Uneven but stable
Foundation Restaurant & Bar
Sacramento, CA 95814
In case you haven’t noticed, a huge metal skeleton has descended on downtown in the form of the growing arena. With construction and road closures, it’s become a deterrent to visitors in the area. Some nearby businesses are soldiering on, though, just waiting for the future payout of descending hordes.
Foundation Restaurant & Bar is one such place. It occupies the former 4th Street Grille space, across the street from Macy’s. Despite all the construction mess, however, there are plenty of nearby hungry office workers seeking lunch and after-work libations.
Foundation opened almost two years ago, with the former 4th Street general manager as an owner and the same chef, Jeramie Smith, in the kitchen.
The pair bills its fare as “Simple Classic American Food & Drinks,” and that’s pretty much what you get. While there are some real standouts, the menu listings aren’t there to challenge diners. Instead, they have what you’d expect to find at any after-work bar.
Isn’t that what most people want anyway? They want to know there’s a burger and some fried stuff, maybe a pizza and a few salads.
To be fair, Foundation does have a fresh sustainable fish offering each day and a gorgeous old wood bar with an extensive drink list. There are also three large-screen TVs. That’s where Kings fans can get a fix till the arena opens.
At lunch, we ordered grilled Castroville artichokes. Halved and crusted with Romano cheese and garlic; the chokes were lovely but a bit overcooked. It was hard to get a lot of edible food out of them.
The fritto misto consisted of fried calamari, fennel and sweet onions, with a side of spicy aioli. While they were just a wee bit undercooked, the calamari tasted fine. The veggies fared better, since they have more inherent flavor. Since then, the chef has also added shishito peppers to amp up the dish.
A chardonnay-poached salmon niçoise salad survived a recent menu update. It’s a generous toss of lightly dressed mixed greens with chunks of potato, hard-boiled egg, green beans, capers and some lovely cherry tomatoes. Mixed throughout are shreds of salmon that seemed a bit mushy. They’d likely be much better grilled and left medium-rare.
At dinner, the atmosphere is louder, with liquor-loosened shouts bouncing off the room’s hard surfaces. We joined the party and sampled the Foundation Sazerac. Made with Galliano instead of absinthe, it was more floral than the classic, but chock full of whiskey.
One of the real winners is Foundation’s Big Ol’ BBQ burger. There are four burgers on the menu, but the waitress assured us this was a good one. She was right: Topped with sharp cheddar, caramelized onions, two big strips of bacon and house-made barbecue sauce, it was a winner. The beef flavor came through well and the bun held up despite the oceans of sauce and juice that poured forth. Stock up on napkins for this one.
The pork tenderloin didn’t do as well. It was overcooked and dry, but served atop a perfectly good apple risotto with a surprisingly nice goat cheese crisp.
The pappardelle was better, prepared that night simply and generously with olive oil and shaved Romano.
Another item not to miss is the freshly fried doughnut hole dessert. You get a bowl of cinnamon-sugar-dusted bites with sides of chocolate and powdered sugar sauces. I’ve rarely had better.
Skip the crisps, though. The apple version we tried was a bit gluey and lacked any hint of crisp.
Foundation is perfectly fine, if a bit uneven in execution. It’s a good option for lunches and drinks and, come 2016, or whenever the arena opens, it should be packed to the rafters.