Allen Pierleoni

Counter Culture: Q’bolé in Historic Folsom and more bites

Chicken street tacos areserved at Q’bolé in Folsom.
Chicken street tacos areserved at Q’bolé in Folsom. apierleoni@sacbee.com

A decade ago, after some walkabout searching, we finally found the family-run Mexican restaurant Q’Bolé on the semi-hidden outskirts of Historic Folsom, near a bicycle shop and Karen’s Bakery, and up a short stairway. Greeting us in the foyer were four carved-wood caricatures of larger-than-life mariachis, foreshadowing the anti-conversation decibel level inside.

The restaurant soon became an occasional go-to, with the outdoor patio the place to be, out of the echo-ey chaos of the sprawling dining room and margarita bar. We favored the chili relleno, grilled skirt steak, arroz con pollo (rice and chicken) and most of the seafood dishes.

Then the place closed (the building in which it was housed was crumbling), reopening 14 months ago on nearby Sutter Street, the district’s dining-entertainment stroll. Recently, we made a point of reuniting with Q’bolé in its smaller, more handsomely decorated space (with margarita bar) on the creaky second floor of the Gaslight Building, part of the lineup of Sutter Street’s 19th-century historic structures.

We found an umbrella-shaded table in the autumn breeze on the deck and recognized the same reliable menu, with four new additions: street tacos, steak ranchero, fiesta salad, and shrimp with bacon, rice and beans.

The trio of chicken street tacos was a delish snack, the moist and tender pieces of fowl topped with cilantro and onion, squeezes of lime and spills of salsa. A simpler but equally satisfying dish was by special request – a plate of cilantro rice and black beans. Lime and salsa added more yum.

P.S.: Roughly translated into English, “Q’bolé” is means “What’s up?” In reply, we say: Looks like a lot.

Q’bolé, 718 Sutter St., Folsom; 916-357-5242, www.qbolefolsom.com.

Homey haven for Thai delights

Thai restaurants abound, some fancy, some not so much. For down-home cookin’, our favorite casual-Thai destination is the unpretentious Thai Hut. There, we always find husband-wife owners Ten and Tuck Siri hard at work turning out complex and artistic dishes that belie the size of their tiny kitchen.

Our usuals include chicken-filled steamed pot stickers with ginger sauce; rice paper-wrapped shrimp spring rolls with peanut and plum sauces; and yellow coconut-milk curry with tofu, with brown jasmine rice on the side.

On this day, I asked Tuck to surprise us. Soon, she answered with a plate of fragrant and tender oven-roasted pork spareribs, marinated in lemongrass, yellow curry powder, honey and coconut milk, with a gorgeously arrayed mosaic of fresh vegetables ($12). She followed that with juicy “barbecued” chicken that had soaked in a mix of lemongrass, coconut milk and a medley of spices and then was crisped on a hot grill ($11). In a word, extraordinary.

P.S.: Look for vegetarian dishes and lunch specials.

Thai Hut, 5800 Madison Ave., Sacramento; 916-348-1880, www.thaihut.org.

Sandwich or ‘hamwich’?

Among the sandwiches Americans likes best, the simple ham (forget the cheese) has long held its own against fellow comfort-food classics such as the grilled cheese, the Reuben, the club, the sub and the po’ boy.

We got a craving for one when we spotted the sign for the HoneyBaked Cafe outside the HoneyBaked Ham store in Fair Oaks. You know HoneyBaked ham, right? It’s the applewood-smoked spiral-cut ham (topped with “sweet honey crackling glaze”) that’s so often a guest at traditional holiday dinners.

HoneyBaked was founded in 1957 and serves more than just ham – terrific turkey breast, for instance, and packaged soups, mustards, chutneys and the like.

We went inside and found a lengthy menu of sandwiches based on ham and turkey themes (plus baby back ribs, of all things). We ordered the “ham classic” and took seats as the only diners in the “cafe,” which has the feel of an employees lounge. Soon we were looking at slices of sweet ham on sourdough with Swiss cheese, OK lettuce and an end slice of anemic tomato, smeared with acidic “tangy mayo and hickory honey mustard” ($6).

After a few bites, we decided to make a “hamwich” out of the sandwich, removing the ham and eating it with the best utensils at the table – our fingers. Hey, the ham is better by itself, as we’ve found at many Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

HoneyBaked Ham, 5300 Sunrise Blvd., Fair Oaks; 916-962-1426, www.honeybaked.com. A sister store is at 2875 Fulton Ave., Sacramento; 916-971-4026.

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe

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