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Golden Gate Saloon
Golden Gate Saloon
Ingrid Nelson

10 Destination Restaurants in Nevada City and Grass Valley

Where to find a great meal in these historic former mining towns

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Golden Gate Saloon
| Ingrid Nelson

Nevada City has long been a trusted, under-the-radar getaway from the Bay Area hustle — the type of place where you rent a quaint Airbnb and take pictures in front of historic buildings. Within a short drive is Grass Valley, with its rich gold mining history, which is similarly picturesque — think old-timey main streets, romantic alleys, and co-op bookstores you can get lost in for hours.

Recently, with the renovation of two longstanding hotels, and amid a modest, pandemic-inspired surge of Bay Area transplants to the area, the two cities have been upping their culinary game; the result is a delicious mix of old and new. While some time-tested institutions are not to be missed, a slew of relative newcomers have plenty to offer as well, from traditional English pasties to modern Californian cuisine. Whether you’re picking up food for a picnic, indulging in fine dining, or mingling with the locals, these two neighboring cities have you covered.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Friar Tuck's Restaurant & Bar

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111 N Pine St
Nevada City, CA 95959
(530) 265-9093
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A local classic for family gatherings and celebrations, this is a place to abandon dietary restrictions and live large like it’s 1985. In the lavish setting, brick walls and chandeliers abound and diners can feast on escargot and cheese fondue, blue Champagne steak, and chicken piccata (and don’t skip the over-the-top desserts). The cocktails here deliver — the OG Martini is a no-brainer — and the wine list is quite possibly the most comprehensive in town.

2. Heartwood Eatery

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237 Commercial St
Nevada City, CA 95959
(530) 470-6161
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A popular lunch and coffee spot for locals, the health-oriented Heartwood Eatery is perfect for people-watching while plotting your next art-residency-meets-retreat in Nevada City. The menu has all the Bay Area classics covered, from loaded avocado toasts to veggie bowls and lavender lattes. At the Annex — a relatively recent addition to the business — things get a little more hearty, with a selection of pork or chicken ramen and pho, based on house-made bone broth, plus vegetarian options.

3. Lola

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211 Broad St
Nevada City, CA 95959
(530) 362-7605
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The renovated National Exchange hotel, the younger sister property to the neighboring Holbrooke, is filled with design eye candy and hosts the city’s newest fine dining restaurant. Lola has a French-Californian vibe — think cheesy onion soup and steak tartare served with a baguette — and a classy atmosphere accented by tufted velvet booths and intimate lighting. For brunch, a croque-madame or a quiche, paired with the day’s newspaper, will deliver proper vacation vibes.

Ingrid Nelson

4. Sushi In the Raw

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315 Spring St # B
Nevada City, CA 95959
(530) 478-9503
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A Nevada City institution, Sushi in the Raw has been feeding locals and tourists since 2002 — the chef and owner, Kaoru “RU” Suzuki, has been on the local culinary scene even longer, opening his first eatery in 1993. Through the years, Sushi in the Raw has remained a remarkably reliable destination for top-quality sushi, offering a dazzling, thick menu packed with rolls and raw fish, as well as rare Japanese standouts like soy-marinated fish heads. Fun gimmicks like spoons filled with uni and ikura, as well as the sneakily boozy cocktails, make any night here memorable.

5. The Ham Stand

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821 Zion St
Nevada City, CA 95959
(530) 212-3784
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Jason Jilson, who previously was the chef at San Francisco fine dining catering company Melons, opened this meat-curing business in 2018. Jilson’s passion is European-style salumi, and his specialties include coppa, salami, and pastrami, with a focus on local heritage meats. Located a few blocks away from Nevada City’s main street, the Stand is a great place to grab a sandwich. Options include a juicy Reuben and the ham standard, a cornucopia of cold cuts with olive salsa.

