RailBridge Cellars & Co.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Railbridge Cellars & Co. tastes like an identity crisis.
Occupying the ground floor of the stately Elks Tower, the 3-month-old restaurant exudes sophistication. Your feet grace Carrara marble from Italy. Framed works of vintage art double as lessons in local history. Art deco light fixtures complete the time travel effect.
Then, you notice those very light fixtures feature logos of the Sacramento Kings and Sacramento State University, and the place suddenly reeks of too much civic pride. And while, yes, the massive windows make the restaurant feel spacious, they also look out onto the Elks Tower’s underground event space. It’s effectively free advertising for its operator Alexis Ventures, which happens to also own Railbridge Cellars & Co., as well as the winery Railbridge Cellars and its Elks Tower penthouse tasting room.
Regardless, the aesthetics stun when you don’t look too closely. There’s also a menu devoted to martinis and Manhattans, and a single lamb rib for $14. That suggests destination-level ambition. Yet, the restaurant is closed on the weekends and ceases dinner service at 8 p.m. most nights. Much of the day features counter-service, with speedy breakfast items and a focus on sandwiches at lunch.
RailBridge tries to be too many things at once, and it shows in the food.
After I sampled from the happy hour menu, I vowed to never make that mistake again. One evening, a rotating trio of duck ($14) featured seared—and cold—foie gras, duck with hoisin and Napa cabbage, and duck with grits. Across the board, the execution stumbled, but the cold, mealy, mushy grits hid the most unpleasant surprise: bones.
A forgivable mistake? Perhaps. Not the risotto ($9), though. A tall mound of rice—already a sign of failure—arrived hard and undercooked. A pool of liquid that should have been absorbed, but wasn’t, sat below. A bland, textural nightmare.
Most shocking were the tall, slender stalks of wild mushrooms ($12), which felt like rubber and tasted like nothing. Many rounds of salt later, they stubbornly refused to release any flavor.
The dinner entree of seared salmon ($18) fared slightly better. The fish was nearly not overcooked. It perched above the tiniest portion of summer squash and pappardelle, all drowned in olive oil. As this was all I ordered one night, I required a second dinner at home.
I had higher hopes for RailBridge’s sandwiches, since the place is regularly packed at lunch. The Levine ($12), in particular, gets hype for its use of Brent’s Deli pastrami from Los Angeles. The pastrami earns its delicious reputation. Too bad everything RailBridge was responsible for—the rye, mustard, slaw and fries—cried mediocrity.
The nicoise sandwich ($14) offered a fun idea, but poor execution. The salt bomb of olive tapenade completely overpowered the seared ahi tuna, boiled egg and pickled green beans. A jalapeno-cilantro sauce provided a nice kick to the rock shrimp tacos ($10)—too bad the tortillas felt so stale, like chomping down on a paperback novella.
Clearly, a lot of thought went into RailBridge’s look. Now, it’s time for the food to receive equal attention—its historic home deserves better.