Dine Downtown 2014 Runs Jan 8 – 17

By Laura Braden, Kelli Breton, Lisa Murphy, Lyndsey Reefer and Jamee Sims

Today kicks off the ninth annual Dine Downtown! Sponsored by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), 28 restaurants are hosting special 3-course meals (prix fixe) for $31.

This year, DSP has shaken things up a bit by donating $1 from each meal to the California Food Literacy Center, an amazing nonprofit dedicated to inspiring change in community food education. We love their founding ED Amber Stott:

“We are pleased to be part of Dine Downtown Restaurant Week,” said Amber Stott, founding executive director of the California Food Literacy Center. “It’s a great way to celebrate the beautiful food of our region while raising money to ensure that the next generation knows where that food comes from, how to cook it, and how these local fruits and veggies will protect their health.”

Watch this video to learn more:

They’re also holding an Instagram contest! Simply follow them @DowntownSac and hashtag #DineDowntown on your best food porn to win a $50 gift card to a participating restaurant and #DowntownSac goodies.

We’ve perused all of the menus and think the following look the most enticing: Biba, Downtown and Vine, Ella, Esquire, the Grange, Hock Farm, Hook & Ladder, Red Rabbit, Ten22 and Tuli Bistro. What’s more, nine restaurants are offering gluten-free options and nearly all have vegetarian dishes. Check out the full list of participating restaurants and menus here

A few of our GOTG writers were lucky enough to receive complimentary “preview” meals. Lisa and Jamee visited Hock Farm on Saturday – check out their reviews below. Kelli is hitting up Esquire tonight, Laura is visiting Biba next Tuesday and most of us will be sampling others throughout the week so we’ll update this page with new reviews on a daily basis.

Cafeteria 15L – 1116 15th Street (Menu)

LYNDSEY: After a friend decided to go to Cafeteria 15L for her birthday dinner and it also being Dine Downtown week I thought it was the perfect time to review this restaurant. I will start by saying the cocktails were to die for. I loving champagne decided on the Barbie Bubbles, which combined champagne, strawberry puree and vodka..pure yummyness! After having a few drinks and chatting with my girlfriends ordered a appetizer to share for the table, which weren’t part of the Dine menu, but were sure good the tater tots. Looking over the Downtown Dine menu nothing really caught eye, but it caught my husbands so he ordered off it. I decided on the meatloaf and mashed potatoes which is always amazing. My husband had the spinach salad which I tasted and was so tasty with all the apples and my favorite goat cheese. For dinner he ordered pan seared Alasken cod, that also had a wonderful taste to it with the citrus soy glaze. Now for dessert I did eat half of it and I was definitely wanting more pumpkin spiced bread pudding served with my ultimate favorite the well know Vic’s ice cream. Over all I would give the Cafeteria 15L a 10 out of 10, the drinks were good, food was amazing and service was outstanding. Another successful Dine Downtown menu.

Biba – 2801 Capitol Avenue (Menu)

Laura and friends with the Biba herself - the original GOTG aka "Godmother of the Grid." :)
Laura and friends with Biba herself – the original GOTG aka “Godmother of the Grid.” 🙂

LAURA: Biba is a beloved Sacramento institution so I had a hunch that the Dine Downtown menu would be a no-brainer … and I was right. Right off the bat, my favorite part was NO DESSERT. One of my complaints with any prix fixe menu is that the last course is always some decadent plate of sweetness, whereas I prefer bacon or cheese. 🙂 For the first course, I ordered the butternut squash soup, which was rich and creamy. It wasn’t quite as good as Ten22‘s version – but it’s definitely the second best I’ve (probably ever) had. Next up was the gnocchi, which melted in my mouth just the way it’s supposed to. I also really liked the smoked mozzarella sprinkled on top because it was a slight twist to an old-fashioned favorite. And last, but not least, was the salmon with lentils and broccoli rabe, which was light but full of flavor. The service was excellent, a bonus considering we had seven chatty ladies in our party, and Biba herself was kind enough to visit our table for a quick picture. I know it may seem old-school, but there is nothing better than seeing the owner/chef at her own establishment visiting with guests and ensuring their meals are up to par. Bonus tip? Order the Boeger Barbera wine. It paired great with everything, and at just $8/glass you won’t feel guilty about ordering a second … or third.

Foundation – 400 L Street (Menu)

LISA: I was curious about the mysterious new restaurant named Foundation that replaced 4th Street Grille, so  I decided to check it out and sample their dine downtown menu. I learned that Foundation is now owned by 4th Street Grille’s head bartenders, so the decor and ambiance is still very familiar. The fixed price menu offered a great variety. The butternut squash soup was much thicker and heartier than others I’ve tried, the beet and blood orange salad was a very unique and exciting new flavor that seems to be popular this season. The main courses were very basic comfort foods and full sized portions. The steak and mashed potatoes were drenched in a really delicious gravy, and the pork loin was complimented with  fig jam and well seasoned glazed carrots and baby potatoes. They also had a pasta dish, and a scallop dish that we did not sample. Dessert was a Meyer Lemon sorbet, another trend this season, and a delicious raspberry cheesecake. There was nothing fancy or over the top about this menu, but as I recall that’s what we loved about 4th Street Grille, and what Foundation continues to offer its patrons.

