Not your typical bar grub
Sacramento, CA 95811
Don’t get me wrong, I miss Pour House’s whiskey fig and other preserves-based cocktails as much as the next person. But under new ownership and a new name, the Midtown bar’s food and overall dining experience has significantly improved. Bring on the hell or Highwater or whatever.
Mick Stevenson and DJ Rogers of Dad’s Sandwiches and Dad’s on J bought Pour House from restaurateur Trevor Shults about a year ago. In August, they briefly closed up shop and relaunched as Highwater.
Highwater looks pretty much identical to Pour House with the exception of a vaguely Western-themed mural, which is good or bad depending on how you felt about Pour House. The exposed brick, table arrangement, televisions and library of booze remain with a bigger emphasis on music. Your dining soundtrack is likely to feature awesome indie and rock bands like the Velvet Underground, War on Drugs and Grizzly Bear.
The biggest change is the eclectic, reasonably priced and often very good food. Stevenson’s brunch, lunch and dinner menus feature influences from the South, New Mexico and Hawaii—much of it within the comfortable, approachable confines of bar grub. Vegetarians and vegans have options, too.
Among more expected offerings, there’s a solid burger ($14) with a nicely toasted, soft bun and well-seasoned sweet potato waffle fries on the side. The oh-so-creamy mac ’n’ cheese ($8) impresses with a spicy kick. Based on the success of Dad’s alone, you already know Stevenson can do comfort food.
But how about something that requires more finesse, like a salad with ancho chili-rubbed steak, grilled pineapple, cactus and agave-cilantro vinaigrette? The major components worked, but its fate fell with the details: The overdressed greens wilted quickly, saddened even further by the lackluster vinaigrette, which needed more acidity.
In addition to shareable small plates and sandwiches, Highwater offers a few balanced entrees. They all come with dirty rice—not a traditionally Creole version, but one mixed with black beans—and smoky, charred vegetables. The kahlua pork ($13) didn’t exactly taste like the tropics, but the juicy, shredded meat held the signature, pleasing sweetness. I bet it’s a winner in slider form ($10).
Avoid the chicken adobo ($12), the most frustrating disappointment I experienced at Highwater. Though the title suggests the tangy, Filipino classic, the appearance better matched Mexican chicken tinga. Regardless, the chicken was hopelessly bland, even when loaded up with salsa in tacos ($9).
Brunch might be Highwater’s best meal. Try the fluffy biscuit bread bowl overflowing with sausage gravy ($8). Gimmicky? Sure. Delicious, with a rich savoriness that rivals Bacon & Butter’s rendition? Yes.
The flan French toast ($11) sounds more exciting than it actually is, but it’s still respectable and therefore tasty, with a generous side of bacon or sausage. Better is the huevos rancheros ($10): Every element is well-prepared, but Stevenson’s New Mexican red chile sauce makes it special. Feel confident ordering any item slathered in the stuff.
Still, Highwater is chiefly a bar. That means, in the harsh 11 a.m. light, the atmosphere feels like a hangover—and picking up dirty silverware on two separate occasions didn’t help matters. On one particularly sloppy afternoon, after examining a clump of dried, melted cheese on a fork, I found a stray tortilla chip in my fries and a piece of roasted squash from another person’s lunch buried in my salad.
The cocktails, while well-made, certainly don’t compare to the more ambitious Pour House days. But plenty of craft cocktail haunts thrive in Sacramento already—there aren’t as many appealing, laid-back bars for chowing down.