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Turlock or Merced - need help!

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We are heading to Turlock and Merced for the weekend (bike races), so I'm trying to find out if there are any worthwhile places for Friday and Saturday dinners, and probably Saturday lunch, and possibly a late breakfast on Sunday morning.

I've browsed the board and come up with very little except for New Asia (Vietnamese) that sounds promising.

Need some tasty choices - we're staying in Turlock both nights, but going to be out in Snelling on Saturday, and then down to Merced Sunday morning. Will drive for something worthwhile.

We will be a group of between 4 and 8 depending on the meal, and will have teenagers with us, but I can push them towards good food of most any type.

So - any chow-worthy places out in that general geography? Help, so we don't wind up at Olive Garden or something worse!

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  1. Can't help you in Snelling, which is pretty small, and I've not yet explored Turlock much (need to get on that!) but my impression is that it tends to be chain central but that you can definitely do better than Olive Garden. and of course, I could be wrong that Turlock is chain centric: definitely worth exploring. If you decide on a chain, there is an In N Out, I believe (and there is definitely one in Merced), and the Hawaiian fast food chain in the mall where BevMo is located isn't bad .

    But in my town, Merced, you have a few options: First of all, for lunch on Saturday, check out Cinema Cafe if you want to head down to Merced Saturday. My favorite breakfast in town and well worth a stop. In the past, Cinema Cafe has been closed Sunday, but it appeared to be open last time I was downtown on a Sunday...might be worth a call to check. Best breakfast in Merced, and one of the better in the valley, IMO. Quite good.

    Actually, New Asia (in Merced) is Chinese, not Vietnamese, but it is indeed worthwhile. I like the noodle soups and especially the hot pots:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/651341

    If you want Vietnamese, the only place in Merced is Lucky Pho, and while it probably won't knock your socks off if you are coming from the bay area, it is definitely decent to very good (try the summer rolls with meatballs). Here is my recent report:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/674109

    And finally, getting back to the Turlock area, the one place I haven't tried yet but really want to check out, is the Elegant Bull in Delhi (between Turlock and Merced, right off the 99). Supposed to have some Portuguese specialties. Has been there forever. Would love a report if you make it there.

    Have fun; the Valley will be beautiful if the weather cooperates; lots of blossoming fruit trees. That raises a good point: don't hesitate to pull over and stop at the little fruit stands you pass along the way; you can find some good deals on good produce right now....(particularly citrus and avocados).

    1. ok, it was late when I replied last night. There must be more non-chain options in Turlock, it is just that there are a lot of big box stores and malls there (with the associated chains)...hopefully others will chime in..

      but anyway, in Merced, another breakfast option on Sunday is Paul's Place. It isn't as good as Cinema Cafe, but it is worthwhile, particularly for anything with a Portuguese bent:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/655378

      Also, in Atwater, which is between Turlock and Merced, (though a bit closer to Merced), Jantz Bakery could be a highlight of your trip. They do serve breakfasts (get there early, plan for crowds on a weekend), but I head there for baked goods to go. Probably the best baked goods in the area, possibly some of the best in the San Joaquin Valley. Friendly service, lots of butter, no shortcuts. Delicious breads, sweet rolls and scones, and truly outstanding pies. Highly recommended.

      2 Replies
      1. re: susancinsf

        Are you kidding... Paul's Place... this place is privately owned Denny's! Same for the cenima cafe... COME ON!

        1. re: mjmarchini

          sorry, but I absolutely do NOT agree. Paul's Place isn't fantastic, but it is no Denny's. Cinema Cafe, OTOH, has been terrific every time I've been (most recently about a month or so ago perhaps). Some of the best restaurant food in Merced, great service. It doesn't have the frills or pretense of, say, Bishops, but it does have excellent food and sidewalk tables. Nothing like a Denny's in any respect.

          here is my report on my first visit to Cinema Cafe, just about a year ago:

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/600074

          Since you are new to posting about Merced, and we don't get many posters, it would be great to hear some specifics from you. What do you like at Piano Cafe? And what did you eat at Cinema Cafe that you didn't like? Where would YOU eat breakfast in Merced on a Sunday morning? (Piano Cafe is closed on Sundays).

      2. Snelling, well they do have a bar/bar food place right in the middle of town.
        Turlock, you can try the 512 on Main. Its a good place with great drinks
        Turlock, try the Eligant Bull. They serve frogs legs that are better than any I've tasted!
        Merced, try Piano Cafe for Breakfast. AMAZING season menu!