Hock Farm Craft and Provisions – 1415 L Street (Complimentary Preview Dinner) (Menu)

JAMEE: It’s that time again for Dine Downtown! This week is your best shot at trying some of Sacramento’s’ top restaurants for half the cost, if not more! Push those 2014 resolutions aside and indulge! I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at Hock Farm last Saturday night; I was very, very impressed.  The crowd was great and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and their meals. Lets start off by talking about the décor; it’s gorgeous. I am obsessed with what they have done to that place since Spataro. Well done Randy, well done. The dine downtown menu holds nothing back. They have you covered from the delicious and oh so pretty pear, blue cheese salad all the way to Meyer lemon crepes; which are nothing short of heaven. I chose to do the wine pairing which truly complimented every flavor of each dish. Our server was incredibly knowledgeable and sweet when we became overwhelmed by the amazing meal and wine options. The Leek & Fontina Stuffed Chicken Breast was my favorite. It wasn’t too heavy and the flavor was perfectly rich. When I go out to eat I watch the staff, the kitchen and the total execution of the dining experience. The attention to detail was on point. Hats off to everyone working on Saturday night! Everything tasted delicious and every dish was beautiful. I know you have a lot of options this year for Dine Downtown week but I really think it is worth your while to grab a friend and stop by Hock Farm.  They are permanently etched in to my dine out list.

LISA: If you have not had a chance yet to try Hock Farm, Dine Downtown week is the perfect opportunity. For $31 per person, you will be treated to what can only be described as gourmet farm-to-fork creations. It’s what you wish you could make at home, with the fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs you pick up at theSunday Farmer’s market. Myself and another lucky Girl on the Grid were able to preview the fixed price menu, before it becomes available to the public Jan 8-17. Some of my favorite dishes from the three course menu were the rich and creamy Risotto of Triviso, the tender Leek & Fontina Stuffed Chicken Breast, the Goat Cheese & Potato Ravioli with delectable bites of short rib, and last but certainly not least, the surprisingly sweet Meyer Lemon Crepes and the warm and indulgent Chocolate-Hazelnut Cake. If you try this menu with a friend, I highly suggest you each order an option from the three sections of the menu, and share the courses family style. You’ll leave very full and satisfied but you just might be fighting over the chocolate cake at the end. For $31 per person, this menu is worth every cent.

Esquire Grill (1213 K Street) (Complimentary Preview Dinner) (Menu)

Apple Galette from Esquire
Apple Galette from Esquire

KELLI: I have been to Esquire many times in the past so I had some pretty high expectations going in for the Dine Downtown dinner. The choices on the menu were very impressive, which made it really hard to decide what selections to go for. I decided to start with the kale salad, which I did not regret. The salad was crisp, fresh and topped with an assortment of root vegetables, sunflower seeds and citrus vinaigrette. It was a very nice (and light) appetizer. Dinner was a tough choice as well – pork shanks vs. roasted flat iron steak vs. grilled char. I went with the steak and my lovely guest had the char. Both were amazing! My steak was cooked to perfection and was accompanied with duck fat potatoes (actually more like incredible steak fries), and a bone marrow bordelaise sauce. The char was served with lentils, bacon(!!!), and topped with a lemon butter sauce, which all came together really deliciously. Out of those two entrees I tried, I would highly recommend the steak. And next, my favorite part of eating out – dessert!! I like to think I am a bit of a cheesecake aficionado, since I have baked and devoured sampled many a cheesecake in my lifetime. So, of course, I was very excited to try the meyer lemon cheesecake with cinnamon graham crust and candied kumquat. DUH. Well, just as we were in full anticipation of the final course, our friendly and helpful waitress came over to tell us that the cheesecake didn’t set well, and it was no longer an option. That was pretty disappointing and a bit untimely considering we ordered it in the beginning. However, we settled for the cinnamon-infused crème brulee and the apple galette. The crème brulee was just okay, but the apple galette almost made us forget about the cheesecake letdown! It was just like a warm apple donut/pie and was topped with crème fraiche ice cream that is brought in from some mysterious heavenly sugar shop in Berkeley. Though my guest and I fought over the last bites of the apple galette, we did not cause a scene. (It was a close one, though.) I would add Esquire Grill to your list of places to visit over the next week for Dine Downtown!

Fine Print

Dine Downtown is produced by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership. This event is presented by Lexus and sponsored by Sacramento Magazine. Other partners include California Food Literacy Center, Yelp, OpenTable, California Restaurant Month  and Sacramento365.com. Follow the discussion on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #DineDowntown.

You can read GOTG’s past reviews of Dine Downtown here, but all in all, it’s an excellent way to try new restaurants … or revisit old establishments. #NomNomNom




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