Once upon a time – actually, from 1967 to 2001 – there was a Western-themed village in Cameron Park called Sam's Town.
The roadside attraction was visited mostly by travelers going to and coming from Lake Tahoe. They could pull off the road, feed the family, maybe wet their whistles at the saloon and play games in an arcade.
Nearby was another, smaller Western-themed oasis called Burke Junction, built in 1979 on 5 acres by real estate investor and former tap dancer Jerry Burke.
Sam's Town is a memory, but Burke Junction is still around, though in a different incarnation. It's more small-business-oriented, with nary a staged gunfight to be seen – not surprising, as entertainment tastes have changed and the property is on its third set of owners.
One former attraction remains, though: the BuJu Line railroad and its large-gauge, five-car train. The train runs "on holidays and during special events at the center," we were told. Otherwise, it's hit and miss on Saturdays ($3 per person; 530-677-5282, www.burkejunction.com).
A few lunch pals and I were mulling over the nature of local history at an outdoor table at CrepeTown, one of six restaurants at Burke Junction. It serves homemade, hearty food – emphasis on "homemade" – and very good crepes.
The European-style cafe was opened in 2011 by wife-husband team Alma and Edi Zildzo, who have some history of their own, going back to their childhoods in the former Yugoslavia.
"We are from the same neighborhood in Bosnia, and our families knew each other," said Alma Zildzo. Years later, as a young man, Edi Zildzo moved to Croatia, and the two lost touch.
The Bosnian civil war broke out in 1992, and Alma Zildzo and her family fled to Germany as refugees. There she worked in a restaurant for five years, cooking and gathering recipes, before immigrating to the Bay Area. She and her future husband were reintroduced through mutual friends from the old country, who were part of the expatriate European community.
Edi Zildzo worked in telecommunications, while Alma Zildzo held a job in a bank for 10 years until the branch closed and she was laid off. That's when she got the notion to put her cooking skills to work.
"The restaurant was my idea," she said, describing the cuisine as "a mix of ex-Yugoslavian, French, German and Italian."
Most of the recipes were handed down from her mother and grandmother, she said.
"Everything is made fresh. We have no cans," Edi Zildzo added.
Naturally, eight savory crepes and eight sweet crepes are the stars of the show, followed by five versions of eggs in crepes (such as asparagus Benedict with prosciutto), soup and salads, five panini and three pastas (fettucine Alfredo, spaghetti Bolognese, penne in pesto).
Prices range from $4.75 to $12. Gluten-free crepes are available.
On the daily specials board, we spotted Hungarian goulash with mashed potatoes ($11.95), sliced leg of lamb ($14.95) and grilled salmon ($12.95).
One nice surprise: The six flavors of ice cream are delivered by Gunther's, a Sacramento landmark since 1940.
Beer, wine and coffee drinks are served, and mimosas and Bellinis are the house specials at weekend brunches.
We dived head-first into bowls of meaty goulash, which cooks for eight hours, Alma Zildzo said later. Red wine, paprika and "lots of onions" help make the broth and the chunks of beef rich and dark.
Though the well-seasoned and sauced slices of lamb were cooked well-done, they were tender and remarkably tasty. Joining the lamb were mini-scoops of mashed potatoes, more dense than fluffy.
"This didn't come out hot enough, so you don't get that classic melted-cheese flavor," said one lunch pal about the "fromage" panini, with Swiss and provolone.
Otherwise, it was tasty enough.
As for savory crepes, the "beef & Burgundy" was a big, perfectly textured crepe filled and topped with excellent beef stew and sautéed fresh mushrooms.
Sun-dried tomato spread, avocado, spinach, red onion, artichoke and cheese joined hands in the "California," a refreshing respite from meat.
Rosemary-flecked cubes of chicken breast mixed with béchamel sauce, onion, cheese and more rosemary for the "chicken rosemary" crepe, which would have improved with another ladle of sauce.
Two of the lunch pals are veteran diners who have added some straightforward input to this column in the past – in their own ways. Ava and Bianca Brown are sisters who live in Folsom, and are 9 and 6, respectively.
They voted for the "Creamy Delight" crepe for dessert, with peaches (or choose blueberries or strawberries), cream cheese, walnuts and a mound of thick whipped cream.
Oh, and a scoop of ice cream as an add-on.
Wiping off a smear of whipped cream from her cheek, Bianca noted, "It's very fancy, with an interesting flavor."
Ava added, "It's light and puffy."
It was something else, too: gone.
Carnitas at Selland's
We were at El Dorado Hills Town Center the other day, and wandered into Selland's Market Cafe.
We surveyed the display case of hot and cold foods filled with the likes of meatloaf, salmon, chicken, pasta and a garden of salads.
The carnitas got our attention – seasoned pork shoulder simmered for hours until it falls apart at the push of a fork.
We asked the counterman for "a heap" and he obliged ($6.95). We added black pepper and sea salt chips ($1.25), and a San Pellegrino lemon soda ($1.75). Dinner was served.
The luscious pork was juicy, tender, richly flavored and well-matched to the chips. Simple and filling.
Get it at 4370 Town Center Blvd., El Dorado Hills; (916) 932-5025. Also: 5340 H St., Sacramento; (916) 736-3333.
CREPETOWN CAFE & GRILL
WHERE: 3300 Coach Lane, Cameron Park
HOURS: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. Sundays
FOOD: Three stars
AMBIENCE: Two 1/2 stars
HOW MUCH: $-$$
INFORMATION: (530) 677-5993, www.crepetowncafe.com
Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.