Empress Tavern Impresses

By Aimee Darville

Aimee Darville
Aimee Darville

Empress Tavern, an American Carvery in the heart of Downtown Sacramento, opened last Thursday to the public. The entryway (located at 1013 K street) is tucked away and adorned with a gorgeous container garden of succulents and water wise plants, designed by Shannin Stein, Empress Tavern’s General Manager and Len Peterson, the bar manager.

When I arrived, a host greeted me and held the door to a grand staircase leading down to the restaurant which has been converted from the basement of the historic Crest theater. The open space features brick arches and a bar wrapped around the center. Recessed lighting and fanciful wallpaper brighten up the space so much you’ll forgot that you’re in a basement.

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Across from the staircase an open kitchen showcases a shiny new Rotisol rotisserie that Chef/Owner Michael Thiemann and Co-Executive Chef Matt Masera can monitor and adjust remotely! Empress is located just steps away from popular vegetarian restaurant Mother, co-founded by Thiemann. Empress is a marked departure from Mother; the menu highlights proteins in a contemporary and approachable way, including a number of veggie options with snacks and sides for only $5 and $6 respectively.

The opening night energy was palpable as servers in blue bowling shirts buzzed between tables and a photographer from SacTown magazine snapped shots of diners. No reservations are required at the bar so I started with Bike Dog’s San Dog IPA and we were seated before I finished it.

I only eat meat occasionally so I was a little nervous, but I decided to embrace my inner carnivore…when in Rome! At the bar I snacked on a chicken heart smothered in herbs that tasted, well like chicken. I’ve never tried bone marrow before and it did not disappoint. Served on a pesto panzanella, it was like a rich meat butter. We also dug into a couple of delicious fish options: fried smelt and smoked salmon dip served with crispy potato chips.

One more side, the potato dauphinoise, a scalloped potato gratin and the prime rib cooked perfectly medium rare rounded out the meal. Thankfully I saved room for (a few bites of) dessert, because the peach pie, swimming in peaches and served from a dessert cart a-la-mode with buttermilk ice cream, was seriously good.

After a long awaited opening, Empress Tavern definitely delivered on flavor and creativity. Be careful though, the chicken spinning on the rotisserie is hypnotizing. I know what I’ll be ordering next time!

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(All photos courtesy of Empress Tavern) 

 

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