Reader’s Choice: Food + Drink

Posted on August 5, 2011 – 11:11 PM | by Admin
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We’ve opted to break our Reader’s Choice survey winners into sections so they’re easier to digest, and first up are Eats + Drinks. It’s no surprise that this is a category MidMo Readers are serious about: when we tabulated the answers, we noticed that these categories were the least likely to be left blank out of the whole survey. And, just for fun, we decided to ask some local experts for their take on some of our categories. Their answers are sprinkled throughout.

Best Coffee House: Temple

Temple Coffee’s defining characteristic is their dedication to coffee. Looking for poetry readings? Not here. Live music? Try somewhere else. Sandwiches and small plates?  Just a few pastries. Beer and wine? Nope. Art shows? The real artists at Temple are the baristas and roasters. Coffee – and tea – is Temple’s reason for existence. Owner Sean Kohmescher seeks out consistently high-quality coffees for in-house roasting and brewing. They are often more expensive, but for true coffee aficionados, worth the price.

Since opening in November 2005, Temple has consistently scored high marks with local coffee aficionados and in national coffee competitions, and their “Guatemala Antigua Munapu” is one of the highest rated coffees in the world. Their head roaster is a Q Grader, the coffee world’s equivalent of a sommelier, and Kohmescher is a certified coffee trainer. In addition to retail sales, they also provide wholesale coffee to other cafes and restaurants. Temple also trains and educates their wholesale customers’ staff to provide the highest quality product. They offer classes and tastings for the public at the S Street location.

Both Temple locations are beautifully designed temples to the art of coffee. This dedication has garnered an enormous local following, even without an open-mic night.

2829 S Street

Best Fine Dining Mulvaney’s B&L

It would be easy to point to Patrick Mulvaney’s farm-to-table ethos or his way with a dry-aged rib eye as reasons that he overwhelmingly beat out the other strong contenders for best fine dining in Midtown, but if you want to really understand why, you have to attend one of his pig roasts.  They are free to friends and industry, and Mulvaney himself is front and center divvying up hunks of pork and crispy skin while a diverse cross section of Sacramento mingles and lines up for cider straight from the taps on Two River’s Volkswagen bus. For good and bad, Sacramento is a city that rejects pretensions, and Mulvaney manages the delicate task of presenting high level cuisine, service, and ambiance in a humble way.

1215 19th Street

Best Cheap Eats: Fatface at Bows & Arrows

When tallying up the votes for our first-ever Reader’s Choice survey, it soon became very clear that Olivia Coelho and Trish Rhomberg’s newly reopened Bows and Arrows was going to do very, very well… and boy, did they: this is the first of four categories they swept up and put in the pockets of their ‘80s pantsuits.

One reason for their success is that they do smart things.  Who would have guessed that Olivia and Trish had Jaymes Luu’s culinary skills up their fashionable sleeves when they decided to reopen Bows And Arrows in its new location? The addition of Luu’s Fatface Cafe inside Bows’ retail arts complex is a truly inspired stroke.

Luu’s season menu items – which utilize local, farm fresh ingredients – consist of “Bar Snacks” (Housemade Strawberry Jicima Chips and Salsa ($4), Popcorn al a Marisol ($2.50), Honey Roasted Almonds with Chipotle ($3), sandwiches (Mesquite BBQ ($10.50), Cola Braised Pork ($10.50), Beer Poached Fig ($9), and various cheeses served with accoutrements ($5). But it’s Luu’s unconventional and delicious $3 gourmet popsicles (Thai Tea Sweet Potato, Kaffir Lime and Avocado, Hibiscus Mint Grapes, etc.) that have proven to be the most popular with customers. Leave it to Bows and Fatface to keep Sacramento’s creative class entertained, properly fed and happy.

1815 19th Street

Ask the Experts: Best Cheap Eats

The Kitchen’s sous chef Stan Moore knows food and drink. Expensive food, painstakingly prepared food, craft beers, and cured meats – he has worked in the food industry for over 20 years.  When we approached him about his favorite Midtown cheap eats spot, he didn’t hesitate.

“I have to go with Bon Air Market (2531 J Street).  The best cheap sandwiches in Sacramento, hands down.  I’ve introduced many to it, and no one has ever been disappointed.  They’ve got over 80 ingredients!  I’m a big fan of the one with the cranberry and turkey (The Big Sleep).  I’ll just say that you get a huge sandwich, enough for lunch and dinner, for around five bucks”!

Best Place for a Latenight Snack TIE: La Garnacha/Petra

Ah, to be young, drunk and hungry at 1AM! Not so long ago you’d be stuck with an AM/PM hamburger, possibly doctored with pickled jalapenos; but these days there are more options. So much so, that La Garnacha (on 16th and U) and Petra Greek (16th between L and K) both won the Latenight Snack category in the only tie of the survey!

