Cheers to decent pub food

Sac City Brews

The SCB Grilled Cheese sandwich is a “quadruple-whammy” of mozzarella, pepper jack, cheddar and swiss.

The SCB Grilled Cheese sandwich is a “quadruple-whammy” of mozzarella, pepper jack, cheddar and swiss.

photo by rebecca huval

Good for: Better than average bar snacks and meals with local craft brews
Notable dishes: Banh mi, mac & cheese balls
American Beer Bar, Tahoe Park

Sac City Brews

3940 60th St.
Sacramento, CA 95820

(916) 400-4109

If there's one business that can define a neighborhood, it might be the humble pub.

In 19th century Britain, the public house was truly that, a gathering place for the community, including children, to quench their thirst with beer when running water wasn't sanitary. You could say ale was their juice cleanse. More recently, the tavern has set the stage for strangers and coworkers to become a makeshift family, at least in the imagination of shows such as Cheers.

In Tahoe Park, Sac City Brews has taken up that mantle since January and quickly become a gathering place for first dates and friend crews to chill with their dogs in its shaded patio overlooking a parking lot, yes, but also leafy trees. They gather for the communal board games and stay for the 16 craft beers on tap. Neighborhood artwork lines the walls, including stylish posters by designer Erik Hosino and adventurous photography by Leticia Sanchez.

What links SCB with the British pub (besides billing itself as a “Neighborhood Tap House”) is that the food offerings are on par with the alcohol, unlike many nearby bars. The beer list switches out on a regular basis, with the help of a printer behind the cash register that etches new pours and their logos onto placards. Blue Note, Fieldwork, Knee Deep, Track 7 and Moonraker Brewing Cos. were recently on tap, as well as dry pear cider from Hemly Cider in Courtland. The bar also serves glasses of wine, including sparkling rose for all of $5.

The food menu, on the other hand, was concocted by co-owner Rebecca Campbell as a collection of offbeat bar bites that fill you up. Sausages and cheesy sandwiches feature heavily, but the pub also serves salads and funky appetizers. For special events, the 500-square-foot kitchen flexes into new territories: Mother's Day brunch included a smoked trout bagel and baked brioche french toast; Cinco de Mayo brought chicken mole tacos and a churro filled with chocolate sauce.

Even the bar snacks reveal lofty aspirations—the tap house doesn't serve peanuts, but Brown Sugar & Lavender Roasted Almonds ($3.50). Also on the appetizer menu, mac & cheese balls ($8.50) were encased with a crunchy fried layer that held silken tubes of pasta studded with tarragon and sausage.

The sausage menu—including a vegetarian brat that can be subbed into most dishes—also contained a few surprises. For example, the banh mi ($9) mixed Cajun andouille sausage with the traditional Vietnamese fixings of pickled carrots and daikon, mint and chopped peanuts between a toasted brioche bun. Skeptical at first, I was won over by the novelty of experiencing that telltale Cajun peppery burn alongside Sriracha and jalapeño, all cooled down by Kewpie mayo. Three kinds of spice at once? Sign me up.

The less successful sandwiches were overwhelmed by cheese without many other ingredients to balance out the rich thickness. The SCB Grilled Cheese ($8.50) offered a quadruple-whammy of whole milk mozzarella, pepper jack, sharp cheddar and swiss with only a few caramelized onions to add to the uniform texture profile. The chipotle crema was delicious, but only made matters fattier.

Still, SCB excels at its chilled-out atmosphere, and the best items on its menu show a relaxed confidence. And isn't that the mark of a solid neighborhood pub?