Writers’ picks: Food & Drink
SN&R writers dish on their favorite places to chow down and indulge
Best late-night burrito
Super Shrimp Burrito, Sutter Street Taqueria
After a warm bear hug, Rob, the large bouncer from the bar down the street, isolates himself at a high circular table and peels back the tinfoil on what is either a very late dinner or an extremely early breakfast. After the first bite, his face goes all sacred cow—absent-eyed upper half and masticating lower half. It's 1 a.m. on a Saturday at the Sutter Street Taqueria, an unassuming parlor tucked into historic old Folsom's main drag. Open late on weekends, often with general manager Rosario Rodriguez charming the register and her busy maestro of a cook kneading one composition after another, the taqueria's “shut up I'm eating” statement dish is its super shrimp burrito. Like other items on the menu, its ingredients are simple, honest and clean. The usual suspects play their roles—rice, tomato cubes and beans that shine like refried pearls—accenting sautéed nuggets of shrimp in a tightly packed submarine dropping fast in your belly. 727 Sutter Street in Folsom, (916) 293-8952, Sutter Street Taqueria. RFH
Best Old Town haunt
Fanny Ann's Saloon
Long a favorite of Harley-clad bikers and Marlboro-smoking locals, this four-story watering hole is a veritable relic with its layers of historical junk shellacked to every surface. From top to bottom there are nooks enough to make it feel like your own, even at the busiest of hours. Add to that a kitchen serving up burgers like the Big Poppa topped with barbecue sauce, bacon and an onion ring for less than $9, and Fanny's is the most legit saloon west of Interstate 5. 1023 Second Street, (916) 441-0505, www.fannyannsaloon.com. J.B.
Best surprisingly cheap date option
The Press Bistro
With its modern paintings, gently popping location and raw-wood aesthetic, The Press Bistro balances fancy with casual and serves consistently excellent farm-to-fork, Mediterranean-ish cuisine that shifts with the seasons. But the entrees can be kinda pricey. So if you're on a budget but want to impress a prospective romantic partner with a night out, try the tapas, three of which go for a measly $10. The must-have is the lamb meatballs with a tangy garlic yogurt sauce. Otherwise, explore. Everything is great. If your date's not impressed, it must have been something you said. 1809 Capitol Avenue, (916) 444-2566, www.thepressbistro.com. J.F.
Best time capsule
Nestled just around the corner from the state Capitol, Frank Fat's has been an institution in Sacramento since 1939. Fat's specializes in expertly executed Chinese classics, like Peking duck; creations of Frank's own, like his brandy-marinated fried chicken; and throwback standards, like a buttery but not-too-sweet banana cream pie, the tenured dessert of Sacramento. They do takeout, but half the fun comes from sitting amid the gold lamé and mirrored walls in the same deep, dark booths where cigar-chomping state politicians have been logrolling for decades. Things may get done differently at the Capitol nowadays, but not at Frank Fat's. 806 L Street, (916) 442-7092, https://fatsrestaurants.com. J.F.
Best cheap Sunday eats
Our Lady of Guadalupe
On the seventh day of the first week of creation, the Lord rested and commanded his people to do likewise—unless they're trying to renovate a church, in which case, they're fine to sell tacos. To raise money for a sprucing up of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, volunteers fire up the grill at 8 a.m. each Sunday and serve $1.50 street tacos filled with meats ranging from the conventional steak and chicken to the more flavorful and adventurous cabeza, buche and birria. Optional add-ins include cilantro, chopped onions, blistered jalapeños and red and green salsa. Tasty, cheap and for a good cause, these tacos are arguably Sacramento's most affordable, authentic and philanthropic weekly treat. 711 T Street, (916) 442-3211. J.F.
