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Let's Do Lunch: 35 Delicious Dishes Under $16

If you’re carb-driven (like me!), then when you think “lunch” you probably think “sandwich.” But the best thing about lunch is that it’s so much more. It can also be curry, a bento box, burger and fries, a slice of pizza, soup and salad, chow mein, or a chimichanga. But what really elevates a lunch from good to great is affordability. Less than $16? In THIS economy? Now we’re talking. Good lunch at a good price is quite possibly the best thing in life. We hunted down the best, most delicious lunch deals in the region, so you can experience inner joy and some economic sanity every day of the week. Lunch is on us!  

Falafel Corner gives diners a taste of the Mediterranean, and, luckily, their Combo Platter ($13.99) is cheaper than a vacay. It’s like a buffet plate right at your fingertips, featuring delicious morsels of flavorful lean grilled chicken, juicy yet crispy slices of mouthwatering gyro (beef and lamb), perfect fluffy rice, tangy tzatziki, creamy hummus, freshly made pita bread, and leafy salad. If you’re still hungry after all that, they have house-made baklava, but that’s between you and your appetite. 2791 East Bidwell Street, Suite 900, Folsom, 916-292-8737,

Falafel Corner. Photo by Ray Burgess ©stylemediagroup.


Beloved Folsom mainstay La Rosa Blanca will leave you full and happy with their brand of Mexican comfort food, and they’ll do it for less than $10. Try their Chile Relleno Burrito ($9.55): a mouthwatering stuffed green chile, gift-wrapped in a tortilla, and served with chips, salsa, rice, and refried beans (rumored to be the city’s best beans; huge if true, as the kids say.) 402 Natoma Street, Folsom, 916-673-9085,

La Rosa Blanca. Photo by Ray Burgess ©stylemediagroup.


Corner Tavern & Grill knows how to keep you warm and well-fed until your next lunch. Try their Homemade Meatballs ($13)—a comfort-food classic that comes blanketed in marinara, melty mozzarella, parmesan, and olive tapenade, with grilled focaccia. Keep it warm, keep it cozy, and keep those carbs coming! 700 Glenn Drive, Suite 170, Folsom, 916-467-7800

Be the envy of the office when you order the filling, flavor-packed lunch combo at Tong Thai Bistro. Choose one of seven chicken, pork, or beef entrées: We’re all about the Thai Basil ($13.25) with green beans, onions, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, sweet basil, and delicious garlic chili sauce and one of five sides (you won’t regret ordering the fried tofu with sweet & sour sauce and ground peanuts). Did we mention the combos are also served with jasmine rice and a house salad? 25035 Blue Ravine Road, Suite 120, Folsom, 916-510-1432,

Tong Thai Bistro. Photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.


Folsom Palace offers a great lunch special that comes with your choice of entrée plus the soup of the day and either chow mein, fried rice, steamed rice, or brown rice. Pick from familiar favorites or mix it up with one of the restaurant’s specialties like Thailand Style Eggplant Pork ($11.95) with shredded pork, eggplant, onions, chilies, garlic, and ginger cooked in a spicy sweet & sour Thai basil brown sauce. Deliciousness awaits! 1169 Riley Street, Folsom, 916-983-8880; 3941 Park Drive, Suite 10, El Dorado Hills, 916-936-0808,

Folsom Palace. Photo by Ray Burgess ©stylemediagroup.


Enjoy the spacious outdoor patio at Smith Flat House for your next lunch date and sample from their extensive midday menu. Perhaps you’ll be inclined to gobble up the Turkey Bacon Avocado Sandwich ($15): sliced turkey, crispy bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomatoes, and house-made spread served on sliced sourdough, with your choice of their soup of the moment, a house salad, or fries. 2021 Smith Flat Road, Placerville, 530-621-1003,

Smith Flat House. Photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.


That Dam Place has an authentic Louisiana gumbo that they proudly proclaim to be not just good but “slap yo mama good.” Listed on the menu as Angola Gumbo Ya-Ya ($10.95), it features Creole vegetables, garlic, and chilies with chicken, andouille sausage, rice, and green onions (just as the good Lord intended). Maybe add a side of Felony Fries because, well, they’re really good, and good fries make the world go round. 1013 Riley Street, Folsom, 916-790-8182, 

That Dam Place. Photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.


