21 Dishes You Need To Order Now

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Feeling hungry? You’re in luck: The Sacramento region is home to an exhilarating abundance of excellent eateries. Our rich agricultural bounty, vibrant ethnic food culture and profusion of top-tier restaurants make dining in the region an exciting experience. Here, a look at 21 of our favorite things to eat.

Pickled Beet Salad

Seasons
$7.75 | 102 F St., Davis;
(530) 750-1801; seasonsdavis.com

This simple, lovely salad is resplendent with beautiful beets that have been oven-roasted and briefly pickled. The pink, yellow and red root vegetables glisten like jewels among crisp mixed greens, their pleasing earthiness contrasting with crunchy, locally grown pistachios and tangy-creamy goat cheese. Tossed in a slightly sweet balsamic dressing, it is a refreshing and elegant dish that customers won’t let chef Jonathan Nieto take off the menu.

Asian Bouillabaisse

Kru
$22 | 2516 J St., Sacramento; (916) 551-1559; krurestaurant.com

One of the most electrifying dishes in the Sacramento region, Kru’s Asian bouillabaisse showcases a profusion of fresh seafood—salmon, clams, calamari, king crab and mussels—in a vibrant orange broth prepared from miso and kochujan, a peppery Korean bean paste. This fragrant stew also contains thick, slithery udon noodles, a surprising and wonderful addition to chef Buu “Billy” Ngo’s feisty rendition of the French classic.

Pozole Verde

Zócalo
$9 | 1801 Capitol Ave., Sacramento; (916) 441-0303; zocalosacramento.com

The meaty aroma emanating from this fabulous soup is enough to make your knees buckle. Within its gorgeous green tomatillo-chili broth, redolent of robust Mexican spices, you’ll find generous chunks of tender pork and pretty, flowerlike blooms of hominy. Topped with copious amounts of shredded cabbage, the pozole is served up with lime slices, finely diced white onion and chopped cilantro. It’s a hearty, soul-warming meal-in-a-bowl.

Polenta and Mushrooms

Boulevard Bistro
$16 | 8941 Elk Grove Blvd., Elk Grove; (916) 685-2220

Boulevard Bistro’s vegetarian polenta is wildly popular, and it’s no wonder why. Exceptionally creamy, this captivating mush flavored with butter, cream and Parmesan cheese is encircled by a glossy green ring of cilantro-scallion oil and smothered with an aromatic jumble of sautéed mushrooms. Sprinkled with tiny, candy-sweet cherry tomatoes and chopped chives, the dish is well worth a special trip to Elk Grove.

Aloo Tikki

Sher-e-Punjab
$4.99 | 6400 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael; (916) 971-0115; sherepunjabrestaurant.com

It’s hard to resist Sher-e-Punjab’s enticing aloo tikki, a popular Indian street food that, while traditionally quite spicy, has been toned down here to appeal to customers with less intrepid palates. Three dense potato patties, fragrant with cumin and glistening with oil, are smothered with a textural, stewlike garbanzo bean curry. The result—a complexly flavored, hearty snack—tastes even better when rolled up in one of the restaurant’s irresistible shahi naan, a pliable flatbread stuffed with dry housemade cheese and almonds and baked in an Indian clay oven known as a tandoor.

Whole Sesame-Glazed Artichoke

Crush 29
$7.95 | 1480 Eureka Road, Roseville; (916) 773-2929; crush29.com

A well-cooked artichoke is one of life’s most satisfying pleasures. Crush 29, however, takes the well-cooked artichoke to the next level. After being gently steamed in lemon-grass broth, the thistly vegetable is halved, sprayed with sesame oil and flash-grilled, which gives it a seductive smokiness. Served with a lively chipotle-basil aioli, it’s fun to eat and provides you with a scrumptious boost on the day’s vitamin C and potassium requirements.

Coniglio Alla Cacciatore con Peperoni e Balsamico

Biba Restaurant
$26.50 | 2801 Capitol Ave., Sacramento; (916) 455-2422; biba-restaurant.com

Leave it to Sacramento’s famed Biba Caggiano to create the region’s most delectable rabbit dish. Braised in a garlicky sauce containing shallots, roasted bell pepper, tomato and balsamic vinegar, the rabbit is topped with diced pancetta and accompanied by intensely cheesy polenta rounds. The meat is moist, and we bet you’ll sop up every last drop of sauce with the restaurant’s chewy-soft bread. “This is just a typical, heartwarming Italian country dish,” says Caggiano.

