Yesterday I had the pleasure of dining at Queen Sheba, a small, family-owned Ethiopian restaurant on Broadway. And while the meal was wonderful, what lingered for me long after lunch was the warmth and friendliness we experienced from the staff and owner. Queen Sheba is one of a handful of restaurants I like to support simply because they serve up big portions of good cheer and a welcoming attitude along with their food that make customers feel like they are truly valued. I wanted to share a few of these special restaurants, as they are great places to visit when you’ve had a bad day and need an uplifting experience, or you’re just seeking a big dose of conviviality to put an extra skip in your step.
Do you have nimble fingers? You’ll need them, since the food served at this cheery establishment is scooped up by hand with the traditional Ethiopian flatbread called enjera. If you can’t figure it out, the gracious staff will give you a demonstration. Don’t miss the key wot, a sumptuous, tender beef stew.
1704 Broadway, Sacramento, (916) 446-1223; www.queenshebas.com
Lucca Restaurant & Bar
This popular midtown restaurant works hard to makes its customers feel like Very Important Diners. Owner Ron Gilliland, a consummate restaurant professional, sets the tone for his staff – pleasant and attentive, he works the dining room with focus, acknowledging his guests and personally serving up of the kitchen’s well-loved dishes, like the light-as-air zucchini chips and the grilled steak salad.
1615 J Street, Sacramento, (916) 669-5300; www.luccarestaurant.com
Freeport Bar & Grill
Located in the teeny town of Freeport, this affable restaurant has a wonderful wait staff and a rib-sticking lineup of sandwiches (the Reuben is delicious). Ravenous customers should go for the “California Special,” a half-roasted chicken laid on a pile of caramelized onions, green olives, artichoke hearts and red grilled potatoes.
8259 Freeport Boulevard, Sacramento, (916) 665-1169
A Rocklin breakfast institution, Venita Rhea’s is staffed by some of the sweetest waitresses I’ve ever met. Kids are treated like royalty (order them the yummy banana nut pancakes) and everyone will love the big menu. The kitchen offers ten different kinds of eggs Benedict, and also whips up some very tasty omelets.
4415 Granite Drive, Rocklin, (916) 624-2697; www.venitarheas.com
Established in 1934, this historic Sacramento burger joint has only 10 bar stools. Customers cram together cheerfully at the counter where they can enjoy the banter of the staff and sip their thick strawberry milkshakes. Noteworthy menu items at this snug, sociable establishment include the “Ortega cheeseburger” (with Jack cheese, Ortega chilis, mayonnaise and mustard) and the biscuits and gravy.
816 12th Street (between H and I Streets), Sacramento; (916) 443-9655;