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Al's Place

13936 Main St., Locke, CA - (916) 776-1800
Posted By Michael Stern on 7/1/2002 2:32:00 AM
Al’s Place, known to legions of fans by its proper, albeit politically incorrect name, Al the Wop, is a fabulous destination for travelers in search of culinary color. It is located on the main street of Locke, a forgotten little town in the Sacramento Delta, originally built by and for Chinese Californians. Once famous as an anything-goes enclave of vice, Locke is ghostly today, with few Chinese left; but its weathered wood-frame main street remains a magical sight; and in the middle of it is Al’s Place, thriving since 1934.

A while ago we heard from Patti Spezia, whose father was a good friend of Al Adami, the man who started the place. Patti wrote to say that Al's place began because another member of the Adami family had been convicted of bootlegging; but Al took the rap and served the jail time himself. When he got out of prison, the family rewarded him with a stake to start Al's Place in what had been Lee Bing’s chop suey joint. Al's was the only non-Chinese restaurant in town, and there was no menu. Mr. Adami asked you how you liked your steak, which was the only thing to eat amidst the slot machines and card tables in the Tong Dining Room behind the front-room bar.

According to Patti Spezia, one day her father Vic brought jars of peanut butter and marmalade into the restaurant and asked Al for some toast to spread it on. Al liked the idea, and started putting peanut butter and marmalade on every table. Current proprietor Stephen Gianetti suggested we use the peanut butter and jelly on the bread, although he says some customers actually spread it on their steak!

The menu remains simple, now including hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and steak sandwiches in addition to steak. Steak is our choice, but we must say that the burgers are wonderful – thick and juicy, served between thick slices of grilled-crisp Italian bread with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickle, and olives on the side. The steak sandwich is, in fact, not a sandwich, but a sandwich-size steak on a platter accompanied by a second plate of toasted pieces of the good Italian bread. Horseradish or a little dish of minced garlic are available to spread on the meat.

Be sure to look upward in the bar room at the front of Al’s. The ceiling is plastered with dollar bills. And if you wonder how they got there, ask the bartender. It will cost you a buck to find out, but it’s well worth it!

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

The chicken and mushrooms comes in a garlic and white wine sauce.
"The chicken and mushrooms comes in a garlic and white wine sauce."
Cliff Strutz





If you want to eat lighter, a bowl of hardy minestrone, sided by a slices of garlic bread, is the way to go.
"If you want to eat lighter, a bowl of hardy minestrone, sided by a slices of garlic bread, is the way to go."
Cliff Strutz


If you order an entrée, you get one of Al's excellent salad, with particularly green leafy lettuce, plus carrot, kidney and garbanzo beans.
"If you order an entrée, you get one of Al's excellent salad, with particularly green leafy lettuce, plus carrot, kidney and garbanzo beans."
Cliff Strutz


The peanut butter used to be homemade, but they now keep Jif on the table.  But, don't ignore the excellent homemade pineapple-apricot preserves on the table.
"The peanut butter used to be homemade, but they now keep Jif on the table. But, don't ignore the excellent homemade pineapple-apricot preserves on the table."
Cliff Strutz


I had a cheeseburger and I’ll say it was excellent.  It was cooked perfectly with the right amount of all toppings and condiments.  The “bun,” more like buttered toast from the griddle, was wonderful.  The fries were fantastic, too.
"I had a cheeseburger and I’ll say it was excellent. It was cooked perfectly with the right amount of all toppings and condiments. The “bun,” more like buttered toast from the griddle, was wonderful. The fries were fantastic, too."
Samuel Shor


A view of the bar, which is usually full, but was empty on the day of our visit.  Note the dollar bills hanging from the ceiling.
"A view of the bar, which is usually full, but was empty on the day of our visit. Note the dollar bills hanging from the ceiling."
Cliff Strutz


In the back room of Al's you sit on benches at the dining tables.
"In the back room of Al's you sit on benches at the dining tables."
Michael Stern


The tables are well worn.
"The tables are well worn."
Cliff Strutz


The restaurant name, written on the window, makes it difficult for journalists even to write about this place.
"The restaurant name, written on the window, makes it difficult for journalists even to write about this place."
Michael Stern


Locke is a magical old place, its architecture unchanged for nearly a century. There has been a restaurant on this spot since the town was built in 1915. Al's dates back to 1934.
"Locke is a magical old place, its architecture unchanged for nearly a century. There has been a restaurant on this spot since the town was built in 1915. Al's dates back to 1934. "
Michael Stern


All the tables at Al's are picnic style.
"All the tables at Al's are picnic style."
Cliff Strutz


A visit in 2013 showed Al's looking spiffier than ever!
"A visit in 2013 showed Al's looking spiffier than ever!"
Cliff Strutz



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