Here are 9 of my favorite restaurants in Auburn, California. Notice I did not say “The 9 Best Restaurants,” because all I would get with that statement is a bunch of guff from the “experts,” by which I mean my colleagues at Century 21. But who can argue with “favorites?” If I like ’em, I like ’em, so there. <bronx cheer>
I’m a working man. I like restaurants that deliver good food with a smile, lots of it, and cheap. Luckily, I live in Auburn. This town is not the Culinary Capitol of California. Bus loads of tourists do not make pilgrimage from San francisco to our Epicurean El Dorado. The best you can say about our restaurant scene is that we have a few pretty good restaurants . . . and they’re cheap. There are also several over-rated, over-priced eateries that offer mediocre fare, but they are not the topic of this blog, fortunately for them.
In my list of working man restaurants you will find breakfast, lunch, and dinner spots. The service is friendly, the atmosphere relaxed. I’m not going to rate them in any kind of order . . . except that I’m going out on a limb and save the best restaurant in Auburn for last.
So here they are, in alphabetical order:
AUBURN THAI GARDEN On the corner of Highway 49 north and Palm Avenue, about 6 blocks from the I80 exit. Lunch and dinner. With tax, lunch costs $7.45. For dinner, do try the mango curry, if mangos are not available, try the rambutan curry.
AWFUL ANNIES. This is a long-time favorite with us hillbillies. It’s a breakfast and lunch spot in the center of Old Town Auburn, a district that is only about 2 square blocks, so it’s not hard to find Annies. Parking is free. By the way, parking is free everywhere in Auburn, and I am not making that up. Free. Parking. Welcome to the foothills.
This is the dining deck or porch at Awful Annies. It’s mostly imaginative breakfast fare, gourmet sandwiches, salads with lots of no-meat choices for you veg-heads. Breakfast about $10, lunch about $15.
BIG SALAD. This is a deli-style soup, sandwich, and salad hangout for the lunch crowd (“crowd” is a kind of joke, but I guess you have to live up here to appreciate it). It’s in Downtown Auburn, not to be confused with Old Town Auburn which is about 10 blocks down the hill. Lunch is about $10. No menus. The offerings are on a chalk board above the prep table. That kind of place.
CHANG BROTHERS. There are no, repeat NO, great Chinese restaurants in Auburn, but there is one pretty good one, at least I think so, even if my colleage Connie thinks it stinks. Hey, Connie, lighten up. The lunch special is $6.25 and you probably can’t eat it all. Usual fare, soup, rice, entre, egg roll. Try the Orange Chicken. One of the best offerings is the “Tea List.” You can choose from a half dozen different teas, well-brewed in an iron pot at your table. Black, green, or golden. Yum. This is one of my favorite places to take a book and my “Don’t Bother Me” sign.
Chang Brothers is a strip mall joint in the Bel Air shopping center on Highway 49 North.
KATRINAS. Everybody likes Katrinas. It’s a bit quirky. Closed on Monday and Tuesday. Breakfast and lunch only, 7:00am to 2:30pm. Small, crowded. Now and then you will see a male bus-person, and I swear I once saw a man back in the kitchen when the door was left open too long, but for the most part this is an all-woman operation. Excellent quality. The portions are HUGE. Two people should share one salad and one entre, no more, I’m warning you. Even then you will probably box up the leftovers and take them home. Typical Auburn prices. A couple can eat well for less than $30.
Katrina’s is on Highway 49 North, sort of catty-corner to Auburn Thai Garden, but a block closer to the freeway, and on the other side of the street. Doesn’t look like much from the outside.
MELS. Lots of people won’t like this choice because Mel’s is a chain-restaurant. OK, it’s a gussied-up burger joint. Lots of unhealthy, greasy food, burgers, fries, shakes, “Blue Plate” dinners and big ‘ol meat platters. But it stands out from the other Auburn restaurants in one vital regard–it stays open 24 hours a day. Very useful, Mels.
Mel’s is on Highway 49 North, before Bel Air and the Home Depot. Yep, we got a Home Depot in Auburn, about 3 years ago. Big doin’s around here.
STRINGS. OK, if I included one chain restaurant, I might as well put in another, especially since I go there so often. Strings is near the corner of 49 North and Bell Road in the KMart BestBuy shopping center. I always order the same thing, and it might be the single-best dinner entre in Auburn. Pasta Sienna. $13.99 and worth it. One of the things I like most about the Strings routine is that the server brings one big salad to the table, family style. Quite charming.
WINGS. This breakfast and lunch spot is out at the Auburn Airport. Connie complains that it is too noisy, but Connie is very particular. The coolest thing about Wings is that you can sit outside and watch the planes take off and land. Typical Auburn prices. $8-12 for lunch.
TRE PAZZI. Here it is, the place you’ve been waiting for, Auburn’s best restaurant. The name of this place translates as “Three Crazy Guys.” It was started a couple of years ago by, guess what, three crazy guys, the most insane of whom happens to be a local realtor, go figure. It is open for lunch, but everyone needs a dinner treat from time to time. This is it.We save dining at Tre Pazzi for special occasions, not because it’s expensive, but because we don’t want to wear it out. CJ’s favorite entre is the pappardelle con ragu di cinghiale ($15), which is a ragu of wild boar. The insalata mista ($4) is an exquisite little salad, fresh and light. For desert you must try, I’m giving you no choice, must try the tre veluti ($5). You cannot eat this entire desert without getting a chocolate headache. One evening four of us went to work on the tre veluti and came away satisfied. Can you believe those prices?
If you are eating lunch in Auburn and need that coffee after-glow, head over to the best coffee shop in town to get your caffeine buzz. DEPOT BAY COFFEE COMPANY roasts, grinds, and brews the best cup in town. Nohing else comes close to Depot Bay.
Now, this is what a coffee house should look like!
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