Guy Fieri and Diners, Drive-In’s & Dives Pick: Burgers at The Squeeze Inn in Sacramento, California

One of the things I miss most about Northern California and Sacramento is the variety of great local eats.  From local dives to Michelin-starred restaurants in wine country, I had no shortage of new places to try.

When I first moved to Sacramento, my previous co-workers always raved about this great burger place called The Squeeze Inn.  I readily admit I will forego a burger and fries for good Mexican food any day so I never paid much attention.  Fast forward a year and while watching my beloved Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, I caught a repeat of the episode where he visited this local institution.  I finally got what everyone was raving about – the cheese skirt!

The infamous “Squeeze with Cheese” is their 1/3 pound Squeeze Burger with probably a pound of cheese, cooked into this crispy and addicting cheese skirt ($4.95 for the burger and $1.10 extra for the cheese).  The trick to cooking this masterpiece is completely covering the burger in shredded cheese, throw on some ice chunks and then cover.  The steam from the ice helps the cheese form their crispy brown edges that extend upwards of an inch out from the burger itself.

The Infamous Cheese Skirt

You can be a purist and get the Squeeze with Cheese as is with lettuce, tomato, red onions, mustard and mayo on a sesame seed bun, or be creative and try some additional toppings.  My personal favorites include bacon and avocado, but they also have mushrooms, grilled onions and more.

Squeeze with Cheese - Bacon Added

The menu is fairly simple, but if you are not a fan of burgers, The Squeeze Inn offers other options like a grilled cheese, a BLT, steak sandwich, and a grilled turkey breast sandwich as well.  The fries are good and considering I am not a french fry person, that is saying a lot!  Two people can easily split a large order ($3.25)

While the American Heart Association probably gasps in horror every time someone consumes one of these burgers, it is definitely worth a try every once in a while, especially now that they have moved the original location and have a bit more parking.

New Squeeze Inn Location in Sacramento

The Squeeze Inn got its name from literally having to squeeze in to eat.  The original location was smaller than some peoples’ living and dining rooms and featured a few barstools and some picnic benches and tables out back.  Parking was non-existent and if you parked in any other business surrounding it — watch out!  Those businesses have the tow companies on speed dial and you will not stand a chance against their less than 10 minute response time.

After a frivolous lawsuit was filed in 2008/2009 alleging The Squeeze Inn discriminated against handicapped people for not having adequate access, the owner made the disappointing decision to move and give up the original location that had become such a Sacramento icon.  The lawsuit was dropped shortly thereafter (I want to note that this woman filed numerous lawsuits against other businesses in Sacramento at the same time), but the decision to move had been made.

I had already moved to Asia when this took place so I did not have the opportunity to visit one last time before they shut that one down.  In speaking with other Squeeze Inn lovers, their last days of business in the old location brought 3+ hour waits as fans packed in to enjoy the old building one last time.

The new location is practically around the corner from the old place and is located in a new strip mall with virtually no other tenants right now.  There is plenty of seating and they were not busy when we visited on a Tuesday afternoon around 4pm.  I chatted with one of the employees for a bit about the new location and she lamented it was a little sad to see the old place shut down.  To keep the old Squeeze Inn alive, they brought the old front of the restaurant and the original bar.  The front of the old restaurant looks exactly like it did  — including all the no parking signs!  Now, instead of sitting there waiting to order, it’s a booth at the new restaurant — probably the most popular seats in the house next to the original bar.

Original Squeeze Inn Front is Now a Booth in New Location

Bar from Original Squeeze Inn was Brought Over to New Location

In addition to the “new” location in Sacramento, The Squeeze Inn also has locations now in Galt and Roseville, California.  If you are in a bit of a hurry, be sure to call ahead and place your order — will definitely cut down on your wait time during peak times!

If you haven’t seen the episode, see the Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives section of the Food Network or the media section of  The Squeeze Inn website.

Locations:

Sacramento – Power Inn
5301 Power Inn Road 916-386-8599

Galt
545 Industrial Drive (209) 745-4313

Roseville
106 N. Sunrise Ave (916) 783-2874

Hawaiian Food: Back Home in Lahaina in Carson, CA

Back Home in Lahaina is a hidden gem off Carson Blvd. I used to eat here when I worked in the area and it was near impossible to get in if you tried to go at noon. I was down visiting my parents recently and this has now become one of their favorite restaurants. I decided to treat them to a late lunch before I had to be at the airport.

The food was just as great as I remembered and the prices were still low, especially for the amount of food you get!

Kalua Lumpia

Kalua Lumpia

We started with the Kalua Lumpia ($5.29) which is shredded pork wrapped in wonton skin and served with sweet and sour or chili pepper water. I had a combination entree with a chicken curry and their famous Lahaina fried chicken ($12.99), which is served with rice, macaroni salad, and ramen cabbage salad as well. My Mom always gets their Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich ($8.99) and my father, another creature of habit, gets their specialty fried rice ($7.79).

