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.
FREEPORT FOOD CRAWL
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.
VIVA LA MIDTOWN
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.
EAST SAC OLYMPICS
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.
Need a little rest and relaxation, but don’t want to stay holed up in the house? You’ll find welcome respite across the causeway in Davis.
Start downtown at de Vere’s Irish Pub (217 E St.) for an early dinner—5:30 p.m. is a safe ETA for dodging the raucous weekend crowd. With the pub’s intimate traditional “snugs” and multiple rooms filled with cushy leather couches made in Ireland, you’ll be sure to find a cozy spot—the perfect perch to indulge in some serious comfort food, such as authentic shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, and a perfectly golden grilled cheese. A 20-ounce pint of Guinness or glass of rare whiskey will warm your soul on a chilly evening.
Next, grab dessert at Let Them Eat Cake! (Third and C streets). Ask for the cupcake flavor of the month and check out the crafty cookie selection.
Now it’s time to decompress at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. On Jan. 19–21, it hosts a Guitar Festival that showcases some of the best jazz and flamenco guitar talent in the country. The Friday and Saturday 7 p.m. shows cost $20 for adults, $8 for children.
Top off the evening with a tranquil cup of decaf organic fair-trade coffee or tea at Mishka’s Cafe (610 Second St.), open until 11 p.m. (Tip: When you pay with cash, you pay less.) Unlike most weekdays, when students take over every table to study, there should be plenty of space to sit and wind down. It’s the perfect place to prep for bedtime.
A NIGHT OF REFINEMENT
Carefully curated and undeniably urbane, this evening is all about taking advantage of the capital’s cultural scene. Start with a visit to the Crocker Art Museum (216 O St.). The current exhibits—Florence and the Baroque: Paintings From the Haukohl Family Collection and The Art of Disegno: Italian Prints and Drawings From the Georgia Museum of Art—will fill your late afternoon with an illustrious look at Italian art. The audio tours, which we recommend, will ensure no symbol, sketch or brushstroke goes unnoticed.
Stay inspired with an exquisite meal at The Firehouse (1112 Second St., Old Sacramento), famous for its historic location and for having the most extensive wine collection in the Central Valley. Ask for a quick tour of the wine vault downstairs. Some of the bottles are as old as the building itself. Accordingly, the expert sommelier staff can school you on what wine to pair with your meal.
Next, catch a film at the Crest Theater (1013 K St.). Options always include something international (there’s no better place to watch French cinema) and the indie films on everyone’s lips. Chances are good that something showing will be nominated for an Academy Award.
If there’s time and if it’s Thursday, pop across the street to Dive Bar. Sure, there’s a live “mermaid” in the tank above the bar, but the real reason to go is to experience Dueling Pianos With Jason and Greg. We’re not sure if it’s high art, but it’s fun to watch the guys duke it out on the keys.
The last stop on this worldly whirlwind is Temple Coffee & Tea in its new digs (1010 Ninth St.), open until 11 p.m. Order a French-press coffee and peruse the schedule of coffee education classes, tastings and hands-on trainings. If one strikes your fancy, sign up now, as they tend to fill up about two months in advance. Soon enough, you’ll be learned in the fine art of brewing, too.
SUTTER STREET SHUFFLE
Shopping, sipping, socializing—Historic Folsom’s Sutter Street has a handful of destinations prime for a night out. Start with an afternoon of treasure hunting in the antiques stores on Sutter Street. It’s often a good idea to divide and conquer here, since the street is dense with dealers. Once you meet back up, you can all share your favorite discoveries with each other, then make purchases based on what everyone has vetted.
Be sure to hit Gracefully Vintage (611 Sutter St.). The assortment of shabby-chic-style furniture always is well-edited, well-upholstered and undeniably well-priced. You also can buy Stella & Dot accessories here, without having to sit through a jewelry party. For more of the Parisian apartment esthetic, go exploring at Not Too Shabby (306 Riley St.).
Take a break from shopping at Wine Styles (915 Sutter St.). Broken down by flavor profiles, the menu makes it easy to order. You also can ask Aussie proprietor Erik for a recommendation—he’s an absolute ace at translating your tastes into a glass of vino you’ll love. He’ll even share some fun facts about each label while he pours it. We love the ripe fruit flavors in the Josh Carr Cabernet on a chilly winter day. Even better: It’s completely affordable, as are most bottles on the shelves.
Hungry? Head to Chicago Fire (614 Sutter St.) for dinner. Since it recently opened a second location in Folsom’s new Palladio mall, you might have a shorter wait time than usual. The deep-dish pizzas take about 45 minutes to bake, so we suggest noshing on some wings or a baked artichoke in the meantime.
