For nearly two decades, the chefs at Ludy's Main St. BBQ and Catering have perfected their recipes for slow-smoked meats, fresh fries and slaw, and handcrafted barbecue sauce. For proteins that are tender yet full of robust flavor, slabs of beef, pork, and baby-back ribs smoke slow and low for six hours before being plated with hand-cut fries and sides such as barbecue beans or potato salad. Smoked prime rib is served as a special on Friday and Saturday evenings and arrives with fresh coleslaw, fries, and cornbread with honey butter.
Inside, customers chow on plates amidst 100-year-old salvaged barn wood and Western knick-knacks. Those who take grub outside enjoy the spot voted Best Patio in Yolo County, complete with a brick fireplace, water wheel, and babbling brook where many a penny have learned to swim.
Maria’s Cantina cultivates a comfortable, homey feel from its implementation of Old-World recipes to its use of fresh, organic ingredients from nearby farms. The accommodating staff treats its customers like extended family, inviting them to lounge at sleek wooden tables as they sup on painstakingly prepared tacos, sip top-shelf margaritas, or leaf through the chef’s grandparents’ wedding album.
Red and shiny, Rust Bucket Eatz’s 20-foot mobile food truck looks nothing like its name implies. This fully equipped kitchen on wheels matches the hue of a classic fire engine, but instead of putting out flames, its chefs corral the fire to create classic American food. Customers can line up for their choice of handheld favorites, including pork sliders and tacos, polish dogs, and hot wings dressed in a zesty homemade sauce. Garlic fries and crispy onion rings accompany meals in both individual and shareable sizes, eliminating the need to leave IOU notes on a friend’s empty plate.
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.
Many restaurants blend American and Mexican food, but few show the cultural blend in their decor with great vigor. Hecho en Mexico showcases its culinary treasures in an old-fashioned diner setting—complete with counter eating, black-and-white checked floors, and booths lining the walls. Vivid yellow walls and colorful Corona banners add a south-of-the-border tone to the decor, and the eatery serves Mexican cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Along with seafood specialties, tacos, and dinner entrees, the kitchen sends out fresh, flavor-packed salsas at the salsa bar, which can be eaten with chips or pounded down as shots.
It’s hard to miss the The Elephant Shack’s bright orange and green exterior painted with pachyderms. The mammoth beasts also decorate the interior of the eye-catching sandwich shop, raising their trunks in virtually every form imaginable: as statuettes, stuffed animals, coin banks, and a much prized hat signifying the winner of their monthly free-lunch contest. The victor might dig into a classic sandwich, such as a french dip or turkey and bacon club, or opt for clam chowder served in a bread bowl. The kitchen also serves breakfast all day long, sating bacon-and-egg fanatics and guests who never remember to change their clocks.
All of Rico's Italian Pizza's dough discs are tossed by hand before being slathered with sauce, strewn with fresh toppings, and baked to a bubbly golden brown. Create your own circular edible by choosing thin, medium, or thick crust, then picking toppings ($11.95+). Or, go for a prearranged pie, such as the generously topped Carnivore (pepperoni, salami, italian sausage, ground beef, linguica, and canadian bacon; $14.95). Take-and-bake pizzas await ovens where they can be incubated until their flavors hatch ($8.95–$9.95). Rico's menu also offers sandwiches and salads for people who don't like cutting circles into triangles. Plus, the restaurant's casual décor makes any meal there more relaxing than a picnic in a gutted bus at the bottom of a quarry.