Toast laureate

Pushkin’s Restaurant

Good for: Vegan or carnivorous (yet healthful) brunch or lunch
Notable dishes: Avocado toast, shakshuka, coddled eggs

Pushkin’s Restaurant

1813 Capitol Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95811

(916) 823-5520

Sacramento might be known as the city of burgers and beef. San Francisco, of gussied up vegetables and $4 toast.

On those terms, walking into Pushkin’s Restaurant in Midtown is like stepping into a wormhole. You are transported to certain cafes in San Francisco’s beach-y Outer Sunset by the wall of potted plants, wooden tables and recycled glass saltshakers. The menu does the same. Even the coffee is from the Mission District’s Ritual Coffee Roasters.

But in the food department, Pushkin’s vaults ahead of the pack: The avocado toast is not $4, but $11. It is worth each of those dollars. One for the slightly bitter clovers on top. Another for the specks of chives with a delicate onion flavor. Two for the poached eggs that ooze their yolks into the bread (and oh, the bread). Three, the lightly salted avocado-and-cilantro mix spritzed with lime. Five just for the bread, crisped on its crust, then porous in the center with soy-based butter—a yin-and-yang between soft and crunch in a wedge of housemade white bread.

It only makes sense that the bread would be so good. For four years, Pushkin’s Bakery on 29th and S streets has established itself as the most reliable source of gluten-free and vegan pastries and sandwiches in town, treats that even omnivores go out of their way to taste. The owners, Danny and Olga Turner, have infused their new restaurant’s two menus, carnivorous and vegan, with the same values. Literally, at the bottom of the page, they proclaim: “Of course everything is gluten free. We’re Pushkin’s!”

Some dishes make what seem to be their first appearance on a permanent menu in Sacramento: shakshuka ($11), a North African and Middle Eastern breakfast, and coddled eggs with salmon roe ($11). Though you may find heavily spiced shakshuka in a skillet at Oakland’s Beauty’s Bagel Shop, the dish at Pushkin’s might surpass it. Two soft, baked eggs sit among a swirl of stewed tomatoes, squash, garlic and chile peppers, seasoned with cayenne and earthy cumin. The slow burn of the spices, the acidity of the tomatoes and the fresh pep of cilantro create a pleasing counterpoint. A gossamer layer of Parmesan adds nuttiness. When piled on top of the accompanying sticks of crisp toast, the contrasting textures sing.

On the vegan menu, the tofu scramble ($10) is sautéed in oil to achieve an eggy fluffiness with fried golden flecks. They offer a fun, hearty alternative to eggs. However, the hash browns upstage the scramble. The edges are carefully fried to a burnt sienna that frames fine crosshatches of fresh potatoes that taste so strongly of potato. It makes you realize how often hash browns are a cooked-from-frozen afterthought at other breakfast joints.

The only dish that didn’t match the rest in quality was the quinoa bowl ($12), but even it was great. Cured, salty salmon tasted delicious next to the mutlicolored quinoa. Curled ribbons of carrot and diced cucumbers added verve. But the side greens were underseasoned, as was the dish on the whole. It could have used one squeeze of citrus. Still, that’s a small quibble.

Pushkin’s Restaurant adds a much-needed California-style brunch destination to the Handle District. It competes on the level of Orphan Breakfast House and Bacon & Butter, with a more healthful and vegan-conscious menu. Heck, it stacks up against the some of the best Bay Area restaurants. Soon, they might be copying the Sacramento style of brunch.