Food & Drink picks

SN&R writers highlight some winners, including best restaurant that didn’t get a Michelin star and best Sacramento dive bar

The quail egg fried rice at Kru is as delicious as it is beautifully plated.

The quail egg fried rice at Kru is as delicious as it is beautifully plated.

Photo by Reid Fowler

Best restaurant that didn’t receive a Michelin star

Kru Contemporary Japanese Cuisine

The Michelin Guide California made its debut in June, with the mother-of-all restaurant ratings finally including Sacramento in its listings. But, one particular omission resulted in all-caps outrage across social media: “HOW COULD MICHELIN OVERLOOK KRU???” Accolades for Kru seemed like a slam dunk for any Michelin guide to Sacramento. Sitting in front of chef/owner Billy Ngo at Kru’s sushi bar is the go-to move for Sacramento chefs, culinary professionals and high-maintenance local foodies. His presentations of nigiri and Japanese-inspired dishes are as artful as they are delicious, produced with the highest caliber of knife skills and culinary know-how. But somehow, some way, Michelin wasn’t feeling Kru for any of its awards—not a Michelin star (reserved for only the world’s most elite restaurants) or a Bib Gourmand nod (Kru is too expensive for this budget-friendly category). Kru didn’t even qualify for a Plate, a new category that celebrates restaurants that are worthy of a Michelin mention but still have work to do. Who knows why Kru got ghosted. Maybe Kru is too big and boisterous. When it comes to Japanese cuisine, Michelin tends to favor minimalist, more precious kinds of spots. Maybe the timing was wrong as Kru underwent some kitchen turnover. Whatever the excuse, the food couldn’t have been more on point during a recent Saturday night. We’re talking quail fried rice surrounded by a bed of frisée, sumptuous examples of kanpachi and kama toro over impeccably formed and seasoned sushi rice, mushroom dashi as a digestif and so much more. Michelin, you definitely missed out.

3135 Folsom Blvd.; (916) 551-1559; C.M.

Best place to gorge on cheese; Best wine list

The Rind

Chances are if you’re a local cheese devotee you already know about this Midtown gem. The Rind doesn’t just specialize in cheese, it also excels in all things cheese-adjacent. That means, not surprisingly, a stellar wine list, too, with expert servers who can help you make the best pairing. In addition to this eatery’s extensive array of cheese boards and sandwiches (the latter category includes delectable options such as the Peaches & Chevre, which features chevre paired with peaches, tomato and basil, all served on a hearty brioche bread), you can choose from soups, salads and, of course, mac’n’cheese. There are also tasty side options, including dried fruits and nuts. The wine list is impressive with plenty of acidic whites and deeply robust reds. The selections are categorized under headings such as “Substantial and Decadent Wines” and “Flirtatious Reds,” but if you’re not sure which blend best compliments that plate of deliciously stinky blue cheese or mellow triple cream brie, just ask.

1801 L St., Unit 40; (916) 441-7463; R.L.

Best brewery Placer County

Knee Deep Brewing Company

In about nine years, this family-run microbrewery went from a modest operation to serving their beer in more than 30 states and around the globe. You can find their bottles in Australia, China, Japan and South Korea, to name a few countries. Or you can just head to Auburn. The taproom, in its 37,000-square-foot home base, has a clear view of the brewing facility, so you can see how its quirkily named ales—Breaking Bud, Man Juice and Blackberry is My Cologne—are born. Bottles are also sold in Sac, so look out for the brewery’s bushy-browed, crazy green hops mascot.

13395 New Airport Road, Auburn; (530) 797-4677; M.Z.

Best burger Elk Grove

Flaming Grill Cafe

A huge, juicy burger dripping with a creamy sauce and ridiculous toppings smashed between a buttery brioche bun. You’re not dreaming; you’re at Elk Grove’s Flaming Grill Cafe. These mouth-watering, enormous burgers are made with 10 oz. ground chuck mixed with either bacon or a half-pound of top sirloin. They can be substituted for those sporting untamed tastes, including with elk, wagyu, wild boar, gator and more. Specialty burgers such as the Exotic Sourdough Melt, Chorizo Burger or Carnitas Burger ($14.99) all come with crispy, battered fries or salad or brown rice. With its impossibly large menu, there is something for everyone at this family-friendly restaurant—including extreme tots that make all other tots look like small fries. 2513 W. Taron Court; (916) 226-9918; TMA

Best dive bar Sac

Mercantile Saloon

Inside the sun-frosted Victorian where the Mercantile’s ski lodge vibe is strongest, a regular known as “Strawberry” is posted up on a corner bar stool zoning out to MTV’s Ridiculousness played on mute. How do I know the rawboned silent type nursing a tall iced tea, possibly from Long Island, is nicknamed “Strawberry?” Because this other regular keeps calling him that. When Strawberry finally unhooks his cane from the bar and eases into a motorized scooter to escape the teasing, the loud guy says, “Hey Strawberry, can I get a lift?” Strawberry grunts “no” and rumbles out the door as the guy cackles like this is the funniest thing he’s said all day.

I avert eye contact until the comedian leaves and then ask the bartender for Strawberry’s back story. A pleasant beanpole who looks barely old enough to sling suds, the bartender says Strawberry got his handle because of his delicious homemade strawberry jam.

But Strawberry also has another rep, the barkeep dishes: “The dude at The Depot who probably said you look cute.” The bartender smiles. “If you’re a day drinker in the gayborhood, you probably know about him,” he says. The same could probably be said about the “Merc.”

1928 L St.; (916) 447-0792; RFH

The Mercantile Saloon's patrons and bar staff are full of Midtown charm.

Photo by Reid Fowler

Best local beer name that makes you chuckle

Nukin’ Futz, Track 7 Brewing Company

In honor of Track 7’s cheeky approach to naming its creamy, chocolate-and-peanut-butter-hinted porter, we thought we’d pitch the local brewer three more beers with coded names and distinct flavor profiles—and prove why this a job better left to the professionals. Can you guess the schoolyard swears they’re based on?

BunofaWitch (7% ABV): Let this fermenting amber ale breathe before trying. In fact, just go ahead and give it a good, wide berth until the barrel stops shaking of its own demonic volition.

Buckin’ Falls (9.4% ABV): An ox-strong and opaquely brown brew, this one lingers on the palate thanks to a dank, sweat-sock aftertaste that can wilt house plants.

The Sit Heel (37% ABV!!!): A collision of paradoxes—tastes like a warm Bud Light, demolishes you like a bathtub’s worth of moonshine. One pint will have you singing “Don’t Stop Believing” at the top of your lungs at the top of your lungs while attempting to pick fleas off that one alley cat that’s constantly in heat. You will need a tetanus shot later.

(916) 520-HOPS (4677); RFH