Sacramento, CA 95818
Sacramento, at this point, has the high and low ends of the restaurant spectrum pretty well covered. You can go out for a solid special-occasion meal or under-$10 cheap eats with equal ease. But I often draw a blank trying to find a casual, mid-priced, maybe even family-friendly weeknight place—neighborhood joints with reasonably imaginative, cooked-in-house food, where you go when you don’t want takeout and nobody wants to cook. Those are the places that show that a city’s food culture is thriving, and we need to step it up.
Obviously, I’m not the first to think this, and Dad’s Kitchen in Land Park has thrown its hat into the neighborhood-restaurant ring. An offshoot of Dad’s Sandwich Shop, Dad’s Kitchen still emphasizes the sandwich, but it’s a sit-down spot—complete with games on offer for guests who want to linger—wedged into an unlikely corner of a building: It’s more spacious inside, and on the easygoing garden patio (planted, attractively, with fruit trees and edibles), than it looks from the outside.
The menu runs to sandwiches and burgers, plus big salads, but there’s also a majestically large plate of meatloaf, various specials and macaroni and cheese. We ordered up the small bowl of the latter for our daughter, and for $3.50 it a) may be the best in town, with a creamy white-cheddar sauce and a crunchy top and b) would be enough to feed a grown-up. On the theme of family-friendliness, our server won amusement points at the very beginning by flashing us a handwritten piece of paper and saying, “Here’s our kid’s menu.” Listed? Benadryl, Ritalin … OK, OK, a little sick, maybe, but funny. They’re obviously not driving parents away; the place was packed with families.
We started off with wine for me—there’s a very short list of local vintages—and beer for my husband (they offer Rubicon). The arugula salad, our starter, came with crisp-fried garbanzo beans, lightly spiced and yummy, and a little too much of a mildly tangy roasted-tomato vinaigrette. Most of the other salads looked like meals, and there’s an option to add meats to all of them: chicken to the Greek, bacon or steak to the “Chomper” (an apple–blue cheese concoction).
My husband then went for the Blue Collar Dream sandwich—a well-toasted panini-style affair, stuffed with beefy tri-tip slices, jack, roasted red onion, red pepper and mushrooms, plus mustard and some kind of hot sauce. This was a tasty, hefty sandwich, but despite the strength of all the flavors, they were nicely in balance. The bread was buttery-tasting and toasty, making for a very successful ’wich, but perhaps my favorite thing on the plate was a piquant little tangle of pink, wilted yet crunchy pickled onions.
The fish cakes plate was really a(nother) sandwich. Golden-crusted and crisp and the edges, they got a little mushy in the middle, but they had a nice oceanic flavor and a snap from some red and green bell peppers. I liked the tangy, slightly vinegary romesco sauce on the focaccia; with its hint of spiciness, it set off the rich cakes. The sandwich also included sliced tomato (which just made it a little too damp, I thought), lettuce and some sliced red onions—I wished they had been the awesome pickled onions. I loved the zingy slaw, made from curly savoy cabbage. I was also quite happy with what the menu calls “house-cut spuds of joy.” That sounds vaguely dirty, but they were nice, thick, golden french fries, crunchy and fluffy-mealy. (If you feel like eating snacks, the fries are on offer as sides with various accouterments: chili fries, blue cheese-habanero fries.)
There are a couple of desserts, but the one our server recommended—indeed, practically insisted we order—was a Nutella sandwich with ice cream and honeyed strawberries. This was, not surprisingly, a hit with everyone—even me, and to be honest I’m not a big Nutella fan. Oozing out of a hot, buttery brioche sandwich, though, it was pretty delicious.
Dad’s also offers breakfast, which I can recommend. Do make sure that if you sit outside, you snag a table with an umbrella—it’s bright out there—and also order up a carafe of their fresh juice. (When we were there, they had orange or watermelon, squeezed in house.) They have espresso drinks and breakfast sandwiches, but I looked on this as a chance to try the kitchen out on non-sandwich items. I very much enjoyed the not-too-salty corned beef hash, with yummy crusted bits and tender meat dotted with peppers. Breakfast comes with drop biscuits and housemade fresh jam (strawberry on our visit). The “standard breakfast plate”—your typical two eggs, meat and potato, plus that biscuit—is distinguished by “breakfast taters” in addition to home fries: looking like elongated tater tots, these were actually croquettes of mashed potato (a clever use of what I presume are dinner-service leftovers), panko-crusted and fried crunchy. Yum. The Dad’s Breakfast Plate is for the hearty eaters: chunky chili (an earthy red pork-based stew rather than a typical bean/beef mix) topping a tostada shell with eggs and hash browns.
The breakfasts make me wish that Dad’s Kitchen would offer up a higher ratio of plated entrees to sandwiches—one doesn’t always want a sandwich for dinner—but that’s a quibble. Dad’s is a friendly, delightful hangout and a tasty, low-key addition to Sacramento’s mid-priced dining options.