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Aug 28, 2009 01:15 PM

Coming from Los Angeles - what does Stockton (and environs, Modesto, Lodi, maybe even Sacramento) have that I simply can't get at home?

We're doing a round of pharmacy school tours of the bay area, and we're ending out trip with a visit to University of the Pacific in Stockton. We're having lunch at the university, but we'll be looking for breakfast in Stockton and dinner anywhere in the area. We might even be open to heading up to Sacramento... possibly spending the night there before returning home.

Our priority is finding local experiences with great food. The type of cuisine really doesn't matter, as long as it's local and delicious.

Since we're from LA, ideally we're looking for something we couldn't taste back home... that means no Mexican, no Chinese, no Vietnamese. I know that Stockton has a Cambodian temple, and the Cambodian community in LA is rather small, so we might be up for some bo loc lac or amok fish.

Looking forward to your suggestions

Mr Taster

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  1. For sacramento, the simple answer is nothing you will find that's better than LA. We have some fine restaurants, but LA is a much much bigger city with a huge diversity of cuisines.

    However, if you simply want some excellent food while in Sacto, you may want to try the Waterboy or Mulvaney's.

    Waterboy Restaurant
    2000 Capitol Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95814

    Mulvaney's B & L
    1215 19th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

    3 Replies
    1. re: PeterL

      These two restaurants look nice, but they're a bit more than we'd like to spend. We're not averse to spending a more than we do at home (there are some incredible Chinese meals to be had for $20-$30 for 2 people, including tax & tip!) I don't expect to eat that cheap.

      What could $50 out the door (including tax & tip, not drinks) get you by way of a filling, excellent local meal in this area (that falls within the paramaters I've outlined in my initial post)? Surely you must have some kind of local delicacy or cuisine....?

      Mr Taster

      1. re: Mr Taster

        Try these two. Both have been (will be?) featured on Food TV's triple D (Guy is from Sacto). Squeeze Inn and Cafe Rolle ( Squeeze Inn is famous for their hamburgers. Cafe Rolle is a French bistro.

        Squeeze Inn
        5301 Power Inn Rd., Sacramento, CA 95820

        1. re: Mr Taster

          Another suggestion is Vientienne in West Sac, Laotian/Vietnamese cuisine. If you are here on a weekday and looking for lunch, you may try La Bonne Soupe Cafe, #1 Zagat rated restaurant in Sacto. Be warned, very long lines.

          Squeeze Inn
          5301 Power Inn Rd., Sacramento, CA 95820

          La Bonne Soupe Cafe
          920 8th St, Sacramento, CA 95814

          Vientiane Restaurant
          1001 Jefferson Blvd 600, West Sacramento, CA 95691

      2. I think you have me stumped. I've lived in Stockton nearly all my life, and I can't think of anything in Stockton that you wouldn't be able to get in LA. Admittedly, I have not tried any Cambodian restaurants here (not even sure where they are, I hate to admit). You would think that Stockton would have some Filipino restaurants, because at one time, Stockton had the largest Filipino population in the world outside Manila, but other than a couple of lumpia shops (which I can't really recommend), there just aren't any.

        We *do* have outstanding locally-grown produce at really cheap prices, but you'd have to hit a farmer's market and then have some way to cook it. Or you could come back in April and have an asparagus margarita and asparagus shortcake at the Asparagus Festival. I'm pretty sure you won't find THOSE in LA!

        One thing just occurred to me: Lodi produces some of the finest wines in the world (as I've been told...I'm just as likely to drink wine from a box!), so you can transform your trip from a pharm tour to a wine tasting tour.

        8 Replies
        1. re: ricepad

          Re: asparagus martinis... definitely not! :) Thought we're not big drinkers, either-- but wine tours are always fun.

          I guess what I was looking for was Stockton's uniqueness... like the way Bakersfield has the Basque restaurants, the way Santa Maria does BBQ, etc. I was hoping that we could find something uniquely "Stockton".

          Restaurants using fresh, local produce is always welcome, just not when the average entree price is $20-$25. A perfect place would be something like Big Sky Cafe in San Luis Obispo-- locally grown stuff, interesting and delicious preparations, generous portions, at a very reasonable price:

          We'll be there on a Saturday night in September-- any markets or interesting food related doin's a transpiring?

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            If you're coming on Labor Day weekend, there's a Native American pow-wow at UOP. Native American crafts, dancing, and 'Indian tacos' (pretty much like a tostada on fry bread instead of a tortilla).

            If you're coming tomorrow (8/29) or Labor Day weekend, you could hit the State Fair in Sacramento and have an "Everything's Deep-Fried" day.

            1. re: ricepad

              Interesting.... we'll miss the pow wow as we're there on Aug 12. Interesting to know though that they make Indian tacos here too... we had our first taste of one last winter when we visited a friend in Phoenix. We actually thought the frybread was so good that the taco accouterments were gilding the lily!

              OK, so let's reevaluate my request.... rather than looking for something uniquely Stockton, where would you send me to that would showcase some of the best not-expensive food the area has to offer?


