You Say Good-Bye, I Say Hello
Seasons change, fashion trends re-emerge, and small businesses come and go.
Sometimes it’s because the marketplace evolves (i.e. The Beat moving online), sometimes it’s for personal/economic reasons (i.e. Le Petit Paris and Hamburger Patties) and sometimes the situation is a tad on the bizarre side (i.e. Blackbird Restaurant and Bar).
And while some columnists like to wax poetic about the closing of this or that marking the “beginning of the end” for INSERT neighborhood, we take a different outlook. Yes, we’re sad to lose any business that becomes a local institution, but it can also pave the way for something entirely new and awesome to become a member of our community (we’re looking at you: Hook & Ladder, Downtown & Vine, KBAR, Tank House BBQ, The Rind, Track 7 and LowBrau).
Soooooo, let’s make a few bets – what new business do you think will be on the Grid for the long haul? In 20 years, who will still be providing us with stellar fashions, cocktails, meals and/or services?
AIMEE: “…Starlite, star bright, First time I saw your blue lights, I wished I may, I wished I might, Fill your walls with Townhouse’s spite…” I was sad to see Townhouse go, but I couldn’t put off checking out Starlite’s (1517 21st Street) any longer. I moved to P Street two months ago and rode past the contentious blue sign almost daily so I headed to Starlite with my friends/roommate. I don’t “club” much in Sacramento, I did that enough in San Diego and Leeds, but most of the times I’ve danced in Sac were within Townhouse’s shadowy sanctuary. A handful of people illuminated by green lasers (a la J Lo’s Waiting for Tonight video) dancing to a non-mixed beat was, in my opinion, the perfect setting to dance face-off at the end of the night. So when I stepped into Starlite, I was prepared to walk out in contempt … but I was pleasantly surprised. Gone was the dingy dance floor and questionable taps, replaced with a brightly lit pool room and glasses so clean that I didn’t relegate myself to bottled beer and instead ordered a cocktail. The upstairs dance floor was getting a little crowded for my taste when we left, but the guy doing ballerina toe stretches in the corner reassured me these patrons were just as eccentric as the previous. I see a bright future for Starlite if it stays true to its grungy/quirky roots.
AMY: Track 7 Brewery (3747 W Pacific Ave #F). This is exactly the kind of place we need more of in Sacramento. First, Track 7’s beer is great. (I love their Amber Ale and Panic IPA.) Second, the vibe inside Track 7 is very cool. I love that families, neighbors and random dogs sit at picnic tables (in what is essentially a warehouse) playing board games. The vibe is very Sacramento: unpretentious, fun and delicious. Most importantly, I think their beer will stand the test of time. The guys are so dedicated to their craft I often see the brewer heading in during our 6am CrossFit class next door.
BRANDY JO: I am definitely NOT a fan of shopping for clothes. From the overwhelming size, color and style options to the crowded malls… ick, I can’t stand it. A few years ago I was invited to a party held at Article Consignment and I fell in love. I walked out of this cozy boutique with bags of clothes, and now my love affair continues with the opening of midtownPOP (2009 N Street). This is a skeptical shoppers paradise! What could be better than Article Consignment, the amazing GypsyMobileBoutique and Little Revelations all under one midtown roof? I was previously unaware of Shop JUST and Swagger’s, but wow, what amazing concepts. I hope this pop-up boutique collaborative sticks around, as we all need to be reminded “Don’t wear it. ROCK it” Happy shopping ladies!!
CAROLINE: Capital Dime (1801 L Street) has great potential to stay for several reasons … Capital Dime focuses on the affordable while providing some tasty high-end offerings along with many comfort food options. Capital Dime is focusing on the proper demographic for the Grid – this crowd wants a loungy, social place to gather, eat food similar to what you find at more expensive restaurants in decent sized portions, have your choice of wine, beer, or handcrafted cocktails, and a large back patio to boot. Each small plate is only around $10, and large plates are only $15. On my visit, we asked for recommendations in each category: for Dime (small) Plate we got the Dime Spinach and Artichoke Dip, really delicious; for Rabbit Food (medium plate) we got the Heirloom Tomato Panzanella, very good and generous; and for large Plate we ordered the Pan Roasted Salmon which came nicely prepared with seasonal sides. (I also had the Moscow Mule, so gingery good, and I believe they said they use housemade ginger beer.) It was packed and so the manager was serving us, and I appreciate that “get it done” attitude. The owner also visited our table – and as The Press does, I love seeing the owner/head chef around the restaurant and caring whether the guests actually enjoy what they’re serving. The front of house staff was so pleasant and eager to get us seated, which is SO important as they provide your first impression and set the mood. I’ve heard some criticisms, but overall, this place struck me with the right balance of what this area wants, and I hope this anchor is here to stay (and only improves).
