On a whim

Cafe Capricho

3269 Folsom Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95816

(916) 457-3916

The owners of Cafe Capricho must have wanted to open a restaurant real bad. It couldn’t have been a snap to convert the old florist shop on Folsom Boulevard near 33rd Street into an eatery. Building a kitchen from scratch, for example.

The effort was worth it. The cafe has a number of things going for it, starting with its name. Capricho is “whim” or “caprice” in Spanish. Prices are bad-economy-friendly. Scads of joyful little nippers laugh, wander amongst the chairs and, occasionally, listen to their moms and sit still and eat their lunch. As though that weren’t sufficient thumbs up, there’s a friendly industrious staff that often includes one or both of the cafe’s owners and a relaxed atmosphere.

Wheel-less skateboards, one with an “S” of red and pink koi and another of azure and gray Aztec inspiration, adorn one wall. On the opposite are deliciously Day-Glo paintings featuring skulls. Look up. That’s where the best piece of art is: a vibrant portrayal of piñata pounding. The people-watching-perfect patio on the other side of the floor-to-ceiling windows isn’t as shady as 33rd Street Bistro’s up the street and, therefore, is not the ideal seating choice on triple-digit days.

With complete candor, the menu says the cafe serves Mexican and American food. There are significantly more Mexican options. Chips and frothy homemade salsas are a freebie with each meal. The salsa verde doesn’t scald but makes its presence well-known.

Worth exploration is the traditional fried fish taco, with its thicket of shredded red cabbage. Like its cod kindred, the cilantro-choked shrimp taco is bathed in a sweetish crema. All ingredients taste refreshingly fresh. Vegetarians are welcome, not always the case in Mexican establishments. Here, there’s any number of vegetarian selections from roasted-poblano-and-potato tacos to epazote-and-mushroom quesadillas to roasted-butternut-squash enchiladas and, even better, a cheese, currant and pine-nut chile relleno, accompanied by beans and quinoa.

Carnivores need not seek sustenance elsewhere, as the generously portioned carne adobada attests. The thin slices of pork are nicely grilled, a bit hard to cut but still juicy inside. The black beans and rice both require extensive air drops of salsa to help them achieve their full potential. Neither beans nor rice stay warm long. The guacamole is homemade with a modest punch.

Less of a success is the jack burger with bacon. The generous slab of avocado and its tomato and lettuce accomplices almost overwhelm the pepper jack and jalapeños, no easy feat. Whether it is or not, the burger patty comes off as store-bought.

As often happens in this racket, there’s times when the nagging feeling one more visit is required can’t be shaken, a pricklish fear some astounding comestible remains undiscovered. And that is exactly the case with Cafe Capricho. The discovery: Salads are where owner Marina Winchester’s artistry shines.

The Strand’s salad is as pretty as a floral arrangement. It arrives in a large white bowl, ringed with leaves of butter lettuce whose tops bend toward the bowl’s center where lies half an avocado thinly sliced and fanned. Visible in the ring between the leaf tops and the avocado are strawberry halves, pinches of goat cheese and grilled shrimp—$2.95 extra. A generous scattering of sunflower seeds is also apparent. Out of sight are small slivers of fennel and thin slices of pear. Marina’s handmade citrus vinaigrette binds and defines the varied flavors.

Also intriguing is the aptly named This and That, with apples, mangoes, bananas, black bean, red onion, corn, jicama, red cabbage, romaine and raisin date dressing.

While Capricho modestly refers to itself as a cafe and harbors not one scintilla of swanky-five-star-joint pretension, there’s a strong commitment to fresh and fine-tasting food at reasonable prices. Perhaps one reason the takeout trade is so brisk. Muy bueno.