If you are ever traveling through San Andreas in Calaveras County during the lunch hour, you will notice a line of cars along the side of the highway and a crammed parking lot adjacent to a converted adobe house that’s called the Pickle Patch. Gretel Tiscornia has used her cooking skills to pack her restaurant every day. People come from all over to eat at her establishment.
The setup at the Pickle Patch is very simple. Diners enter the house through the front door, read the special offerings from a board or select from the paper menus and then waltz to the register to order lunch. Everything on Gretel’s menu is freshly made on a daily basis.
The offerings include five salads: Chinese chicken with a soy and ginger vinaigrette; the Cobb; a chicken Caesar; Mediterranean chicken with balsamic vinaigrette; and a cranberry walnut salad with baby greens, chicken, Feta cheese and onions in a red wine vinaigrette.
The sandwich list is a knockout! They are all served with homemade side salads and special breads, and vegetarian options abound. Sandwiches can be crafted with or without meats. There’s a turkey sandwich served on whole grain bread; an Albacore tuna; spicy Italian; a huge club sandwich loaded with turkey; bacon, lettuce and tomato with avocado; a pesto BLT; the seasoned barrel-cooked tri-tip served hot or cold; and smoked turkey with smoked bacon, smoked Gouda and cranberry, just to name some of what’s available. The prices are very reasonable and the portions are huge.
The daily specials are just as bounteous (be ready for Wednesdays and the very popular taco salad). The day I visited, the specials were a chicken Thai basil salad and ham and bean soups. I ordered the club sandwich with turkey and a side salad and I wound up taking half of it home. The greens were fresh and crisp. The vinaigrette was definitely house-made, not from a bottle, because the flavor was delightful. I washed the meal down with a glass of fresh-brewed iced tea (I had a hard time deciding between that and the fresh-made lemonade).
I was so full that I was unable to choose a fabulous dessert. Gretel’s desserts are also made on the premises.
My friend Ann Leong ordered the tri-tip sandwich and kept remarking about how tender and flavorful the beef was.
Folks, this is true homemade food served in a restaurant setting. The friendly and helpful staff brings your meal to you, and the outdoor garden setting is a treat in almost any season. There is seating inside at retro tables and chairs that look like they were pulled from our granparents’ homes.
I had the opportunity to talk with Gretel and even see her in action when she invited me back to the kitchen. I just had to know how this business of hers became so popular.
“I needed a job,” she half joked. “I thought to myself, ‘How hard is it to create a sandwich?’”
Her goal was to have 50 customers a day. She surpassed that goal a long time ago.
“There was a big need in our county for a good lunch spot and this September, I will be in business for 20 years!”
Other mealtime contributions now include music and Wednesday night dinners in the summer, catering on- and offsite and some holiday events.
Based on my lunch experience, I give the Pickle Patch five gold nuggets for food and five gold nuggets for service. When I return, I’m going to order dessert first!
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