              Mr Taster

              1. re: Mr Taster

                Rosewood and Alebrijes (both in Lodi) do seasonal and local, ISTR. Papapavlos in Stockton is Greek (mostly), and is reliably good, too. The owner of Dynasty Seafood Restaurant in Stockton tends to try new things pretty regularly, but if you're not Chinese, he probably won't even tell you about them (his really special 'specials' don't appear on the menu or even the white board).

                Avoid Le Bistro - while they used to be one of the best in town, I've heard from some reliable sources that the quality has really dipped in recent months. LIkewise any restaurant that wins the local paper's "Best of" awards. There aren't any really good Japanese restaurants in the area, and most of the Mexican places are typical 'taco/enchilada combination with rice & beans' places.

                If you're up for Sunday brunch, the Grand Island Mansion (on Grand Island, of course, near Walnut Grove) does a pretty good one, and they try and use mostly local, too. It's about a 40-minute drive from Stockton.

                If it were my money, tho, I'd hit Alebrijes. Twice. I really like Alebrijes, and Ruben and Ade are the sweetest folks, too.

                1. re: ricepad

                  I'd hit Alebrijes too, at least once, though it won't seem quite as special for someone from LA. Think of it as a poor person's Babita, sort of. Not a completely accurate description but about as good as I can come up with. (it is regional Mexican with fresh local ingredients prepared by an innovative chef, and quite reasonably priced).

                  Sacramento does have some good Japanese restaurants, though again, if coming from LA, I'd skip Japanese.

                  Alebrijes Mexican Bistro
                  1301 W Lockeford St Ste D, Lodi, CA 95242

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    1. For dinner I'd consider Siamese Street restaurant for Thai. Very close to Pacific. The Pla Pao is so good I just had to figure out how to make it myself. i'm pretty close.
                    It's a marinatied halibut fillet wrapped in banana leaves with garlic, lemon grass, and cilantro - grilled to an aromatic perfection. Big menu - lots of curry dishes, loved all their appetizers. The only thing I've had there that i thought was ordinary was a seafood noodle soup. Everything else is thumbs up. and you can have dinner for two for $50. Highest price entree is $15.

                    2. Now if you want the perfect bowl of soup I concur with many others, go to Alebrijes, and get the Sopa Tarasca. I've been there twice recently and love the place. It reminds me of the open air cafes in Michoacan that I visited last spring. Bright color walls (see blurry photo) and the hanging "alebrijes".

                    I also had the mole poblano which was great. The shrimp ceviche was as good as I've ever had.

                    It's a mixture: authentic mexican with a oaxacan influence, some mexican american (chimichanga), and vegetarian/vegan menu section (e.g, portabello burrito).

                    3. the bagel place is named Bagel Express.

                    4. I ate at Pacific's new Univ Center twice last week - hope you're not as disappointed as I was. Very ordinary limited buffet in the River Room.

                    5. I've located only one Cambodian restaurant over on West Lane in stockton. don't know anything about it. I'll try to check it out. I've been to a cambodian market a few times for banana leaves, but never a restaurant.

                    6. Chucks for breakfast means a 4000 calorie meal. you'll be done for the day. I vote for Toot Sweets for a pastry and coffee. Love the cinnamon rolls and the sticky buns. but everything there is good.

                    1. re: poncaparker

                      The River Room isn't meant to be a lavish buffet, the variety is downstairs.

              1. As a frequent visitor to Stockton (my son just graduated from Univ of the Pacific and now is a grad student there) and former resident of LA, I concur, there isn't anything there you can't get in LA, or anywhere else, I think. That said, I have enjoyed some local places you might consider.

                Toot Sweet's (on March Lane right off I-5) and Chuck's (on Pacific Ave north of the university) have great breakfasts. I also like the bagel place (sorry, I don't remember the EXACT name but it's the only one in the area) on March Lane between I-5 and Pacific Ave.

                Lunch or dinner in the immediate area--there are alot of chain restaurants but I know you don't want that. My son and his friends all like Michael's Pizza on Alpine, west of the university, closer to I-5. We ate there last week and it's pretty good.

                We haven't journeyed further out since time is always of the essence for us. And, my son is a picky eater, so nothing too "exotic" for him.

                Off-topic, Pacific is a GREAT school. The new DeRosa University Center opened last year and the Marketplace (dining hall) is focussed on sustainable, organic cuisine.

                Good luck with your search and the road trip!

                2 Replies
                1. re: rednails

                  Hi rednails, this is all extremely helpful. Thanks for this-- I'll let you know what we decide!

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    Glad you found it helpful. Expanding on the breakfast places, Chuck's is the only one (of the 3 places I mentioned) with a sit-down full breakfast. It is also VERY busy (all 3 are busy w/local folk), and somewhat small. It's a little hard to find--in a small strip-mall on the east side of Pacific Ave. The bagel place and Toot Sweets are both counter service.

                    Oh, and the Asparagus Festival. II went to the festival during my son's freshman year, and the deep fried asparagus was the bomb. I usually don't eat anything deep fried (health reasons) and the festival wasn't that great, but would gladly go again just for that, um, delicacy.

                2. I'd keep an eye out for fresh, semi-sweet Yellow corn on the menu - Brentwood and the delta area seems to be the only place in the state that grows it any more. Too late for the Corn Festival there.