Take a family vacay to Flavortown
Fair Oaks, CA 95628
Almost everything one needs to know about Dad’s Kitchen can be gleaned from its name and the signed poster of Guy Fieri right next to the front entrance. In other words, it’s a dining establishment that serves what you might eat at home if Fieri was your dad—but with more traditional American fare, and less random cultural mash-ups and catchy hyperbolic names (such as Guy-talian Nachos and Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders).
During brunch on a recent weekend, for example, one middle-aged couple took their seats, looked over the menu, and then left because they couldn’t find a salad (note: There are salads to be found on the lunch and dinner menus). Even so, the restaurant’s personality is almost the opposite of Fieri’s: It’s located on one end of a low-key strip mall in Fair Oaks and features a friendly, laid-back staff and a comfortable patio.
The offshoot of Dad’s Sandwich Shop, Dad Kitchen’s opened this location, its second, in December 2013. SN&R reviewed the original Freeport Boulevard location several years ago (see “Father dearest” by Kate Washington; SN&R Dish; June 26, 2008), but the eatery has since become famous for being featured on Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show (a.k.a. “Triple D” to fans) in 2011. Here at its new location, Dad’s boasts a slightly retooled menu, highlighting dishes featured on the show with a Food Network logo next to several items.
On our first visit, my dining companion and I tried the Dad’s Burger (lettuce, red onion, tomato, Aleppo chili aioli, and a beef patty encrusted with blue cheese and bacon) that Fieri famously chomped in a Triple D episode. It was one of the best burgers I’ve eaten in Sacramento. The bun was firm and chewy, the burger tasted sweet (from the bacon) and salty (from the blue cheese), and the sauce gave it a little kick. For those looking for a one-way ticket to Flavortown, a side of Dad’s Specialty Fries with more blue cheese and habanero sauce adds extra richness and punch.
Next, we tried another item featured on Triple D: the Hot Blonde. It’s like a subtle, healthier version of a club sandwich, with organic chicken, avocado, spinach, cucumber, roasted onion and Swiss cheese—all set between sourdough bread and grilled on a panini press. It boasts a crunchy texture from all the veggies, a light boost of piquant flavor from a “pepper plant sauce,” and won’t leave you feeling overly stuffed after eating it.
Brunch at Dad’s might be a pretty good hangover cure. We tasted both the Hacienda Hottie breakfast sandwich (fried eggs, bacon, cheese, jalapeño on sourdough), and the chicken-fried steak and eggs plate. Despite its name, the Hottie wasn’t too hot. In fact, it needed extra salt and a little bit more hot sauce for my palate. It came with something called a “breakfast tater,” which can best be described as a mashed-potato croquette. It was texturally marvelous, a huge step up from standard hash browns.
During later visits, we ate our way through a few dinner options: a pork chop plate, a steak and a taco salad. All were solid, but the pork chop plate was probably the best of the three. The highlight was the balance between the salty pork and the apple chutney. If there was a place to nitpick, it’d probably be that the chop was a little bit on the dry side, but that’s hard to get right—especially with such a big portion of meat. I’d also definitely recommend the salad: nicely layered and textured with carnitas, black beans, bell peppers, onion, tomato, romaine lettuce and chipotle-ranch dressing.
The cooking here is consistent and at times technically terrific. There are plenty of brews on tap for beer nerds to quaff. It’s a comfortable place to get comfortable with American food plus a good beer or two.