JULIA: Tank House BBQ and Bar (1925 J St, Sacramento) … Does anyone even remember Hads Steak & Seafood or the Japanese restaurant that both occupied the space Tank House now holds? (No…..well that’s what I thought,) Even if you were a fan of either of those establishments, you will not be disappointed by the offerings at Tank. I am a sucker for comfort food, so maybe I am predisposed to be a huge fan. The menu is simple and to the point. Some of my favorites are the ribs, the dirty mac (get it with the brisket, not the chicken) and the hot link sando. I’ve heard they have also added DIRTY TOTS to the menu. This is rumored to be some amazing concoction of tater tots, meat and the sauce from the mac and cheese. Yes, please! The drink offerings are similarly simple and to the point. Are you one of the many Sacramentans who is over waiting 20 minutes for a craft cocktail? Well no need to worry because at Tank House the drinks don’t have 50 million ingredients in them…thank god, and I’ve been known to enjoy the $2 Hamm’s. If you’re really feeling like drinking you can even get a BUCKET of Hamm’s for $10. Given that I am now a broke graduate student, I appreciate that I can drink on a budget here. I hope that Tank House is here to stay for a long, long time.
KELLI: It may be my love for Mexican food or my daily craving for the Arrachera dish or the Chile Poblano soup, but I am thinking, hoping and wishing that Mayahuel (1200 K Street) is here to stay. This restaurant is my go-to for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, appetizers, girls night out, a date with my husband, after work drinks with the coworkers, etc. You get the point. Every single dish I have had from there (and I have tried almost everything on their menu) is amazing. It is clean, fresh Mexican food done right. Did I mention they even have amazing smoothies and juices? Next time you go there, do your hot body a favor and order the ‘El Popeye’ smoothie, made with spinach, mint, watermelon and mango. Perfect start to your day. And now, lucky for us, they are even open for breakfast so I can get my Café de Olla fix (spiced coffee with cinnamon) and breakfast tacos. Another reason I am obsessed with Mayahuel is their awesome events – whether it is tequila tastings or food exhibits, Mayahuel definitely knows how to throw a party!
KELLIE: My husband and I finally had the chance to try The Rind (1801 L Street) recently. I’d been drooling over their menu for ages. You really can’t go wrong with good cheese I’ve always said that’s the number one reason I could never be a vegan: cheese. (I’m sure their wine and beer are great too, but I’m pregnant…so that wasn’t happening this time around.) They have comforting warm grilled cheese and mac and cheese dishes and even do a pairing of Ginger Elizabeth’s chocolates with cheese – yum! The Rind really has a special niche in Sacramento that I think will keep them around for the long haul. Plus if we succeed in bringing back a Sacramento Public Market, the Rind would fit the vibe nicely!
LAURA: In the beginning, I was a huge fan of Lounge on 20 (we even hosted our first SMEB there), but as time went on, the crowd got lamer and the prices got higher … and it started to feel like something that didn’t fit Sacramento’s vibe. Enter LowBrau (1015 20th Street) with its innovative concept, laidback scene, food-coma-inducing menu and killer patio (a must with our weather). Owner Clay Nutting is uber-involved in the community and seems dedicated to bring innovative music and events to the grid (see le twist Tuesdays and Midtown Arts Festival to name a few). They need to continue to work on their service (the bartenders can be rude, and it can take forever to get a drink), but I think they have a winning concept that will last.
LAUREN KIMZEY: Over the years, many a restaurant bar have occupied the space that is now Red Rabbit Kitchen + Bar. When I first moved to Sacramento it was GV Hurley’s, then closed and became Red Lotus which also sadly closed – to this day, I still miss Chef Billy Ngo’s fabulous avant-garde Asian-fusion creations. So when it reopened as Red Rabbit (2718 J Street), I was totally suspect of its longevity. After going there a couple times, however, it became clear to me this place is in it for the long haul. I think what sets Rabbit apart from its predecessors is its appeal to wide range of clientele and how different it is in comparison to neighboring restaurants and bars. The evolving restaurant menu features seasonal ingredients and can accommodate the most simple to refined palates. As a self-proclaimed craft beer nerd, I love their rotating tap selection featuring local breweries like my beloved Track 7. Their hand-crafted cocktail list is full of Red Rabbit originals and classic favorites with a twist. All this combined with a powerhouse duo of well known Sacramento restaurant and bar heavyweights at the helm, Red Rabbit is quickly becoming a Sacramento staple and, in my opinion, is here to stay.
MAYA WALLACE: I wish eternal success to the new businesses that have sprung up in the grid over the past few years, but I am sometimes skeptical of their long-term viability. There is, however, one semi-Johnny-come-lately that I expect to be visiting for many years to come: Magpie Cafe (1409 R Street). Magpie concocts rustic fare from seasonally available foods (aka the ubiquitous farm-to-fork) and has been doing so since it opened in 2009, before it was cool. I know Magpie is here to stay because it’s always filled with people of all ages, shapes and sizes when I visit, and I’ve never been disappointed. Magpie’s menu is inventive and always changing, but doesn’t overshadow the food. I’ve managed to partake of hearty beef stew, high-end banh mi, a smoked trout omelet, a smorgasbord of fancy cheeses and heirloom tomatoes, and, most recently, a ginger and orange ice cream sandwich. A menu with no caveats. That has staying power.