Writers’ picks: Food & Drink
SN&R writers share their favorite dishes, drinks and indulgences
Best friendly cup of coffee
On most mornings, people want a hot cup of coffee to awaken the senses—minus the bougie ambience and attitude. At Broadway Coffee, the friendly baristas won’t roll their eyes when you ask for a little vanilla in your cup of joe. Rather, they’ll remember your name and even ask how the day’s going. It’s a welcome change of pace in lieu of the all those corporate craft coffee bars with flights of exclusively curated espresso (I’m looking at you, Starbucks Reserve). Some notable menu items at this happy little Oak Park coffee shop include the Tuxedo, espresso poured over a blend of mocha and white chocolate mocha; and the classic Dirty Chai, toasty espresso balanced with a sweet and spicy chai tea, with steamed or iced milk. 3200 Broadway, (916) 594-9058, broadwaycoffeecompany.com. S.R.
Best meat candy
The cult of chicharrones has found its mecca in Nixtaco, where Patricio Wise fries up his fresh pork rinds to new levels of salty-sweet delight. Light as a cloud and crisp as a potato chip, his chicharrones con chile are dusted with chili powder for a kiss of heat without going overboard. One serving gets you a big plateful, but it’s easy to mow through an entire dish in 10 minutes without realizing it. Order a beer to wash them down and you’ll be set for the afternoon. 1805 Cirby Way, Suite 12 in Roseville; (916) 771-4165;nixta.co. S.S.
Best place to soak up adult beverages
Locals don’t have to look very far to get a taste of Greece. Petra Greek has fed its customers like gods and goddesses since it opened its door eight years ago. With its Midtown location open late Wednesday through Friday (until 3 a.m.!), Petra dishes up affordable Greek cuisine, including its signature dish: seasoned beef and lamb gyros filled with crispy golden fries. It makes for a great after-hours hang, whether you’re trying to avoid a hangover or want to keep the party going. Various locations, petragreek.com. AHS
Best big coffee experience
Many things are big at Identity Coffees. Order a large coffee, and it’s served in a pint glass. If you sit inside the cavernous 4,500-square-foot shop, most of the tables, made by co-owner Lucky Rodrigues, are giant varnished slabs of locally fallen trees. Several more large wood chunks perched against the back wall are part of the industrial, minimalist décor—and are for sale. There’s also seating at a monstrous metal vintage jointer. It’s also hard to miss the place, on the corner of 28th and O streets, with huge, block-letter signage out front. The coffee is excellent, the karma big. 1430 28th Street, (916) 225-0738, identitycoffees.com. J.R.
Best sushi for traditionalists
I’m not necessarily against giant sushi rolls stuffed with deep-fried shrimp and drizzled with multiple mayo-based sauces—but let’s call this what it is, which is American sushi. Sacramento does Americanized sushi extremely well. But for traditional sushi, you’ll want to drive out to Carmichael and visit chef Shige Tokita. Nigiri rules here, particularly seasonal fish ordered off the specials board. Tokita lets the fish speak for itself, sometimes serving it in its purest form, draped over seasoned rice and a dab of wasabi; other times amping it up with subtle flourishes, such as a shiso leaf tucked under monkfish liver, or a brush of citrus over a sweet scallop. Either way, you’ll want to put the menu away and eat whatever Tokita chooses to feed you. 5938 Madison Avenue in Carmichael, (916) 331-7300. J.B.
Best pan dulce como la abuela
La Esperanza Bakery
When I was a little girl, my Grandma Lily would babysit my brother and I. In the late afternoons, the pan dulce man would drive through the streets of la colonia selling sweet pastries to families and kids riding their bikes until they were called in for dinner. Pan dulce is a dish of Mexican sweet breads best enjoyed with coffee, in the evening or for breakfast. Childhood staples include conchas: round, dense rolls named for its seashell-like appearance with crunchy ridges of brightly colored yellow or pink frosting. The pastry case at La Esperanza Bakery is lined with conchas, plus spongy jelly rolls filled with tart raspberry jam dusted in coconut shavings, puerquitos—thick, soft cookies shaped like little pigs, spiced with cinnamon and ground ginger—and more. The smell of the bakery alone takes me back to those days when Grandma would hand us a few bucks to pick out our favorites. 5044 Franklin Boulevard, (916) 455-0215. S.R.
Best vegan sando
Dad's Sandwich Shop
Carnivores and vegans alike will find common ground when they bite into the delectable glory that is Dad’s Sandwich Shop’s Vegan Meatloaf sandwich. (Full disclosure: I love to make it non-vegan by adding provolone.) This sando is served hot with a housemade “meat” loaf that’s made from scratch daily. Soy-based meat grounds, diced carrots and other secret veggie bits are formed into a loaf and grilled until it gets a light crust on both sides. Then the thick loaf is piled high with red onion, romaine lettuce, juicy tomatoes and Dad’s house barbecue sauce in between sliced sourdough. Each bite is a savory, messy mouthful that will have even the most dedicated meat-eater thinking of all the cows they spared. 1310 S Street, (916) 448-3237, dadssandwiches.com. S.R.
