Malt, mash, middling
Malt & Mash Irish Pub
Sacramento, CA 95814
Bars and restaurants are sprouting up around Downtown Commons faster than indictments in the Mueller investigation. Among them is Malt & Mash, a cozy Irish-style pub that opened in the fall of 2016. With a solid beer and whiskey selection and a location right across from Golden 1 Center, this dark little bar is a convenient stop after work or on the way to a game.
Large-format TVs are situated for easy viewing from almost everywhere in the bar, so if you’re looking for your favorite sports game, Malt & Mash is a great place to watch alongside an admirable selection of beer and whiskey. Given the “hometown pride” priorities of the Sacramento area, I was disappointed to find only two local draught brews—and both were ultra-hoppy IPAs, of which I’m not a fan.
The food menu is limited to only a handful of dishes and heavy with corned beef and Russian dressing. This isn’t a bad thing, though if you’re even remotely veg in your leanings, your options are a pub salad ($7) or a side of chips ($5).
My first visit was on a Tuesday night, and we were surprised to find Malt & Mash dead-empty; we were the only patrons there, from our 5:30 p.m. arrival to our 6:45 p.m. departure. Service was quick and friendly. The corned beef tacos ($13) were very good, with a solid smoky flavor and crispy-textured beef. While not groundbreaking, the Reuben ($14) was satisfying, and the chips were thick-cut with more crunch than I thought possible out of a slice of potato.
The real winners of the night were the pulled pork sliders ($13). While I’m a fervent fan of pulled pork in general, I’ve had many disappointing experiences around town. These sliders, however, were wonderfully sweet and smoky, with a good acid tang coupled with cool purple (?!) coleslaw and topped with gorgeously crispy onion strings.
Our second visit was very different. Arriving at about 5 p.m. on a Thursday night, when a Kings game was scheduled at the stadium, we found the place packed with service sadly lacking. When we were finally able to flag down a server after three attempts, she was rushed and struggled to take our orders over the din of the crowd.
Once the food arrived, the Reuben was disappointing: zero sauerkraut, filled with tough, gristly meat that was impossible to eat. My beloved pulled pork sliders were still good, but slumped drunkenly sideways, their innards spilling out like they’d gotten into the Glenlivit before sloshing to our table.
The final verdict? The food selection is sparse, but the few edible offerings at Malt & Mash hit the pleasure points for a satisfying Irish-American pub grub experience. If there’s nothing happening at the stadium, it’s a great downtown stop for a drink and a satisfying bite. On game or concert nights, it’s a good refuge for grabbing a beer… but skip the food menu if it’s a full house.