6. Golden Gate Saloon

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212 W Main St
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 460-4078
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Located at the freshly renovated, incredibly chic Holbrooke Hotel, the Golden Gate Saloon is a welcome addition to Grass Valley’s dining scene. On the menu, chef Zachary Ahrenholtz pays homage to California’s Mexican heritage with dishes like vegetarian lion’s mane barbacoa and vibrant tuna tostadas for dinner, plus chilaquiles and huevos rancheros for breakfast. The generous and succulent short rib birria is best consumed while sitting at the vintage bar, mezcal negroni in hand. And if drinks are your main focus, seek out the Iron Door — a speakeasy in the hotel’s basement.

Ingrid Nelson

7. Grass Valley Brewing Company

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141 E Main St
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 271-2739
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Conveniently located at Grass Valley Brewing Company, Roost does brewery food just right. Snacks include onion rings and spicy wings, and pasties filled with stout-braised beef and gravy, while mains like the Drive-Thru hamburger and the stuffed banh mi are perfect for lunch. While you’re there, sample the brewery’s hazy IPAs, stouts, and dark Mexican lager — and pick up some canned beers to take home.

8. Grass Valley Pasty Co.

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100 S Auburn St
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 802-5202
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During the Gold Rush, Grass Valley was home to many migrants from Cornwall, England and the Pasty Co. keeps that bit of history alive with a selection of authentic, flaky, Cornish pasties — savory, half-moon shaped hand pies made fresh daily. Options are limited, but there are pasties with skirt steak and veggies, pot roast, pulled pork, chicken, and ham and cheese to choose from, including an obligatory vegetarian pasty in the mix.

9. MeZe Eatery Grass Valley

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106 Mill St
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 205-9679
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Operated by Israelis Alon and Tal Greenstein, who previously ran a popular food tent in the area, Meze is an excellent destination for all things Mediterranean. Alongside shareable falafel and dip spreads or hummus bowls, the cafe serves on-point delights like the sabich sandwich — a delicious mash-up of eggplant, pickled and hard-boiled eggs, stuffed into a fluffy pita. The vegan malabi, a Mediterranean rose-infused take on panna cotta, is not to be missed.

10. Watershed at the Owl

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134 Mill St
Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 205-9070
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In 2011, the Owl, a beloved bar and grill located at one of Grass Valley’s oldest buildings, shut down abruptly, with a hint of scandal. Three local partners came to the rescue and took over, keeping the interiors true to the building’s original charm, but reimagining the space with a kitchen revamp and a relaxed, welcoming vibe. On the menu, find oysters, shrimp cakes, and blistered scallops, among other offerings, all artfully plated and made from local ingredients.

1. Friar Tuck's Restaurant & Bar

111 N Pine St, Nevada City, CA 95959

A local classic for family gatherings and celebrations, this is a place to abandon dietary restrictions and live large like it’s 1985. In the lavish setting, brick walls and chandeliers abound and diners can feast on escargot and cheese fondue, blue Champagne steak, and chicken piccata (and don’t skip the over-the-top desserts). The cocktails here deliver — the OG Martini is a no-brainer — and the wine list is quite possibly the most comprehensive in town.

111 N Pine St
Nevada City, CA 95959

2. Heartwood Eatery

237 Commercial St, Nevada City, CA 95959

A popular lunch and coffee spot for locals, the health-oriented Heartwood Eatery is perfect for people-watching while plotting your next art-residency-meets-retreat in Nevada City. The menu has all the Bay Area classics covered, from loaded avocado toasts to veggie bowls and lavender lattes. At the Annex — a relatively recent addition to the business — things get a little more hearty, with a selection of pork or chicken ramen and pho, based on house-made bone broth, plus vegetarian options.

237 Commercial St
Nevada City, CA 95959

3. Lola

211 Broad St, Nevada City, CA 95959
Ingrid Nelson

The renovated National Exchange hotel, the younger sister property to the neighboring Holbrooke, is filled with design eye candy and hosts the city’s newest fine dining restaurant. Lola has a French-Californian vibe — think cheesy onion soup and steak tartare served with a baguette — and a classy atmosphere accented by tufted velvet booths and intimate lighting. For brunch, a croque-madame or a quiche, paired with the day’s newspaper, will deliver proper vacation vibes.