Best new vegan food truck
Bambi Vegan Tacos food truck
Bambi Vegan Tacos food truck has only been around since spring, but it already has proven to be the best local all-vegan food truck—but not just because of a lack of competition, but because its food is colorful, inventive (like the corn-fried eggplant taco) and, as Bambi states on its website, “delicious AF.” Owner and chef (and omnivore) Chad Novick said he’s been most surprised at how well-received Bambi’s food has been by non-vegans. It makes sense, because Novick and his team don’t treat their vegetables, like housemade cauliflower chorizo, nacho cheese and black harissa slaw as if they are just garnish—they are the main, mouthwatering attraction. Catch Bambi on Saturdays at the Oak Park Farmers Market or check their Instagram for other dates and times. instagram.com/bambivegantacos. S.
Best place to win over a cynic
When Oakhaus moved into the Oak Park neighborhood, my eyebrows raised. Hof brau? This isn’t Sam’s! But after many pints, dinners and even a few breakfast trips later, Oakhaus won me over. Everything at this restaurant is worth a taste. Whether it’s the spitfire roasted chicken plate with your choice of perfectly cooked, crunchy vegetables and a comforting helping of mashed potatoes, or the kids menu that goes beyond the boring and unhealthy burger and hot dog with fries—the food here is all undeniably delicious. The topper: The staff goes out of their way to fill drinks and offer yummy suggestions (the cupcakes are bomb). It’s a welcome addition to the strip that’s sure to warm the hearts of even the most skeptical diner. 3413 Broadway, (916) 376-7694 oakhaussac.com. S.R.
Best handmade udon
Buddhist Church of Sacramento
While there are plenty of restaurants specializing in ramen around Sacramento, udon is a little more rare—the thick wheat noodles are too often an afterthought. For handmade udon, your most reliable option is actually a church. The Buddhist Church of Sacramento makes more than 500 pounds of noodles every year for its Japanese Food & Cultural Bazaar, which takes place every August. The lines are long, but the udon line moves quickly, and your reward is a soothing bowl of chewy, slippery noodles bathed in a classic dashi broth. There are a lot of delicious eats at the festival, but nothing is as simple yet satisfying as the udon. Don’t miss it next year—always the second full weekend of August. 2401 Riverside Boulevard, (916) 446-0121, buddhistchurch.org. J.B.
Best unappreciated brunch
Shady Lady Saloon
It doesn’t seem to be on everyone’s radar, but R Street’s Shady Lady Saloon serves up a next-level weekend brunch spread. Chef Salvador Gutierrez brings his Mexico City sensibilities to the table with a host of intensely satisfying Mexican breakfast dishes. Particularly noteworthy are his chilaquiles: tortilla chips baked with chorizo, eggs, red onions and black beans, topped crema fresca, cotija cheese and guacamole. The whole lot is dressed with Gutierrez’s famous rancho salsa, which takes a full five days to make. You’ll also find regular breakfast favorites, like French toast and eggs Benedict, which go well with your breakfast cocktail. Hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right? 1409 R Street, (916) 231-9121, shadyladybar.com. S.S.
Best vegan coffee treat
Besides selling ethical beans with a superlative roast—Ethiopian Wenago Sunrise—Insight Coffee’s in-shop drink offerings are some of the best in the city. Both vegans and non-vegans will appreciate the oat milk cappuccino, made with a particularly flavorful brand of barista-styled oat milk called Oatly. Steamed up hot and foamy, each sip tempers Insight’s darkish espresso with a whisper of gently toasted oats, reminiscent of a bowl of Cheerios. It just might remind you of breakfast growing up, hunkered down at the coffee table in front of Saturday-morning cartoons. Can you think of a better way to start your day? Multiple locations, insightcoffee.com. S.S.
Best place to calmly start your day
Orphan Breakfast House
Orphan Breakfast House, tucked away in a leafy corner of East Sacramento, exudes a calming ambience, thanks in part to its attentive staff. Here you can linger over breakfast or brunch at a reasonable price. Start with a cup of Naked Coffee brewed to perfection. Then try a hearty dish such as the artichoke scramble, served with rosemary bread (ask for a side of jam) and tasty potatoes. The pancakes are also a must-try—the banana blackberry are especially good. Orphan is cash-only, but the food is so good, you won’t mind. 3440 C Street, (916) 442-7370, orphanbreakfast.com. MPE