorado, 530-622-2901, poorreds.com
Dean Hiatt’s journey into the culinary world started with washing floors, hood vents, and flat tops for $4 an hour at D’s Burgers in Shingle Springs (currently Crepe Town Café) at the age of 14. Fast forward to today, and the accomplished culinarian—whose resume also includes cooking at Diablo’s Cantina and David Burke in Las Vegas and appearing on Food Network’s Supermarket Stakeout—is currently the executive chef at Poor Red’s Bar-B-Que.
Your last meal out was: Lone Eagle Grill in Lake Tahoe. It’s one of my favorite places to visit, year-round. The view, no matter the season, is always breathtaking, and the flavors are always spot on.
Best piece of cooking advice: Before serving a plate, take one thing off it. In other words, less is more—don’t overcomplicate it. When nature is in full peak, you should be able to let the flavors shine while only tweaking what needs to be enhanced.
Poor Red's Bar-B-Que; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Favorite meal to make at your restaurant: The old-fashioned chicken & waffles. It’s titled “old-fashioned” not because it’s an “old” dish, but because the flavors we put into it conjure up memories of an old-fashioned cocktail: house-made orange zest and candied pecan Belgium waffle, smoked rosemary butter, and Bulleit Rye-infused maple syrup.
Favorite coffee shop: The Bean Barn’s toffee coffee is superb! It’s the go-to spot for all my staff as well. They’re such great members of our community and give back every chance they can.
Spanky's Pizza; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Favorite pizza: Spanky’s Pizza was a treat for me as a kid. Growing up in Cameron Park, it was where my family would go for end-of-the-year baseball parties and birthday celebrations. I still love the “Works” pizza!
Favorite dessert: Apple donuts, caramel apples, apple pie…you can’t go wrong looking for dessert in Apple Hill.
Favorite under-the-radar restaurant: Shanghai Chinese Restaurant. Even my friends from the East Coast wish they had one! I highly recommend the sesame chicken, Szechuan beef, won ton soup, and pork chow mein. I’ve been going there so long that they know my order the minute I walk in.
Shangheil Chinese; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Favorite special-occasion splurge restaurant: The Independent is where I take folks from out of town. Their chef-inspired, seasonal menu never disappoints, and the dishes—especially the California chicken sandwich, apple pork chop, or duck breast (when they have it)—are always well-thought-out and perfectly executed.
Favorite winery: Lewis Grace Winery has a cabernet with notes of jam, tobacco, chocolate, and fig that’s so delicious it warms your entire body. I grab a vintage bottle every October for my birthday.
Patricio Wise; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Executive ChefNixtaco Mexican Kitchen & Distillery1805 Cirby Way, Roseville, Suite 12, 916-771-4165, nixta.co
Self-taught chef Patricio Wise of the Bib Gourmand, Michelin Award-winning Nixtaco Mexican Kitchen & Distillery, has been the restaurant’s executive chef since he and his wife, Cinthia Martinez, founded it in 2015. Inspired by his Mexican roots, Patricio’s focus is on using fresh, high-quality ingredients to create dishes reminiscent of his hometown in Monterrey.
Your last meal out was: Mikuni Sushi for a spicy scallop hand roll and nigiri (salmon aburi, aji, etc.). I love the quality of their fish and the consistency.
Best piece of cooking advice: If you’re following a recipe, read it in its entirety before you start cooking; also, taste at every step before adding salt.
Favorite meal to you make at your restaurant: The Nixtaco combination taco. I came up with the recipe when I was hungry and exhausted; eating it made my morning and satisfied me in an inexplicable way.
Favorite coffee shop: For coffee, Fourscore Coffee; for pastries, Julian's Patisserie & Café or Karen's Bakery and Café.
Favorite pizza: Red’s Pizzeria & Taphouse, Flour Dust Pizza, or Il Pizzaiolo. I usually start with margherita and then follow with some of their specials.
Favorite burger: Moksa Barrel House’s Double Juicy Burger—designed by Mike Fagnoni from Hawks—is everything a great burger should be.
Favorite dessert: I'm not a big fan of dessert or sweets, but my daughters love the staxx bread from BAD Bakers.
Auburn Thai Garden; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Favorite under-the-radar restaurant: Auburn Thai Garden. I always get the Crying Tiger and Panang Curry.
Favorite special-occasion splurge restaurant: The omakase at Kru; if I’m with a small group of friends, Restaurant Josephine in Auburn; if I’m with my family, then Hawks.
Favorite winery: Casino Mine Ranch. I've had the opportunity to cook as a guest chef for a couple of their wine dinners; the property is beautiful, their management is great, and the wines are some of the region’s best.
Lisa Scott; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
In-House CulinarianMyka Estates3405 Carson Court, Placerville, 530-644-3474, mykaestates.comMediterranean Vineyards7449 Fairplay Road, Somerset, 530-240-8386, medivineyards.com1850 Wine Cellars3 Randolph Street, Sutter Creek, 209-267-8114, 1850winecellars.com
Since August 2019, Lisa Scott has been making seasonal-inspired, picture-perfect pairings to accompany some of the region’s top wines. The self-taught culinarian learned the best way—by experience—watching her dad in the kitchen and cooking for friends and family. A devoted fan of the farm-to-fork concept, she regularly visits local farmers’ markets to make dishes like heirloom tomato caprese stacks and baked brie stuffed with pesto.
