Grass Valley’s eclectic dining scene

THE DINING SCENE IN GRASS VALLEY is among the most vibrant in the Sierra foothills. Restaurants offer a wide range of fare—pizza, pasta, steaks, chicken, sushi and fresh, local food—all at affordable prices.

The ambiance of the restaurants is memorable, ranging from the open kitchen at Kane’s Family Restaurant to the carved cherry wood bar at the Owl Grill & Saloon to the splendid flowering patios at Tofanelli’s Gold Country Bistro and Maria’s Mexican Restaurant.

Many of the restaurants are also expanding. Now in its 12th year, Sergio’s Caffé has expanded to a new, stylish location on Mill Street in historic Grass Valley, just down the street from its original location. Sergio’s has an open kitchen and seats 45 guests. It also had an outdoor patio.

Kane’s and Tofanelli’s are longtime “granddaddies” of first-rate dining in the region, with a wide range of imaginative entrees.

Tofanelli’s dinner selections draw from Owner Susan Purdy’s background as a French chef and are influenced by partner Frank Cooney’s favorites from his family’s Italian- style restaurants in the Bay Area.

The restaurant also offers award- winning breakfast dishes. Its smoked ribs and chicken, cooked on “The Legend” BBQ smoker on the patio, and popular in the summertime.

Kane’s features homestyle Italian-American cooking, modeled after Original Joe’s, a San Francisco landmark. This includes a fresh burger served on a French roll.

The Owl Grill & Saloon offers an eclectic menu, including steaks that are grilled to perfection. The restaurant has been revitalized under veteran restaurateur Steve Graham, but he still keeps around the classics such as “Billy Blue Bread,” a delicious garlicky-blue cheese bread.

Fresh, local fare is the hallmark of favorites, such as Summer Thyme’s and Diegos restaurant on Colfax Avenue. The food comes from local farms, such as Boxcar Farm in neighboring Nevada City or Nevada County Free Range Beef.

Want ethnic? There’s Kaido for sushi and other Japanese food; Taste of Thai, a locals’ favorite; and Maria’s family-style Mexican Restaurant. Maria’s has a beautiful circular bar. For more information, visit

Food Heritage
Grass Valley’s settlers included Cornish miners and Italians, and it celebrates the cuisine of both cultures.

Cornish pasties, pastry baked with meat and vegetables inside, are a local favorite, with several restaurants specializing in them.

Tess’ Kitchen Store sells a cookbook called Saffron & Currants: A Cornish Heritage Cookbook. “Pasties are savored anytime but unfailingly served as Christmas Eve supper in our family,” says author Susan Pellowe.

A “Little Italy” is sprouting up downtown, on Bank Street, where Italian-oriented establishments, such as Bear River Pasta Co. and Trattoria Milano, are located. An Italian Cultural Center is located in the Gold Miners Inn/Holiday Inn Express.

Bloody Mary
Cirino’s on Main Street is popular with locals, and its bottled “Cirino’s-style” Bloody Mary mix is now for sale. The history of the Cirino’s Bloody Mary goes back to 1983, when restaurateur Jerry Cirino created his own version of famous cocktail.

“Using the required fresh ingredients he had avail- able, he approached the drink much like a chef, grabbing a bit of this and a touch of that with a few secret ingredients thrown in — and the ‘Cirino’s-style’ Bloody Mary was born, with a small beer at its side,” according to Cirino’s.

For more information, call 530-272-MARY or visit

(Food photos: Rick Tracewell)

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