Updated: Jan 22, 2020
It wasn't until I went away to college did I realize how much negative notoriety my hometown had. When classmates discovered where I was from their only response was, "DAMN," followed by a shiver liked they've seen the walking dead.
Over the years the negative press continued and for good reason. The financial crisis in 2008 resulted in the most foreclosed homes in the nation. Later Stockton was the largest municipality to declare bankruptcy in U.S. history. Adding insult to injury, it was also named one of the most dangerous and miserable cities to live.
I was born and raised here. My memories of Stockton in a more simple time is where my heart rests. It's a hard pill to swallow how much Stockton has changed, but it's home. And like some aspects of home and family, I have a love/hate relationship with Stockton.
I've been blessed to travel a great deal throughout the United States and abroad and when I come home to Stockton I can't wait to get back into its kitchen. Stockton's home kitchen is the extensive locally-owned restaurants and food establishments we have throughout the city limits. And now that I have tens of thousands of frequent flyer miles, I can say with quite a certainty, Stockton has some of the best food. Period.
Thanks to my father, Robert, also a native Stocktonian, for raising us with an appreciation of good food. Not only was he an excellent cook, but he was also a foodie long before it was cool. Our stories of growing up in Stockton always have a restaurant as the backdrop. My mother, Liz, loved to tell me that the owners of The Bow Bow (Chinese restaurant once on the corner of El Dorado and East Market) loved to hold me while my parents ate lunch. Of course, I was a baby back then getting my start in the local restaurant scene rather early. My siblings and I grew up in the 70s and 80s eating at gems like The Bow Bow, Gan Chy, Ye Ol' Hoosier Inn, Manny's, and Angelina's Spaghetti House. And now that we are much older, our love for Stockton's Kitchen has also grown with much affection.
In this series, I want to highlight some of my favorite Stockton "homegrown" establishments. When people ask me what's there to do in Stockton, I always say, "Not a whole lot, but if you love to eat, Stockton's the place for you."
Trail Coffee Roasters - I'm not a coffee drinker, but my family has a few addicts. They all swear by the smooth flavors at Trail. The drink menu is not extensive, which tells me this: they do a few things very, very well. I'm a huge fan of the teas, hot or cold and that pain au chocolat you see in the photo took me to another place and time. Absolutely delicious. Add to that a location that is inviting, spacious and mobile-work friendly and you'll see why it's my top favorite coffee spot. UOP students have the luxury of having their own Trail location and it's about the cutest thing I've seen. Locally owned and operated by the best.
Susy's Mexican Restaurant - With our large latin population, Stockton has a plethra of mexican restaurants. I'm a fan of serveral, each for a specific reason. Susy's is a personal favorite for their red sauce chilaquiles. I'll order them for breakfast when they are accompanied with eggs and potatoes. For lunch or dinner they can be topped with shredded chicken and served with the traditional rice and beans. Call me nostolgic, but the location also has a special place in my heart. If you are a native Stocktonian you might remember when it was a Happy Steak. Needless to say, I still find myself coming back to Harding Way to have chilaquiles, almost the way my dad used to make 'em.
Eddie's Pizza - If you were growing up in Stockton in the 80s, you've eaten at Eddie's Pizza. When I was a teenager Eddie's was our spot. You may have attended a party or a fundraiser, because Eddie's was an old faithful, and still is. The pizza is consistently tastey and I can't help but give them more business since they deliver downtown. In the 80s Eddie's was only rivaled by Rico's Pizza. Not that the pizza was any better but Rico's had the novelty of serving these gargantuan sized pizzas that were always fun to enjoy with a group of friends.