California’s state capital is often overlooked as an inland city, but Bay Area refugees are fleeing to this hidden gem for its affordability. Sac is no longer just “the midwest of California” or a cow town centered around a mall. Now, there’s coffee shops, wine bars, local craft breweries, and a slew of farm-to-fork restaurants offering Californian cuisine and beyond. Read on for our favorite places to eat in Sacramento.
This California farm-to-table diner serves rich American breakfasts and “lunchish,” plus beer and wine. Located on the corner of 59th and Broadway in Tahoe Park, Bacon & Butter gets its seasonal ingredients from purveyors at local farmer’s markets. Chef-owner Billy Zoellin applies simple yet creative techniques to create greasy spoon staples and deliciously unexpected combos like the grilled cheese Benedict. Locals line up around the block for dishes like the biscuit sandwich, made with bacon, caramelized onion, chive mascarpone, egg, and smothered in gravy on a griddled biscuit skirted with cheddar. Reservations are recommended for this location and the new one on J Street in East Sacramento.
This charming, warmly lit bakery and pâtisserie will take you from Cali to Paris with its contemporary French cuisine. Owner Esther Son brings her passion for pastries to the all-day menu of sweets, soup, salad, sandwiches, quiche, and coffee. Artisan bread and decadent French-style pastries like macarons and croissants are baked on-site daily, using fresh, quality ingredients. Can’t make it out to the Arden Way locale? There’s a smaller more convenient outpost across from the Golden 1 Center in the Downtown Commons District (DoCo).
Chef Billy Ngo’s enduring Japanese eatery and sushi bar infuses classic dishes with international flavors. The Folsom Blvd location is open nightly for dinner only, with a menu that ranges from sashimi and sushi rolls to ramen and yakimono (the Japanese word for grilled, fried, or broiled food, especially meat). But we recommend the chef’s tasting omakase, which tailors the best arrivals of the day to your mood, tastes, hunger-level, etc. Reservations for Sacramento’s most respected sushi spot aren’t required but are strongly encouraged.
Poke is having a moment in the state capital, and this counter-service spot is the best place for DIY poke bowls. Highly acclaimed Chef Billy Ngo is also behind this modern eatery, so you know your meal is going to be simple, flavorful, and fresh. Fish Face offers a variety of seafood salads and hand rolls, made with the best locally sourced and sustainable ingredients, plus healthy and delicious vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. What sets this poke place apart from the rest is the quality of their fish and chef-crafted sauces. Build your own bowl and pair it with a locally brewed beer, or add one small hot sake for an extra two bucks. Visit the original location on R Street or the other one in Carmichael’s Milagro Center.
Located along the border of Midtown and East Sac, this chic gastropub offers a fantastic seasonally-rotating menu of high-end New American cuisine and cocktails in cool digs. Hawks Public House is husband and wife duo Molly Hawks and Michael Fagnoni’s second restaurant project—the two also own the popular and successful Hawks Restaurant in Granite Bay.
Chef Ed Lopez II’s brunch, lunch, and dinner menus offer a wide range of small plates and entrees made with the best ingredients from small farms and local purveyors. The menu rotates seasonally, but the signature Wagyu beef burger is always available. Head there on “Fried Chicken Mondays” to feast on the famous buttermilk fried foul. The craft cocktail menu is one of the most respectable in the city, but they also offer an excellent selection of wine. Save some room for a housemade pastry from Hawks Provisions next door.
For authentic traditional Italian cuisine and cocktails, look no further than Biba. Chef Biba Caggiano opened her eponymous restaurant in 1986. The Bologna native has nine best-selling cookbooks that have sold over half a million copies and was the host of an internationally syndicated cooking show.
Biba is known for its elegant simplicity, using traditional techniques to transform local ingredients into meals that will make you want to kiss your fingers and exclaim, “Bellisimo!”. You can’t go wrong with the daily specials, or the famous lasagne verdi alla bolognese, which features seven layers of freshly made pasta interlaced with rich bolognese and bechamel sauces. If that sounds like too many lasagna layers, try the handmade fettuccine—impossibly tender noodles tossed with shrimp, tomatoes, garlic, basil, and extra virgin olive oil.
Chef-owner Chris Barnum-Dann’s Midtown locale offers New American fine dining minus froo froo formality. LOCALIS uses the “freshest ingredients, expertly prepared and beautifully presented”. The innovative menu puts an emphasis on hyper-seasonal ingredients and bold flavors that are artistically plated, from its famous wood-fire-roasted octopus with harissa to the vegetarian mushroom carbonara. Take a seat in the low-key yet upscale dining room to order à la carte, or enjoy a reasonable multi-course tasting menu at the chef’s table with pairings from the notable wine list.
Located in a historic industrial-chic space at 17th & S Streets, Hook & Ladder offers New American comfort food, local beers, and inspired house cocktails. The full menu highlights California’s bounty and is sourced from local farms, ranches, breweries, and wineries. The H&L Burger is one of the best burgers in town, with two quarter-pound beef patties, piled high with molasses-braised onions, Gruyere, and black pepper aioli, served on a brioche bun. (Pros know to add the fried egg for an extra buck.) Even if you’re not hungry, head here to enjoy a killer cocktail on the patio. They’ve got Manhattans and old fashioneds on draft!