Not fronting on the Food Front

Illustration by Mark Stivers

Nearby culinary getaway: Much like Sacramento, Woodland has a reputation as a cow town that’s gotten more interesting over the past few years. In the food scene, things have really picked up in the last several months for the small city north of Davis.

While Sac has “Farm-to-Fork,” they have “Food Front”—a city rebranding effort launched in the fall.

“We’re pretty much as close as you can get when it comes to being farm-to-fork because the farms are jutting up against the town,” explains Hillary Niblock, manager of the Morgan’s Mill coffee shop that she helped to open last summer.

Niblock moved from Arkansas to California to launch the cafe with her husband Braden and the shop’s owner and Woodland native, James Morgan. The fresh graduates had all attended college at Harding University and sought to combine their specialties in coffee, beer and business.

Now Morgan’s Mill fills a gap in the town not just for specialty coffee, but also the ability to drink wine and caffeine and eat breakfast at all hours of the day. The menu includes funky waffles like cinnamon roll, meat lover’s, pizza and the goat waffle— grilled with green apples inside and topped with goat cheese, walnuts and honey.

Housed in a red-brick former rice mill, the interior has clusters of Edison bulbs, and for those looking to linger, it offers couches and nooks.

“You could barely even find a coffee shop before,” says Juliana Garcia, co-owner of House of Shah that opened on the Main Street around the same time.

Garcia and her husband, Selymon Shahsamand, opened their restaurant after she sampled her husband’s traditional Afghan dishes and realized how accessible, yet novel, they were to a place like Woodland.

“I just thought it would do really well here because there wasn’t a lot of diversity,” Garcia says. “It’s familiar flavors: cilantro, tomato, onion, lemon. Those are all basic staples of Mexican cuisine and also for [Afghani food], so that’s what I think is inviting for everyone.”

Their airy storefront features pastel plastic chairs and a chalkboard menu with friendly lettering selling fusions like Afghani Macaroni with tomatoes, beef stew and garlic yogurt. The restaurant is part of a series of new businesses near the historic, pioneer-style Main Street, including boutiques and houseware stores opening up within the next few weeks.

Soon, Yolo Eats—the company that owns Morgan’s Mill as well as Morgan’s on Main and Maria’s Cantina—will open Lou’s Italian Eats at 423 First Street.

“It’s growing for the better,” Garcia says. “When we were first dating, at 8 p.m., we wouldn’t find anything to eat, we would go to Davis or Sacramento just to get food—and now, that doesn’t seem to be a problem.”