Food & Drink

Best new use for a historic brick (fire)house

Illustration By Don Button

Mulvaney’s Building and Loan
1215 19th Street, (916) 441-6022.

Dear Mulvaney’s,

I just want to say that I am so totally crushing on you. I feel kind of junior high sending you this note. I mean, you don’t even know me—I’m just one of the dozens of girls (and guys, too—hey, I’m cool with that) you see every day—but I already feel like we’re close, even though you’re kind of new in town. Maybe it’s your straightforward (but unconventional) approach to cooking or your handsome setting (like the song says, you’re a brick house) or your funny little quirks, like the way your waiter tucked my bill into a book. (We have so much in common; I love books, too!) Or maybe it’s just the way your chef-owner, Patrick Mulvaney (who seems to visit every table), looks each diner in the eye—that personal touch. It makes me feel like you see deep into my soul.

It’s just that I’ve been looking for a neighborhood restaurant, a place that I could drop into on a whim, for so long. I don’t want to hide anything from you: I’ve been around the block a time or two. I’ve eaten at a lot of restaurants. But the way I see it, that experience just means I know what I like when it’s staring me in the face. And you know what I like. Your food combines that innocent, all-American farm-boy charm (just thinking about all those seasonal ingredients from local farms makes me hungry) with a knowing wink in the kitchen. How could I resist a huge Bledsoe pork steak, chili-dusted, served with fresh-corn scrapple that tastes like polenta that took a right turn at an August cornfield? Or a tri-colored stoplight gazpacho made from late summer’s vibrant tomatoes?

You’re adventurous and maybe a little brash, but not crazy. I mean, it’s pretty smart to give people tender, succulent ravioli stuffed with chanterelles and chard—who could resist that?—and then let them choose whether to add sweetbreads (for just an extra $2). I got the sweetbreads, and boy were they yummy, savory and delicate, but not everyone would want that, and I think you’re right not to get too pushy. That’s not to say you’re perfect. Nobody is, but I’m not bothered by a few little flaws here and there. Watching you change and settle into your new town is what I look forward to in our young relationship.

I guess what I admire the most is that you’re here in Midtown because you like the area as much as I do and chose it deliberately. You really feel like an integral part of the city, unlike some of the other new places in town that feel like they were air-lifted in from somewhere else. “I fell in love with Sacramento and with everything that grows here,” Patrick once told me. “I love Midtown.”

I feel that same love growing for you, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know you better. You’ll see me again soon.

Love from your secret admirer

Food & Drink
Writers’ choice

Food & Drink
Readers’ choice