Lumberjacks Restaurant

1030 Howe Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95825

(916) 646-9900

I return to Lumberjacks with great apprehension. It has nothing to do with the Lumberjacks motto: “Where the big boys eat.”

The larger-than-life, ever-so-plastic lumberjack in blue jeans and red plaid shirt caught in mid-stride with his ax jauntily placed over his shoulder in the parking lot’s corner is a little creepy, but it’s not the source of the reluctance. Nor does it come from the bountiful-beamed interior, composed of a river’s worth of river rock and a forest of knotty pine paneling, which resembles Country Bear Jamboree or an eatery in nearby Frontierland. It’s not the green upholstery—it’s gotta be green, right?—of the booths and the rough-hewn barstools. Nor is the cause of my reluctance the apparent round-the-clock, flat-screen airing of Stihl Timbersports competitions, featuring burly Big Boys tossing axes and hewing trees while women scamper along precarious rows of floating logs.

The sole source of the reluctance is a powerful fear the second meal will be as unappealing as the first. Denny’s seems like Biba’s in comparison.

It’s the food, not the service. Much to my great enjoyment, I am hun’d, honey’d and sweetie’d mercilessly by the hardworking, overtaxed but still buoyant Carrie. She adds an occasional “boss” on the second visit.

Whatever future we have, dollface, for the record, I’d rather be “sweetie.” A “darlin’” or two maybe.

She lifts my coat from the other side of the booth and hangs it up. She speaks of the challenge and fun of a writing course in which she is enrolled. As to Lumberjacks’ culinary challenges, Carrie is blameless. She merely transports the offending vittles from the kitchen to the victim.

The victimizer in this instance is the “Chain Saw” sandwich. Roast beast, cheddar cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, sautéed onions, peppers, bacon and Thousand Island dressing on grilled sourdough. Lumberjacks. Chain Saw. Seemed the right thing to do. Couldn’t be wronger.

The bottom sourdough slice is severely mushy—when the sandwich first arrives. This stems largely from roast-beast grease. Two close-encounters-of-the-worst-kind with gristle ensue. The combination, which seemed creative, almost visionary, on the menu doesn’t jell in practice, even drowned with extra Thousand Island. Subsequent gastric unrest occurs. Carrie recommends cottage cheese.

The other sandwich accompaniment options are coleslaw, potato salad, fries or fruit. Sweetie stupidly ignores Carrie’s sagacity and selects slaw. It’s prefab. The Colonel’s is superior.

But it says right there on page one of the restaurant reviewer ethics guide that, damn it, more than one visit is essential in case the first is aberrant or, in this case, abhorrent.

Being seated in a different part of Lumberjacks on the second visit reveals mecca: a well-provisioned salad bar. Beets, broccoli, crisp mixed greens, red onions, carrots, celery, sunflower seeds, halved mini corncobs, croutons, bacon bits, three bean salad. Hallelujah and pass the Italian dressing, hun.

Carrie touts the tortilla soup. It’s busy—corn, black beans and carrots predominate—and it’s not near as tomatoey as the homemade tortilla soup that warms the cockles of the Lucas clan.

But the soup’s demerits are more than offset by the sourdough burger. The bottom slice isn’t soggy, despite a layer of sautéed mushrooms, onions and bacon. The two patties are grilled to medium—just as requested. Is it Burgers and Brew? Nah, but it’s a major move up the food chain from the Chain Saw.

Bountiful breakfasts abound. There’s a healthy—excuse me—hefty contingent of what are euphemistically called seniors at other booths. Lured, no doubt, by the Filene’s Basement priced sandwiches for the 55-and-older set, as well as the nine $8.99 dinner entrees.

Hard to visualize a run on the liver and onions, even with a trip to the salad bar and mashed or baked potatoes or pilaf or vegetables thrown into the deal. In short, the endearing Carrie and the more-better second visit raise the bar from must-be-somewhere-worse to flawed with moments.