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As Sacramento digs into the future of the Kings and a downtown arena, food has a place at the table. Here are my three wishes for downtown development.
1. A NEW PUBLIC MARKET
Now that Sacramento has kept the Kings from moving to Seattle, it’s time to reclaim some food mojo. The Julia Morgan-designed Public Market at 13th and J was Sacramento’s answer to Seattle’s Pike Place Market. From 1923 to the mid-’70s, myriad specialty stores—fish, poultry and produce markets, two butcher shops, a fresh-juice bar and a coffee shop that roasted its own coffee and sold fresh pastries—operated inside Public Market. A new Public Market could be Sacramento’s farm-to-fork showplace, filled with local foods and artisan producers. Lucky Dog Ranch doesn’t have a retail butcher shop for its all-natural grass-fed beef—but it could have one in a new Public Market. Sterling Caviar could smoke and sell its sturgeon there. Paragary’s could expand its bakery sales beyond its restaurants. A new Public Market could be a local foods incubator—like food trucks, but permanent.
2. CORTI ON THE KAY
Downtown’s housing density currently can’t support a grocery store, but when condos rise with the arena, urban-core residents will hunger for places to buy food. Downtown needs a grocery store. Let’s keep this local. Corti Brothers opened at 914 8th St. in 1947. It was an old-world Italian deli with sawdust-covered wooden floors, the first of four specialty grocery stores. The last existing Corti Brothers, in East Sacramento, is unrivaled in the region for its imported and domestic wines, cheeses, cured meats, spices and olive oils, plus its local fruits and vegetables. Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold calls Corti Brothers “the Valhalla of supermarkets” and says he’d drive 50 miles out of his way to shop there. Corti on The Kay would be a downtown destination.
3. ORIGINAL MAC’S REDUX Of all the come-and-gone downtown establishments a longtime Sacramentan might pine for—Robert’s Fish Grotto and its underwater architecture, Capitol Tamale Cafe with chili on everything or Top of the Town high atop the Elks Tower—none is a better candidate for revival than Original Mac’s, which into the 1970s occupied space on the ground floor of Hotel Berry on L Street at Eighth. The Original Mac’s sign remains painted on the back of the hotel, free advertising for an all-day cafe serving coffee, corned beef, pastrami and draught (rhymes with craft) beer. Original Mac’s sign points to Eighth and L, a directional directive for downtown developers.