Your last meal out was: Hangtown Cantina for Mexican food (always!).
Best piece of cooking advice: Cook food you like, always taste your food before you serve it, and be creative.
Myka Estates; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Favorite meal to make at your restaurant: Clam chowder.
Heyday Cafe; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Favorite pizza: Whatever is on the “specials” board or in-season at Heyday Café.
Favorite burger: I love the toasted ciabatta Cascada serves their burger on.
Cascada; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Favorite dessert: I love the smell of dessert cooking but don’t like to bake, so I often get the take-home pies from Boa Vista Orchards. They’re delicious!
Favorite under-the-radar restaurant: Shilla Sushi. The owners are great, it’s close to where I live, they have a fun assortment of rolls, and it’s always fresh.
Favorite special-occasion splurge restaurant: The ambiance at Smith Flat House can’t be beat—nor can their steak or prime rib.
Favorite brewery: I don’t drink beer, but I love Solid Ground Brewings’s Ugly Nugz (cubed chicken breast brined in buttermilk dredge with buffalo sauce).
Favorite winery: Edio Vineyards not only has great wine and cider, but amazing views and hospitality, too.
Kotaro Ari; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Kotaro “Taro” Arai
Chief Dreaming OfficerMikuni SushiLocations in Folsom, Roseville, Fair Oaks, and Sacramento, mikunisushi.com
For over 35 years, Kotaro “Taro” Arai has been the self-proclaimed CDO (chief dreaming officer) at Mikuni Restaurant Group, whose mission statement is “to be the most loving and loved company in the world.” The self-taught chef (he learned his skills growing up in Japan and reading books) is most known for his inventive rolls, constant philanthropy, and eclectic style.
Your last meal out was: My friends and I basically live at Bennett’s Kitchen Bar Market.
Favorite meal to make at your restaurant: Nigiri. My family couldn’t afford it, so it was my childhood dream to eat it.
Favorite place to go for breakfast: Mario’s Early Toast to see the legend: Mario Astorga.
Favorite pizza: Chicago Fire not only makes great pizza, but they’re generous and always help with our charity events.
Favorite burger: In-N-Out Burger; someday I want to create In-N-Out Sushi.
Favorite under-the-radar restaurant: Auburn Thai Garden. It’s the only place that does a whiskey pairing with Thai food.
Auburn Thai Garden; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Favorite special-occasion splurge restaurant: Hawks for their charcuterie plate and red wine. It’s where I celebrate with friends.
Hawks; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Favorite brewery: Moksa Brewing Company has a variety of excellent beer, including barrel-aged options.
Favorite winery: The zinfandel at Dono dal Cielo pairs perfectly with pepper fin.
Q Bennett; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Executive ChefQ1227 Restaurant1465 Eureka Road, Suite 100, Roseville, 916-899-5146, q1227restaurant.com
Florida native Q Bennett, “Chef Q,” began his culinary journey in his Mama’s kitchen, where he learned the basics that set the foundation for who he is today. In his 25-year tenure as a chef, he’s cooked for the U.S. Navy, in both private and corporate restaurants, at Universal and Paramount Studios, and at Sacramento’s Echo & Rig, to name a few. Now, as the executive chef and owner of Q1227, he prepares modern comfort cuisine with a farm-to-fork flair.
Favorite meal to make at your restaurant: I love making the entire menu—it’s all good!—but if I had to pick, the pan-seared scallops with blue crab hash cakes, sautéed spinach, and garlic beurre blanc.
Your last meal out was: For lunch, it was the Carmen Roll from Mikuni Sushi; for dinner, the gnocchi at Hawks.
Best piece of cooking advice: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or to try something different.
Favorite place to go for breakfast: The omelets and French toast at Four Sisters Café are both “wow” dishes; plus, they have great service, friendly staff, and awesome ownership.
Favorite pizza: My go-to is Pizza Factory in Loomis for their All Meat pizza, plus pineapple!
Favorite tacos: You can’t go wrong at Nixtaco—whether you order the pork belly, al pastor, or vegan tacos.
Special-occasion splurge restaurant: Hawks is consistently good and has a beautiful ambiance and friendly staff. I also know the chef!
Favorite brewery: Loomis Basin Brewery. All their beers are made with fresh, high-quality ingredients, which is why we choose to sell their products at Q1227.
Favorite winery: There are so many great ones in our area—it depends what’s on the dinner plate and what the occasion is—but if you haven’t been to Baker Family Wines (local legend Dusty Baker’s winery) in West Sacramento…go!