Chicken Curry and Lahaina Fried Chicken

Chicken Curry and Lahaina Fried Chicken

 

Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich

Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich

 

Fried rice

Fried rice

Their desserts are excellent as well and they have a bakery counter if you just want to walk in and purchase desserts and other Hawaiian specialities. They sell the Hawaiian juice I love in the cans which is nearly impossible to find most of the time. 

Apparently they have a newer Manhattan Beach location as well, which I have not been to, but heard the food is just as good as the original. 

Back Home in Lahaina
519 East Carson Street
Carson, CA 90745
(310) 835-4014
www.backhomeinlahaina.com

Creole: Bleaux Magnolia in Napa, California

Bleaux MagnoliaBleaux Magnolia is located in downtown Napa, about 2 blocks walking distance from the Beazley House B&B.  Back in January, Brett had come out to visit me and we stayed at the Beazley House for a couple nights, which is an absolutely fantastic place if you want to stay at a B&B!  It came highly recommended and we decided to check it out since we could walk and poor Brett was pretty jet lagged after his flight from Amsterdam, so we didn’t want to eat too late.

Bleaux Magnolia specializes in contemporary Creole. Their website notes that many people except to be brought back to New Orleans but as they remind everyone, this is California! :-)

Chef Mermod, co-owner, is actually a self taught chef. He’s spent a lot of time working in restaurants in California and also in Louisiana, learning the cuisine there.

General Manager Schuster, is a Louisiana native who has a long history in the restaurant business, including managing some premier restaurants in San Francisco.

The restaurant is small and reservations are definitely recommended. There is a cute outdoor patio area which would be nice during the summer. They offer various specials and 3 & 5 course dinners. Tuesday nights are $1 BBQ Oysters and Wednesday night is movie night – they show a free movie on their patio area.

They have received a number of accolades being a relatively new restaurant. They were voted Best New Restaurant in 2008 and one of the whole Napa Valley’s top 10. One of the best things about them is they don’t charge a corkage fee which is rare. We didn’t know that beforehand, otherwise we would’ve brought one of our own bottles with us!

Oysters Rockefeller

Oysters Rockefeller

The night we were there they had their version of Oysters Rockfeller which were $3.50 each. We decided to try a couple each and OMG, they were incredible. I wish I could remember everything in them but I know one of the ingredients was marscapone cheese.

Gumbo

Gumbo

 I ordered the Gumbo and Brett had the Jambalaya with the Duck Confit. Both were excellent but I agree with Brett, if we went back and they were serving the oysters, we’d each probably order 10 each and just eat those! LOL. They were incredible and I have been craving them for months now. 

Jambalaya with Duck Confit

Jambalaya with Duck Confit

Bleaux Magnolia
1408 Clay St.
Napa, CA      
Across from Clay St. Parking Garage & behind West America Bank.

Business hours: 
Mon-Sat:  Lunch 11:30am – 2:30pm   Dinner  5pm – 9pm
Sunday:  Brunch 11am – 2:30pm    Dinner 5pm – 8pm
www.bleauxmagnolia.com

Bleaux Magnolia in Napa

Bleaux Magnolia in Napa

Mexican Food: Sal’s Tacos in West Sacramento, CA

Huevos Ensillados & Carnitas Omelette - love the sign!

Huevos Ensillados & Carnitas Omelette - love the sign!

When I was living in Northern California, I was on the hunt for good Mexican food.  Sal’s Tacos is the best I’ve found for authentic local Mexican food, reminsicent of what I was raised around in Los Angeles. I grew up exposed to truly traditional dishes and have searched years trying to find restaurants that come close to duplicating the fond memories I have. Sal’s definitely came close to filling that empty void in my pursuit of the best Mexican food!

This is not your average taqueria! The owner, Sal Galvan, has found a way to merge his love for the Sacramento Kings, mosiacs, good food, and wine! Sal’s is completely decorated in mosiacs on the walls and ceiling, most paying homage to the Sacramento Kings (including a life size one of Vlade Divac). If this isn’t enough to keep him busy, he also produces wine, offering a couple types at the restaurant as well. You can’t help but laugh at some of the funny signs posted in the restaurant (such as the one in the picture below).

