I don’t normally dine alone. I’d rather have a companion, someone to chat with and share a good meal with. But the instant I walked into Taylor’s Kitchen in Land Park, fantasies of dining solo started to invade my imagination. The restaurant’s attractive counter seating, wrapped neatly around the shiny open kitchen and up against wood-framed windows that look out onto Freeport Boulevard, beckoned me like a siren’s song. Visions of a just-me dinner, embellished with a good novel and a glass of Syrah, suddenly seemed very enticing.
You have to be comfortable to enjoy a solo dining experience, and therein lies Taylor’s appeal. Open since January, it’s a quintessential neighborhood restaurant and an ebullient offshoot of the much-loved Taylor’s Market next door. You won’t find a cozier, more welcoming spot, and single diners are as warmly welcomed and cosseted as the boisterous family groups and chatty business associates that squeeze into the small space every Wednesday through Saturday evening.
Rough brick walls, earthy concrete floors and spunky gerbera daisies on the white-clothed tables lend charm to the space, whose focal point is the sleek kitchen that juts out of one corner of the snug room. Diners sitting at the counter have an entertaining front-row view of the evening’s food production, and a curious tombstonelike angel tableau atop the handsome wood bar instantly reminded me of the haunting book cover for Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Taylor’s Market owners Kathaleen and Danny Johnson envisioned the restaurant as a place to showcase the market’s highly regarded meats and specialty items. Chef John Masia’s menu is, at least for the time being, very limited. On my visits, there were just a handful of entrées, a couple of salads and three appetizers available. But what the menu lacks in selection it more than makes up for in quality. Dishes were robust, earnest and flavorful, presented in a no-frills bistro style.
Among the not-to-miss appetizers was a knockout stuffed pasta: two large raviolis with fanciful scalloped edges, prettily filled with creamy squash and drizzled with a sage-scented butter. I also loved the sturdy fish cakes, with their crusty exterior and soft potato-dotted interior, floating in a vibrantly orange pool of mango sauce. An artichoke-green garlic soup was fabulous, with clean, fresh flavors uncluttered by too much cream or salt.
Entrées are meat-centered—there were no vegetarian selections when I visited—and generously portioned. Perfect for a glum rainy night, the chicken Marsala I ordered was crammed full of melted fontina cheese and sharply satisfying sautéed arugula and served with a heady, slightly sweet Marsala sauce. An indulgent mountain of garganelli pasta, drenched in rich cream sauce, was punctuated with chewy, gorgeously smoky bits of duck; and a hefty grilled dry-aged rib-eye steak came with a complex and pleasing caramelized onion-thyme relish.
The dessert menu is limited, and I was somewhat unimpressed with what I did try. A blocky, one-dimensional Valrhona chocolate torte needed some tinkering, and a lovely Key lime tart, though featuring a crisp, delicate shell, was far too tangy for me, a tangy-dessert aficionado. But Taylor’s Kitchen is a new restaurant, and I am confident it will find its dessert footing soon enough. I would hope to see some seasonal fruit desserts created from the market’s stunning produce, but perhaps that’s already in pastry chef Leslie LaRocca’s plans.
It’s clear the long-standing goodwill generated by friendly Taylor’s Market has been transferred seamlessly to the Johnson family’s new restaurant. They have created a convivial, welcoming place perfect for a playful night on the town, a casual family dinner or an engaging dining experience for those considering a solo date night. Whomever you do (or don’t) come with, this is one neighborhood restaurant you won’t want to miss.
Drink it: Most wines on the restaurant’s list are sold next door at Taylor’s Market
Special occasion: A great place for a first date
2924 Freeport Blvd; Sacramento; (916) 443-5154 l Hours: Wednesday–Saturday 5:30–9:30 p.m. l Prices: $$-$$$