Foodie Favorites: Where the Chefs Eat
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.
Joseph Douglas Snow
Jeana Marie Pecha
Co-Owner & Co-Chef at Hawks, 5530 Douglas Boulevard, Granite Bay, Suite 110, 916-791-6200, hawksrestaurant.com & Hawks Public House, 1525 Alhambra Boulevard, Sacramento, 916-588-4440, hawkspublichouse.com
How long have you been a chef? 20 years.
Favorite thing to make at your restaurant: Right now, I'm loving our handmade tagliarini with stewed heirloom tomatoes, basil, and parmesan. I look forward to it every summer.
Top cooking tip: Taste your food and season throughout the cooking process, to achieve consistency and develop flavors.
Your motto when it comes to cooking: Start with the best ingredients, keep it simple, and cook [what’s] in season.
Top local spots to eat and/or drink: When my husband and I are craving a date night, we enjoy Restaurant Josephine (josephineauburn.com). Chef-Owners Eric and Courtney are truly talented, and I appreciate their efforts to source local ingredients, many from their own farm. It’s unique to find a spot where traditional, time-honored techniques are used to create layered flavors; not to mention, Courtney's collection of glassware makes it a special spot to enjoy a craft cocktail.
My kids’ favorite is Moksa Barrel House (moksabarrelhouse.com), which we opened in collaboration with Moksa Brewing Co. Their food is casual but made with superior products. The kiddos can indulge in chicken tenders, and I know it's high-quality chicken!
My family recently enjoyed a lovely meal at Nixtaco (nixta.co). We tried lots of items, and everything was delicious! The menu has grown quite a bit over the past few years, so if you haven't been in a while, I'd recommend a visit.
I love grabbing a croissant and carefully crafted cappuccino at local coffee shops and often make the drive to Faria Bakery (fariabakery.com/folsom) or The Pour Choice (thepourchoice.com); both are yummy options. Granite Bay has a new café, The Grove (@thegrovecoffeehouse916), that makes lovely cappuccinos and serves coffee from Chocolate Fish.
Owner & Chef at Julian’s Patisserie & Café, 6610 Folsom-Auburn Road, Suite 7, Folsom, 916-936-4735 & Pastry Nouveau, 1490 Eureka Road, Suite 170, Roseville, 916-474-5475, julianscafe.com
How long have you been a chef? 17 years.
Favorite thing to make at your restaurant: Croissants.
Top cooking tip: Use quality ingredients if you want to make quality products, and don’t take shortcuts.
Your motto when it comes to cooking: Practice makes perfect.
Top local spots to eat and/or drink: I enjoy Farmhaus (farmhausgb.com) because they always use fresh, in-season ingredients and have quality chefs, as well as an amazing front-of-house staff. My favorite dish right now is their pork chop.
Everything at Nixtaco (nixta.co) is made from scratch and executed perfectly. I love their burger (when they have it), or the al pastor tacos!
Back Bistro (backbistro.com) is in an excellent location (at the Palladio) and has a great atmosphere; plus, the staff is always incredibly kind. You can’t beat their steak and potatoes appetizer.
Owner & Chef at C. Knight's Steakhouse, 2085 Vine Street, Suite 101, El Dorado Hills, 916-235-1730, cknightssteakhouse.com
How long have you been a chef? 37 years.
Favorite thing to make at your restaurant? A 16-ounce New York strip steak cooked Pittsburgh-style—where it’s seared on an iron plate, placed in the back of our top-fired broiler (where it’s hottest), and cooked medium rare with a perfect crust.
Top cooking tip: When it comes to flavor, don't be afraid to season your food properly and generously. People tend to under-season; indulge and live life daily—you only die once.
Your motto when it comes to cooking: Meals that are balanced with the five flavors of bitter, sweet, salty, acidic, and umami pair well with almost any wine.
Top local spots to eat and/or drink: I love going to Aji Japanese Bistro (ajibistroedh.com) for their spicy chicken ramen with crunchy garlic and kimchi; the chicken is chargrilled, which adds a nice smokiness to the homemade broth. It’s especially tasty on a cold, rainy day.
I’ve tried cheese enchiladas all over town, and the version at La Cascada (lacascadaedh.com) are by far the best. The sauce is flavorful and not too tomatoey like some tend to be. I always ask for chopped green onions on top to add even more flavor and texture.