Eric Seeberger; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Corporate Executive ChefLand Ocean2720 East Bidwell Street, Folsom, 916-983-7000; 1151 Galleria Boulevard, Suite 241, Roseville, 916-407-5640, landoceanrestaurants.comSienna1480 Eureka Road, Roseville, 916-771-4700; 3909 Park Drive, El Dorado Hills, 916-941-9694, siennarestaurants.comSouth Fork Grille4364 Town Center Boulevard, El Dorado Hills, 916-458-0206, southforkrestaurants.com
A chef for over 35 years, Eric Seeberger received his training at Spokane Community College, earning a degree in culinary arts. He went on to cook at numerous hotels, country clubs, and restaurants, including Ruth's Chris Steak House, where he worked for 21 years and was promoted to regional chef. Three years ago, Eric became the corporate chef at Platt Concepts (the operators of Land Ocean, Sienna, and South Fork Grille), where he oversees all the kitchen and culinary operations.
Best piece of cooking advice: Cook what you like to eat. If using a recipe, always start with the lesser cook time stated and adjust from there.
BAD Bakers; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Favorite place to go for breakfast: I frequent BAD Bakers. I love their staxx bread, and they have a unique take on donuts.
Favorite pizza: The sausage and pepperoni pie at Mark and Monica's. I love that it’s a small, family-owned business, and the pizzas are always great!
Favorite burger: The burgers at Land Ocean are hard to beat. If I had to pick a second, it would be In-N-Out; their burgers are consistently great.
Favorite place for dessert: The Parlor. You can't go wrong with ice cream in a freshly made doughnut.
Favorite under-the-radar restaurant: Takieng Thai Cuisine—a small, family-owned restaurant in Fair Oaks. I’ve been going there for years, and their food is always outstanding.
Special-occasion splurge restaurant: Hawks always does a great job on their food and service. My favorite thing to order is the house-made charcuterie plate.
Favorite brewery: The Monk's Cellar. Even though I’m not a drinker, I know they have some great house-brewed beers, and their food is top-notch.
Marc Riedel; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Executive ChefWise Villa Winery & Bistro4200 Wise Road, Lincoln, 916-543-0323, wisevillawinery.com
Marc Riedel has been a chef for over 25 years. Before settling in the Sacramento area and cooking at places like Rio City Café and Fat’s Asia Bistro, the skilled culinarian lived in Madrid and the Bay Area. In his current role as executive chef at Wise Villa Winery’s Tuscan-style bistro, he makes mouthwatering dishes with subtle and varied intricacies of flavor and balance, using high-quality, locally sourced ingredients.
Best piece of cooking advice: Buy The Joy of Cooking immediately. It will teach you everything, like how to truss a chicken and, when in doubt, add bacon.
Favorite meal to make at your restaurant: Pan-seared roasted duck breast or rack of lamb.
Favorite place to go for breakfast: Kim's Country Kitchen always makes a solid, classic breakfast. For brunch, 105 Noshery is my go-to.
Favorite pizza: Il Pizzaiolo or Celestino's NY Pizza & Pasta. Both spots have amazing dough recipes and top-notch toppings.
Celestino's NY Pizza & Pasta
Favorite burger: Ours, hands down. The patty is a six-ounce blend of California Angus beef and short rib, served with green goddess aioli, white cheddar cheese, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and sliced onions on a toasted bun with French fries. I definitely recommend adding bacon and avocado, too!
Favorite dessert: Gunther’s Ice Cream is always a winner; plus, it’s such an iconic spot.
Favorite under-the-radar restaurant: PK Sushi is my go-to for fresh, high-quality sushi (you can’t go wrong with their Spicy Killer and Grande PK1 rolls), and it's never too crowded to get a last-minute table.
PK Sushi; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Special-occasion splurge restaurant: Hawks. I order their short ribs…every time. Yes, they’re that good!
Hawks; photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com.
Favorite brewery: The Monk's Cellar or Auburn Alehouse are both great spots to get a nice local craft beer in a chill atmosphere with really good food.
compiled by Megan Wiskus
Nick Blessing, Moska Barrel House, Nixtaco photos by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com. Allora photo by Anna Wick @anna_wick. Dean Hiatt, Chicken & Waffles, Spnaky's Pizza, Shanghai Chinese Restaurant photos by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com. Burning Barrel photo by Joseph Matty. Patricio Wise, Mikuni, Auburn Thai Garden photos by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com. Fourscore photo by Wesley Scott. Il Pizzaiolo photo by @cupcakesandconquerors. Kru photo by Matt Chong. Lisa Scott, clam chowder, Heyday Café, Cascada photos by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com. Edio Vineyards photo by Tommy Noonan. Taro Arai, Auburn Thai Garden, Hawks photos by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com. Chicago Fire photo courtesy of Chicago Fire. Chef Q photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com. Pizza Factory photo by Maren Lombardi. Four Sisters Cafe photo by Sadie Fienberg @snackonthat_. Eric Seeberger, BAD Bakers, Takieng Thai Cuisine photos by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com. The Parlor photo by Dante Fontana ©stylemediagroup. The Monk's Cellar photo by Zach Clevenger, hopsaboutbeer.com @hopsaboutbeer. Marc Riedel, Hawks, PK Sushi photos by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.com. Other photos courtesy of their respective companies or organizations.
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