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Restaurant Scene Booming in America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital

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Ella dining room interior PicmonkeyUrban and airy feeling at Ella

TASTE News Service May 4, 2015 - Local, seasonal, sustainable: These may be culinary buzzwords in many places, but Sacramento restaurateurs have been cooking by these principles for decades. 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 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 fresh, 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.

Downtown

In the neighborhood that surrounds the State Capitol, power-lunch places are now jointed by happening hot spots like Ella Dining Room and Bar, 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 with house-made tonic) are just as sophisticated as the airy interior. Grange, situated in the showpiece Citizen Hotel, serves ever-changing, strictly local menus at breakfast, lunch, and dinner including well-priced nightly prix-fixe specials. The warmly lit, mod interior is framed by dramatic high windows and carved from the Citizen's renovated historic quarters. New to Sacramento in January 2014, Mother is now the can't-miss place to dine in the area. The restaurant offers a full, locally-sourced vegetarian and vegan menu.

Zocalo sidewalk dining PicmonkeySidewalk dining at ZocaloMidtown

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 and The Waterboy, 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 a 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. Local favorite Shady Lady, a speakeasy-style bar-restaurant pouring just-so traditional cocktails and serving small plates inspired by classic American fare, is the anchor for the vibrant, revitalized R Street Corridor, now packed with fun restaurants and bars that draw young crowds. Nearby Hook & Ladder highlights handcrafted cocktails and local craft beer along with its farm-fresh California cuisine. More top Midtown destinations include the longtime favorite Biba, featuring seasonally driven, meticulous Northern Italian specialties from cookbook author and TV personality Biba Caggiano; popular wine bar 58 Degrees & Holding Co., and bustling, beautifully decorated Mexican spot Zocalo. When it's time for dessert, tempt your sweet-tooth at Ginger Elizabeth. This downtown chocolatier and sweet shop, specializes in chocolates and macaroons, and many of the boutique's offerings are made with locally-sourced ingredients.

Old Sacramento and Other Areas

Squash BisqueFirehouse Squash BisqueDowntown 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, 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 in Arden-Arcade, where the spectacular multicourse dinners are a show in and of themselves. Plan your visit a few weeks in advance! Craving a waterfront table? Try Pearl on the River, 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.

 

Editor’s Note: To meet some of the people responsible for creating Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork identity, see article by Dan Clarke. If you’re planning on visiting Sacramento visit Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory first. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to area Wineries and Craft Beer Purveyors.

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