Hill Happenings: Chow down in Cameron Park

By: Penne Usher
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Between Historic Placerville and trendy El Dorado Hills sits the oft-overlooked Cameron Park area – especially when it comes to dining. Cameron Park, which isn’t really a town as it shares a zip code with Shingle Springs, was once known as the home of "Sam's Town," where many travelers, including myself (when I lived in the Bay Area), stopped on their way to and from Lake Tahoe. The restaurant and amusement complex was (sadly) torn down in 2002 and is now a Food-4-Less shopping center. I still miss the slightly creepy fortuneteller that sat near the front door. And I really miss tossing my peanut shells on the floor of the bar and dining area. For those of us who enjoy eating out, it’s not always feasible to head “down the hill” to Folsom and Placerville is a bit of a drive. There are plenty of locally owned joints right in Cameron Park. Burke Junction shopping center is located directly across the street from where Sam’s Town once stood. The western-style facades house restaurants, specialty shops and an adult libation establishment, to name a few. James Chong owns and operates Kobe Sushi. The longtime Cameron Park resident prides himself on his fresh selection of fish and customer service. In the works for this chef and restaurateur is the addition of a Korean-style barbecue that he plans to set up in his patio dining area and a fish market that will be situated at the front of the restaurant. “The fish market will be the only one in the area,” Chong said. “There isn’t one in Folsom or El Dorado Hills.” I, for one, welcome the new market. My son, an aspiring chef, is learning to make sushi at home and access to sushi-grade fish is a must. A few steps from Kobe is the Snooty Frog, a local eatery that has been around here and there for years. Owner Michelle Schanel and partner John Sanders pride themselves on quality food and ambiance to bring guests back time after time. The cozy atmosphere is inviting and welcoming. John hangs out behind the bar serving up his well-known peach martinis, while Michelle heads to the kitchen preparing local favorites like baked brie bruchetta and bistro chicken with capers. How about a taste of Mexico at Que Viva, an adult beverage at Slingshots or a taste of Thailand at Thai Basil? There are more locations for me to check out in the coming weeks, like the Indian restaurant Himalayas, Italian with “Papa G’s” and a couple of Chinese spots. I’ve lived in Cameron Park for nearly a decade and I haven’t eaten my way through it … yet. Penne Usher can be reached at