Everybody has to eat.
That’s the thinking behind the Selland family’s continuing foray into the fast-casual dining business. This spring, they opened their third Selland’s Market-Cafe on lower Broadway, serving their distinctive brand of stylish comfort food. It’s a formula they’ve perfected at their two previous market-cafes, in East Sac and El Dorado Hills, and at OBO’, their quick-serve Italian restaurant on Folsom Boulevard.
Originally, Randall Selland and his clan planned to move their 26-year-old high-wire act, The Kitchen, from Hurley Way to the lower Broadway property they’d purchased. They had visions of turning their upscale demonstration restaurant into a food Disneyland, with specialized rooms for charcuterie, cheese making and events. But the $3 million price tag gave them pause.
Meanwhile, Broadway was undergoing a growth spurt as new restaurants, businesses and housing sprouted up from Oak Park to The Mill urban-condo development. The boulevard, they decided, would be the perfect place for another Selland’s.
Location was a major factor. The restaurant is a couple of blocks from the freeway on- and offramps, putting Sel-land’s within a 10-minute drive of Natomas, the Pocket and West Sac and 12 minutes from Davis. It’s also a straight shot from downtown with its multitude of state workers and a few blocks from the massively staffed DMV headquarters.
While The Kitchen and Ella, the family’s other upscale restaurant, attract a small slice of the dining demographic, everybody eats the sorts of sandwiches, salads, pizzas and comfort foods, like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, that make up the core of the market-cafe’s menu. Designed to get large numbers of people fed quickly, the new Selland’s resembles an upscale food hall: You line up, survey the hot and cold food cases and chalkboard menu, give your order to a staffer armed with a digital pad, grab a number, find a table and wait for your food to be delivered to you.
Randall Selland’s partner, Nancy Zimmer, revamped the old Selland’s menu, adding about 30 new dishes. There is literally something for everyone: beef cottage pie, crab cake po’boy, tuna melt, cauliflower pizza, spicy Moroccan chicken burger. There’s also a new emphasis on lighter vegetarian fare, like a roasted beet sandwich and a super-greens salad. (The new menu is available at all three market-cafes.)
The space is closer in appearance to the expansive suburban Selland’s in El Dorado Hills than the cramped East Sac version. Zimmer’s daughter, Tamera Baker, oversaw the design, combining the midcentury vibe of the original 1952 building (an old grocery store) with an airy, modern-farmhouse aesthetic. There are white-oak floors and tables, contemporary Windsor chairs painted cheery chartreuse and farmhouse light pendants. For an arresting art installation, Baker hunted down dozens of vintage white stoneware platters at estate sales and thrift shops and hung them on an otherwise blank wall. In the parking lot out front, almost two dozen newly planted olive trees create a grovelike effect that softens the huge expanse of concrete. A large patio is furnished with jaunty white bistro tables and chairs, chocolate-brown umbrellas and more olive trees.
With their market-cafes, the Sellands have clearly hit on a winning formula: good food served fast at reasonable prices in attractive surroundings. One wonders why they don’t just keep replicating that success, over and over. Ask Randall Selland and he claims this could be his last restaurant. Or maybe not. “There are still a couple of concepts I’d like to do,” he says.
Large outdoor patio
Salted carmel cookies
The cold foods case
Cauliflower, bacon and olive pizza