My restaurant recommendations for Sacramento
I guess you could call me a "foodie". It probably has a little to do with being from the Deep South where people love to cook and eat. Also, I come from a family of accomplished cooks who make all kinds of excellent things. Despite their love for all you can eat buffets, my parents mostly took me to amazing hole in the walls as well as posh five star restaurants. This practice taught me that amazing food comes from all kinds of establishments. Since I have moved to California, I have made it my mission to try different types of food from all kinds of cultures. I'm no professional critic just someone who loves good food.
So I have complied a list of restaurants in Sacramento that are worth a visit.
Shoki Ramen House is a cool little place some friends turned me on to. It is a cramped small space, most of it being occupied by the kitchen. The tables are few so it can be quite a wait to get in but it is worth it. They have several broth and meat options. The person I usually go with and I always get the same thing. He likes the shoyu, a soy sauce based broth, with pork. I opt for the tan tan men extra super spicy. The tan tan men comes with pork, spinach and noodles. I like to add shiitake mushrooms for added texture. The tan tan men broth itself is vegan though so you can get it with just vegetables. The pork is very moist and the noodles have that amazing texture that fresh pasta has. I am into very spicy food and the super spicy is pretty hot so much so that they warn you in advance if it is too spicy they will not exchange it for you. The tan tan men comes in many different levels of spice depending on what you like. Just the tan tan men, though. I don't think the other broths can be made to be spicy. Oh, and the inari which I am usually not a fan of is amazing there.
Heat Shabu Baru is not only a good restaurant but a fun one to go to. I have often been there in large parties during happy hour so that may have something to do with that. There really are some great bargains at happy hour. Yay for cheap Japanese beer! There broths are the tonkatsu, which is a good pork-based broth, and miso which is safe for vegetarians. It's even yummier if you order them spicy (it isn't too hot). The best thing is you get a two sided pot so you can sample both broths. You have the options of Waygu or American Kobe beef which I have never had. I usually get the American Kobe beef because it's a fair amount cheaper and darn good. The lamb is really what is amazing. They also provide you with vegetables to flavor the broth like cabbage, spinach, carrots, enoki and regular mushrooms. They also throw in noodles which cook quickly and are great in the broth. My vegetarian friends eat strictly that with the spicy miso. It's not cheap but fun and something a little different. An added bonus is that there always seems to be available tables and I have never had to wait for service. Warning: when you eat at Heat your hair and clothes will reek of shabu. It's worth it.
Jim Denny's is a tiny little old school counter place. There's seating for less than twenty. Sometimes it is so crowded you have to take your order to go. Their hamburgers are some of my favorites in Sacramento. They cook them on this tiny ancient griddle that has had years of seasoning to add to whatever you order. The hamburgers are spiced well and are moist. The burgers range in size from enormous to the perfect size for someone who likes moderate portions. My friend got the 50's burger for a while but left feeling completely full. He now opts for a smaller thinner patty called the Old Fashioned 5 Cent burger and is comfortably full. Believe it or not, I go there for the veggie burgers. They are excellently flavored and not at all dry. They also come smothered in cheese with grilled mushrooms and onions. (I never get the onions though) Their soups and sides are quite good. The fries are hot and crisp from the fryer every time. The burgers are enough, though. My sides mostly go untouched. It saddens me to hear Jim Denny's was up for sale and is now under new ownership. This being the case, I can only vouch for what I had prior to the sale. Whatever happens, I hope the quality remains consistent.
Ella is an elegant upscale restaurant. You have to dress semi-nice to feel comfortable eating there. I remember going there when it first opened and was not impressed with the food in relation to the price. They changed chefs at some point and I find the food much more delicious now than ever. I've not ventured into too many of their appetizers except the "ella plateau" which has raw oysters, poached mussels, poached prawns and half a Maine lobster. It's awesome but pricey. The tuna carpaccio and the cured salmon are also something not to be overlooked. They have a wonderful fresh pasta dish that varies on when you are there. The entrees are pretty great across the board. I am a fan of the wood-fired meatballs and the gnocchi. Sometimes things can be on the salty side but not so much so that the dish is ruined. The food is prepared with expertise and always cooked to perfection. The gin and tonics are simply out of this world. I could seriously drink six of them in a row but that gets REALLY expensive.
Mulvaney's Building and Loan is one of those upscale places that you can show up to in jeans and a hoodie and not feel underdressed. They have a very friendly staff that is quite knowledgeable about wine. Every time I've asked for a recommendation they have picked out something good. The menu is ever changing but they consistently offer smoked salmon and a double cut pork chop. The salmon is great but I found the pork chop to be on the dry side. They make wonderful fresh pasta- usually pappardelle- but sometimes something like ravioli. There are usually a couple of fish dishes on the menu that are superb. I've never been with anyone who ordered the steak so I can't recommend it. The ambience is also lovely with nicely spaced out tables and tall ceilings. The outdoor patio is romantic on temperate nights. It helps to have a reservation or else you may not get seated during prime dinner hours. When I've shown up early, there isn't much of a problem getting a table.
