Road Journals Blog—Newcastle, Calif., and its huddle of buildings may seem like an afterthought as you speed by on Interstate 80, about 30 miles northeast of Sacramento. But hop off the highway at this tiny Sierra foothills town (population 1,224) and you'll discover a great spot to grab a bite or stretch your legs while zooming to or from Lake Tahoe. Area code is 916.
Newcastle boasts a lively past: Gold Rush, Transcontinental Railroad, and the center of fruit production. The town's historic fruit-packing sheds, located on the north side of I-80, now house a number of businesses.
At Newcastle Produce (9230 Cypress St., 663-2016), you can buy fruits and veggies from the owners' family farm and other local farms, but there's also a good selection of gourmet products like jams, sauces, and marinades. A terrific deli counter offers sandwiches, hot dishes, salads, soups, and seasonal desserts like pumpkin pie bars.
For a town the size of Newcastle, the selection of cheese at the Newcastle Cheese Shop (455 B Main St., 663-3704) is remarkably big. And their sandwiches—especially a meat-and-cheese-packed concoction on a Dutch crunch roll called The Rat Trap—have earned many fans.
For a sit-down lunch or dinner, head to cozy La Fornaretta (455 Main St. #4, 663-1338). Italian cuisine is the specialty here, with an emphasis on pasta (dishes such as spaghetti alla carbonara and ravioli pesto) and pizza. They do take-out, too.
Done with eating? Check out the jumble of second-hand furnishings and knick-knacks, plus some bona fide antiques at Merry-Go-Round Merchandise (455 C Main St., 663-9600). If you're craving crystal teacups or a life-size cutout of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise—or if you simply want to clear the brain of I-80 white-line fever—this is the place.
Photography by Christopher Hall
This blog post was first published in April 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.