The Diamond Springs Hotel describes itself as “Old Fashioned Country Cooking.” I can assure you it is much more than that. With that old-fashioned country cooking is a varied and exciting history unique in El Dorado County.
To put it bluntly, the place is haunted.
But before I get to that, let’s talk about the food. The menu is large and varied, offering many fine selections for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The establishment prides itself on making everything from scratch, like your grandmother or your mother did back in the day. This is comfort food done extremely well, and the portions are significant and plentiful enough to keep you coming back for more — an excellent value for the money.
There are the staples, of course: waffles, egg dishes and country fried steak (my personal favorite). There’s light fare for those of you counting calories, such as grilled chicken breast, steamed vegetables and a magnificently flavorful turkey burger that will make your mouth water, in addition to items like their locally famous Chinese Chicken salad. They have an absolutely huge selection of fresh salads for every taste.
For dinner, head chef Kevin Schultz (in addition to Leonard Landers) prepares the most magnificent meatloaf, turning what is traditionally a very ordinary dish into something extraordinary by using a unique blend of spices that is a highly guarded house secret. Probably the most popular item on the dinner menu currently is their 9-ounce prime rib dinner special served Friday and Saturday nights (which comes with soup or salad and all the fixings) for a mere $16.99. You can also get fish and chips, prawns and scampi or, if you’ve got a big enough appetite, the massive and delectable combination of surf ‘n’ turf.
That’s not all. Amy and Kevin have decided to bring back items of yesteryear like the Monte Cristo Sandwich, but in their capable hands it becomes much more than a fried ham and cheese sandwich. It is almost transcendent in its flavor. As Kevin says, his food “is nothing fancy. It’s just done right. There’s something to be said for using fresh ingredients prepared in the right way. There’s no substitute for that.”
The menus have something for everyone and I would encourage all of you to bring your families when you come here. The décor is casual country charm all the way, but not cluttered with too much Americana. This place is comfortable and the best way I could possibly explain it is”‘casual elegance.” The wait staff is very well-trained in the ways of customer service and most have worked there for many years and know the regulars by name, as well as their dish preferences. They make you feel at ease as soon as you walk through the door. The Diamond Springs Hotel is a relaxing and comfortable place, an escape from the hustle and bustle of our off times frantic and fast-paced lives.
But let’s get back to those friendly ghosts. As I visited with owner Amy Shin she told me of a recent encounter one of her regular guests had with one of the many “spirits” that call this place home. Amy has two sons, and as she was coming into the restaurant one day a regular exclaimed, “Oh, I didn’t know you had a daughter!” Amy, incredulous, stated that she didn’t. The customer said, “Then who was that little girl with your two boys, then?” Amy looked around, as did her customer, and the little girl was nowhere to be seen. Amy said it gave her goose bumps.
Another time she and her husband were closing the shop when they heard a series of loud booms coming from the second floor, like someone angrily pacing back and forth. She thought it might have been one of her employees who used to take a cat nap for his break upstairs, so her husband went to take a look. He scoured the second floor, in closets, everywhere, but could find no one.
There have been many, many more such encounters here, and when you come by the staff will be happy to share. Amy has spent much time and effort creating a relaxed environment at her establishment, and nowhere is that more evident than the refurbished outside dining patio and garden. Almost Zen-like in its tranquility, the patio offers a very unique dining experience that seats up to 60 people comfortably. For those of you who like to have the occasional alcoholic beverage with your meal the Diamond Springs Hotel offers a variety of beers and local wines to whet your whistle.
For those of you reading this from your home in El Dorado Hills, let me tell you that it’s worth the drive, which is really only about 15 minutes or so from Serrano (where owner Amy just happens to live). Dining at the Diamond Springs Hotel is an experience you will not soon forget. Once you get a taste of history, you’ll be back. I guarantee it.
The Diamond Springs Hotel is located at 545 Main St. in Diamond Springs. They are closed Mondays, but are open Tuesday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information call (530) 621-1730 or visit www.diamondspringshotel.net.