Best after-hours pizza
Federalist Public House
Among the pioneers of Sacramento's nascently hip alley scene, Federalist Public House resides in a space constructed with converted shipping containers and serves a tasty array of thin-crust pizzas made in its wood-fired brick oven. You can buy an entire pie, of course, but recently Federalist added a late-night option, serving $5 slices Thursday through Saturday, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. The most novel creation is the Southside, topped with pork chorizo, fontina cheese and russet hash; or try their take on the Hawaiian pizza: The Fremont features pineapple, Grana Padano and smoked pork loin. Slices pair perfectly with a jar filled from their rotating selection of quality craft brews and a game of bocce on their adjacent artificial grass court. 2009 Matsui Alley, (916) 661-6134, https://federalistpublichouse.com. J.F.
Best midnight snack
Marie's Donuts is a charming little Land Park shop that's satisfied Sacramento's sweet tooth since the 1950s. Marie's is not only famous for its dense, old-fashioned glazed donuts, flakey maple bars and mounds of delicious donut holes that line its windows, but it's also known as a late-night sweet stop. With the aroma of Marie's handmade confections billowing out of its tiny roof starting at 11 p.m., it's easy to give into sugary temptation and indulge in a midnight trip to this beloved donut shop to split a warm dozen among friends. 2950 Freeport Boulevard, (916) 444-5245. S.R.
Best late-night booze soaker-upper
This 16th Street cornerstone stays open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and makes Sacramento's best fast-food burger besides In-N-Out, while expanding upon the suburban chain's limited menu. A Hammer 4 (double cheeseburger) profits from getting its onions grilled, and customizers can add bacon, avocado or teriyaki pineapple. Seasoned customers swap out a patty for slices of flat-top-grilled pastrami, or some of Willie's signature greasy, salty, beefy chili that partners perfectly with oozy American cheese over a pair of tamales or basket of skinny fries. A bellyful will soak up whatever poor decisions you made earlier in the evening. 2415 16th Street, (916) 444-2006, http://williesburgers.com. J.F.
Best way for vegans to satisfy their hunting instincts
By the time one hunts down Conscious Creamery's pop-up decadent vegan gelato at Gather in Oak Park, Concerts in the Park or the Farm-to-Fork Festival, there's a good chance the frozen treats are already sold out. Nowadays, Conscious Creamery pedals a tricycle cart that it peddles gelato and sorbetto bars from—that's right, on a stick, some dipped in chocolate—which makes the chase a little more mobile. Still, it's always worth the hunt for the delightful tongue-twisting mango chili lime sorbetto or matcha green tea gelato dipped in chocolate with sesame crunch. The hunt begins at its online event calendar. (916) 407-1175, www.consciouscreamery.com. S.
Best hard-to-find vegan joint
Zest Kitchen, the vegan dining oasis formerly known as Baagan, is planted unassumingly in a quiet strip mall that's masked by trees and cookie-cutter housing developments on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Fairway Drive in Rocklin. Blink and you'll miss it. But missing Zest's filling but light fare—herbal coffee, fresh nut milk, rich smoothies sweetened with raw coconut sugar, seasonal grilled panini, raw nori seaweed wraps with creamy cilantro jalapeño sauce, or legendary housemade cheesecake—that would be a shame. Zest may be kind of hard to find, but not hard to love. 2620 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1 in Rocklin, (916) 824-1688, www.zestvegankitchen.com. S.
Best cash-only (still?!) bar
The man in the sunglasses doesn't need the karaoke prompter. Of course he doesn't. Crooning every word of a James Brown song like he wrote it, my man writhes his hips in this sweaty joint as our group marvels at both the performance and the environs. Clint Eastwood posters. Salty regulars. Honest pours. Check, check and check. We've stuffed ourselves into a dive bar tucked behind a gas station in the rough-and-tumble Arden-Arcade neighborhood. From the outside, the place looks like a large shed or a very small strip club. Inside, the confines can quickly cramp up and the lifer bartenders only take cash. Long Shot is also a rowdy blast that feels like a throwback to a simpler time, when disparate strangers slung their arms over each other and sang along to “Tiny Dancer.” That may not have happened this time, but someone did help me give “Nuthin' But a ‘G' Thang” the old college try. 4239 Arden Way, (916) 487-3898. RFH
Best beer worth the drive
Moonraker Brewing Co.
