25 shops, restaurants and entertainment options that should be on your Sacramento radar
Welcome to Sacramento, students! Here are 25 reasons to be glad you’re going to college in the capital city. We’ve compiled a list of dining, shopping and entertainment choices you won’t find anywhere else in the world. We’ve included the biggest burritos, the cheapest double-feature movies, secret stashes for collectible records and vintage clothes, and plenty more to enhance your life—even on a student’s limited budget. If you’re already a local going to school in your hometown, we’ll bet there’s still something on our list you haven’t tried yet. If you know all these spots, congratulations! You’re the official Sacramento tour guide for all your new friends.
Burritos at Los Jarritos are bigger than your stomach, made with fresh ingredients and cost about as much as you can find in your couch cushions. Add in the free chips and salsa bar and you can definitely make a super burrito last two meals. Don’t forget the housemade paletas!
Sunflower Drive In
10344 Fair Oaks Boulevard
The Sunflower is worth the drive out of the central city when the weather’s nice. This walk-up vegetarian shack serves its signature Nutburgers and Nutty Tacos with smoothies, vegan potato salad and a wide selection of teas and juices. It’s feel-good food, best consumed outside in the sunshine. Just be sure to keep your lunch safe from Fair Oaks roosters roaming the parking lot.
Zelda’s Gourmet Pizza
1415 21st Street
Zelda’s is dark and mysterious, with a shadowy interior and high wood-paneled booths that invite private rendezvous. It’s also got a full bar, no-nonsense waitresses and piping-hot deep-dish pies. Who needs windows or good lighting when you’ve got a melty, cheesy piece of Zelda’s pizza on your plate?
5201 Folsom Boulevard
The Shack serves up sandwiches, burgers and salads within easy lunchtime distance of Sacramento State on weekdays and hearty brunches on the weekends. After class, the Shack’s epic beer list and savory pub snacks will help 21-and-over students unwind from stressful lectures. Bonus: Everything on the menu is less than $10!
Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op
1900 Alhambra Boulevard
Take a break from fast food with healthy options at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. If you want organic, non-GMO, trans-fat-free options, this is the place. Do your weekly shopping in the all-organic produce department, stock up on grains and herbs in the bulk bins, or just stop by for lunch from the Co-op deli. The Co-op’s Learning Center and Cooking School next door is also a great place to learn to cook with all those kitchen supplies your parents just gave you.
1014 10th Street
2829 S Street
Temple can be a sacred experience, but it’s debatable whether the object of worship is fine coffee (roasted onsite daily), gourmet tea or the perfect place to study. Both Temple locations have plenty of electrical outlets for laptops, free Wi-Fi, and an amazing array of beverages to keep you hydrated and caffeinated when you need to focus.
Central Farmers Market
Eighth and W streets (under the freeway)
Sundays, 8 a.m.-noon
Most of Sacramento’s farmers markets are only around in the summertime, when many students have left the area, but this one stays open every Sunday of the year. Its unique location under a freeway overpass makes for dry shopping in any weather. Buying fresh-baked goods and produce from local farms is a great way to save money and be kind to your community.
You know you’re a local when you start craving Pancake Circus, despite its slightly unsettling clown-themed décor. The laminated menus offer pages of options, but it’s best to stick with a stack of pancakes—be they buttermilk or buckwheat. They’re cheap, delicious and available until 3 p.m. seven days a week, accompanied by generously refilled mugs of diner coffee.
2726 Capitol Avenue
1431 R Street
234 D Street in Davis
Whether you’re going to college in Davis or Sacramento, Cafe Bernardo should be your breakfast spot. And your lunch spot. And don’t forget dinner. Mornings bring delicious waffles, tofu scrambles, omelets, breakfast burritos and fried potatoes. Lunch and dinner offer creative salads and fresh-made entrees from pizzettas to grilled seafood, all made with healthy ingredients. The menu varies with the location and the season, but you’re sure to find something you’ll love.
Sacramento Antique Faire
21st Street between W and X streets (under the freeway)
Score vintage furniture and clothes, collectible toys, and crazy odds and ends at this monthly market under the freeway. The fair happens every second Sunday from 6:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Admission is $3. Show up early for the best selection. In the winter months, it helps if you bring a hot cup of coffee to keep you warm while you shop.
Zuhg Life Store
Upstairs inside Westfield Downtown Plaza
547 L Street, Suite 2090
You wouldn’t expect to find a store dedicated to local art and music inside the mall, but Zuhg Life thrives in its niche by the Downtown Plaza food court. You’ll find an impressive selection of local bands’ CDs, T-shirts and artwork, plus music supplies and vintage amplifiers. Free all-ages live-music shows happen every weekend, rain or shine.
Bows & Arrows
1815 19th Street
New students have moved here just in time to experience Midtown’s most exciting retail collaboration. Vintage clothiers Olivia Coelho and Trisha Rhomberg have joined forces with the unfathomably delicious Fat Face to create a unique space that is part art gallery, part clothing and furniture shop, part bar, part live-music venue, part restaurant, and all worth a visit.
Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen
1915 I Street
The Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen is a volunteer-run, donation-supported space to fix your bike and learn two-wheeled repair skills. The Kitchen is open to the public most days, stocked with tools and knowledgeable volunteers. Check the website for a calendar of bicycle-maintenance classes and special events.
2312 K Street
Sacramento’s newest indie record store has CDs, cassettes and loads of collectible vinyl. Don’t have a turntable? They sell those, too, along with superior headphones for optimum listening. Music collectors should bookmark the store’s blog to keep track of its latest merch acquisitions.
Time Tested Books
1114 21st Street
Time Tested Books is a bibliophile’s dream. A vast selection of used books are easily affordable on a student’s limited budget. You can even return them (in good condition) and receive 50 percent of the price as a credit toward your next purchase. If they don’t have what you need on the shelves, they can help you search for rare books or special order new volumes.
Freestyle Clothing Exchange
2101 L Street
(916) 441-3733 6412 Tupelo Drive in Citrus Heights
Freestyle carries gently used men’s and women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories in the latest fashions. They’ll also buy your used clothes while you shop. Trade your closet for theirs and reinvent yourself every semester.
Luna’s Café & Juice Bar
1414 16th Street
Luna’s is a Sacramento institution—comfortably classic, yet always evolving. Luna’s is home to several important weekly events. Local jazz musician Ross Hammond starts the week with his Nebraska Mondays music series. Wednesday nights, stand-up comedian Keith Lowell Jensen hosts the friendliest and most eclectic comedy show in town. Thursdays belong to Joe Montoya’s Poetry Unplugged, Sacramento’s longest-running poetry open-mic. Weekends are full of live music, and every day features down-home Mexican meals and fresh-blended fruit licuados.
Ace of Spades
1417 R Street
This all-ages club broke into the Sacramento music scene this year with an impressive calendar including shows by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Tech N9ne and Deftones. There’s plenty of room to dance in this spacious hall, plus a full bar for those over 21.
Luigi’s Slice and Fun Garden
1050 20th Street
This is the place for cheap live music and even cheaper pizza by the slice. The Fun Garden’s all-ages shows get packed and loud, so fuel up beforehand with pizza slices (drizzled with ranch or hot sauce), cookies, soda and beer on tap.
Sacramento State Aquatic Center
1901 Hazel Avenue in Gold River
Make the most of the long Indian summers and warm autumns in Sacramento at the Sac State Aquatic Center. You don’t need to attend CSUS to take advantage of this prime spot for kayaking, canoeing, sailing and windsurfing. Take classes, join a moonlight paddle or rent kayaks by the hour for solo exploration.
9426 Greenback Lane in Orangevale
The Boardwalk has been a steady purveyor of all-ages live hard-rock shows since the days when Tesla was an up-and-coming band. The crowded, dark little club books both new acts and classic-rock legends (case in point: Montrose on August 26). Visit the website for an extensive show calendar, and don’t forget your earplugs.
20th and K streets
Sacramento’s gay night life thrives at the intersection of 20th and K streets. Nightclubs like Faces and Badlands spin Top 40 hits seven nights a week on multiple dance floors. The Depot offers karaoke and drink specials for the 21-and-over crowd. Students of all ages can grab a bite at neighboring Hot Rod’s burger joint or brunch at Cornerstone inside Head Hunters. The Lavender Angels patrol the area to keep citizens safe after dark, and the G Spot sells safe-sex supplies. Lavender Heights is also ground zero for the annual Pride and Rainbow Festivals. Mark your calendar for this year’s Rainbow Festival on Labor Day Weekend.
1013 K Street
The Crest is the jewel in Sacramento’s cinema crown. It’s a gorgeous retro theater with ornate gold ceilings and a giant screen from the days when nobody knew the word “multiplex.” The Crest features first-run independent films and live shows. It’s also the home of many local film festivals including the Sacramento French Film Festival, the Trash Film Orgy, the Sacramento International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and the Sacramento Jewish Film Festival.
Second Saturday and Second Friday art walks
Various locations in Sacramento and Davis
The Second Saturday art walk is a tradition in Sacramento. Art galleries throw open their doors to the public, craft vendors line the streets of Midtown with their unique wares, and live music pulses from every corner. Second Saturday happens year-round, but the summer months can get annoyingly (and even dangerously) crowded. Fall and spring are great times to participate. Davis hosts a similar ArtAbout every second Friday. Check the d’Art insert in SN&R every second Thursday of the month for a map and list of gallery shows and events.
Sacramento 6 Drive-In
9616 Oates Drive
Drive-in movie theaters might seem like relics of the past, but Sacramento’s six-screen drive-in is alive and well. At $6.95 for a double feature, it’s the cheapest movie deal in town. Pile your friends in the car and make a night of it. Tuesday is family night and all tickets are $4.95. And yes, your friends totally are family.