Bandera is where I like to go when I am hungry and have had a bad day. If you get there early enough or it is Monday-Thursday, there is no problem getting seated. Fridays and Saturdays can be a bit of a madhouse. They have great margaritas that go down like candy which can be a bad thing if you keep drinking them. Their specialties are rotisserie meats and steaks. Their fish dishes are decent but I always get the same thing when I go there: the rotisserie chicken sandwich. A-mazing! My friend always gets the french dip and is equally impressed with it. Their appetizers are stellar as well, especially the cornbread and the grilled artichoke. Service is always speedy and the ambiance is nice with dim lighting and comfortable booths.
Kru is maybe the best sushi place in town. The quality of the fish is reliably good. If you're into lots of options for rolls, I'd go to Mikuni's instead. There aren't that many types of rolls but the chefs will make up a roll for you if you're up for asking. They do it for my vegetarian friends every time. What is really great about Kru is the small plates. They do everything from ahi tuna tartare to foie gras. Their raw oysters come with real wasabi not the green horseradish paste and are delightful. It's a bit pricey for regular sushi meals but worth the treat every now and then.
Queen Sheba is the only Ethiopian joint I've been to in Sac but it is a good one. The prices are reasonable and the food always tastes rich, complex and tasty. The doro wot and beef and lamb tibbs are perfectly executed. I believe that the vegan dishes are the stars though. The spicy red lentils and the gomen are always the first to go on the combination plate. A friend of mine dislikes the bread but no one else I know seems to have a problem with it. The staff are super friendly, almost enough to make up for the exceptionally slow service.
The Bread Store has the best sandwiches. As the name implies, they bake their own bread and boy does it make a difference. They have different options (sourdough, honey wheat, etc.) all of which are fresh with great texture. As far as the ingredients, you're not going to get anything too fancy here. There's no peppercorn aoli or pesto. There's mayo and mustard. I don't eat vegetables on my sandwich so I can't say that they are fresh firsthand but I've always heard hugely positive things. My vegan friend craves their avocado sandwich so much that I have to take her there when she is in town. The meats are pretty standard but in a good way.
Sandra Dee's is like a little piece of the South here in California. Their barbecued meats are awesome as is their spicy sauce. Whenever I go there, I opt for the fried oyster platter which is always hot right from the fryer and never lukewarm and soggy. I've also been told their fried chicken is good. The only thing I have had there that was substandard was the catfish. It was entirely too overcooked. The fries are nothing to rave about but the mac and cheese is delicious. The baked beans are also aces. They aren't open Sunday or Monday so I don't go there as often as I would like. (Probably best for my waistline.)
Hot Italian is perfect if you are a fan of super thin crust gourmet pizza. I am not saying it is the best pizza in Sac. Luigi's is good take home pizza to gnosh on while you watch the game. Chicago Fire is also pretty good if you like deep dish. It probably is the best sit down pizza place. (Yes, One Speed is fantastic too but there are a lot more options at Hot Italian.) They have tasty drinks and pizzas for carnivores and vegetarians alike. Also, they have amazing gelato. The inside is well lit and clean and the service is fast. A drawback is that when busy you often end up sitting at communal tables.
Tres Hermanas reluctantly makes this list. I really love the things I order there but when I have ventured to order new things I've been disappointed. Their salsa is top notch. Their soups and salads which come with entrees are wonderful. Their drinks are great. I order the cheese enchilada in verde sauce with a chile relleno combination plate and it is a homy treat. The rice and beans that go along with it are tasty as well. Actually, I had a spicy prawn dish that was quite good as well. Their burritos are nothing special and the nachos are just decent. If there are any recommendations for a more all around good Mexican restaurant please let me know.
Bombay Bar and Grill is a nice new addition to Midtown. There are so many options for vegetarians and meat lovers. I've only been there a handful of times and gotten something different every visit. We usually get the Himalayan appetizer which has samosas, vegetable pakora, naan and these yummy little dumplings called momos. I've mostly had vegetarian entrees. The chana masala, paneer tika masala, alu baigan and saag and tofu are all really good. The only meat dish I have tried is the lal maas, a red curry of lamb. The lamb was not at all overcooked. Consistent is the word I would use to describe the food here. I have not had one bad experience. The decor is alright but nicely lit. The house specialty drinks are tasty but can take a really long time to get to the table.
I would love recommendations especially for a good Italian restaurant. I have a horrible habit of finding what I like and never venturing out to other places of the same cuisine. I am not saying these restaurants are carved in stone as the best but they are good places to try.