Spicy Buffalo Salad

Jack’s Urban Eats
$8.50 | 1230 20th St., Sacramento; (916) 444-0307; 2535 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 481-5225; 4370 Natomas Blvd., Natomas; (916) 515-4910; 2756 E. Bidwell St., Folsom; (916) 984-5553; jacksurbaneats.com

If you’re watching your waistline and order salad for lunch, beware of Jack’s spicy Buffalo salad, a wickedly flavorful, unashamedly caloric treat. Lacquered in thick blue cheese dressing, the salad is topped with honey-glazed walnuts and shiny pieces of fried chicken tossed in a spicy, irresistible Buffalo sauce. Punctuated with slim carrot matchsticks, apple slices and chunks of celery, this salad is a delicious way to score points toward that five-a-day goal. Just save the dieting for your next meal.

Sausage Pappardelle

Lucca Restaurant& Bar
$12.95 | 1615 J St., Sacramento; (916) 669-5300; luccarestaurant.com

Who could resist Lucca’s toothsome housemade pappardelle, tossed with a rustic mushroom ragu and zippy nuggets of sweet Italian sausage? One of the restaurant’s top sellers, the pasta is garnished with grated Parmesan and is as warming as a mother’s hug. It’s perfect with a glass of zesty old-vine Zinfandel and Lucca’s lemony chop salad.

Beef Salad

Tuk Tuk Restaurant
$9.95 | 4630 Natomas Blvd., #150, Natomas; (916) 575-7957; tuktuksac.com

Fiery and substantial, this Thai salad is a wake-up call for jaded taste buds. Laced with papery-thin wisps of carrot, sliced red onion and fresh basil leaves, the salad is loaded with chili-flecked strips of roasted beef and is tossed in a sharp, vinegary dressing that will give your senses a jolt. Feeling overheated? Cool off with a glass of Tuk Tuk’s Thai iced coffee.

Roasted Eggplant Pizza

Gönül’s J Street Cafe
$11.25 | 3839 J St., Sacramento; (916) 457-1155; jstreetcafe.com

Searching for an ultrathin-crust pizza? Look no further than Gönül’s in East Sacramento, a friendly, family-owned cafe that serves up some of the best pizza in the region. Our favorite is the roasted eggplant version, served up on a crackly, crisp crust and loaded with fontina, mozzarella and goat cheeses, aromatic slivers of fresh basil, sweetly caramelized onions and pudding-soft chunks of roasted eggplant. This is pizza that will energize you, not weigh you down. 

Salt Cod Fritters

Spataro Restaurant and Bar
$4 | 1415 L St., Sacramento; (916) 440-8888; spatarorestaurant.com

There’s nothing dandier than sinking your teeth into these irresistible fritters, with their deeply brown, crusty exterior and buoyant, fluffy interior. Their delicate flavor—potatoey, with a pleasing, rich background of salt cod—is enhanced by Spataro’s excellent, garlicky aioli. Pair these hot, delightful mouthfuls with a glass of sparkling Prosecco and you’ll be transported to your very own Mediterranean holiday.

Corned Beef Hash

Lucky Cafe
$11.95 | 1111 21st St., Sacramento; (916) 442-9620

It’s easy to form an addiction to Lucky Cafe’s corned beef hash. Made entirely from scratch, this satisfying, crusty pile of goodness pairs just-salty-enough corned beef with two eggs of your choice and the brownest, crackliest hash browns you’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. Mix ’em all together into a heap and scoop it up with copious amounts of heavily buttered toast. Washed down with gulps of hot coffee, this hash will stick tenaciously to your ribs for the rest of the day.

Duck Confit

Hawks Restaurant
$20 | 5530 Douglas Blvd., Granite Bay; (916) 791-6200; hawksrestaurant.com

Duck confit, when prepared properly, can be a memorable treat. The region’s best example of this beloved French dish (in which the meat is salted and slowly cooked in fat) is at Hawks. Resting on a bed of perky, tiny lentils, the meat is adorned with tufts of bitterish watercress that add a cleansing kick. The coup de grâce, however, is chef Molly Hawks’ clever decision to serve the confit with candied mandarinquat (a cross between a mandarin and a kumquat) zest, whose vivacious, sweet-tart personality cuts the richness of the confit, enlivening and brightening the dish.

