Goods & services: Boulevards of bargain bins

Go on a mad shopping spree in the thrifty south

Southern exposure<br>Hot time, summer in the city—or maybe not. Midtown isn’t the only place hopping when the temperature starts soaring. South Sacramento’s wide-open boulevards are the antidote to grid vision, offering hot bargains on everything from hardware to <i>pho</i>. Be prepared—to save money.

Southern exposure
Hot time, summer in the city—or maybe not. Midtown isn’t the only place hopping when the temperature starts soaring. South Sacramento’s wide-open boulevards are the antidote to grid vision, offering hot bargains on everything from hardware to pho. Be prepared—to save money.

Diorama and Photo by Andrew Nilsen

You only can spend so much time doing the same thing. Folsom, Auburn, Del Paso—those are all really great thoroughfares, like arteries to the heart of the city, but eventually, they’ll be clogged with a lot of the same ol’.

Like birds in winter, that’s when it’s time to head south. City officials talk of becoming a “world-class city,” but if you’ve been down boulevards Franklin, Freeport and Stockton lately, you know that we’ve got the best of so many worlds right in our backyard.

Still skeptical? Here’s a sample of goods and services you’ll never find beneath the city of trees’ canopy.

Franklin Boulevard
Franklin is low-rent and, well, sketchy in parts, but it’s home to a surprisingly rich and diverse community of small businesses. In fact, you can get pretty much anything you need on Franklin Boulevard without patronizing a single Starbucks or Safeway or big-box store.

Leaving Broadway, Franklin threads between Oak Park and Curtis Park. Here, the mature shade trees, big houses and small shops—including Gunther’s Ice Cream shop—give Franklin the feel of a small-town main street. Just south of Broadway is where you’ll find the Mystic Candle Shop. You’ll want to pick up a book on protective spells, a luck candle, a love candle and maybe a St. Christopher medal before heading farther south.

A couple of blocks on and you’ll run into the Broadway Costume shop on the left. This is more of a theatrical shop than a place for trick-or-treaters. Marine Corps dress uniforms share racks with wedding gowns and Roman-style tunics. You won’t find the typical array of Hollywood monster masks (though we spotted Quark from Star Trek Deep Space Nine up on one shelf). There are, however, more animal-head masks than you are ever likely to need. You’ve got your bear, horse and moose, and for some reason, lots and lots of white bunny heads. Weird.

South of Sutterville Road, Franklin gets grittier; there are fewer trees and more strip malls. Here, you’ll find a booming little home-improvement district. Two of the best shops, Red’s Plumbing Supply Co. and New Home Building Supply, are constantly bustling with contractors and do-it-yourselfers from the surrounding neighborhoods. The folks running these stores are often a little surly, but they know their stuff, and it’s far better than trying to navigate a Home Depot.

We couldn’t possibly review the dozens and dozens of restaurants on Franklin. But it’s worth mentioning a couple of the cheap-eats highlights: Franklin boasts not one, but two La Favorita Taquerias. It’s also home to Scott’s Burger Shack, possibly the best burger stand in town.

Further down, you get a dizzying array of bodegas, noodle shops and Asian video stores. Some of the buildings are obviously way out of code, and though it takes a while to realize it, there are almost none of the usual chain stores or fast-food franchises that dominate many of Sacramento’s boulevards. There must be some golden arches down there somewhere, but damned if we remember seeing any.

Today, we’ll end at St. Patrick’s Thrift Store, a great spot if you need clothes for Catholic school—racks and racks of blue trousers and green tops.

There’s also the requisite cheesy record collection, from old Marx Brothers recordings to Loverboy to Kenny Rogers, worth perusing. There’s bound to be something in there worth $2. Likewise, the used-book section is your basic yard-sale fare—the complete Lord of the Rings for $2.50: Why not?

It does get a little Catholicky at St. Patrick’s, with the pictures of Monsignor Kavanaugh on the wall and the giant “Yes on Prop 73” signs mounted on the roof. (That was the ballot measure back in 2006 that would have required parental consent for women under 18 to get an abortion.) So, if you get a little spooked in there, don’t worry, you’re just seven blocks from the Planned Parenthood clinic at the corner of Franklin and Fruitridge Road.

How do you say checkmate in Vietnamese? <i>Xiangqi</i>, or Chinese chess, is popular at Láng, a Vietnamese cafe and shop on Stockton Boulevard.

Photo By Nick Miller

Freeport Boulevard
This one’s named, of course, for the town of Freeport, the gateway to the Sacramento River Delta.

