Auburn revitalized for wining and dining

AUBURN — ONCE VIEWED AS A SPOT TO PULL OFF THE HIGHWAY for a quick bite to eat is now setting a gold standard for wining and dining in the foothills.

The area’s beauty and laid-back lifestyle has attracted chefs from all over. The restaurateur of Monkey Cat and tre Pazzi Trattoria comes from the San Francisco dining scene. In Old Town, the owner of Carpe Vino restaurant—latin for “seize the wine”—is a respected wine connoisseur and offers a wine club.

“Auburn has enough good eats, from upscale to down home, to take up an entire weekend—with excellent wine to wash it down,” observes a reviewer in The San Francisco Chronicle, a critical culinary source.

A revitalized downtown is helping to draw more visitors for dining and entertainment. “Today’s Auburn is no longer a ‘pit stop’ on I-80 but the place for fine dining and entertainment,” says Gary Capps, a partner of tre Pazzi and owner of The Capps Group real estate firm.

Auburn is receiving more widespread notoriety as well. In October, it was named a host city for the 2011 Amgen Tour of California professional cycling race, which draws international attention. Stage 3 of the race will begin in Auburn on the way to Southern California. Next May’s race will bring further visibility to Auburn’s burgeoning culinary and entertainment scene, complimenting its status as an “Endurance Capital of the World.”

A new streetscape project—whose centerpiece is a new town square at Lincoln Way and High Street—also is helping to revitalize the downtown.

The first phase, costing $2.2 million, includes a fire pit and benches, art pedestals, a living Christmas tree, a four-way intersection and new underground utilities. A second phase will extend sidewalk improvements along Lincoln Way.

Tre Pazzi Auburn’s newest upscale restaurant, is located just steps from the new town center.

Some other fine dining restaurants in downtown Auburn are:

Monkey Cat The restaurant, open for lunch and dinner, is named after an exotic and elusive creature with piercing green eyes. “With a name like Monkey Cat, we can serve a wide range of entrees, from exotic to comfort food,” says Jim Bril, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Trish.

The menu has a continental flair, with some exotic items. Examples include rack of lamb, chicken picatta, and blackened mahi-mahi. Other items include build-your-own pasta and vegetable risotto.

The palapa bar is one of our favorite outdoor patios in the foothills.

805 Lincoln Way, Auburn 530-888-8492,

Club Car Bar & Restaurant This dinner house, open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, offers a lively bar scene, a stage and live musical entertainment.

The cuisine is gourmet American with an emphasis on upscale comfort food. The menu offers “something for everyone” with extensive appetizer selections, entree-sized salads, hearty steaks, seafood, pasta and vegetarian and gluten-free items.
Club Car’s entertainment calendar is just as varied, with jazz, blues, dance bands and a regular Wed. night duo.

836 Lincoln Way, Auburn

Diners also come to downtown Auburn for Asian cuisine. Examples include Hanami Sushi, just off the new square, for Japanese food; Royal Thai Restaurant for authentic Thai cuisine; and Sum’s Mongolian BBQ, among others.

The main drag on Lincoln Way is also home to PlacerArts, the nonprofit that is a catalyst for arts and humanities in Placer County.

Many of the retail shops exude small-town charm. Auburn Drug Co., dating back to 1896, has an old-fashioned soda fountain.

Roper’s Jewelers, opened in 1956, offers a full line of custom jewelry, watches, clocks as well as watch and jewelry repair. It also is “dog friendly,” offering biscuits to your furry friends, according to the second-generation owner.

“During the past eight years we’ve been in business, we’ve witnessed downtown Auburn’s transition,” says Club Car owner Sarah Sanders-Nolivo. “The recently completed streetscape improvements have added exponentially to the burgeoning nightlife.”

(photo credit: Keith Sutter)

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