Don’t fence me in
Sacramento, CA 95825
If you go out to dinner a lot, surely you’ve found yourself staring down the menu of another place trumpeting its local, seasonal, New American regional credentials and thinking, “Haven’t I been here—or somewhere just like it—before?” Rest assured, you won’t think that at Roxy, the new venture from Lucca restaurateurs Ron and Terri Gilliland.
Roxy has local credentials to spare. Almost the whole back of the menu lists (and sometimes misspells) the producers who supply its ingredients. And, yes, it’s probably pretty seasonal. On the cold January night of our visit, one special was a hearty sausage sampler with even heartier cheddar mashed potatoes, and right now things like cara cara oranges and parsnips dot the menu. And, yeah, it’s New American regional—but with a twist.
Here, regional means the West, and the West means cowboys. Cowboys, that is, who went to Paris (and maybe the Bay Area), liked the city-slick cooking and came back to open a restaurant where the chili is served in white china, the chopped salad has mint and chickpeas in it, and you can get 2-year-old cheddar on your buffalo burger or house-made pappardelle with broccoli rabe, piquillo peppers and sausage. Or you can get ahi tuna with nopales jicama salad, a prairie Caesar with avocado dressing, or some more French-sounding dishes like sole with shallot-caper butter or onion flatbread with raclette.
The space walks a similar line between sophistication and rustic chic. It’s spare at first glance, all curves in shades of taupe, but with a few ornate set pieces: a mod chandelier with dangling chubby crystals, a dark-wood bar back with a fin-de-siècle flair. There are witty touches, too, like the sleek, spotted cowhide on the cushy banquettes, or the servers’ garb, including saddle blanket–like aprons and coffee-colored Western shirts with classic mother-of-pearl snaps. The women’s shirts are dotted discreetly with faux gems—rhinestone cowgirls, all of them. At dinner, the buzz was far too loud to tell if there was any music, but at a quieter breakfast hour, twangy country wafted over the cowboy breakfast.
If it sounds a little goofy, don’t worry: It’s not. The Western theme is clever without veering into silliness and fresh enough to feel fun.
On my dinner visit, there was a special of just-right seared scallops over an unusual savory Meyer lemon bread pudding with curly Bloomsdale spinach that offered delicate flavors and textures. I had the chopped salad—tangy with judiciously applied creamy citrus dressing and a bitter edge from the greens, precisely diced with a light touch—and a loosely interpreted pork stroganoff with “potato-mascarpone mountain peak ravioli.”
Translated out of menu-ese, that meant a shredded pork mixture like pulled pork with base notes of chili flavor in the saucy jus over three big (the corners gathered to form the “peaks”) house-made ravioli filled with a rich, super-creamy potato mixture. The pasta sheets were a little thick and doughy, but the rich potato filling and the pork were very tasty together. We also tried the sausage sampler as an appetizer. It had sweet caramelized onions to balance the saltiness of the house-made sausages: one each of beef, garlic and Irish pork sausages. The mashed potatoes were so full of cheese they stretched, but they tasted good.
For dessert, I liked the lemon-cream cheese tart with huckleberry meringue—the latter, it turned out, like purplish-gray bits of sugary paving stone over the top of the creamy citrus tart, with a juicy huckleberry sauce surrounding it. A s’mores pie had nice fluffy meringue, but it didn’t taste much like marshmallow; I did like the crisp crust, like a big buttery graham cracker, and the melty bittersweet chocolate.
The restaurant also serves brunch, which we sampled one morning. House-made doughnuts were light yet cakey, with sweet sauces; my favorite was the sour-edged orange-vanilla sauce. The cappuccino’s foam reached new heights, though the orange juice was a little disappointing (not to mention a teensy portion). I adored the ultra-creamy, tender scrambled eggs that came with my biscuits and gravy: The latter spiked with ancho chili and bell peppers, the former flaky and enriched with cheddar cheese. My husband’s cowboy breakfast—spicy, rust-red chilaquiles topped with black beans and eggs over easy—might not have been quite big enough to satisfy a real cowboy, but it was just right for a sedentary modern Sunday morning. (It’s not all hearty Western breakfasts; you can also get things like steel-cut oatmeal with pomegranates, or buckwheat crepes with honey-lemon ricotta.)
Roxy is far from perfect. Pricing is all over the map, especially with the specials (that sausage sampler, sold as an appetizer but bigger than either of our mains, was $16; so was my stroganoff entrée, while the smallish portion of scallops was $27). The kitchen needs to watch its hand with the salt a bit, especially in those sausages. And on busy nights, service can be slow and uneven: People who sat down next to us arrived after we ordered, but were finished with their meals before our main courses arrived. None of those cavils change the fact that Roxy is one of the most inventive, fun and just plain interesting places to hit Sacramento’s dining scene in the past year or so. If you’re in the mood for something new the next time you go out to dinner, I suggest that you go ride the range.