If you feel like staying out after stuffing yourself with pizza, Powerhouse Pub next door likely will have one of your favorite local bands on stage any given weekend night, so prepare to get your shuffle on.
GET YOUR GRID ON
With the anticipated opening of the Firestone Public House (16th and L streets) sports bar next month, we have an excellent excuse to head out to catch a game or two. Grab some friends and snag a table with a prime TV view—which is basically any table—and set up camp for some rooting and brews. (There will be 30 to 40 beers to choose from.)
When you’ve worked up an appetite, walk a block over to Mikuni (16th and J streets) for dinner. If you have a group of eight or more, you can make a reservation in advance to ensure you won’t have to wait, which is par for the course on weekends. Ordering from the prix fixe or party platter menus will give your crew the most variety and value.
Next, cruise over to Streets of London Pub (18th and J streets) to check the scores and have a pint. Feeling competitive? Challenge your mates to a game of darts.
When the games are over, drop into MIX Downtown (16th and L streets) for dancing and drinks. Just be sure you’re dressed appropriately. Again, if you’re with a bigger group, you can make reservations to buy a bottle, allowing you to skip the often-intimidating line and drink rather economically.
By now, you’ve worked up an appetite, so round out the evening with a late-night bite at Petra Greek, located just around the corner (1112 16th St.), where food is served until 3 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Choices range from pitas filled with freshly carved meat to all-American cheeseburgers. Load up on the special sauce in a dispenser next to the soda machine; it’s addicting. Catch a recap on “SportsCenter” on the flat screens and then call it a night—or a morning, depending.
MAD MEN ABOUT TOWN
This night out shouldn’t be a hard sell. It’s all about harnessing your inner Don Draper. First, you have to look the part. Head to La Riviera Barber Shop (8744 La Riviera Drive) for a haircut and clean shave. Barber Travis uses straight razors on the neckline and sideburns for the most precise finish, and his rates are more than reasonable—usually less than $15 for a cut.
Upgrade your look to extra dapper with a shopping stop at Julius Clothing in The Pavilions (580 Pavilions Lane). You can’t go wrong with a crisp John Varvatos shirt or a swish pair of Ermenegildo Zegna dress shoes. Just make sure you get there before 6 p.m.
Next, go to Briar Patch in Loehmann’s Plaza (2529 Fair Oaks Blvd.) for a smoke. The tobacco aficionados here will help you pick something out and welcome you to enjoy it in their smoking areas. Feel free to ask questions—you can glean a lot of information while puffing away.
Sit down for a steak dinner and thick red wine at Bandera (2232 Fair Oaks Blvd.). A Cluck and Moo (off menu, but still available) or Millionaire Club Center-Cut Filet surely will satisfy.
When you’re about to pay your bill, call Steve’s Towncar Service (916-591-2691) for a ride. His service is prompt and doesn’t cost much more than a cab. Agree upon the final amount before you hit the road, and make sure to include a tip.
Have your driver take you to Luna Lounge (Fair Oaks Boulevard at Arden Way). Bartender Eli Bob makes a mean martini and tells a good joke—just be prepared for both to be pretty dirty. Boys will be boys.
BEST OF THE WEST
Every once in a while, we all need a sneakers-and-sweatshirt kind of night. West Sacramento’s favorite spots will welcome you with open arms, offering great entertainment during Raley Field’s low season.
Start with happy hour at The Eatery (2155 Town Center Plaza), where you can enjoy $2 Coors Lights Tuesday through Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. If it’s Saturday, take advantage of the sangria specials: $3 for a glass, $10 for a pitcher of classic red or peach-filled white.
Then grab some sinfully delicious Mexican food at Emma’s Taco House (1617 Sacramento Ave.). Make a beeline to the fully stocked salsa bar. You may even want to start with a couple of house salads, just to get a taste of the awesome homemade ranch dressing—it’s unforgettable. Entrées are very large here, so try not to eat yourself out of commission.
Save room for a dipped cone at Whitey’s Jolly Kone (1300 Jefferson Blvd.), open weekdays until 8:30 p.m. Keep the heat running in your car, so you can eat your treats in comfort.
Afterward, grab a lane at Capitol Bowl (900 West Capitol Ave.). It was renovated this past summer, but still is allegedly haunted. So when you go to rent shoes or order pitchers of beer, ask the staff to tell you an eerily real ghost story. Perhaps it will spook you into throwing a strike or picking up a spare.
