Our region’s food scene—vibrant and eclectic—grows more sophisticated every year. Yet I often hear Sacramento referred to as a “meat and potatoes” town. I would agree, but the phrase covers a lot more ground than Sunday pot roast and Grandma’s mashed potatoes. Sacramento diners relish a wide array of meat and potato dishes at area restaurants, from shish kebabs and gourmet burgers to skinny pommes frites and deliciously cheesy scalloped potatoes. Here’s a handful of our favorites.
Tournedos Oscar—Chops Steaks Seafood & Bar
On a special evening out, nothing says “luxury” like tournedos Oscar. Chops does a great job with this traditional dish. Two lusciously tender grilled medallions of filet mignon are placed atop spears of steamed asparagus, then mounded with Dungeness crab and drizzled generously with a velvety béarnaise sauce. Indulgent and rich, Chop’s tournedos Oscar is a great choice for a birthday or anniversary.
1117 11th St., Sacramento; (916) 447-8900; chopssacramento.com
Braised Berkshire Pork Cakes—Mulvaney’s Building & Loan
Meat lovers will delight in Mulvaney’s dense, tasty pork cakes. Resembling crab cakes in both shape and texture, the delectable, crusty discs pack some seriously porky flavor. (If you love carnitas, this is the appetizer for you.) Served with a sprightly tuft of mixed greens from local Del Rio Botanical farm and a bracing grain-mustard aïoli, Mulvaney’s pork cakes are a captivating treat.
1215 19th St., Sacramento; (916) 441-6022; mulvaneysbl.com
Cajun Rib-eye Steak—Morton’s The Steakhouse
Steak purists may shudder at the notion of a feisty Cajun spice rub being applied to an exquisite rib-eye. (At $48, it had better be exquisite.) But Morton’s Cajun rib-eye is fabulous. The spiciness of the rub is a nice foil for the richness of the meat, and I love the zippy, bright-hot flavors it imparts. Pair this slab o’ goodness with a big, exuberant glass of Zinfandel and Morton’s irresistible creamed spinach.
621 Capitol Mall, Sacramento; (916) 442-5091; mortons.com/sacramento
Rack of Lamb—Buckhorn Steakhouse
Known for its huge portions and raucous, family-friendly atmosphere, Buckhorn Steakhouse also is deservedly famous for its fine meat selection. Lamb lovers know to go for the kitchen’s sturdy 14-ounce rack of lamb, coated with a proprietary seasoning and cooked to order. (My advice? Choose medium.) The meat is sourced from Superior Farms in Dixon, and its fine flavor and juicy, well-cooked texture make this lamb well worth the trip to Winters.
2 Main St., Winters; (530) 795-4503; buckhornsteakhouse.com
Lamb Chops—Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Lamb . . . at Ruth’s Chris? You betcha. Though the chain is best known for its sumptuous USDA prime beef steaks, the kitchen also turns out some first-rate lamb chops. Cut enticingly thick, they come three to an order. Despite their size, the chops are surprisingly tender and taste just fine on their own—don’t be tempted to dip the meat into its accompanying mint jelly, which is overly sweet and garishly green. Make sure to order a side of three-cheese au gratin potatoes to accompany these meaty babies.
501 Pavilions Lane, Sacramento; (916) 286-2702; ruthschris.com
Smoked Tenderloin Carpaccio—The Firehouse Restaurant
This pretty appetizer offers a sophisticated start to a leisurely meal at Old Sac’s Firehouse. Delicate, paper-thin slices of smoked beef tenderloin are dappled with capers, finely diced onions and feather-light curls of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and sprinkled with white truffle oil. Adorned with a warm, herbed chèvre round and accompanied by crisp little baguette toasts to scoop it all up, this is one small plate that you’ll have difficulty sharing nicely with your dining companions.
1112 Second St., Old Sacramento; (916) 442-4772; firehouseoldsac.com
Pad Prik Khing Moo—Ruen Thai
Every Thai restaurant I know seems to offer some rendition of pad prik khing moo, but Ruen Thai distinguishes its version with savory strips of stir-fried pork and a raft of tender but still slightly crisp green beans, all wonderfully shellacked with a feisty red chili paste. Lively and delicious, the dish tastes even better when washed down with a refreshing Thai beer, such as Singha lager.