If you’re a Volkswagen aficionado like me, Red Bus Brewing Company (redbusbrew.com) is a must! They have VW-themed décor and cleverly named brews, including my favorite: Jetronic—a hazy IPA that’s light, refreshing, and not too hoppy. It’s great for sipping…or chugging!
Chef at Savory Pies of the World, 374 Main Street, Placerville, 530-777-7437, savorypiesoftheworld.com
How long have you been a chef? 19 years.
Favorite thing to make at your restaurant? Lamb shepherd pasty.
Top cooking tip: Enjoy the process, and always brown your butter!
Your motto when it comes to cooking: Allow yourself to engage all five senses. It's not just about the result, but how you feel while creating your meal. Food is a conduit of energy. Have fun, be creative, and use it as a modality of expression.
Top local spots to eat and/or drink: Timmy’s Brown Bag (timmysbrownbag.com) has a creative, unique menu that pulls you out of your comfort zone to discover fireworks of flavor with every bite. The owner’s risk-taking ingredients are inspiring, and the delivery of it in sandwich form is the best part. My go-to is the spam and kimchi sandwich.
The boscaiola (add Italian sausage) from The Place (thatlittleitalianplace.com) is simple and elegant. The thyme cream sauce complements the earthy portabellas and crimini mushrooms, along with the saltiness of the sausage. Nothing overpowers any other flavors; it’s creamy, aromatic harmony!
I love the history and ambiance at Smith Flat House (smithflathouse.com); plus, they support our community by using ingredients from local farmers. The Black & White (filet mignon served with grilled prawns, demi-glace, béarnaise sauce, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and slow-roasted baby heirloom carrots) is my favorite, along with any of their wood-fired pizzas. Fresh, simple, classics with a creative spin!
Joseph Douglas Snow
Executive Chef at Brickyard Kitchen & Bar, 1475 Eureka Road, Suite 120, Roseville, 916- 836-8406, brickyard916.com/roseville
How long have you been a chef? 24 years.
Favorite thing to make at your restaurant: Burgers, of course!
Top cooking tip: Never stop learning. I’ve been in the industry for a long time and am always excited to try something new or experiment with a different way of doing something that I’ve done 100 times before.
Top local spots to eat and/or drink: My favorite casual place is 7’Yen Sushi (7yensushi.com). Andy is a great sushi chef and creates some of the most unique rolls you’ll find. My favorite is the Firefly: spicy tuna and cucumber topped with salmon and thinly sliced lemon. It seems normal until you take your first bite; trust me, you’ll be hooked for life!
For a more upscale meal, my go-to is Q1227 (q1227restaurant.com). Chef Q has an incredible menu and makes everything with heart and soul. I’m obsessed with the fried chicken (served with mashed potatoes) and the meatloaf.
After working long hours, I enjoy going to the Almond Tree Grill & Lounge (almondtreelounge.com). You won’t find better prices or customer service anywhere else; if you’re looking for a cold beer and friendly bartenders, it’s the place to be.
Chef at Moksa Barrel House, 10007 Foothills Boulevard, Suite 180, Roseville, 916-783-1445, moksabarrelhouse.com
How long have you been a chef? 10 years.
Favorite thing to make at your restaurant: Honestly, anything that customers enjoy—from an order of fries to one of the chef’s specials. I just love feeding people and seeing them happy, no matter the dish.
Top cooking tip: Keep swinging. With repetition and failure comes understanding and a chance to improve.
Your motto when it comes to cooking: Cook with purpose; the end goal is full bellies and happy faces. In food and life, I always try to do better than the day before.
Top local spots to eat and/or drink: Liu Mandarin Kitchen (liumandarinkitchen.net) has amazing, super fresh food with a staff that makes you feel like family. The Singapore-style noodles are a must, though you can’t really go wrong with any of their dishes. The atmosphere is perfect for a date night.
Mezcalito Oaxacan Cuisine (mezcalitocuisine.com) has a small, cozy feel and serves up mouthwatering molotes, queso fundido, el pastor tacos, and micheladas with shrimp.
When it comes to grabbing a beer, you can’t beat the chill atmosphere and variety of (constantly rotating) brews at Moonraker Brewing (moonrakerbrewing.com)—both at “The Pub” in Auburn and the new “Millhouse” in Cameron Park.
Jeana Marie Pecha
Owner & Executive Chef at Omakase Por Favor, 640 Twelve Bridges Drive, Lincoln, 916-472-5503, omakaseporfavor.com
How long have you been a chef? 14 years.