Who doesn’t love a classic grilled cheese sandwich for lunch? The Independent Restaurant & Bar turns up the heat with their Spicy Grilled Cheese ($16): an invigorating combo of chipotle aioli, white cheddar, Hatch chile pepper jack cheese, caramelized onions, and chopped bacon on sourdough bread, served with your choice of turnip fries, potato fries, green salad, Caesar salad, or soup. Hot enough for ya? 629 Main Street, Placerville, 530-344-7645,

The Independent Restaurant & Bar. Photo by Marielle Thoma.


The perfect lunch does exist, and it’s the Banh Mi ($6.50) at Pho ABC. There are many imitators of the Vietnamese classic (and some modern, more spendy fusion versions of this great sandwich), but the rendition at Pho ABC is the champ. Served on a crunchy-tender French roll, it comes with your choice of meat (the crispy-fried pork is my personal pick), sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, cilantro, fresh jalapeños, and mayonnaise. Lunch done right! 602 East Bidwell Street, Folsom, 916-817-8588,

Pho ABC. Photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.


Are fish & chips the perfect lunch? Land Ocean makes an excellent case for the affirmative with their Fish & Chips ($14) featuring crispy, beer-battered fish served alongside hand-cut fries, malt vinegar, and dill tartar sauce. And if your mom ever told you “Don’t eat with your hands,” tell her we said fish & chips don’t count. 1151 Galleria Boulevard, Suite 241, Roseville, 916-407-5640; 2720 East Bidwell Street, Folsom, 916-983-7000,

Land Ocean. Photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.


J Wild’s Livery & Feed can satisfy a cowboy-sized appetite with their delicious Pulled Pork BBQ Plate ($14). In addition to mouthwatering barbecued pulled pork, you’ll get a tasty hunk of cowboy cornbread and your choice of two sides. Ranch favorites include charro beans (classic Mexican cowboy beans with a delicious chili kick); for pure “rawhide” vibes, however, what self-respecting cowboy could pass up mac & cheese made with wagon wheel pasta? Keep them doggies rollin! 614 Sutter Street, Folsom, 916-353-0140,

J Wild’s Livery & Feed. Photo by Yarcenia Garcia


Heyday Café has a delicious arsenal of lunch choices, including pizzas, sandwiches, and soups, but the Roasted Butternut Squash Salad ($16) is a fan favorite. Each bite comes with fork-tender butternut squash, fresh spinach, bacon crumbles, red onions, toasted almonds, goat cheese, and a sweet-tangy brown sugar cider vinaigrette. It’s called lunching in style, Brenda: Look it up. 325 Main Street, Placerville, 530-626-9700,

Heyday Café. Photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.


Wise Villa Winery offers fine Tuscan dining in their gorgeous bistro. Keep it classy for your next lunch with their Spinach Salad ($15)—a colorful plate of leafy greens topped with dried apricots, toasted almonds, pickled onions, feta, and raspberry balsamic vinaigrette. It’s even better paired with a generous pour of their delicious chardonnay. 4200 Wise Road, Lincoln, 916-543-0323,

Wise Villa Winery. Photo by Teal Kleiman.


Thai Paradise offers their take on the lunch combo at a price that’s right. Choose from a long list of curries or entrées and your pick of protein (chicken, pork, or beef). For a taste sensation, try the Eggplant Delight ($13.95): sautéed eggplant with garlic, jalapeños, red bell peppers, onions, and basil. Whatever appetizing adventure you choose, it’s served with steamed rice and a refreshing side salad. 2770 East Bidwell Street, Suite 100, Folsom, 916-984-8988,; 4361 Town Center Boulevard, Suite 110, El Dorado Hills, 916-939-0389,

Thai Paradise


If you’re in need of a hot dog fix, look no further than C. Knight’s Steakhouse. When it comes to recommending a specific one, I’ll always tell you to get the Chicago Dog ($14): a crunchy, vinegary, peppery taste sensation (ketchup fans, avert your eyes) featuring a tender, high-quality, all-beef frank topped with mustard, Chicago-style relish, diced tomatoes and onions, a pickle spear, sport peppers, and celery salt on a fresh-baked poppyseed bun. Served with house-cut fries, it's an authentically American lunch of champions. 2085 Vine Street, Suite 101, El Dorado Hills, 916-235-1730,

C. Knight's Steakhouse. Photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.


Main Street Taphouse will keep you fed and happy with tasty lunchtime flatbreads, like the Mexicano ($15), which comes topped with steak, chorizo, spicy jalapeño cream sauce, onions, olives, tomatoes, jack cheese, and pickled jalapeños for an extra kick. If that doesn’t knock the top off your lunchtime craving, nothing will. 209 Main Street, Placerville, 530-330-4648,

Main Street Taphouse. Photo by Dante Fontana ©stylemediagroup.