There’s a not a whole lot to downtown Freeport—a market, and a couple of bait shops. At Delta Bait & Tackle, you can stock up on pile worm, meal worm, ghost shrimp, grass shrimp, mudsuckers, night crawlers, mackerel, clams and crawdads. Oh, and don’t forget the beer.

But today, we’re going north, past the famous Freeport Water Tower. Weren’t they supposed to paint that up like a tomato or something?

Past Florin Road and the Home Depot power center, there’s a long stretch of industrial nothing and oleander curtain until you get to the Bing Maloney Golf Course, and then the Sacramento Executive Airport. A couple of years back, there was talk of taking the airport and developing it into a whole new neighborhood when the airport’s lease expires. It makes a certain amount of sense; it’s near light rail, and you could fit an awful lot of houses and shops in its 540 acres. But the neighbors flipped out, especially those on the east side of the airfield who have airplane hangars instead of garages. Basically, city staff was told to shut up about it for now. Still, with airplane fuel prices being what they are …

North of the airport, Freeport turns into a pretty lively commercial strip. Here’s is where you find your Land Park fixtures, like Freeport Bakery, Taylor’s Market and Capital Nursery. A favorite spot lately has been Oto’s Market. It’s got produce you’ve probably never tried and cheap udon fixings.

More importantly, they have a huge selection of imported iced coffees in a can. Good ones, too—none of that Starbucks Frappuccino stuff that seems to monopolize the coolers these days.

Adisak and Supatra Vacharasouan dish the real deal for less at Thai Thai Express.

Photo By Nick Miller

And you’ll want to be good and wired, because the next stop is night classes at Sacramento City College. Given the tanking economy, it’s probably a good time to head back to school and reinvent yourself—for just $20 per academic credit! Looking at the summer class schedule, you’ll find you can bone up on your Japanese grammar, criminal-investigation techniques and sewing skills. All things that may come in handy in your next career.

Stockton Boulevard
Don’t debate. Don’t even try to argue that there’s a more satisfying, adventurous boulevard in town than Stockton.

C’mon, you don’t even have to explore Stockton Boulevard in its entirety to fully realize that it stands above the rest; one intersection will suffice. Sixty-fifth Street and Stockton Boulevard—this is where it goes down.

Stop by during the lunch hour at Thai Thai Express, an immaculate hole-in-the-wall cafe that serves up ridiculously savory and flavorsome Thai dishes and desserts. Tired of greasy, half-assed pad kee mao, or drunken noodles, with bland mini-corn cobs and bogus veggie medleys? Thai Thai’s wide-ribbon noodles are light and tangy, with a distinct hint of brandy and basil. Tasty and affordable; none of the dishes at Thai Thai will hurt your wallet (most are $6.95!). Owners Adisak and Supatra Vacharasouan even prepare desserts, like Tua-Pap, a sticky rice and yellow-bean concoction topped with sesame and coconut. Delicious.

Scamper across Stockton Boulevard from Pacific Rim Plaza (don’t jay-walk, even though everyone does!) and wash down your meal at Láng Café, which sells drinks and snacks, CDs, magazines, books and a local Vietnamese-language newspaper. Out front in the afternoon, locals challenge each other at Chinese chess, or Xiangqi—and the gamesmanship gets rather heated. At one table there was a good dozen onlookers cheering and jeering with each move, calculation and countermove. Needless to say, if you don’t know the rules, don’t even bother sitting in on a game. Try playing here first:

Meat. It’s what’s for dinner at Taylor’s Market.

Photo By Nick Miller

If you make your way back toward Sac proper, there’s tons more to enjoy on Stockton, too. At Thrift Town, you can get anything and everything for practically nothing—like 50-cent stuffed animals for your dog to rip apart. Pho King No. 3, or P.K. Noodle, has arguably the best pho in Sac—doy! TAK Fashion and Alterations will alter cuffs for a steal at $12 and plain bottoms for a ridiculously cheap $7 (that is, of course, unless you hem your own slacks). At Au Lac Veggie restaurant, you can get a soy-protein faux meat and salad special for less than $7. If you’re too cool for fake steak, at USA Tires they’ve got an abundance of sweet rims for your ride. I’d say they were cheap, but as everyone knows, sick twenties are priceless. And, yes, there’s a U-Do-It Car Wash just down the block, so you can get DIY on those spinnaz. But all this food and car-washing inevitably will wear you out, however, so finish your day at Golden Touch Massage Therapy.

A recap: great food, exotic games, stuffed animals, new clothes, fake meat, rim jobs and a back massage. No, not Las Vegas; just Stockton Boulevard.