Favorite dish to make at your restaurant: Shrimp ceviche. It represents all the fresh flavors of Mexico.
Top cooking tip: Dive into flavor fearlessly! Boundaries are meant to be stretched for tasty revelations. Go all in—even if it means a flavor explosion now and then.
Your motto when it comes to cooking: Enjoyment is key. Your tastes, your happiness. Food is all about personal joy. If it tastes good to you and brings you a smile, that's what truly counts!
Top local spots to eat and/or drink: My all-time favorite is Curry Leaves (thecurryleavesrestaurant.com). Every visit leaves me smiling and amazed by the exceptional cooking. Having a restaurant that prepares dishes I couldn't even master at home brings me joy. I don't leave without getting a masala dosa stuffed with potatoes and an order of paneer chilli (fried cheese cubes smothered in a heavenly sauce).
Kathrin’s Biergarten (kathrinsbiergarten.com) is an absolute blast; there’s nothing like a massive stein to elevate your day! And guess what? You might even run into Kathrin herself! The ownership is fantastic, and the sausages are simply irresistible. My friends and I always order the Oktoberfest Sampler, so we can try bites of everything. The giant “bretzle” is world-class, too.
After leaving the city and experiencing Japan, my craving for incredible ramen—with its rich pork broth, zesty miso butter, and melt-in-your-mouth chashu—became insatiable. I’ve scoured high and low for a go-to ramen spot, and Fukumi Ramen (fukumirestaurantgroup.com/fukumi-roseville) nails it. Their namesake Fukumi Ramen is my favorite, but they have so many different options.
Executive Chef at Relish Burger Bar, 1000 White Rock Road, El Dorado Hills, 916-933-3111, relishburgerbar.com
How long have you been a chef? 15 years.
Favorite thing to make at your restaurant? The Western Burger, with scratch-made Guinness BBQ sauce and hand-made crispy onion strings.
Top cooking tip: Always cook a meal as if your mother were the guest. Trust me—people will be able to taste the extra love you put into the food.
Your motto when it comes to cooking: Experiment! Try new ways, methods, and exciting ingredients, because why not?
Top local spots to eat and/or drink: You can never go wrong with pizza from Wally’s Pizza Bar (wallyspizzabar.com). Flavorful—from crust to sauce—with fresh ingredients plus a fun ambiance, it’s a great place to spend a Friday night.
Breakfast food is often overlooked, but no matter how you want your eggs cooked (sunny side up, over easy, over medium, basted etc.), the chefs at The Mimosa House (mimosahouseca.com) always cook them to perfection; plus, the house potatoes are seasoned with lots of love. It’s a perfect spot to cure a long night out, especially with their full-service bar and morning cocktail selection.
The staff at Peet’s Coffee (peets.com) is always friendly and inviting. My days are long, and my current go-to is their Havana cappuccino. Dark, savory, it hits just right—no need to add sugar, sweeteners, or sprinkles. It’s exactly what I need out of a coffee shop: polite, fast service and strong coffee!
Owner & Chef at Chavious F&T, Pizzas, and Catering, chavious.com
How long have you been a chef? 25 years.
Top cooking tip: Be brave!
Your motto when it comes to cooking: Leave your ego at the door.
Top local spots to eat and/or drink: For a relaxing daycation, Casino Mine Ranch (casinomineranch.com). The drive there is beautiful, the staff is friendly, and their wines are amazing; plus, I heard they have Chavious pop-ups occasionally.
To celebrate a special occasion, Hawks (hawksrestaurant.com) can’t be beat. Mike, Molly, and Ed have created a classic that’s all about the technique and details. Everything is not just beautiful to look at but tastes amazing, too.
After a run on the river, Sunflower Drive In (sunflowerdrivein.cafe) is my spot. Their food has enough sprouts to make you an instant hippie, but the vegan nutty taco is heaven. Oh, and the #5 smoothie!
Following a hike on the trails or after “fun-yaking,” I always stop at Argonaut Farm to Fork Café (argonautcafe.com). It’s in a historic, super cozy building next to Sutter’s Mill and the Gold Discovery Museum and has a dog-friendly porch with delicious coffee and pastries.
by Megan Wiskus
Photos by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup. Nixtaco Burger photo by Cinthia Martinez. Moonraker Brewing photo courtesy of Moonraker Brewing. Peet's Coffe photo courtesy of Peet's Coffee. Casino Mine Ranch photo by Melissa Gayle Photography.