It's a bit of a hike but definitely worth the extra time and gas if you're thirsting for a stellar brew experience. Located in an unassuming Auburn business park, Moonraker Brewing Co. impresses on the inside. Boasting an electric boiler, Moonraker's spacious patio is shaded by more than 1,100 solar panels, which in turn provide enough electricity to brew beer and operate the taproom. Oh, and its beverages are quite delicious, too. Try the juicy Dojo, brewed with Galaxy, Mosaic, Simcoe and Citra hops; or the Seahorses Foreva, a sour with sweet-tart notes of apricot and peach. Linger for a while in the cavernous but comfy taproom, then pick up a four-pack to enjoy once you've safely made the drive back home. 12970 Earhart Avenue, Suite 100 in Auburn, (530) 745-6816, www.moonrakerbrewing.com. R.L.
Best hole in the wall
Run by married couple Louie and Eva Chruma for nearly three decades, this Hungarian lunch-and-dinner spot cranks out simple, straight-down-the-center meals like goulash (with fall-apart cubes of pork) and chicken paprikash (made with tender chicken thighs) served with perfectly tailored paprika sauces over either brown rice or its terrific spaetzle (bite-sized pieces of homemade pasta). At lunch, a combo plate gets you all that for $7.25, but leave room for the apple strudel with a flaky crust and soft, spiced filling. The only inauthentic thing about this J Street institution is the rose on your table. 2011 J Street, (916) 442-0405. J.F.
Best Midtown bar uptown
Serpentine Fox Prohibition Grille
Walk into the Serpentine Fox, in a featureless shopping center on El Camino Avenue in Arden-Arcade, and you will think you are somewhere on the grid. Wrapped in big screens showing sports, the space nevertheless has a sparse and slightly sophisticated vibe. The menu is fancy-ish but inexpensive pub grub with a Colombian twist. The $8.95 cheeseburger features a smartly spiced beef patty—the owner, Diego Peralta, whose father was a butcher, breaks down the meat himself. His mother makes the empanadas, which, unlike the Argentine pastry variety, are wrapped in masa and fried. And the craft cocktails, from a menu assembled by head bartender Joseph Crowder, walk the line from the traditional favorites indicated by the gastropub's name to edgy inventions that work. Live music regularly turns the place into a neighborhood hot spot. 2645 El Camino Avenue, (916) 913-1159, www.serpentinefox.com. E.J.
Best place to let your day take off
Spend too much time brunching on the grid—what with its artisanal bacon Bloody Marys and avocado toast—and it's easy to forget there are decidedly more interesting options elsewhere. Aviators Restaurant, located at Executive Airport in South Sacramento, offers a 180-degree view of the runway from every table in the house. The food is standard diner fare (eggs, waffles and pancakes, hash browns, et al.), the prices cheap and the vibe upscale greasy spoon. In other words, so hipster it's not hipster, which means, well, you know. 6151 Freeport Boulevard, (916) 424-1728. R.L.
Best hangover cure
After a late night out on the town, nothing cures a morning headache and hangover better than comfort food—and a little hair of the dog. Since the '40s, Round Corner has managed to keep its janky vibe, complete with dusty old billiard trophies. Did you know at one point in history a van crashed into its front door? Ask longtime bartenders George Loera or Steve Almaraz about it sometime. Besides the cheap drinks, it's the food that keeps patrons planted at the bar. Under the name Drian's Kitchen, head chef Drian Perez stacks burgers, rolls lumpia and makes the tastiest potato tacos this side of the tracks. Brunch is also an option, so grab a Bloody Mary and some hearty grub in one of Sac's best old-school bars. 2333 S Street, (916) 451-4682. S.R.