It wasn’t easy coming up with a name for the restaurant-larded section of midtown that runs from 17th to 19th streets and from L Street to Capitol Avenue. A group of local restaurateurs, including the owners of Zócalo and Paesanos, kicked around ideas for a good year and a half before settling on the Handle District. Their inspiration? San Francisco’s Panhandle, a long, narrow park that intersects Golden Gate Park and is surrounded by vibrant neighborhoods, including Haight-Ashbury. Like the Panhandle, the Handle District looks on a map like the handle of a frying pan, with nearby Capitol Park as the pan.
Sacramento’s Handle District is a hot spot for those who love to eat and drink. The biggest chunk of the 25 establishments listed on thehandledistrict.com fall under the heading of food and dining, with an eclectic mix of restaurants, wine bars and coffee haunts including Zócalo, L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen, Aïoli Bodega Española and Java City. Also in the Handle: Ginger Elizabeth’s exquisite chocolate boutique.
Amber Schmaeling, outreach manager of Midtown Business Association, believes it’s helpful to have a name for the Handle “because midtown is a big community, and having pockets that have a distinct flavor adds to midtown as a whole.” Tassina Placencia, owner of Le Petit Paris (also in the Handle), agrees. “It’s a good marketing tool,” says Placencia, who has overheard people refer to it as the Panhandle. (Oops.) But according to Zócalo co-owner Jimmy Johnson, the name is catching on with the public, slowly but surely. “It’s getting some legs,” he says.