This past Saturday, I got a first-hand (and sobering) look at the effects of our faltering economy on Sacramento’s restaurant industry. We decided to make the trip to Ernesto’s (ernestosmexicanfood.com), a long-time family favorite, for a lazy weekend brunch. It was 11:00am as we approached the restaurant, fully anticipating a crowded dining room and patio. We discussed alternative plans, should there be a wait – Ernesto’s traditionally does a very brisk brunch business. As we pulled up, the patio was empty. Puzzled, we wondered if the restaurant was closed. It wasn’t. We went inside, only to discover that the dining room was as starkly empty as the patio. We were sat, the lone table in an eerily quiet dining room, and I wolfed down the kitchen’s fantastic street tacos, sprinkled with chopped white onion and cilantro, feeling as if I had wandered into an episode of The Twilight Zone. A few groups of diners wandered in during our meal, and when we left at 12 noon, there were two tables seated outside in the (post-rain) balmy, tropical air, and three tables seated inside. I felt a bit shaken after the experience, marveling that a restaurant as enduringly popular and busy as Ernesto’s could be hit this hard by the economy. If you have the opportunity, visit your favorite local restaurants in these tough times—clearly they need your support.