Sacramento, CA 95814
Grange benefits from the Association of Food Journalists Code of Ethics. While nowhere near War and Peace length, the rules of critic comportment are certainly longer than the world’s shortest textbook, Journalistic Ethics.
A key dictum is not to evaluate a joint within its first four to six weeks of opening, so that everybody in the kitchen and all the servers get their sea legs.
During that early period in its life, Grange presented creative offerings accompanied by horrific service, a complaint echoed by numerous other diners. At Mrs. Lucas’ office holiday dinner, for example, entrees appeared for some when appetizers appeared for others. None were hot. Few were warm. Most were tepid. The servings, not the company—of course.
But thanks to the miracle of the Food Journalists Code of Ethics, that doesn’t count.
What does is the two most recent visits where, as previously, the food scores well but service is .500, a respectable batting average.
The good: Along the left margin of Chef Michael Tuohy’s blog on the Grange Web page, readers learn ’tis the season for “meyer lemons, heirloom beets, spring onions, delta asparagus, artichokes, braising greens, baby turnips, nantes carrots, new potatoes.”
Now check out the lunch menu: marinated beets with Meyer lemon oil. Saffron carnaroli risotto with English peas, pepato and—ding, ding, ding!—Delta asparagus.
The point is, lunch or dinner, Tuohy favors fresh, seasonal stuff, and the meals benefit accordingly.
On a recent Friday, Dylan T., the waiter, is conscientious and knowledgeable. When he’s working another table, someone else brings the food. Bravo! Team service.
Dylan says the Grange fizzes its own fizzy water but freely admits the fizz is a bit ephemeral. The tortillas of the cabbage-laden, orange zest salsa-ed fish tacos, the Grange’s Friday lunch special, are also now being made back in the kitchen. A marked improvement, Dylan informs.
What healing malt beverage might prove the perfect accompaniment to the aforementioned fish tacos? Dylan’s immediate answer: a Trumer. This particular Trumer is made in Berkeley, although Trumer first hung its shingle in Salzburg in 1601. Will someone please audition Dylan for Jeopardy?
The lunch specials vary widely. Tuesday is cioppino, but with the crabmeat still inside the shell, the potential for tomato broth Armageddon is too high. Thursday, it’s fried chicken, and Wednesday, porchetta—boneless pork roast.
For $17, you get the day’s featured entree and choice of salad. Again, without hesitation, Dylan taps the mixed greens for $9. A fig balsamic vinaigrette neatly complements the chèvre.
The bad: Four days later, Bryan G. describes every menu item queried about as “amazing.” Beth Miller, a political strategist whose taste is far more polished and cosmopolitan than mine, wonders aloud why there is no French rose offered. Her wine and the Trumer are a long time coming. Water glass refills occur once during every census.
Beth settles on the $16 Mishima Ranch bavette steak salad with arugula, preserved tomatoes and pickled onions. Dressing on the side, please. Crab cake with slaw, black beans and tomatillo salsa and the Citizen Caesar across the table. Dylan is right—the mixed greens are better.
Everything with the crab cake—not the largest on record—is copasetic. Beth, however, receives an already dressed salad, although the meat is done to her liking. Pickled onions prove elusive.
As work on the salad winds down, Bryan brings a small bowl of the requested onions. An earlier arrival would have appreciably improved enjoyment of the salad, Beth laments.
The unexpected: Although most of our grousing is kept to ourselves. Bryan offers a free dessert in recompense for the salad snafu. Turning down dessert, he takes Beth’s meal off the tab.
Bryan and Dylan rack lots of style points, as does the seasonally inspired fare. Appealing—and, gratifyingly, trending upward.