15 Great Nights Out

Posted on December 29, 2011

Photo by Rudy Meyers

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Maybe you’re feeling burned out after December’s long stretch of social engagements. Maybe you’re staring down the barrel of another foggy weekend and running from a workweek that went way too long. Maybe you’ve been driving past that place on J Street for months now and it’s time to check it out. Or the kids have spent too many Friday nights in front of the tube. Whatever the case, reignite your love for food and fun with a new take on a great night out.


Best enjoyed on a Friday evening when you can capitalize on happy hour specials, this food crawl calls for small groups with huge appetites. Start at Taylor’s Kitchen (2900 Freeport Blvd.) after work. From 4 to 6 p.m., you’ll find $3, $4 and $5 specials. Get a couple to split—such as Market Catch Fish Tacos and Handcut French Fries—to begin your moveable feast.

Down the street is Freeport Bakery (2966 Freeport Blvd.), whose dessert cases are filled with the best cakes, cookies and confections in town. If you get there before 6:30 p.m., you can grab a petite sweet. It’s hard to choose, so we’ll share our favorites: apple pinwheels, chocolate macaroons, caramel bars and peanut butter cookies.

Full yet? Of course not. Next door is Dad’s Kitchen (2968 Freeport Blvd.). This neighborhood gem has a well-heated back patio and a killer hamburger. (Ford’s Real Hamburgers also is nearby, if you prefer.) The mac and cheese and meatloaf here get consistent raves. Pick some plates to share and take your time grazing. Afterward, fight off your food coma with a cup of coffee at Espresso Metro (11th Avenue and Freeport Boulevard). Or simply give your stomach a break with a cruise south on Freeport to Freeport proper, where you can grab a cocktail at the Freeport Bar & Grill. The large fireplace will keep you cozy and the friendly staff will keep your glasses full. Then, on your way back north, stop in for a doughnut at Marie’s Donuts (2950 Freeport Blvd.), the ideal end to one full—and we mean full—night.


There’s nothing like authentic Spanish food, a steamy love story, handcrafted cocktails and hot dance moves to kick off the weekend. This night starts on the early side—around 6 or 6:30—with heavy appetizers at Aïoli Bodega Española (18th and L streets). There, you can treat your taste buds to classic tapas, such as mussels in a light cream sauce, grilled marinated shrimp, saucy meatballs with garbanzo beans or the legendary patatas bravas. If you’re having trouble picking out plates, ask Jose (pronounced Joe-ZAY) or Aziz. Both are pros at filling tabletops with dishes that perfectly suit your preferences.

After you’ve gobbled up all of Aïoli’s glory, satisfy your other senses at the Community Center Theater (13th and L streets), where California Musical Theater presents the touring Broadway production of West Side Story Jan. 24–29. Non-matinee shows start at 8 p.m. The beloved Leonard Bernstein score and lively choreography—all peppered with Puerto Rican flair—will enrapture you. Yes, there’s a Romeo and Juliet ending, but all of those trills and toe taps more than compensate for the somber moments.

Zócalo (Capitol Avenue and 18th Street) serves dinner until midnight on weekends, so you’ll be able to squeeze in an après-theater meal. Wash it down with a hand-muddled mojito or two; mix things up by adding in some fruit: blackberry, mango or strawberry.

After that? Salsa—dancing, that is. Head over to Club 21 (21st and L streets). On Friday nights, it turns into a salsa hot spot. Take free lessons from experts or light up the dance floor with your own moves—inspired, perhaps, by those you just saw in West Side Story.

Finally, stop in for a nightcap at Barwest (2724 J St.), where the energy runs high late into the night.


For a night of friendly competition, East Sacramento offers plenty of venues. The games begin at The Shack (52nd Street and Folsom Boulevard), where you can grease up your joints with beers from around the world. Servers are knowledgeable and encourage you to try new brews, so ask for recommendations. It’s likely you’ll find a new favorite.

When your international beer tour is complete, head across the street to SoCal’s Tavern. There, you can play pool, darts and shuffleboard in the back room. Bring single bills so it’s easy to rent out the equipment (and tip the bartenders).

Call a “timeout” and grab dinner at OneSpeed Pizza (4818 Folsom Blvd.). Our favorites: the OneSpeed Burger, which is big enough to split; gnocchi with ragu Bolognese; and Rick’s Pizza, covered with just the right amounts of potato, pancetta, onion, olives, goat cheese, fontina and arugula.

Kitty-corner from there is Hilltop Tavern, home to one of the only in-bar ping-pong tables in Sacramento. You can check out paddles and balls for cheap and start a mini tourney if time allows. Or check out Club 2Me (48th and J streets), which has a dartboard, pool table, shuffleboard and the animal-unfriendly arcade game, Buck Hunter.

Finish the night with late-night eats at Clubhouse 56 (723 56th St.). Nachos, chicken tacos or onion rings should hit the spot. After that, you’ll be all played out. Just don’t forget to rehydrate—and take a cab home.

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