Local, seasonal, sustainable: These may be new culinary buzzwords in many places, but Sacramento restaurateurs have been cooking by these principles for years. Surrounded by unparalleled agricultural bounty, Sacramento’s restaurants showcase the region’s best products, from juicy tomatoes to lush old-vine Zinfandel, sweet peaches to crisp sweet corn, nutty almonds to succulent lamb. That cornucopia inspires Sacramento’s talented chefs year-round, and the city’s dining scene—especially in the convenient, central downtown and midtown areas—has boomed in recent years. The city’s hip new dining venues and its longtime favorite haunts alike offer top-notch, inventive fare and high style, together with the welcoming vibe that characterizes this friendly city.
In the neighborhood that surrounds the state capitol, power-lunch places are now jointed by happening hot spots like Ella Dining Room and Bar (1131 K St., 916-443-3772), a venture from Randall Selland and family (the powers behind high-end stalwart The Kitchen). Ella’s refined, luxe style (its signature is hundreds of wooden shutters, sourced from Europe) was created by an Amsterdam design team, and its distinctive look has been featured in magazines worldwide. The perfectly crafted small-plates fare and upscale cocktails (like a refreshing gin and tonic—the tonic is house-made) are just as sophisticated as the airy interior. Chef Michael Tuohy of brand-new restaurant Grange (926 J St., 916-492-4450), situated in the showpiece Citizen Hotel, serves ever-changing, strictly local menus at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including well-priced nightly prix-fixe specials (on Fridays’ special menu, everything comes from within 100 miles). The warmly lit, mod interior is framed by dramatic high windows and carved from the Citizen’s renovated historic quarters. Nearby, sleek new Cosmo Café (1000 K St., 916-446-9800), the latest venture from restaurateur Randy Paragary and adjacent to the hot new Cosmopolitan Cabaret, offers everything from pre-theater nibbles to late-night eats, with nods to New York deli specialties in plates like the lushly textured house-corned beef.
Sacramento’s hippest neighborhood draws nightly crowds not just to its art galleries and boutiques, but its hot restaurants as well. Gems abound in this dining-rich neighborhood, but two local favorites are Mulvaney’s Building and Loan (1215 19th sup> St., 916-441-6022) and The Waterboy (2000 Capitol Ave., 916-498-9891), both of which reflect the personalities of their chef-owners with fresh, seasonal cooking. Patrick Mulvaney’s intimate restaurant, which features a central display kitchen, is located in an historic brick firehouse and showcases local producers like Bledsoe Pork and Riverdog Farms on its compact but inviting menu. Rick Mahan’s airy Waterboy is a favorite of locals, thanks to Mahan’s local sourcing and impeccable but often adventurous California-Mediterranean cooking; the menu changes often, but he’s as well known for dishes like steak tartare and sweetbreads as for a luscious, perfect burger. Newcomer—and immediate local favorite—Shady Lady (1409 R St., 916-231-9121),
a speakeasy-style bar-restaurant pouring just-so traditional cocktails and serving small plates inspired by classic American fare, is the new anchor for the vibrant, revitalized R Street Corridor, now packed with fun restaurants and bars that draw young crowds. More top Midtown destinations include the longtime favorite Biba (2801 Capitol Ave., 916-455-2422), featuring seasonally driven, meticulous Northern Italian specialties from cookbook author and TV personality Biba Caggiano; the new, champagne-themed Lounge on 20 (1050 20th St., 916-443-6620) in the bustling mixed-use MARRS complex; pocket-sized but jam-packed Tuli Bistro (2031 S St., 916-451-8854), where chef Adam Pechal cooks American fare with a twist; popular wine bar 58 Degrees and Holding Company (1217 18th St., 916-442-5858); and bustling, beautifully decorated Mexican spot Zocalo (1801 Capitol Ave., 916-441-0303).
Old Sacramento and Other Areas
Downtown and Midtown Sacramento may be replete with great food, but Sacramento’s other neighborhoods are equally mouthwatering. Historic Old Sacramento is home to the ultra-refined The Firehouse (1112 2nd St., 916-442-4772), famed for its deep wine cellar, high-end fare from award-winning chef Deneb Williams, and special-occasion-worthy tasting menus. Another perfect pick for a big night out is The Kitchen (2225 Hurley Way, 916-568-7171) in Arden-Arcade, where the spectacular multicourse dinners are a show in and of themselves. Craving a waterfront table? Try brand-new Pearl on the River (1379 Garden Hwy, 916-567-3275), which overlooks the romantic Sacramento River and features impeccable service and a changing “live menu” concept of locally sourced ingredients. All these, and many more, combine to make Sacramento and its diverse restaurant scene a delicious destination.
Content provided by Sacramento Visitor’s Bureau.