Midtown Jerry Brown

Dining and nightlife tips for California’s new and former boss

Try it, you’ll like it: New Midtowners Gov. Jerry Brown and first lady Anne Gust Brown should cast a wide net and take in as much of the central city as possible.

Try it, you’ll like it: New Midtowners Gov. Jerry Brown and first lady Anne Gust Brown should cast a wide net and take in as much of the central city as possible.

Illustration by Mark Stivers

TO: Gov. Jerry Brown and first lady Anne Gust Brown

FROM: Your pals at SN&R

RE: Sacramento

First, governor, welcome back to Sacramento. It’s been a while. David’s Brass Rail is gone, replaced by that hotel where the former occupant of the corner office had his penthouse. Posey’s. The Borden’s counter on Ninth with the to-die-for shakes and $1.25 tuna sandwiches. Sam’s Hofbrau on L Street. Capitol Tamale. Aldo’s, with its pale blue velour booths and cherries jubilee flambéed tableside. All of them gone the way of statewide Republican officeholders. Alhambra Fuel and Transportation is now a KFC. The indignity.

But, as you know, it’s like Lao Tzu says: The only constant in life is change. All of us teeny water molecules tossed along higgledy-piggledy in the mighty flow of the Big River. Of course, some places remain. The Torch Club—in a new location. Frank Fat’s. 524. Virgin Sturgeon. Zelda’s Gourmet Pizza. Pancake Circus. The Broiler.

Nevertheless, readings on the Change-O-Meter for the Sacramento you and the first lady live in are off the scale. Midtown was a place you drove through to get to East Sacramento or Land Park. Now, as you see, it’s vibrant, bursting with hepcats and hepkitties and happening hangouts with hellacious happy hours where you can conduct a bit of the people’s business or unwind after an arduous day of grappling with that ugly budget mess.

Consider Kupros. The bottom floor is dominated by a massive patron-friendly bar brimming with brews, but the upstairs of this former house on 21st Street has sliding walls, so the two of you could share an intimate tête-à-tête or—presto—create a space for a thank-you dinner for Cabinet secretaries and their spouses.

If you enjoy Paesanos, check out Hot Italian, although like Zócalo, the Mexican joint on Capitol Avenue, it can get a little noisy, and if you’re discussing some state secret, you might end up sharing it with folks several tables away.

Recalling your love of Lucy’s El Adobe Cafe, check out Tres Hermanas. Ask your new neighbors, they’ll confirm how hard it rocks. There’s a patio, too, so Sutter, the “half a rat,” can come with.

Same at The Golden Bear down the street with its prodigy chef. Even The Broiler, now at 12th and K streets, has outside eating. Nice patio at Cafe Bernardo, too. And it’s close to Biba. With respect, this is an order: On Thursdays, her lasagna.

Semi-bright lights, medium-sized city for the Browns to explore.

Illustration by Mark Stivers

Mikuni, on the first floor of your building, is readying a JB roll. Elsewhere for sushi, tell Taka at Ju Hachi on 18th Street or Ross at Sapporo Grill on 16th to surprise you. They will. Very pleasantly. For something more exotic, snag a Pedicab and head for Kru up J Street. Or Billy Ngo’s other place, Red Lotus. Also on J is Centro, with an addicting salsa, although it pales next to Patrick Mulvaney’s incendiary “ass fire.”

Been to Mulvaney’s yet at 19th and L? Again, with respect, make a pilgrimage.

If either of you enjoy chocolate and one of you gets crossways with the other: Ginger Elizabeth on L Street. She’s one of the best chocolatiers in the country, with a hot cocoa mix that is the standard against which all others are measured—and found wanting.

Eager to make a salad and curl up with a good briefing book in the loft? Grocery Outlet at 17th and Capitol has killer produce, according to Rob Kerth, executive director of the Midtown Business Association.

Cataloging the fun you two will find in just Midtown would fill an issue, but there’s scads more to Sacramento. One of Mayor Kevin Johnson’s resolutions for 2011 is to take you on a tour of the city. Do it. Here’s some adventures the mayor suggests:

“Spend a little time in my old neighborhood, Oak Park. Have a cup of coffee at the newly opened Old Soul at 34th and Broadway. Then visit Underground Books next door. They have excellent customer service! The woman behind the counter is my mother. You can read all you want without paying for the book. Or you can just walk a few steps to the old Guild Theater to see a great community performance.

“I hear [the governor] still likes a good beer, so Pangaea on Franklin Boulevard might be the place. Finally, one of the best places for Mexican food in Sacramento is El Novillero. They’ve been around for over 40 years; an institution that has a longer Sacramento history than even you, governor.”

Might also try Lalo’s on 24th between Fruitridge Road and 25th Avenue. It’s the real deal—exactly what you would eat in the Distrito Federal, right down to imported mamey shakes.

Any number of eateries line Broadway, from Nepalese to noodle houses to barbecue. Or head south on Stockton Boulevard. There’s a cluster of Mexican joints. Es verdad: Tortas at El Abuelo. Heading toward 65th are a couple of monster dim-sum palaces and a slew of Vietnamese joints where no one will bug you, the food is fiercely fresh and there’s a good stiff dose of the wondrous diversity of this state.

Matina Kolokotronis, the president of the Kings, is confident you’ll have a blast at a Kings game, even if they whip the Warriors. Lial Jones suggests plenty of quality time at the new Crocker Art Museum, which she runs. If you haven’t been inside, it’s outlandishly awesome. B Street Theatre. Ballet. The Music Circus is now a real building instead of a tent! Muriel Johnson, the head of the California Arts Council you created in 1975, hopes you both do a lot of entertaining in the beautifully restored Stanford Mansion and wonders if you, governor, have taken the first lady on a tour of the house you grew up in?

Can’t forget Old Sacramento. Breakfast or lunch at Steamers. A walk or a bike ride along the Sacramento River, so you can join the rest of us in wondering why the hell there isn’t some nifty riverfront development there like in Portland. Did you know Old Sac is the only place in the city where the alleys run north-south instead of east-west?

This is probably plenty to get you both off to a running start. Again, welcome, and please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or to let us know how we can be of further assistance.