No laid-back night in West Sac would be complete without a stop at Sail Inn Food & Spirits (1522 Jefferson Blvd.). It’s open until 2 a.m. and legendary for its cheap drinks, sea-shanty décor and people-watching. Soon enough, it’ll be time to call it a night.
ROMANCING THE SAC
Why wait until Valentine’s Day to treat your significant other to a romantic night out on the town? Doing it “just because” will make it even more meaningful in our books.
For a truly swoon-worthy evening, reserve a room at The Citizen Hotel (10th and J streets). All guest rooms will spoil you with luxury linens and sumptuous bathrobes, but if you spring for a one-bedroom suite, you get a big bonus: an extra-deep soaking tub with a view of the city. Talk about setting the mood.
Then book a couple’s massage at Mellow Me Out Downtown (555 Capitol Mall, inside the Bank of America building). The “Me Tarzan, You Jane” romance package lets you enjoy herbal foot soaks and 60- or 90-minute massages side by side. If you make the appointment for later afternoon, it’s likely that you’ll be the only patrons there. You’ll leave feeling like you’re floating on a cloud, but be sure to drink a lot of water before and after to avoid feeling sluggish later.
A table for two at Ella Dining Room & Bar (12th and K streets) will keep the spark alive, especially if you start with a made-from-scratch Real Gin and Tonic and a round of oysters on the half shell. We’re convinced that both are natural aphrodisiacs.
Skip dessert at Ella, and instead head over to Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates (18th and L streets), open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Fill a small box with beautiful bite-size chocolates to enjoy later. The fleur du sel caramel is a must.
When you get back to the hotel, pop into Grange restaurant for a night-cap—but don’t stay too long. That bath and box of chocolates await.
LASSO-ING ELK GROVE
Ready to kick off those Uggs and pull on some cowboy boots? Elk Grove is hollerin’ for your attention. Silva’s Sheldon Inn (9000 Grant Line Road) is the perfect place to start. This savory spot will have you licking your chops within seconds of scanning the menu. All entrées come with soup or salad; we say order the Portuguese bean soup, a house specialty that’s too good to pass up. The meat dishes are just as impossible to ignore—they are widely known for being packed with flavor and cooked to perfection.
If you prefer a more casual dining scene, go to Big Al’s BBQ (8976 Grant Line Road) for some tried-and-true charbroiled grub. Take in the Western paraphernalia—including branding irons and photos of Roy Rogers—while taking down a tri-tip or rack of ribs. Just a head’s-up: Big Al’s doesn’t serve alcohol—but you will find plenty of napkins.
When your sweet tooth starts calling, head to Bert’s Diner (8972 Grant Line Road). The dessert menu has all the classics: pies a la mode, hot fudge sundaes and banana splits, all made with local Gunther’s Ice Cream. If you’re a sucker
for old-school jukeboxes, make sure you bring a handful of quarters with you. Some tunes will help pump you up for your next destination: The Wrangler Bar (8945 Grant Line Road). On Friday and Saturday nights, live bands play everything from honky-tonk to classic rock. Also entertaining: The specialty cocktail menu, which features unique concoctions such as Spiva’s Special (Korbel and Coke) and the Road King (1/2 Bud Light and 1/2 Coors Light). Order one of those and you’ll have officially taken Elk Grove by the horns.
TASTING WITH BUDS
It’s true: We typically try to cut back on calories come January. So we’re chalking up this flavorful tour through midtown to a “try new things” goal. It begins with a cooking class at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op (Alhambra Boulevard and S Street). The Saturday afternoon courses, which typically run until about 5 p.m., give you a hands-on, taste-as-you-go cooking experience. You’ll leave with a new skill set and a handful of recipes for $50 or less. Access class schedules at sacfoodcoop.com.
Next, sip on something new with a wine-tasting session at Revolution Wines (2831 S St.). Again, you can get firsthand instruction from an expert, as the winery hosts barrel tastings with the winemaker until 6 p.m. on Saturdays. If you all can agree on a blend you like, order a bottle to share and consult the staff on cheese pairings. Tip: Have someone in the group volunteer to sign up for a wine membership and have everyone pitch in. Then you can then reconvene throughout the year to enjoy more.
Now that you’ve wined, it’s time to dine—so head to Tulí Bistro (21st and S streets). If your group is small enough, you might be able to sit at the bar, overlook the cooks line and pick up a couple of extra tricks. The menu can change daily to highlight the season’s best ingredients, but the creativity that goes into each dish is consistently memorable. Ask for extra sharing plates so everyone can enjoy a little bit of everything.
