Want to eat inside a bank vault? It could be easier than floating down a river.
Ever since I’ve lived in Sacramento, it’s been a late summer ritual each year to float at least once, and usually twice, down Cache Creek near Rumsey. In about three hours, this little creek coming out of Clear Lake offers nearly non-stop rapids in beautiful warm setting. I’ve seen bald eagles and amazing geological formations—not to mention lots of silly behavior. Floating through the whitewater with a group of friends has got to be one of the most inherently fun activities out there.
I’d been talking it up to Joy—my Sacramento native girlfriend, who somehow had never been—for months. But attempts to go with various combinations of friends and her kids kept falling through due to illnesses and scheduling problems.
So finally, one Sunday last month, we got off our butts and decided to just do it. Which turned out to be a mistake. There’s a website where you can check the flow of local waterways. But, despite a drought that has been widely reported for the last three years, I didn’t. We drove all the way out there to confront a trickle one-fourth as strong as it should have been for the time of year. Our three hours of excitement turned into four-plus hours of bruised glutes and trying to lift our rafts over exposed rocks.
But all was not lost. Our way back took us through the town of Woodland, which holds a little gem of a restaurant—Paco’s. Much of the draw here is the building itself, an old bank headquarters built in 1903 and located right on Main St. The ceilings are huge, with many period details remaining. And yes, one of the vaults is a dining room, where you walk past a huge metal door to get in.
We were pretty hungry, having spent an extra hour or more on the river. The salsa here is excellent, in that sweet spot of being spicy enough to be worthwhile but not so spicy you have to stop. We quickly filled up on chips. The staff, which was plentiful and attentive, quickly noticed how much water we were downing and brought us bigger glasses.
Joy had the camarones rancheros ($12.99). Seafood is a Paco’s specialty. The plates here were huge, in true sit-down Mexican style. The plump shrimp were bathed in the spicy (but not too spicy) Ranchero sauce. She offered me some, though I think this may have been just because it amuses her to watch me eat them tails and all—I get kind of impatient.
I had the carnitas plate ($9.99). While I’m not normally much of a pork eater, I love it in Mexican food. The shredded pork reminded me of South Carolina barbecue for the way that it’s slow marinated, holding onto each bit of flavor the way the Department of Water Resources is apparently holding onto water at Clear Lake. And so we left, sunburned and full with lots of food still in boxes, vowing to remember that the Internet exists. El Niño willing, we’ll be paying a visit to Paco’s next year.
Paco’s Mexican Restaurant
435 Main St, Woodland, CA
530 669 7946
9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day