1470 Eureka Road, Roseville; (916) 774-1499; ruenthai.net
Meat Pie—Maalouf’s Taste of Lebanon
This appealing dish won’t win any beauty contests, but it rates high on the comfort-food meter. Essentially a Lebanese hamburger, the humble meat pie (which isn’t really a pie at all, at least in the American sense) features two slim, pine nut-studded ground sirloin patties snuggled into a yeasty housemade bun. Served with fresh onions and tomatoes, this is a hearty, satisfying treat that will really stick to your ribs. Hint: Try adding some of the restaurant’s excellent foul mudammas—a warm, garlicky fava bean spread that tastes much better than it sounds—inside the meat pie.
1433 Fulton Ave., Sacramento; (916) 972-8768; maaloufs.com
Drunken Beef Skewers—Source Global Tapas Restaurant
Small-plate aficionados will relish Source’s intensely flavorful drunken beef skewers. Served five to an order, the gingery, brandy-marinated meat is grilled for an appealing smoky punch. It’s then drizzled with a sweet soy sauce and arranged fetchingly atop a purple sweet-potato purée. The potatoes are a gentle, tasty contrast to the assertiveness of the beef, and the dish is pleasingly complex and intriguing. Pair it with a glass of sangria or a fruity Grenache.
5540 Douglas Blvd., Granite Bay; (916) 772-3900; sourcetapas.com
Pulled Pork Sandwich—Auburn Alehouse
Approach Auburn Alehouse’s pulled pork sandwich with a big napkin and lots of gusto, knowing you’ll get messy (and very happy) in the process. This magnificent, meaty treasure is loaded with house-smoked, hand-pulled pork slathered in a vivacious barbecue sauce that offers a refreshing, vinegary aftertang. Topped with a generous pile of shoestring onion rings and served with crunchy coleslaw, it certainly ain’t date food—but boy, is it gooood.
289 Washington St., Auburn; (530) 885-2537; auburnalehouse.com
A PASSEL OF POTATO DISHES
Mashed Potatoes Colcannon—Bandera
Foodies, do yourself a favor and head to Bandera for this classic Irish dish. Served along with the kitchen’s marvelous barbecued pork ribs, the lumpy, green-flecked potatoes are made with sautéed green cabbage, scallions, butter and fresh parsley. On a recent visit, I ignored my ribs and plunged into the potatoes with abandon, gobbling them up and practically licking the plate clean. Nurturing and appealingly textured, they’re a scrumptious variation on a beloved American staple. 2232 Fair Oaks Blvd.,
Sacramento; (916) 922-3524; banderarestaurants.com
Purple Potato Salad—Magpie Caterers Market and Cafe
You can always count on Magpie Cafe for bright, fresh flavors and exciting, seasonally inspired fare. When purple potatoes are in season, Magpie offers a visually stunning potato salad with these curiously hued tubers. Served alongside the pulled pork, BLT and housemade pork sausage sandwiches, it offers surprisingly vivid, big flavors. Crafted to complement Magpie’s “porky” items, the salad is made with golden balsamic vinegar, fresh basil and oregano, and extra virgin olive oil. (No mayonnaise!) 1409 R St., Sacra-mento; (916) 452-7594; magpiecaterers.com/cafe
Tortilla Española—Tapa the World
Rustic and unpretentious, this traditional Spanish tapa—a potato-and-egg cake, served warm—is a great dish to launch a night of gluttony at Tapa the World. This tasty, mildly flavored wedge is punctuated with soft bits of yellow onion, and it tastes great with a glass of sherry. It will prep your palate for the restaurant’s spunkier dishes, such as gambas al ajillo (rock shrimp sautéed in olive oil, parsley, garlic and red chilis).
2115 J St., Sacramento; (916) 442-4353; tapatheworld.com
Poutine, a popular Canadian bar food, is not a dish you often see in Sacramento. But at Kupros, a beautiful midtown gastropub, you’ll get a seriously swanky version of this north-of-the-border snack. The dish features hand-cut french fries smothered in red wine-braised oxtail “gravy” and loaded with melted cheese curds. I don’t want to know how many calories are in a bowlful of this addictive appetizer, but I can say with confidence that it’s terrific with microbrewed ale. 1217 21st
St., Sacramento; (916) 440-0401; kuprosbistro.com
Potatoes are synonymous with comfort, and Stolichniy’s moon-shaped vareniki—handmade stuffed potato dumplings—may just be the most comforting of all. These soothing, simple nibbles are doused extravagantly in butter and offer the welcome carbohydrate overload you need to assuage a broken heart or perk up a crummy day. Need an extra helping of love? Slurp up a bowl of Stolichniy’s housemade mushroom soup. 5601 Watt Ave., North Highlands; (916) 332-5989 s