Writers’ picks: People & Places

SN&R writers reflect on the people and places that make Sacramento unique

Bethany Davis, organizer of the Great Sacramento Vegan Burger Battle, spreads plant-based love and awareness one event at a time.

Bethany Davis, organizer of the Great Sacramento Vegan Burger Battle, spreads plant-based love and awareness one event at a time.

Photo by Shoka

Best place to hide your side piece

XO Lounge

The XO Lounge is, arguably, one of Sacramento’s grungiest bars. It’s dark. It smells a certain way. It’s kind of a local diamond in the rough. (Hella rough.) Even so, it still remains the perfect place for some folks to yes, hide their side piece. What’s a side piece? If you have to ask, you’re probably good in not knowing. But for those who want to front, it’s a man or woman that you date on the side when you’re in a committed—or in this case—semi-committed relationship. At the XO, you know you’ll be safe to be triflin’ because your main boo would probably never guess you’d be chillin’ in this place. Still, at the end of the day, everyone knows the XO is good for stiff drinks and perhaps the occasional shade. 1400 Broadway; (916) 444-0252. S.R.

Best comedian to make you LOL

Lance Woods

When you see comedian Lance Woods, he’ll probably drop a few lines claiming that he’s an international sex symbol. Do we know this to be true? No. But we want to believe! Looks aside, Woods brings the funny no matter what medium. He’s performed in front of the U.S. Marine Corps in Japan and was also featured on shows such as The Comedy Time Show. Woods also uses social media to share his hilarious comedy videos about pop culture. In them, he pokes fun at celebrities like LeBron James and Mike Bibby. The Bibby clip alone was shared more than 500 times on Facebook. While there’s no proof (yet) that Woods is a global sex symbol, it’s easy to prove he’s funny A.F. facebook.com/Lancewoodscomedy. S.R.

Best smelling section of the bike trail

Blue Diamond Almond Factory

Biking in Sacramento can be miserable, often synonymous with breathing clouds of exhaust fumes and getting to know every bump in the road very personally—but there’s a half-mile stretch of bike-trail heaven along the east side of the Blue Diamond Almond Factory. If you happen to bike by during a roast, you’ll cruise gently through incredible wafting aromas—blueberry, cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate. It all depends what day it is. Incredibly, the ingredient lists behind the irrepressible scents don’t contain artificial flavors. It’s an all-natural almond-palooza, and a brief section of sanctuary for the often tormented cyclists of the city. Sacramento Northern Bikeway near 20th and C streets; bluediamond.com. M.M.

Best drag queen who will probably try to put her wig on your baby

Mercury Rising

One of the most effervescent queens to have blessed Sacramento’s deeply talented drag community, Mercury Rising hosts the Dinner and a Drag Show every Saturday night at Capitol Garage on K Street. It’s a delightfully entertaining all-ages show that attracts cool theater kids and senior citizens alike. A riveting performer who can just as easily bedazzle an audience as elicit laughter (sometimes at her own expense), Mercury knows how to both build a crowd’s enthusiasm and—when necessary—defuse the occasional, overly rambunctious bridesmaid party.

Mercury, who also performs regularly at Sidetrax, exhibits a drag style that eschews the well-known practice of padding to appear as biologically feminine as possible in favor of a more androgynous approach. At a recent show, she referenced her lack of, uh, assets:

“The more you tip, the bigger my breasts become,” she joked as she stuffed a handful of $1 bills down her chest for safe-keeping.

In addition to her humor and talent, Mercury Rising is a queen who possesses the uncanny ability to make everyone feel welcome, whether you’re a community regular, a RuPaul’s Drag Race fanatic or drag show newcomer. She once put her wig on a baby, and if that isn’t the most sacred of drag initiation rituals, then what is? facebook.com/MercuryRising2000. R.M.

Best vegan meal enabler

Yes, Queen: Mercury Rising blesses audiences weekly at Capitol Garage.

Photo by Luis Bererra

Bethany Davis

In June, Bethany Davis was basically responsible for Sacramentans eating more than 16,000 burgers. But Davis is not a chef or restaurateur. She’s the organizer of the Great Sacramento Vegan Burger Battle, a monthlong event that she wrangled 36 local restaurants to make vegan burgers—and by the number of burgers sold, diners were hungry for it. This is Davis’ second monthlong vegan competition: She began the annual Sacramento Vegan Chef Challenge in 2010, which happens every October. When she started, only six or so restaurants participated, but it has grown every year—it was up to 31 in 2017. Her dining events not only raise diners’ awareness of plant-based eating in a fun, social way, but it’s just as important to chefs, who can experience firsthand that having substantial vegan options on their menu is good for the environment, personal health and really good for business. theveganchefchallenge.com. S.

