Debbie Croft: Foothill eateries offer plenty of distinctive fare

This month brings another opportunity to experience distinctive dining in the Golden State. As California’s Restaurant Month, this month marks the fourth year for this statewide culinary promotion.

Although Gold Rush communities may not boast as many world-class chefs or restaurants as Los Angeles, San Francisco or Napa Valley, our dining rooms do offer outstanding fare.

“Now is the chance to discover new restaurants or appreciate all your favorites at a special price,” said Terry Selk, executive director of the Yosemite-Mariposa County Tourism Bureau.

Here a sample of what this region has to offer devoted foodies:

• Cafe at the Bug in Midpines sits less than 10 miles north of Mariposa and about 25 miles outside Yosemite National Park. The cafe has gained a loyal following with its appetizing menu. Featuring organic produce from local growers and the Bug’s own heirloom gardens, every meal is healthy and flavorful. Pies and dressings are homemade, and friendly service earns rave reviews from travelers from around the globe.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily, with the dinner menu changing every three days. Local musicians play regularly in the dining room that looks and feels more like a family room. Information about the Bug is available at or by calling toll free (866) 826-7108.

• Along downtown’s main thoroughfare, Mariposa’s Charles Street Dinner House rarely earns rave reviews for its outward appearance. But diners hungry enough to venture inside are never disappointed. Steaks, ribs, seafood and fresh pasta are only some of the dishes offered. Memorable appetizers, soups, salads and desserts round out the meal. Items on the wine and beer menu come from California and beyond.

Dinner is served nightly. Lunch is available weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday brunch from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. A children’s menu is also available. Call (209) 966-2366 or visit for menus.

• Roman Zabicki and his wife, Laura, own Crab Cakes and Sweet Dreams Wedding Cakes and Flowers in Oakhurst.

Maryland-style crab cakes and savory clam chowder (made with real cream) are two favorites of Crab Cakes’ customers. But diners also enjoy fresh fish, shellfish, steak, chicken, pasta and an award-winning children’s menu.

Located in the same spot, the cake bakery creates from scratch specialty desserts and custom cakes for every occasion. Sweet Dreams has won numerous awards for its elegant and exceptional desserts. Casted sugar art, rose petal decoupage, gold leaf, fondant or chocolate wrap and curls, and intricate detailing are all characteristic of Laura’s special occasion and wedding cakes.

Local residents praise not only the cuisine, but the generosity of this couple toward their community.

Check or for further information about the Zabickis’ businesses.

• Gus’ Steakhouse ranks high on the list of Tuolumne County’s favorites for food and beverages. Lunch specials, early bird specials, celebrity visits and much more bring guests back to the table again and again. Very few attempt the 80-ounce steak challenge, and even fewer actually win.

All burgers are 10 ounces and charbroiled steaks are grilled to please. For details, visit or call (209) 532-5190.

• For international flavors in Sonora, many choices exist:

Try Koto Japanese Restaurant, award-winning Sonora Thai Cuisine or Hong Kong Garden Restaurant for Asian cuisine. El Jardin and Cocina Michocana are Sonora’s favorites for south-of-the-border fare.

And the Mediterranean dishes, pizza and house-made pasta at Christopher’s Ristorante are a popular pick for Sonorans wanting everything Italian. Christopher Segarini, his family and staff are even available to cook for guests in their homes. This Italian restaurant is in the historic structure that once housed Victoria Hotel in downtown Sonora.

To see a complete list of participating restaurants and dining specials in Mariposa County, visit For specials at Madera County’s restaurants, see And Tuolumne County’s dining establishments are listed at

With menus available to tempt every palate and budget, come for a visit and taste for yourself. Most likely you’ll find yourself planning to return.