THE DOLLAR-WISE GOURMET
BY CATHY CASSINOS-CARR
The Sacramento region teems with beer pubs, all of them ready to cool you down on a hot summer day with an ice-cold tall one—or two or three. But which one offers the best bargain-friendly grub? To find out, I tested the fare at a trio of popular brewpubs, then ranked them in order of preference. Here’s the lowdown.
Pangaea Two Brews Cafe 2743 Franklin Blvd.
With a surprisingly sophisticated menu plus a few standard staples (hot buttered pretzel, nachos, wings), Pangaea offered the most satisfying fare. Though the price point was slightly higher than at the other two spots, it was worth it. Here’s what The Boyfriend and I shared one evening while sitting at the busy bar, where service was swift and friendly.
$12: Lamb meatballs, delicately seasoned and tender to the bite, sitting in a puddle of creamy polenta and spicy red sauce, topped by pillowy tufts of feta cheese
$11: Pasta carbonara with housemade fettuccine, meaty chunks of bacon, sweet English peas, fava shoots, Parmesan and egg
$7: Mixed field greens with a fabulous display of greens, crunchy croutons, goat cheese and toasted almonds, all lightly dressed in a yummy roasted-shallot vinaigrette
TOTAL: $30 for a top-notch meal—far more elegant than we expected.
DOLLAR-WISE TIP: On a super-tight budget? Try the small-plates menu, where prices run from $6 to $10. Be sure to check the specialsboard, too: The night we visited, there was a pozole special for $5.
Track 7 Brewing Co. 3747 West Pacific Ave.
Located in a warehouse near Sac City College, the brewery/tap room Track 7 has found a clever way of contending with the culinary conundrum: It uses food trucks. There’s variety, too, with Mama Kim on the Go, Wicked ’Wich and Smokers Wild BBQ among the 10 or so trucks in regular rotation Wednesdays through Sundays. Fuzion Eatz, serving wraps that mingle Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors, was the truck du jour when I visited with my pal Paul. Most wraps were $8 and $9; the most expensive item, fish and chips, was $11. We tried two wraps, both featuring fresh, fluffy, warm flatbread.
$9: Blackened rock cod wrap, cooked to tender perfection and seasoned with a little kick, with lettuce, tomato, red onion and mango raita. This one got a thumbs-up even from Paul, who is fussy about fish.
$8: “Ninja Assassin,” which cleverly mixes grilled chicken, juicy pineapple bits, Sriracha aioli, jicama sauce, lettuce, bell peppers and grilled onions. Another winner, with a fun mix of flavors.
DOLLAR-WISE TIP: Half-pints of Track 7 beer start at $2.50, so you can easily sample a little brewski and still not blow your budget.
The Shack 5201 Folsom Blvd.
Hearty burgers, sandwiches and salads—all under $10—make up the menu at The Shack, a super-popular East Sac hangout with a stellar beer list. Its immense popularity is also its Achilles’ heel: When my pal D and I arrived for lunch, we were informed it would take 45 minutes to be served—but not until after we had placed our order. (Grrr.) It seemed a ridiculously long time to wait for two relatively simple sandwiches, but as I was informed during a follow-up phone call, that kind of wait time is typical at The Shack, as the kitchen crew is too small to keep pace with the madding crowd. True, The Shack gave us the best bang for our buck: A big pile of steak fries was included with our sandwiches. But frankly, the long wait time wasn’t all that pleasant, resulting in a third-place finish in this roundup.
$8.95: T.B.A. (turkey-bacon-avocado) sandwich on a toasted roll, featuring thick slices of real roasted turkey—not that tasteless thin-pressed stuff.
$7.95: The Veg, with pesto cream cheese, cucumber, avocado, lettuce, tomato and onion on toasted whole wheat. Tasty, but a little skimpy on the cream cheese.
We loved the fat, golden steak fries that came with the sandwiches. For an extra $1, you can sub a house salad or onion rings.
TOTAL: $16.90—not bad for a filling lunch for two.
DOLLAR-WISE TIP: To avoid a potentially long wait time, call in your order in advance.