Halibut sandwich

Fins Market & Grill
$8.95 | 1901 S St., Sacramento; (916) 442-9300; 2610 Fair Oaks Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 488-5200; 8525 Madison Ave., Fair Oaks; (916) 967-0954; 8680 Sierra College Blvd., Roseville; (916) 783-5200; 2171 Cowell Blvd., Suite F, Davis; (530) 750-5000; finsmarket.com

It’s fun to eat fancy, but there are times when nothing satisfies like an utterly simple meal. When you’re in that frame of mind, head to Fins for a halibut sandwich, one of the plainest and most gratifying dishes you’ll find in the region. An absolutely fresh, flaky grilled halibut fillet is crammed between two pieces of bread (try the sour wheat walnut) that have been spread with a dill-infused tartar sauce. That’s it: no onions, lettuce or tomato to divert your attention away from the juicy goodness of that fish. It’s clean, it’s uncluttered and it’s delightfully satisfying.

Peanut Butter Cookie

Masque Cantinetta & Baking Co.
$1.50 | La Borgata at Serrano, 3909 Park Drive, El Dorado Hills; (916) 941-0545; masqueristorante.com

Not your everyday peanut butter cookie, this extra-special treat manages to be both crunchy and chewy at the same time, offering up a deep, rich peanut buttery-ness that lures you to overindulge. Its deeply cracked top, resembling a parched desert landscape, sparkles with crystal sugar granules, and its generous size will make you smile.

Valrhona Chocolate Turtle Cup

Slocum House
$7.50 | 7992 California Ave., Fair Oaks; (916) 961-7211; slocum-house.com

Feeling chocolate-deprived? Your salvation lies in Fair Oaks, where talented pastry chef Melissa Dyer has created a ridiculously chocolatey dessert. Moist and warm, the fudge cake (made with exceptional French Valrhona chocolate) comes with a dollop of vanilla malt ice cream and is sprinkled with toasted pecans and drizzled with a touch of caramel sauce. This is one dessert you will not want to share.

Almond polenta cake

Karen’s Bakery Cafe and Catering
$2 | 705 Gold Lake Drive, #340, Folsom; (916) 985-2665; karensbakery.com

The attraction of this captivating, golden-hued cake lies in its simplicity. Supermoist and sturdy, it has a sandy-soft texture and heady almond flavor that make it the perfect partner for a hot cup of coffee or a juicy pile of summer berries. Dress it up with a soft heap of barely sweetened whipped cream, or simply grab it in your hand and devour it as is. We love the versatility and homey friendliness of this rustic cake. 

Tarte Tatin

La Provence Restaurant & Terrace
$6 | 110 Diamond Creek Place, Roseville; (916) 789-2002; laprovenceroseville.com

It’s difficult to find tarte Tatin in Sacramento and more difficult still to find a version that is prepared traditionally. La Provence’s tarte Tatin, featuring deeply caramelized, velvety-soft apple chunks encased in a flaky puff pastry shell, is both traditional and absolutely marvelous. Served warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, this lovely dessert is one of La Provence’s
star attractions.                              

Bacon-wrapped blue cheese meatloaf

Tazzina Bistro
$19.95 | 614 Main St., Woodland; (530) 661-1700; tazzinabistro.com

Burly and enormous, this is no meal for lightweights. Tazzina’s delectable all-beef meatloaf features a forceful, molten Shaft blue cheese core and is wrapped with strips of smoked bacon. Served with a mountain of mashed potatoes and crispy red onion rings, it’s the dinner you yearn for on a cold, rainy night.

Mussels

Bidwell Street Bistro
$8.95 | 1004 E. Bidwell St., Folsom; (916) 984-7500; bidwellstreetbistro.com

You may have tried mussels steamed with white wine and garlic, but Bidwell Street Bistro takes a different approach, serving the bivalves in a lip-smacking sun-dried tomato and fennel sauce, dotted with chewy bits of pancetta and garnished with chopped green onion. The haunting sweetness of the fennel is delicious with the mussels’ briny, pumpkin-colored flesh, and the bold flavors of the sun-dried tomato transform the sauce into a bread dunker’s dream.