Plank Craft Kitchen & Bar has California comfort food covered—from cozy sides, to salads, burgers, and sandwiches—with great lunch options, like the Grilled Portobello Sandwich ($15): a grilled, meaty portobello mushroom in balsamic marinade topped with provolone, avocado, tomato, pesto aioli, and spring mix on a brioche bun with your choice of fries or potato salad. 608 Sutter Street, Folsom, 916-260-5333,

Plank Craft Kitchen & Bar. Photo by Ray Burgess ©stylemediagroup.


Folsom Thai Cuisine offers a huge array of soups, curries, and entrees at an affordable lunch price. If you’re under the weather, then try a bowl of Tom Yum Soup ($12.95). I had a roommate who swore by this remedy! The Thai food staple is hearty, flavorful, and open-the-sinuses spicy in the best way possible: a steaming, spicy chicken-lime broth with rice noodles, ground pork, chicken, fish balls, bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro—oh my! 2371 Iron Point Road, Suite 100, Folsom, 916-983-9000,

Folsom Thai Cuisine. Photo by Ray Burgess ©stylemediagroup.


Sure, you could enjoy the array of salads at LBB Gastropub & Smokehouse. But when in a smokehouse, one must eat barbecue. (It’s a personal rule I have.) The Alabama Sando ($15) is a must: pulled chicken topped with slaw and Alabama white sauce (a magic elixir that starts with mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar; the short version is: thank me later) on a basin bun with your choice of potato salad, fresh fruit, fries, or a side salad. 3640 Taylor Road, Suite C, Loomis, 916-824-1527,

LBB Gastropub & Smokehouse


Wally's Pizza Bar has lunch on lock. From a $9.99 soup & salad combo to a $9.99 mac & cheese (with Canadian bacon) combo, they have something to turn everyone’s hangry frown upside down. You can’t go wrong with any of their calzones, but the Smokey BBQ Chicken Calzone ($11.99) with oven-roasted chicken, crispy bacon, red onions, hickory BBQ sauce, creamy smoked gouda, and cilantro is a top contender. Enjoy it with your choice of a house or Caesar salad, garlic cheese bread, or French fries (tough choice, huh?). 4079 Cameron Park Drive, Cameron Park, 530-677-5205,

Wally's Pizza Bar. Photo Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.


Vaiano Trattoria is worried you’re not eating enough. So, sit down and let them feed you a good lunch. Try one of their pizza bread panini lunch specials, like the Chicken Caesar Panino ($14.50): Vaiano’s own homemade pizza bread (yum!) filled with sliced grilled chicken, crispy romaine, thinly sliced tomatoes, and red onions dressed with Vaiano’s own Caesar dressing. Pick your choice of side (small salad or soup) and dig into deliciousness. 7160 Douglas Boulevard, Granite Bay, 916-780-0888,

Vaiano Trattoria. Photo by Ray Burgess ©stylemediagroup.


Relish Burger Bar does lunch right with their signature burgers, sandwiches, and salads. Fan favorite is the Avocado Turkey Burger ($15)—a delicious mouthful if ever there was one, thanks to a half-pound, house-made turkey patty, Swiss cheese, crispy onion strings, avocado smash, roasted garlic aioli, and a brioche bun. Pro tip: Try the sweet potato fries! 1000 White Rock Road, El Dorado Hills, 916-933-3111,

Relish Burger Bar


Bar 101 will do right by you lunch-wise, with options like the intriguing PB&J Burger (you read that right), tasty street tacos, or great salads, like the Taco Salad ($14.95): mixed greens tossed in chipotle sauce with black beans, olives, pico de gallo, jack and cheddar cheese, jalapeños, green onions, guacamole, sour cream, and your choice of shredded chicken, carnitas, or ground beef. If that’s not a satisfying lunch, we don’t know what is! 101 Main Street, Roseville, 916-774-0505,

Bar 101


Seasons 916 has some tasty sandwich options (along with incredible crêpes, coffee drinks, and pastries aplenty). Succumb to the siren song of the Cuban Sandwich ($13.99) featuring ham, salami, cooked pork, American cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, and “mojo griollo” (a delicious citrus garlic sauce) on Cuban bread with your choice of pasta salad or coleslaw. And then grab a scoop of dairy-free sorbet or homemade ice cream in fun flavors like lavender, Mexican chocolate, apple pie, and goat cheese—because there’s always room for dessert! 711 Sutter Street, Folsom, 916-693-6431

Seasons 916. Photo by Ray Burgess ©stylemediagroup.


