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.
Visitors wrap empty hands and hungry mouths around Togo’s freshly crafted selections that stock a menu of sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Since 1971, Togo’s has been pairing meats, veggies, and cheeses with freshly baked artisan bread to create such handheld meals as The Clubhouse, with apple-wood-smoked bacon, turkey, and cheddar cheese, and Uncle Tony’s Italian, which cloaks salami, capicola, and ham in parmesan bread ($5.99 each).
Cheesesteak historians trace the sandwich's ancestry back to Pat Oliveri, a Philadelphian who combined sliced beef and onions over a Italian roll; once someone made the ingenious decision to add cheese, the classic combination was born. Today, Cheese Steak Restaurant's sandwich-smiths continue that noble tradition with more than 30 cheesesteak varieties.
Take your pick of either the classic, a chicken version, or a hoagie-style cheesesteak (topped with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise), and you have the option to pile it with grilled onions, hot cherry peppers, or sweet bell peppers. Other varieties feature added ingredients such as roasted cloves or garlic, mushrooms, or teriyaki sauce. There's also a veggie-only option, and diners can order twister fries, steak fries, fried mushrooms, and zucchini sticks to as a side dish or in case they need edible confetti for a chef's birthday party.
At multiple locations throughout the Sacramento area—including the newest one downtown—the chefs at Perko's Cafe are busy cracking fresh ranch eggs into omelets, skillets, and scrambles featuring ingredients such as portuguese linguiça or hickory-smoked ham. They turn hand-cut, marinated steaks into tri-tip sandwiches au jus, and they build towering double-decker burgers whose half-pound ground-beef patties teeter with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and thousand-island dressing. To match the beef- and barbecue-filled menu, many of the welcoming dining rooms have a decidedly Southwestern feel, with corrugated-tin accents, old-timey tools, and booth dividers that resemble a black-and-white cow or an incredibly complex inkblot test.
As a high-school student working at a local pizzeria, John Schnatter often pondered how he would do things differently if he owned such a business himself. After graduating from college in 1983, he got his chance, knocking down the broom closet in his father’s tavern to create his own pizza-delivery business. Since then Papa John’s Pizza has grown to 3,500 restaurants in 50 states and 29 countries. At each location, cooks cover the signature hand-tossed crusts, made with high-protein flour and clear, filtered water, with tomato sauce from vine-ripened California tomatoes, then pile on locally sourced ingredients such as green peppers and onions. The emphasis on fresh ingredients extends to the 100% mozzarella cheese, beef, and pork, which are never artificially inflated with fillers or undeserved compliments.
In addition to delivering pizzas, Papa John’s reaches out to the community with charity involvement, including partnering with the Boy Scouts of America and Junior Achievement to teach US students about entrepreneurship and the best method of capturing a wild roma tomato.
Yogurt Time Cafe's self-serve machines dispense swirls of sweet, healthy fro-yo in a rotating variety of seven flavors and one non-dairy sorbet. Mountain blackberry, peppermint stick, dutch chocolate, cake batter, and other on-call varieties of chilly sustenance pirouette into cups at the push of a lever or the wave of a snowman's baton. Guests shower their frozen peaks with plentiful fresh fruits, dry toppings, and sauces, creating avalanches of peanut-butter cookie dough and sudden downpours of granola. Yogurt Time's walls cheer eyes with shades of light green and deep orange, and a battalion of empty cups stands ready to be filled with frozen flavors.