It’s Friday in the Sierra

For those heading to Tahoe this season it may be worth your while to make a pit stop in Auburn, Grass Valley or Nevada City, Ca. Nothing makes a traffic jam more palatable that a side-trip adventure to any of these three quaint Gold Country towns that each have worth-visiting personalities. And while along the way, you can also please your palate.

Since moving to Grass Valley from Sonoma, eight months ago, I have been in search of restaurants to call home, when not choosing to eat at home. And even though a wide variety of eateries dot the landscape and sidewalks of Auburn, Grass Valley and Nevada City, I have chosen to visit some only once.

Historic downtown Mill Street in Grass Valley, CA
Historic downtown Grass Valley (pictured here), Nevada City and Auburn all host a robust community of shops, restaurants and galleries.

But there are fresh herbs on the horizon. Just as Sonoma’s girl and the fig, The Red Grape and EDK Café were my in-town go-to places — Bistro Jeanty in Yountville and Rutherford Grill in Rutherford were also local haunts while living there — I have discovered a handful of restaurants that raise the bar and set the standard for area dining.

Auburn’s forever restaurant hot spot, Awful Annie’s, left Old Town Auburn for new digs at the old Lou LaBronte’s. Just off the highway, take the Bowman Rd. exit, turn right and you can’t miss the sign.  Annie’s is amazing. The transformation from old Lou to new Annie should be a case study at Cornell Culinary on quick, professional, ambiance makeovers. The menu remains the same with some new additions and daily specials. Of course the service is 5-star from the moment you walk thru the front door. 

Awful Annie's dining room in Auburn, Ca
Awful Annie’s is the home of Grandma’s Bread Pudding with Brandy Sauce. They also offer a full bar.

The new space boasts a bar perfect for dining, sipping and watching the game.  The multi-level dining rooms – 4 in all – are each as inviting and flavorful as the menu. Eggs Benedict, Florentine, Salads and Sandwiches are always fresh and flavorful and the Baker Brother’s Bloody Mary is remarkable. 13460 Lincoln Way, Auburn, Ca. 530-888 9857..

The New Moon Café in Nevada City shines bright.  Kranston and I had perused the dining room from the romantically lighted front porch a few weeks ago.  Intrigued by a dining room full of guests obviously enjoying themselves, we gambled on and got the last non-reserved table of the night.

Co-owner Buzz Crouch gave us the last four-top in the room. Perfectly positioned, center room, with a panoramic view of the action. It was the perfect perch for Sea Scallops and Petrale Sole. The entrees followed a roasted beet salad. Desert was delightful; a Chocolate Mandarin Torte with just the right amount of delicate whipped cream. The New Moon Café. 203 York Street Nevada City, California 95959 530-265-6399.

Peter Selaya & Buzz Crouch of New Moon Cafe in Nevada City, Ca.
Peter Selaya & Buzz Crouch of New Moon Cafe in Nevada City, Ca.

While living in Carmel, I frequented Joe Rombi’s La Mia Cucina in Pacific Grove. It was one of my favorite restaurants serving authentic Italian styled fare. In Grass Valley, tucked away in a delightful Victorian, Trattoria Milano mirrors my La Mia Cucina memories. Chef-owner Gianfranco Maffessoni has created one of the best Italian restaurants in Northern California. His menu features superb seafood, pasta, salad and the best Gorgonzola Risotto in the world. Try it. After a great day of Sierra Foothill hiking or skiing, nothing beats pasta and red wine. Trattoria Milano. 124 Bank Street, Grass Valley, Ca.  530-273-3555.

trattoria milano's Victorian townhouse located in the heart of historic Grass Valley.
Enjoy Trattoria Milano’s wonderful, authentic Italian cuisine and exceptional service in their charming Victorian townhouse located in the heart of historic Grass Valley.

John Foley

John Foley is Publisher of

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