Lounging around

Hangar 17 Bar & Grill

1630 S St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 447-1717

From the outside, Hangar 17’s sleek logo and corrugated-metal facade might lead you to expect an ultra-modern hangout, perhaps with chilly galvanized surfaces and a hint of concrete. Inside, though, things are a bit warmer—or they could be, if the management kept the front door closed. (A hint: When it’s 45 degrees out, let people find their own way in.) A spacious and slightly awkward entry area with tables that are well out of the main action makes things extra drafty.

There’s no host station, which led to some confused wandering before we realized that if we wanted dinner, we just needed to sit down. Hangar 17 is both a bar-lounge and a restaurant. In outward appearances, at least, the bar aspect predominates.

There are several wines by the glass, as well as an extensive list of fancified drinks, including all manner of so-called martinis (such as the “cinn-tini,” with cinnamon; and the “governator,” which is extra strong, with 151-proof rum). There are also five varieties of mojitos and several different sweet, mixed shooters. Although the list affords ample opportunities for the would-be girl-drink drunk, a glance around the bar revealed that pretty much everyone was drinking beer. My husband tried a pineapple mojito, however, and the fruit was a tasty addition to the classic mojito. (Maybe the fruity, tropical drinks will be more popular in the summer.)

The restaurant’s menu is a hybrid of the casual and the ambitious. To give you some idea of the discrepancy, I had a meatball sandwich while my husband had a pork chop stuffed with bacon, mushrooms and smoked Gouda, with polenta on the side. Both had their merits, but this is clearly a menu that is trying to appeal to both patrons who want to wolf down something while watching a Kings game and those looking for a fine-dining experience. You’ll find main-dish salads and pizzas, as well as sandwiches, appetizers and relatively fancy entrees.

Unfortunately, the fine-dining crowd may not relish the occasionally raucous atmosphere. The night we were there, a Thursday, it was crowded and noisy. It’s not really the establishment’s fault, but a trio of guys playing a golf video game in the corner was so unutterably obnoxious that we moved tables while in the middle of our appetizers. On the upside, the casual atmosphere meant doing so was no big deal. And our sweetly friendly server—who did an excellent job of balancing the occasionally competing demands of acting as both cocktail waitress and dinner server—was sympathetic and helpful.

Appetizers are a strength here, as well they should be at a place where customers are as likely to want something to nibble on with drinks as they are to order a full meal. Although a couple of things looked weird—to wit, a dish of mushrooms and artichoke hearts in chipotle sauce—many more looked appealing, and we were hard-pressed not to spoil our dinners.

We started with the “crab martini,” a little crab salad over shredded Napa cabbage, served in a martini glass. (Thankfully, Hangar 17 uses stable, stemless glasses for its martinis, or it would have been awfully hard to eat.) I expected a little more zing from the chopped fresh chilies, and I was surprised to find the crabmeat stretched with tiny shrimp, especially at the height of Dungeness season. Still, the dish had a nice fresh, light flavor and was very good with a bit of the accompanying lime squeezed over it.

While we were waiting for our crab martinis, a server came by and asked if we’d ordered the beef skewers. We hadn’t, but the dish looked so good with its fried-onion strings on the side that, when our server came back, we immediately did. The strips of beef, with a tangy marinade, were tender and flavorful. The onion strings were the real reason I wanted the dish—I’m a sucker for the thin, crisp style of onion rings—but these were unfortunately limp and a little greasy. Some deliciously crunchy bits amid the sogginess indicated that the onion strings had narrowly missed greatness. In any case, we greedily finished them.

When the entrees arrived, I found I had indeed filled up on too many appetizers, but I made a good effort on my meatball sandwich anyway. The house-made meatballs were flavorful with herbs and garlic. I liked the thick marinara sauce, but the roll was squishy, pale and characterless—apt to fall apart at the touch of the sauce. Happily, the fries that came with the sandwich did not suffer from the same problems as the onion rings we’d tried earlier. They were golden and perfectly cooked.

My husband’s plate held a behemoth pork chop, sliced open. Its gaping maw was stuffed with the promised flavorful mixture of bacon and smoked Gouda. The meat was very tender and juicy. It was perhaps a touch undercooked at the center but was lightly charred at the edges, with a savory mushroom sauce on top. I found these all-American flavors an odd fit with polenta and thought the dish might have been better with mashed potatoes, though my husband disagreed. He polished off every bit.

You shouldn’t go to Hangar 17 looking for a white-tablecloth atmosphere or a soignée evening, but it might be just the place if you’re in the mood for a bit of bar atmosphere with food that’s above average for the setting.