Memorable | One of the Best
Review by: Erika & Jon
After driving past the Pasty Shack several times, we finally succumbed to the invitation from the eye-catching “pasty man” sign. In business since 1952 (though in its current location for about twenty years), the Pasty Shack serves variations of the Cornish pasty: a pastry shell filled with meat, spices and vegetables that was popular among miners in Cornwall in the 18th and 19th centuries. Immigrants brought this hand-held meal to the United States, and we’ve read that they are still common in states with histories of mining, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Montana. We hadn’t expected to find any pasties in California, but research revealed that a number of Cornish tin miners brought the pasty with them to Grass Valley (about an hour northeast of Sacramento) during the California Gold Rush. The Pasty Shack’s longevity testifies to the broad appeal of this hearty snack.
The Pasty Shack offers four main varieties of pasties: Cornish (diced beef, potatoes, onions), Bavarian (ground beef, cabbage, peppers, onions), chicken (chicken, potatoes, onions, vegetables) and vegetarian. The restaurant also offers three non-traditional varieties on certain days of the week: tamale on Tuesdays (pork, refried beans, onions, tamale sauce), Mexican on Thursdays (refried beans, chili con carne, ground beef with green chiles, jalepeños), and chile verde on Fridays (pork, chile verde sauce, onion, cheese, refried beans). We haven’t been able to bypass the staple pasties yet, but these Cornish-Mexican hybrids sound to us like an example of ingenious-delicious immigrant adaptation.
The warm-from-the-oven pasties are hefty, and come served in small paper trays for extra stability. The Cornish pasty is filled with beautifully cooked lean beef, potatoes and onions. The chicken pasty is stuffed with chicken, potatoes, onions, red bell pepper, broccoli and peas in a light sauce reminiscent of a chicken potpie. Both pasties are well seasoned; those who are accustomed to very simple chicken pies might even find the chicken pasty over-seasoned. Though we can’t claim expertise in the genre, the pastry crust seems very well executed; it is flaky and savory, without the off-taste of cheaper, fake ingredients. Original pasties, we hear, were meant to provide a convenient, hand-held lunch down in the mine, but the wrapping on these meat and veg-laden pasties is thin enough that they are best eaten with a fork.
For under $6 each, the Pasty Shack offers a cheap, hearty meal that is a welcome break from standard roadside fare. They even offer a take-out deal on “take and bake” pasties for those who want to freeze them for later. We’ll surely return to enjoy these treats as the temperatures dip.
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