The Italian Grinder ($16) lunch special at Pizzeria Classico will fill that hungry hole in your belly, no problem. Made on tasty focaccia, it comes with pepperoni, salami, tomatoes, red onions, mozzarella, and zesty pizza sauce, with a side of potato chips (salad substitutions available for an additional fee). 702 Sutter Street, Suite A, Folsom 916-351-1430,

Pizzeria Classico. Photo by Ray Burgess ©stylemediagroup.


Is there anything better than a barbecue sandwich for lunch? Poor Red's Bar-B-Q thinks not and delivers the goods. Try their Pulled Pork Sandwich ($13.95): house-rubbed pork shoulder, barbecued to perfection, and served with Red's BBQ sauce and onion strings on a locally made brioche bun with crispy fries. 6221 Pleasant Valley Road, El Dorado, 530-622-2901,

Poor Red's Bar-B-Q


Belly up to the bar at Auburn Alehouse and warm up with their Alehouse Chili ($14.35) and a freshly poured pint. Made with a mix of tender ground pork and beef, onions, peppers, spices, their Old Town Brown Ale, black beans, pinto beans, chilies, red onions, and cheddar cheese, this chili (served with jalapeño cornbread and butter), will appease the hungriest of appetites. 289 Washington Street, Auburn, 530-885-2537, 

Auburn Alehouse. Photo by Alexis Chantarelle.


Visconti's Ristorante will whisk you off to Italy with their Italian Sausage Sandwich ($14)—that comes inclusive of a side salad. Grilled sausage links are covered with Visconti’s (and Folsom’s most famous!) house-made marinara then toasted to perfection on a crusty French roll. Add bell peppers and onions if you’re feeling fancy and craving some color, but—maybe most importantly—be sure to consume it somewhere comfortable. Why? Post-delicious-lunch nap, baby. ABN. Always Be Napping. 2700 East Bidwell Street, Suite 700, Folsom, 916-983-5181, 

Visconti's Ristorante. Photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.


Put some pep in your lunchtime step with Nash + Tender’s Hot Chicken & Waffle ($12.99). The beloved breakfast favorite is served savory-style with two chicken tenders, coleslaw, syrup, and special sauce. Choose your own adventure by picking your heat; levels range from country (no spice), mild (light spice), medium (perfect heat), hot (it burns), and extra hot (call the firefighter), to stupid hot (waiver required; served in-restaurant only). You do you; I’ll be over here enjoying my mild chicken (you know, the normal kind that comes without a waiver!). 2770 East Bidwell Street, Suite 400, Folsom, 916-673-9636,

Nash + Tender. Photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.


How about Chinese food for lunch at Sunny Garden Restaurant? Their lunch combos come with steamed rice, soup, and an egg roll. Choose from a dizzying array of entrées, including classics like Chow Mein, Mongolian Beef, or (my personal favorite) Cashew Chicken ($10.95); but don’t sleep on the Honey Walnut Chicken or Shrimp Broccoli either. With so many choices, repeat visits are recommended, if not necessary. Pass the egg rolls! 25085 Blue Ravine Road, Folsom, 916-983-8882,

Sunny Garden Restaurant. Photo by Ray Burgess ©stylemediagroup.


Mexquite brings great Mexican comfort food to the masses: they only ask that you bring a healthy appetite in return for the Combination Lunch Plate. Pick one item ($12.99) or two ($16.49+): tacos, tostadas, tamales, chimichangas, or a chile relleno, oh my!, with your choice of shredded beef, chicken, ground beef, al pastor, carnitas, or vegetables. Your combo plate comes with Mexican rice and tasty refried beans…followed closely by an afternoon snooze. 25095 Blue Ravine Road, Folsom, 916-984-8607,

Mexquite. Photo by Ray Burgess ©stylemediagroup.


