The Morning Fork
Sacramento, CA 95811
Some of us are old enough to remember a Midtown of yore—a time when local craft brews flowed from Rubicon, when Capitol Garage was actually parked adjacent to the Capitol, before The Weatherstone became Old Soul and when The Beat! had yet to drop. It was an era when Midtown’s breakfast market was more or less cornered by Cornerstone and its lunch-countered counterpart, Lucky Cafe.
Husband-and-wife duo Keith and Jennifer Swiryn have dished out a tasty tribute to the latter with their new venture, The Morning Fork. Housed in Lucky Cafe’s old location on 21st Street, the Fork invokes the golden days of the diner and offers patrons a welcome reprieve from the toity trappings of the now-ubiquitous brunch spot. If nostalgia was edible, it’d be the blue-plate special at The Morning Fork.
A waitress at Lucky for the better part of a decade, Jennifer’s appreciation for the Fork’s predecessor is lovingly displayed in every quirky element of the restaurant’s interior. The trademark lunch counter is still the diner’s focal point, now DIY decorated with an epoxy top of leaves gathered from city parks. A map illustrating Sacramento establishments from 1988 hangs on the wall near the kitchen, the same place it did at Lucky.
The same brown- and orange-rimmed coffee pots pour into familiar brown ceramic mugs, serving up specialty java from local roasters Naked Coffee. And you’ll find the exact same jumbo link sausage ($5) as Lucky, with the same light char and top notes of sage and white pepper.
Brunch loyalists will be happy with more innovative bubbly potables such as the It’s Green ($7/$18), which brings the sweet heat with a mix of kiwi puree, muddled sage, mint, jalapeño, club soda and lemongrass syrup, served in a sour apple sea salt and sugar rimmed glass. It’s wonderfully busy and effervescent, though too heavy-handed on the sweet. A little less syrup and a bit more fizz, in brut or in soda form, would provide an easy answer to this very first-world problem.
All the American breakfast standards are available. The Brioche French Toast ($10) is a reliable cinnamoned standby, but its housemade salted maple butter begs you to go easy on the syrup accompaniment for fear that its nectarous, salty, velvety flavor will be lost in a sea of a stickier, more pedestrian kind of sweet. The country potatoes ($5) keep things interesting with the colorful addition of purple spuds, grilled onions and poblano peppers. Bits of smoky bacon top a crunchy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside breakfast biscuit ($5), nearly invisible under its cloak of creamy sausage gravy.
The Eggs Benedict ($14), keeps it wholly traditional with its thick cuts of Canadian bacon, a meaty texture reminiscent of a holiday ham. The hollandaise, in all its buttery richness, manages to deliver a delicate but totally detectable lemon flavor. On one visit, the poached eggs had cooked through to medium by the time I availed myself, a minor disappointment I got over rather quickly.
I left The Morning Fork on a late Monday morning, full of good food and memories. I crossed the street and peeked in the window of Time Tested Books. In its reflection, Downtown James Brown passed behind me and, just for a moment, I forgot when I was.