The Mega burrito

The Mega burrito

I absolutely LOVE this place. They have a salsa bar with both red and green salsas, ranging from mild to wild! I am not a fan of carnitas normally but they have the BEST carnitas taco special that I order almost every time I go. On Sunday mornings, I used to order the Huevos Divorciados (divorced eggs) which is typically two fried eggs, served separately on corn tortillas, one with red salsa, the other green. Sal’s version is on the masa boats, one with chili colorado and the other with chile verde. Perfectly matched with a Bohemia or Negro Modelo! :-))

And they serve my comfort food daily – POZOLE! It’s a better subsitute for chicken noodle soup! For those who have not tried it and you are lucky enough to find it in a restaurant, definitely give it a try. It’s basically a pork and hominy soup with chile and other seasonings. Garnishes include radishes, shredded cabbage, lemon or lime juice, oregano, and cilantro. It is similar to Menudo but lacks that “special” ingredigent of tripe (yuck!).

Sal's Tacos

They have all-you-can-eat chips and a fresh salsa bar with some interesting options.  A number of red ones, ranging in spice and at least one green salsa.  spicy cucumbers, pickled onions, carrots & peppers are some accompaniments.  They also have wedges of limes, lemons, cilantro and onions, and typically a couple creams, one is usually spicy.   Although the food is not as cheap as you might find at some taquerias, the quality of food is much better.  I’ve tried some local taquerias and been highly disappointed with the inferior ingredients and greasiness of the cheese and sauces.

This is a very casual, order at the counter type place. They have a frequent diner program as well (buy six, get one free)…..further rationalization on how I seemed to end up there once a week!!! :-)  I miss Sal’s and try to go back at least once every time I am back in town.  Call for hours as they have changed several times.  They used to be open earlier on weekends for breakfast, but I think they open later now.  Also note they do close early, typically 8:30pm from what I remember.   

Sal’s Tacos – Mexican Food
400 C Street
West Sacramento, CA 95605
(916) 372-3377

Guy Fieri – Diners, Drive In’s & Dives: Schooner or Later in Long Beach, California

Schooner or Later

Welcome to Schooner or Later

Living in Long Beach, California was probably one of the places I enjoyed most. Everytime I come back to Southern California to visit my parents, I always try to hit some of my favorite restaurants. My all time favorite for casual outdoor dining on the waterfront is Schooner or Later.

One thing about this place though is it’s always busy on the weekends. On a recent trip, I decided to take my parents since the weather was just gorgeous in the South Bay.  Even arriving at 2pm, we were met with a 45 minute wait.  It’s obviously a long time to wait but the food is worth it.  Thankfully, they have an outside bar so you can enjoy a cocktail while you wait. :-) People often bring the Sunday paper and hang out on the benches overlooking the water, sipping on a mimosa.

My favorite....the bloody mary

My favorite....the bloody mary

For me, the bloody mary is the way to go. I think they have the best bloody mary I’ve tried. Extra spicy, salt on the rim please! I will say their Madras is good too (champagne, orange juice, and cranberry juice). And for beer lovers (which I definitely am too), they have beers in the schooners! I don’t believe they will serve the schooners while you are waiting (plastic only) but I could be wrong.

So, after about 20 minutes we were called and lucked out with the perfectly sunny spot overlooking the marina. For me, no need to even look at the menu – I always get their speciality dish, originally called “Schultzie’s Mess”, now just called, “The Mess”. No changes allowed to The Mess – chopped ham, bell pepper, onion, grilled with hash browns and eggs. You have the option of the half mess, $7.75 or the full mess, $9.25. The half mess is pretty big but I opted for the full so I have breakfast in the morning before I was leaving again! My parents both ordered their mushroom and swiss burger, topped with sour cream, $8.55.

 

Full order of "The Mess" add avocado

Full order of "The Mess" add avocado

 

Mushroom burger with onion rings
One thing I love about this restaurant is it’s family owned and the family presence is known. Some of the girls who work there are local friends of the family and the place just has that cozy neighborhood cafe feel. It’s mostly regulars who go and I even recognized faces from when I lived there 4 years ago. The family(Denny and Denise Lund) who purchased the restaurant from the Schultz’s are born and raised in Long Beach and have worked hard to keep this place an original.

Even have public mooring!

Even have public mooring!

If you happen to be in Long Beach, I definitely recommend checking it out. It’s on the fringe of Long Beach in Alamitos Harbor, right at the border of Seal Beach. It’s somewhat hidden behind the Seal Beach Yacht Club but in the same plaza as Joe’s Crab Shack. Weekdays are usually a bit less crowded but note they are only open daily for breakfast and lunch.

Note:  Schooner or Later was featured on the Food Network so the wait time tends to increase whenever the episode is aired again.  Guy Fieri hosts one of my favorite shows called Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and stopped by Schooner or Later on the episode, Off the Hook Specials. 

Off the Hook Specials, Episode DV0211

Schooner or Later
241 N. Marina Dr.
Long Beach, CA 90803
Tel: (562) 430-3495
Website: www.schoonerorlater.com

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