By Lisa Page
It’s difficult to recognize the completely transformed Hook & Ladder (1630 S Street) as the former Hangar 17. What I remember as a dimly lit bar with low ceilings and your average alcoholic beverage has been modernized into an eclectic space with an upscale food and cocktail menu.
Concrete floors and wide ceiling beams give Hook & Ladder a modern industrial feel, but the décor is rustic – old pallets along the wall, antler and burlap wrapped light fixtures, a wooden California flag hanging above the bar. While the California flag may be an ode to the owners’ other restaurant and bar, Golden Bear, there are no other comparisons to be made. Cloth drapes hang in layers between the ceiling beams and soften the ambience.
I’ve been there twice now. The first time was for brunch and then for dinner and drinks. Both times we sat outside on the back patio. For brunch, the back patio space was perfect. It reminded me of having brunch in Greenwich Village with wooden boards and potted plants plastered along the fence of the enclosed patio.
A couple weeks later, I would have preferred to sit inside for dinner given the chilly fall weather, but the restaurant was packed on a Thursday night with no tables or bar seats open. The restaurant has plenty of space between the bar and its dinner tables. While that probably helps with the late night crowd, it seems like there could be a little more inside seating. There are some regular dinner tables and a couple of sets of high tables, and then a couple of nooks with different sized chairs. The outside patio definitely has a different ambience than inside, so I would love to hear what others think about eating at the bar or inside the restaurant.
I was impressed with the thought and detail that went into every inch of the restaurant and hoped the food would live up to my expectations. The brunch menu can be found here. My friends and I were disappointed that they don’t serve bottomless mimosas, but they do have more fruity drink varieties than many brunch spots. In addition to the standard mimosa, there was a breakfast punch on the menu and a range of other cocktails. Most of us went with the bloody Mary, which was peppery and spicy, just how like it. I ordered the crab hash, which was also spicy – more so than I expected. I wish our waiter would have warned me about the heat. We shared plates amongst ourselves, so I had a chance to try the pork quesadilla (surprisingly not spicy like the hash) and the croquet monsier (very yummy). They also serve a breakfast pizza, which I want to try next time. The service was a little slow, but for a new restaurant, all in all, we really enjoyed the experience and will definitely come back.
A couple weeks later, I had dinner with fellow GOTG blogger Becky Warren. It was much busier but the service was really on top of everything that night. They have a number of unique cocktails like a Heavy Crown (blended scotch apricot brandy, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, orange bitters), a Jerez-All Cocktail (rye, brandy amontillado sherry, crème de cacao) and even something called an Averna Shrub with averna and blackberry shrub (anyone tried this?). The wine menu features more by the glass options than most restaurants or bars in town. It’s pricy by the glass, but the bottle prices are reasonable. We ordered a bottle of malbec, which was only $32.
We tried a couple of appetizers – the fig leaf wrapped goat cheese served with grilled bread and an apricot-fig compote and seared ahi bahn mi sliders. We loved the goat cheese dish. The sliders were okay. The ahi just didn’t seem to stand up to the pickled vegetables. Our favorite dish by far was the housemade sweet potato pappardelle with a mixed mushroom ragu and shaved sheep’s milk cheese. The housemade noodles were thick and done perfectly, and the ragu had a variety of pungent mushrooms giving the dish an earthy flavor.
Of course, we had to try desert and went with the bananas foster bread pudding with salted caramel gelato. As you can see from the picture, the bananas, bread pudding and gelato were all separate on the plate, which gave us a chance to see how each stood on its own. The gelato was salty and creamy and is a must have. The bread pudding was a little dry but mixed with the bananas and gelato, it was still quite nice.
We really just skimmed the surface of the menu, so let us know if you have other recommendations that we should try next time. It can be challenging to stand out in Sacramento’s bustling restaurant scene, but with Hook & Ladder’s locally inspired menu, distinctive ambience and unique drink menu, they have started the right mix of what usually gets Sacramentans to come back again.