Bennett's Kitchen Bar Market brings you a healthy take on salty-sweet with a delicious Butter Lettuce Salad ($15) featuring locally made Shaft’s blue cheese, candied walnuts, apples, and a sweet and tangy maple vinaigrette. Some salads are made to be shared, but this one we recommend you eat solo and noisily—to taunt everyone who isn’t having what you’re having. 1595 Eureka Road, Roseville, 916-750-5150,

Bennett's Kitchen Bar Market. Photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.


Lola’s Tequila Bar & Cocina has taco Tuesdays covered. Go for the crispy tacos (chicken, shredded beef, or ground beef with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese served in crispy corn tortillas), or try four Street Tacos ($10) with your pick of steak, carnitas, or grilled chicken alongside all the authentic accompaniments: onions, cilantro, lime, and Mexican city taco sauce on corn tortillas. 1563 Eureka Road, Roseville, 916-474-4951,

Lola’s Tequila Bar & Cocina. Photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.


My Thai Kitchen offers a variety of lunch specials, including wok stir-fries, noodles, and curries. Choose whichever entrée makes your mouth water or make any dish your way by picking a protein, three ingredients, and a sauce/curry. We’re currently crushing on their Mango Curry ($13.99): a fragrant, flavorful combo of sweet mango, bell peppers, carrots, and basil in red curry sauce. 1465 Eureka Road, Roseville, 916-781-7811,

My Thai Kitchen. Photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.


Placerville Public House serves up their own authentic twist on pub grub with plenty of lunchtime goodness, including a variety of street tacos, like the Banh Mi Tacos ($15). The fusion favorite features Korean-style shredded pork, cucumbers, pickled carrots and red onions, Sriracha mayo, and cilantro on flour tortillas. Mmm-mm good. 305 Main Street, Placerville, 530-303-3792,

Placerville Public House. Photo by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup.



Miracle Max from The Princess Bride feels the same way we do about sandwiches.  “...True love is the greatest thing in the world. Except for a nice MLT: mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.” So, we asked some local sandwich spots for their tips on how to make the best one. 

• Quality ingredients prepared daily (meats, cheeses, and veggies; i.e., nothing pre-sliced or pre-packaged).

• Proper ratio of meats, cheeses, veggies, and sauces.

• A freshly baked delivery vessel (breads, rolls, wraps, etc.).

—Submitted by Ron Engebretson, owner of Erik's DeliCafé, 1450 Lead Hill Boulevard, Roseville, 916-782-5566; 1411 Blue Ravine Road, Suite 400, Folsom, 916-510-2200,


Erik's Delicafé


• The foundation of all great sandwiches is great bread; if possible, try and purchase fresh bread from a local bakery.

• Use the best, highest-quality ingredients you can afford (meats, cheeses, and veggies).

• Take your time assembling the sandwich to ensure the flavors are evenly distributed so you have them in every bite.

—Submitted by Damian Pascuzzo, owner of Capriotti's Sandwich Shop, 4060 Douglas Boulevard, Suite 104, Granite Bay, 916-742-7688,

Prices and offerings are subject to change.

by Sharon Penny

Falafel Corner, La Rosa Blanca, Folsom Palace, Plank Craft Kitchen & Bar, Folsom Thai Cuisine, Vaiano Trattoria, Seasons 916, Sunny Garden Restaurant and Mexquite photos by Ray Burgess © stylemediagroup. Tong Thai Bistro, Smith Flat House, That Dam Place, Pho ABC, Land Ocean, Heyday Café, C. Knights Steakhouse, Visconti's Ristorante, Nash and Tender, Bennett's Kitchen Bar Market, Lola's Tequila Bar & Cocina, My Thai Kitchen and Placerville Public House photos by Taylor Gillespie ©stylemediagroup. The Independent Restaurant & Bar photo by Marielle Thoma. J Wild’s Livery & Feed photo by Yarcenia Garcia. Wise Villa Winery photo by Teal Kleiman. Thai Paradise photo courtesy of Thai Paradise. Erik's DeliCafé photo courtesy of Erik's DeliCafé. Main Street Taphouse photo by Dante Fontana ©stylemediagroup. Relish Burger Bar photo courtesy of Relish Burger Bar.  Bar 101 photo courtesy of Bar 101. Pizzeria Classico photo by Matt Litteral of Gemini Media Studios. Poor Red's Bar-B-Q photo courtesy of Poor Red's Bar-B-Q. Auburn Alehouse photo by Alexis Chantarelle.