When Jim Knudson bit into his first taco during dinner at a friend's house in 1949, he knew he had tasted something special. He added the item—which many diners were pronouncing "tay-co"—to the menu at his restaurant in Grass Valley, California. Determined to introduce the food to as many people as possible, Jim and his wife, Margaret, converted a 16-foot trailer into a kitchen on wheels. They adopted the nickname Jim had earned from one of his longtime customers and drove up to Lake Tahoe, where Jimboy's Tacos found its first permanent home.
Locals, tourists, and even members of the Rat Pack flocked to the tiny taco stand for the uniquely seasoned, parmesan-dusted ground-beef taco, the anchor of a growing menu. The family eventually relocated to Roseville, California, where they set up a small taco stand and began branching out to other locations in and around Sacramento.
Today, Jim Knudson’s daughter Karen, the current president of the company, carries on the legacy of taco obsession at more than 40 locations in northern California and Nevada. Guests who arrive early for breakfast might glimpse the cooks slowly simmering beans, mashing avocados into guacamole, and preparing their signature ground beef with trans-fat-free oil. In addition to classic corn-tortilla tacos, the menu holds the mega-size flour-tortilla El Gordo, golden-fried taquitos, and even a taco burger that fuses Mexican and American culinary traditions.
Moises Rodriguez is not only the owner of Que Viva; he's also the entertainment. On Friday and Saturday nights, he serenades guests with his flamenco guitar playing as they dine on Mexican dishes such as handmade tamales, carnitas, and grilled chicken breast in red chile mole. Chefs craft each dish using fresh ingredients selected by hand at a restaurant wholesaler each week by co-owner Isabel Rodriguez. Isabel's influence also shines in the restaurant's brightly decorated dining room, which features colorful flowers and carved wooden birds. On the outdoor patio, patrons eat while enjoying the warmth of the sun or the shape of a cloud that looks like an old boss falling out of a chair.
Inspired by the fresh crepes that sizzle on griddles across France, Alma and Edi Zildzo form CrepeTown Cafe & Grill’s from-scratch batter into thin pancakes and fill them with classic sweet and savory fillings culled from local farmers. Though crepe architects specialize in classic French fixings such as béchamel and gruyère cheese, North American flourishes such as ahi steak, chipotle salsa, and the occasional bald-eagle tear also congregate within the crepe’s fluffy confines. Customers can complement their edible envelopes with sips from gourmet coffee drinks made at the espresso bar and sweet treats such as pastries and ice cream.
It is not just the pastas, sandwiches, and pizzas that keep guests coming back to Pete's Restaurant and Brewhouse—the handcrafted beers also play a major role, quenching thirsts with flavors ranging from the Uptown blonde’s light layers of honey to the highly hoppy profile of the Skinner’s Horse IPA. Pete’s team keeps meals in balance by offering food-and-beer-pairing suggestions, assuring diners that the Midtown ale harmonizes with fish tacos and that the Old Town red—a malty, medium-bodied amber ale—improves coordination for slam-dunking meatballs.
Hosted by the upscale Bistro 33 El Dorado, the 2011 Summer Dance Party shuffles feet with musical stylings by Lovefool. A pop cover band playing exclusively '90s hits, Lovefool awakens dormant running-man moves with unforgotten favorites from the sensorial spectrum of Vanilla Ice, Salt-n-Pepa, Green Day, and The Cardigans. Amphitheater space allows for open-air grooving and long-distance slap-bracelet attempts. Dancers can warm up before the show and take in the restaurant’s full food and drink menu, which sates grumbling tummies with a selection of soups, salads, paninis, and other upscale bistro fare.
Executive Chef Heather Zamarripa lures eaters into 36 Handles with a menu rooted in popular pub food staples, most notably fish and chips prepared six different ways. Although the fish and chips, cottage pie, and bangers and mash are the first three dishes on the list of entrees, the menu isn’t strictly English. Heather and her team use many international cooking techniques to build a diverse selection including shrimp scampi with sundried tomatoes, bourbon barbecue hot wings, and pan-seared salmon with whole-grain beurre blanc.
Upon entering 36 Handles, it’s easy to become enamored by the bar’s 32 taps, which gleam colorfully and display the names of macrobrews and craft beers from America and Europe. Newcomers and neighborhood regulars alike open wide for a deluge of pub classics such as Guinness and Boddingtons, as well as more obscure beers such as Anderson Valley’s Oatmeal Stout and Kwak, a strong yet gentle-tasting Belgian pale ale. The selection stays fresh thanks to eight rotating taps and each bartender’s mind-erasing capabilities. While enjoying an ice-cold brew, patrons can also catch the game on nine big-screen televisions.