NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 5, 2014 —
Last week a longtime West Sacramento resident and family friend, Sharon Cuff, stopped by the News-Ledger office to give me a book she thought I would enjoy reading. The book was entitled “Lost Restaurants of Sacramento” and was penned by Sacramento natives Maryellen and Keith Burns. It almost lovingly tells about all the many Sacramento restaurants from the past 150 years or so which have been visited by countless patrons, many of whom left with lasting memories of their favorite eateries and the yummy food that was served there. I especially liked some of the colorful photos in the book, which showed everything from one of the first rough kitchens at Sutter’s Fort that served about 30 men, to the soda fountains and ice cream parlors of the 1950s, to the fancy and popular downtown Sacramento restaurants of today. It was also fun to be reminded that a good meal once cost only twenty-five cents and to see old pictures of places I recalled from my youth, like Stan’s Drive-In and Sam’s Hof Brau.
I first met Sharon many years ago when she and her husband, Jim, lived right behind my West Sacramento home. One of their daughters, Janel, became very good friends with my daughter, Carrie, and when they were in grade school I would often find them out at the chain link fence which separated our two properties playing dolls or just talking endlessly about all the things that are important to young girls. And even though we are no longer neighbors, the Cuff’s Christmas card is usually the first one that arrives in the mail each holiday season.
“So, what is it that you really like about this book?” I asked Sharon.
“Well, it takes a person down memory lane and after I read it, I found myself thinking about the Page from the Past that is often in the News-Ledger, and I thought you might want to put something in the paper about all the restaurants that have come and gone in West Sacramento over the years. In fact, I even decided to write down all the ones I could remember and see if you recalled some of them, too.”
“I’m afraid my family didn’t do a lot of eating out,” I told Sharon, “although my dad liked to take us to the old Goose Club once a month or so because their prices were really reasonable, and of course going to the Pheasant Club was always considered a real big treat, too.”
Anyway, as I started looking over Sharon’s lengthy list of West Sacramento eateries and take-outs (past and present), I found myself recalling wonderful places like the old Country Maid drive-through where my mother would send me on my bicycle to get milk and bread, my reward being that I could buy myself one of the biggest ice cream sandwiches imaginable, especially compared to the ones you get in grocery stores nowadays that look like little chocolate pancakes with something that isn’t even real ice cream stuck between them. In fact, those old Country Maid ice cream sandwiches were so huge I couldn’t even get the whole thing in my mouth to take a bite out of it and had to always start at the edges first.
Other places Sharon had listed also quickly rang a bell, like Smorgy Bob’s, A & W Root Beer, Sambo’s, Kelly Jr.’s, Zeps, and of course Whitey’s Jolly Kone, where I am still addicted to the same secret family recipe for their deluxe tacos that I fell in love with many decades ago. But the name of the long gone restaurant that really took me down memory lane was the El Rancho Hotel, since that is where you dressed up real fancy and went out to eat on West Sacramento rites of passage nights like the Junior and Senior Proms. And I can still remember the horror on my twin sister’s face when her date, who was used to eating much bigger portions of food at home, started scraping everyone’s leftovers from their plates onto his because he was still hungry, not to mention a very worried friend who thought that they had really screwed up his order because they were already serving him his dessert by bringing him a little cup of strawberry sorbet first, having of course never heard of the word “palatizer” before, much less seen one.
Some of the other restaurants that appear on Sharon’s list of fun West Sacramento places to eat (past and present) include Vince’s, King’s, Emma’s Taco House, Freddy’s Gourmet, Carol’s, Eppie’s, and Don’s Chuck Wagon, just to name a few. She even listed some of the wonderful old West Sacramento businesses that are no more, like Willie’s Market, Gorman’s Stationary, Hollywood Hardware, Homer’s Florist, Miller’s TV, and the old Last Chance gas station.
Anyway, since Sharon was kind enough to take me for a fun little stroll down memory lane, I think I will offer you the same opportunity, and if you would like to share some of your fond memories from eating out in our wonderful little town over the years, you can do so by going to our Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/TheNewsLedger. Just look for our post inviting comments. You can also write to me at email@example.com with any funny/tasty recollections you may have that I could use in a future follow-up column.
It’s been my experience that in addition to delicious food, it’s the interaction of great local restaurant owners, employees and patrons that make for a wonderful dining experience, and West Sacramento has always had more than its fair share of all three!
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