Best sacto foodie Instagram

South Sacramento

With more than 4,500 followers, Instagram

micro-influencer “South Sacramento” celebrates the architecture and signage of South Sac, but most people come for the food photos, specifically the taco pics. And the bao photos. And the banh mi photos. This ‘grammer prefers to remain anonymous as he documents the gloriously multi-ethnic food and cultural offerings of this section of Sac, or as he puts it in the bio, “A native’s love letter to the hood that shaped me.” Many posts sport a lively comments section, which may yield locals-only tips such as the fact that the “crispy ass chicharron” from La Esperanza is restocked at 3 p.m. daily. instagram.com/southsacramento. B.G.

Best place to host a high school reunion

The Rink

You got roped into planning a reunion; it happens. Remember, these events are really contests to see who has the most amazing life now. Well, you aren’t famous, you never backpacked through France, you flunked out of dental school—but you’ve got to level the playing field somehow. Here’s the thing: Skating backwards is impressive, and you can get pretty decent after a few months of practice. You’ll shine at The Rink, guaranteed. And if the invite to your old pal Josephine, the former figure skater, happens to get lost in the mail, so be it. 2900 Bradshaw Road; (916) 363-2643; therinksacramento.com. M.M.

Best bar to cry in public over a live version of an old song you never liked

Gaslight Co.

About one week before she died, my mom rested on her living room couch surrounded by relatives. She was pretty weak and not very talkative. The radio murmured in the background. Then a song came on. It was “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. You’ve probably heard it. It’s an indelible piece of AM nostalgia rock. I don’t like this song. Turns out my mother loved it. She roused from her thousand-mile remoteness and shushed us. We listened for a bit, but our family only shuts up for so long. Soon the simple chord progressions and sentimental lyrics about a mother’s advice to her son were lost to crosstalk. Mom gestured angrily. One of her final requests denied.

That memory rushed back recently at the Gaslight, a warmly lit beer-and-wine spot on the second floor of a rustic, Gold Rush-era building in historic Folsom. This is one of my absolute favorite places to come on the weekends, and I don’t particularly like beer. What brings me back are the bands—a rotating crew of regional acts jamming working-class blues, folk and roots rock to that rare audience that’s actually there for the music. On this evening, a band called South Fork invited a guest vocalist up for one song, and three guesses which one they performed. The band took “Simple Man’s” on-the-nose, well, simplicity, and turned it into a dirge-y blend of Grateful Dead guitar riffs and Animals organ solos. I may have teared up. I definitely thought of my mom and shut up. 718 Sutter Street in Folsom; (916) 358-9447; gaslightcofolsom.com. RFH

Best goth picnic date

Old City Cemetery

There’s something about the Old City Cemetery that’s both romantic and intriguing. As the oldest burial ground in Sacramento (established in 1849), its centuries-old stones and monuments in honor of the dead are beautifully accented by fragrant and rare roses. The manicured grassy areas throughout its 44-acre grounds even make the perfect picnic spot for two. What better way to appreciate its beauty then to grab a friend and sit in awe of it all while enjoying the sounds of Bauhaus or Siouxsie and the Banshees? And although Bela Lugosi’s not buried here, some famous and infamous Sacramentans are, including Edwin B. Crocker, Elisabeth Zimmermann (a Donner Party survivor) and the son of Alexander Hamilton, William. Pay them all respects. 1000 Broadway; (916) 264-5621; historicoldcitycemetery.org. S.R.

Best rising YouTube personality

Odin Abbot of Odin Makes

There are a handful of YouTube stars that claim the Sacramento area: fashion vlogger Tiffany Ma, basketballer-comedian Marcelas Howard. The Smosh duo Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox both grew up in Carmichael, and are one of the longest-running skit-comedy shows on YouTube. Few stick around town it seems, but count Odin Abbott as an exception. An Emmy-winning editor for KVIE by day, Abbott’s side gig, the YouTube channel Odin Makes, has garnered him around 300,000 subscribers. What does the smith make? Impressively accurate fantasy props like the Blue Shell from Mario Kart, the Infinity Gauntlet from The Avengers and Saruman’s wizard staff from The Lord of the Rings, all made from low-budget materials you can find at stores like Home Depot and Michael’s. Abbott’s videos are less piece-by-piece instructions, more like stories narrating his creative process as PVC pipe and toilet paper rollers are crafted into that king-sized revolver from Hellboy. youtube.com/odinmakes. M.Z.