Garnacha peddles burritos and tortas, among other things, 24 hours a day. So you can stop by after a few hours at the Flame Club, order a veggie burrito with french fries in it, flop down on the Ikea chairs littering the patio and stave off your impending hangover.

A relatively new Greek restaurant, Petra serves their gyros with fries inside – there must be something about french fries and late nights – and the lamb is a favorite. Open until 3 in the morning Wednesday through Saturday, and serving beer and wine, Petra functions as a place to fill up your stomach and continue the party!

La Garnacha, 2101 16th Street

Petra, 1122 16th Street

Best Hangover Breakfast: Lucky Café

While most research shows eating greasy food before drinking can actually help prevent a hang-over, every drinker knows there’s nothing like a great greasy breakfast to sooth those post-party-blues. Lucky Cafe was voted best place in Midtown to get your breakfast on while still fighting off the alcohol demons. The place is usually busy on weekends and the food is just what you’d expect of a greasy spoon, but there’s something about that janky cafe that soothes a hang-over like no other. So when your head is still spinning and you just need some good hearty eats – the reader’s choice is Lucky Cafe.

1111 21st Street

Best Place To Have A Beer: Bows & Arrows

Sometimes the aesthetic qualities of where you’re drinking a beer are just as important as the quality of the beer itself. Case in point: the new Bows And Arrows. Saddle-up to Bows’ driftwood bar and enjoy a 12oz Mason jar draft of Lagunitas IPA, North Coast Scrimshaw Pilsner or Allagash White. Recline in the “Twin Peaks corner” while sipping on a bottle of Delerium Tremens, Deschutes Black Butte Porter or Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza. Or lounge on Bows’ outdoor patio while enjoying the simple $2 pleasures a can of Hamms or High Life can deliver. The thrift chic-ness of Bows And Arrows just may ruin dive bars for you.

1815 19th Street

Best Place to Have a Glass of Wine: 58° and Holding Co.

It’s no surprise that 58 Degrees and Holding, one of the Panhandle district pioneers, won this category by a large margin.  A lot of thought goes into the wine selections, and the combined expertise of Matt Parker in the retail shop and Kara Sheffield behind the bar is impressive. They aim to educate their customers by hosting informative tastings and offering exploratory tastes (3 ounce pours for half the price of a glass). Highlights on the menu include the Loire Valley rosé made from Cabernet Franc (Chateau Beausejour $8/glass), a dry Prosecco (Nino Franco “Rustico” $8.50/glass), and a Nebbiolo from Northwest Italy (Fillipo Gallino Roero $11.50/glass). The kitchen offers plenty of savory snacks to wash down with all that wine: plates of cheese, charcuterie, or bruschetta to share; or there are also full-plated entrées like a steak sandwich with brie, mushrooms, and caramelized onions, and papardelle with fiddleheads and nettles if you are looking to make dinner out of the experience.

1217 18th Street

Best Place to Get Trashed: The Mercantile Saloon

Different moods call for different drinking environments. Sometimes you want a light champagne cocktail enjoyed in moderation with a witty clutch of friends, other times maybe you’re having a brew with friends or family in a backyard setting where just a teeny touch of craziness is to be expected, but nothing too wild. And then there are other times you just… wanna… get… drunk. The Mercantile – or “the Merc” as us regulars like to call it – definitely falls into the last of these three categories. A labyrinth-like joint occupying the bottom of a highwater victorian at 20th and L, the Merc is the perfect place to warm a stool while putting back some of the stiffest, cheapest drinks in town. A cheap drink isn’t the only thing a watering hole of this sort makes its name on, however.  In order to really settle into your cups, a bar needs to be welcoming and comfy, but not grandma’s-sofa comfy but perhaps more of a dreamy, dark, did-I-just-walk-in-on-someone-having-sex-in-the-bathroom-and-no-one-cared kind of comfy. The Merc is kind of like that slightly trashy friend you know who might be a bad influence but is sometimes just too much fun to resist.

1928 L Street

Best Place for a First Date: Tuli Bistro

First dates can be awkward or thrilling or both, and going somewhere with a good atmosphere can really help grease the wheels. Tuli Bistro, on the corner of 21st and S, has a very laid-back vibe that nicely straddles the divide between fancy and casual. With an inventive menu and a wine and beer list full of interest, there should be no shortage of things to talk about during those conversational lulls.  The staff is young and friendly, there are plenty of tables for two, and the patio seating allows you and your date to commune with the forces of nature.

2031 S Street

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