BABES IN BURBLAND
No guide to nightlife would be complete without ideas for a Girls Night Out. Our itinerary takes you and your crew out to Roseville and requires a comfy pair of yoga pants. That’s because this Saturday evening starts early, with a 4 o’clock class at The Dailey Method (1611 Lead Hill Blvd.) This ballet barre workout will lean you out and lift you up in all the right places—and won’t mess up your hair. Reserve your class a couple of weeks in advance to make sure you all can get in. The online sign-up system makes it easy.
After class, use the locker room for a wardrobe change and swap your socks for flip-flops because you’re headed to Joli Nail Spa at the Fountains for manis and pedis. With advance reservations, large parties get a group discount. Plus, there are complimentary drinks with any service.
Next, pop over to Barnes & Noble across from the Galleria to pick out your next book club read together—another reason to get together soon. Then make a stop in the mall at the Beauty Studio inside Sephora (it’s one of the best Sephoras in the country) for quick, free makeup applications from an in-store expert.
After you’re all glammed up, enjoy dinner at Crush 29 (1480 Eureka Road). The Sweet Jalapeño Martini is the perfect pre-meal cocktail; it’ll help loosen up your fatigued muscles. Don’t want all those calories you burned to be in vain? Opt for the Crush salad or veggie pizza. Feel like you’ve earned it? Go for the Drunken Brandy Steak. Either way, save room for dessert; they’re hard to resist, especially the s’mores. Luckily, they’re easy to share.
IT’S RAINING, THEY’RE POURING
It can be hard to consider getting off the couch when it’s rainy out, but we’ve created an itinerary that will get you out yet still keep you cozy. It starts with an afternoon at 58 Degrees & Holding (18th Street between L and Capitol). The chairs and couches in the back are the perfect place to camp out, as they’re the most comfortable seating options and situated in front of the flat screen. Server Aaron Ward swears by a glass of Gewürtztraminer on a cold day. Likewise, a bottle of Estrella Damm Barcelona beer will relax you without making you sleepy.
Next, walk around the corner (with your umbrella, of course) to The Press Bistro (1809 Capitol Ave.) and grab a spot at the always-welcoming communal table. Order a Salt & Pepper cocktail—the hint of rosemary is very soothing. Then snack on some fried meatballs and potato croquettes, which also will console your taste buds. We find it’s always easy to make friends at this table, so stay awhile and don’t be shy!
When dinnertime arrives, walk over to Mulvaney’s Building & Loan (1215 19th St.). From the intimate entryway to the inviting bar in back, this restaurant is comforting and friendly through and through. Shake off the chill from outside with a Manhattan. We have yet to find a smoother, warmer version, thanks to the housemade bitters. Star server Taryn Curren can help you navigate the menu—her seemingly photographic memory for food is unbelievable, not to mention helpful, when everything looks appetizing.
After dinner, cozy up inside the Acoustic Sanctuary, the one-man-band in a trailer (corner of J and 22nd streets). It may be close quarters, but there’s always room for requests. And hearing your favorite song played live will always trump watching a movie On Demand at home.
If you have kids younger than 10, the night comes early. So we have an action-packed agenda for you that starts in the afternoon at ArtBeast Studio (2226 K St.), the children’s creative utopia. There, your budding Picassos can get crafty on the art floor, put on a performance in the dramatic-play area (costumes, puppets and instruments included), build obstacle courses in the movement room, and more. You can drop in any day before 6 p.m. for $8 per person. One extra adult in the same family is free.
Then bundle up and head to McKinley Park in East Sacramento for a stroll during the warmest part of the day. The kids can frolic in the playground until Mom and Dad need a caffeine kick. Queen of Tarts Bakery (3608 McKinley Blvd.) is just up the street.
Next stop is B Street Theater (2711 B St.), where you can catch a 4 p.m. performance of The Giver. This stage adaptation of the beloved children’s novel by Lois Lowry runs from Jan. 14 through Feb. 19. Set in the future, the inspiring plot focuses on a young boy, Jonah, who struggles with the monotony of his community and becomes empowered when he realizes he can break free from it.
Thanks to the theater’s partnership with several area restaurants, you can bring your tickets to Español (5723 Folsom Blvd.) and get $10 off your bill. The family-style Italian restaurant has plenty of pasta options for the whole clan—even for the pickiest of eaters.
Finish with a sweet treat at Burr’s Fountain (4920 Folsom Blvd.). The East Sac establishment is open until 9 p.m. daily and serves the best scoop of Rocky Road in town.