211 Broad St
Nevada City, CA 95959

4. Sushi In the Raw

315 Spring St # B, Nevada City, CA 95959

A Nevada City institution, Sushi in the Raw has been feeding locals and tourists since 2002 — the chef and owner, Kaoru “RU” Suzuki, has been on the local culinary scene even longer, opening his first eatery in 1993. Through the years, Sushi in the Raw has remained a remarkably reliable destination for top-quality sushi, offering a dazzling, thick menu packed with rolls and raw fish, as well as rare Japanese standouts like soy-marinated fish heads. Fun gimmicks like spoons filled with uni and ikura, as well as the sneakily boozy cocktails, make any night here memorable.

315 Spring St # B
Nevada City, CA 95959

5. The Ham Stand

821 Zion St, Nevada City, CA 95959

Jason Jilson, who previously was the chef at San Francisco fine dining catering company Melons, opened this meat-curing business in 2018. Jilson’s passion is European-style salumi, and his specialties include coppa, salami, and pastrami, with a focus on local heritage meats. Located a few blocks away from Nevada City’s main street, the Stand is a great place to grab a sandwich. Options include a juicy Reuben and the ham standard, a cornucopia of cold cuts with olive salsa.

821 Zion St
Nevada City, CA 95959

6. Golden Gate Saloon

212 W Main St, Grass Valley, CA 95945
Ingrid Nelson

Located at the freshly renovated, incredibly chic Holbrooke Hotel, the Golden Gate Saloon is a welcome addition to Grass Valley’s dining scene. On the menu, chef Zachary Ahrenholtz pays homage to California’s Mexican heritage with dishes like vegetarian lion’s mane barbacoa and vibrant tuna tostadas for dinner, plus chilaquiles and huevos rancheros for breakfast. The generous and succulent short rib birria is best consumed while sitting at the vintage bar, mezcal negroni in hand. And if drinks are your main focus, seek out the Iron Door — a speakeasy in the hotel’s basement.

212 W Main St
Grass Valley, CA 95945

7. Grass Valley Brewing Company

141 E Main St, Grass Valley, CA 95945

Conveniently located at Grass Valley Brewing Company, Roost does brewery food just right. Snacks include onion rings and spicy wings, and pasties filled with stout-braised beef and gravy, while mains like the Drive-Thru hamburger and the stuffed banh mi are perfect for lunch. While you’re there, sample the brewery’s hazy IPAs, stouts, and dark Mexican lager — and pick up some canned beers to take home.

141 E Main St
Grass Valley, CA 95945

8. Grass Valley Pasty Co.

100 S Auburn St, Grass Valley, CA 95945

During the Gold Rush, Grass Valley was home to many migrants from Cornwall, England and the Pasty Co. keeps that bit of history alive with a selection of authentic, flaky, Cornish pasties — savory, half-moon shaped hand pies made fresh daily. Options are limited, but there are pasties with skirt steak and veggies, pot roast, pulled pork, chicken, and ham and cheese to choose from, including an obligatory vegetarian pasty in the mix.

100 S Auburn St
Grass Valley, CA 95945

9. MeZe Eatery Grass Valley

106 Mill St, Grass Valley, CA 95945

Operated by Israelis Alon and Tal Greenstein, who previously ran a popular food tent in the area, Meze is an excellent destination for all things Mediterranean. Alongside shareable falafel and dip spreads or hummus bowls, the cafe serves on-point delights like the sabich sandwich — a delicious mash-up of eggplant, pickled and hard-boiled eggs, stuffed into a fluffy pita. The vegan malabi, a Mediterranean rose-infused take on panna cotta, is not to be missed.

106 Mill St
Grass Valley, CA 95945

10. Watershed at the Owl

134 Mill St, Grass Valley, CA 95945

In 2011, the Owl, a beloved bar and grill located at one of Grass Valley’s oldest buildings, shut down abruptly, with a hint of scandal. Three local partners came to the rescue and took over, keeping the interiors true to the building’s original charm, but reimagining the space with a kitchen revamp and a relaxed, welcoming vibe. On the menu, find oysters, shrimp cakes, and blistered scallops, among other offerings, all artfully plated and made from local ingredients.

134 Mill St
Grass Valley, CA 95945

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