sacramento food guide

I've always been a bit of a foodie. When I was younger, my best friend, our mothers, and I would drive 30+ miles on lazy Saturday mornings to get breakfast. We'd go to VG's Donuts for our favorite donuts in San Diego, and then we'd head to Pannikin in Del Mar for lattes before we went to consume our treats on the beach. (Sidenote: that Pannikin location holds a special place in my heart beyond just caffeinated bliss... my dad helped to found it along with an adjoining bookstore he started in his 20's.)

Now that I've moved further away and am based out of Northern California, my habits haven't changed. I won't hesitate to head into surrounding cities in search of a great brunch, killer cocktail, or famous burger. While I'm still hunting for great donuts in my new area, here's my current list of the best places to nosh in Sactown. I'll be posting a Davis guide soon, too, for locals and visitors to check out.



Old Soul Co.

old soul

Cuisine: coffee & pastries at breakfast, sandwiches & salads at lunch
Price Range: $

Old Soul has a number of locations here in Sac, but I love the clandestine spot in the alley between 17th and L in Midtown. They've got two others downtown that I have yet to check out, and one in the airport (yay!) that fuels my early morning flights out of town. The coffee is rich and the lattes are beautiful. Their pastries are phenomenal and so fresh. This is not a place to pass up!

Temple Coffee

Temple Coffee.jpg

Cuisine: Coffee & Pastries
Price Range: $

Besides having a great atmosphere, Temple Coffee focuses on sustainability with their coffees. All of their roasts are farm-to-cup as they work directly with their growers. Their coffees rival Old Soul's, but they've also got a variety of roasts available online for purchase. Besides, they make a Mexican mocha, which is like drinking dessert for breakfast. My favorite is their S Street location, but they've got one on 9th street and in Arden Arcade, too.


Cafeteria 15L



Cuisine: Californian
Price Range: $$

Cafeteria15L is a trendy spot next to the Capitol that serves as a multifunctional space. From sunny lunches, to private outdoor events complete with custom table settings and florals, cafe15L does it all. Though I've only been for lunch & happy hour, I have it on good authority that their brunches and dinners are phenomenal too (my sister tells me the bacon & waffle sundae is the way to go). The fries trio alone is worth coming for, but don't pass up their amazing salads, either. This is another gem that's recently added a smaller location into the  SMF airport, and I couldn't be happier.

The Firehouse Restaurant



Cuisine: Traditional upscale American
Price Range: $$$$

The Firehouse is a - you guessed it- converted old firehouse. Their location in Old Sacramento is charming, and their food is phenomenal. I went for dinner before graduation with family and friends, and could not have been more pleased with the meal. The decor is a little outdated, but that's easily overlooked once your server brings out anything from their drool-worthy menu. I had the filet, but I think I may have eaten more of my guy's Thai Pork Loin... it was phenomenal. They've since replaced it on their menu with a Thai Sea Scallop dish, which I'm sure is just as good. The duck is also a must try.

The Press Bistro

press bistro


Cuisine: Mediterranean-Californian fusion
Price Range: $$$

The Press Bistro. Oh. My. God. Go here. And get the short ribs with polenta. Short ribs may be my favorite food, so I'm a little biased, but you really want to get this dish, trust me. They're salty and rich and amazing. The pappardelle is great, too. Love, love.



Cuisine: New American
Price Range: $$$

The Firehouse's more casual, contemporary cousin, Ten22 is also located in Old Sac and just as delicious. We went for Valentine's Day and they had a special menu from which I ordered the above dish: butternut squash ravioli in a sage butter sauce with walnuts and cranberries. I could eat this every day for the rest of my life. So, so good. So good, in fact, I don't even remember what my boyfriend got, but I'm sure it was amazing too. Would highly recommend this place.

Tulí Bistro

tulis bistro

Cuisine: Mediterranean-Californian fusion
Price Range: $$

Co-owned by chef Adam Pechal, Tulí was one of midtown's best restaurants. Their wine list was great and they had lots of little-known craft beers that were phenomenal. Their casual atmosphere was best enjoyed on the sunny patio, and the flatbread pizzas were beyond amazing. Though it's unfortunately now closed, this was one of my first favorite haunts in midtown. I'm anxiously awaiting Pechal's promised next reopening, and you should be too.



Cuisine: Elevated Mexican
Price Range: $$

The next door neighbor of The Press Bistro, Zocalo is housed in a renovated car dealership built in the 1920's. I'm generally a fan of smaller locations but Zocalo's large size doesn't detract from the experience. They serve traditional elevated Mexican food, and you can't go wrong whether you're ordering huevos rancheros in the morning or carnitas tacos and a margarita in the evening. It's not for the faint of heart, though, their dishes tend to be spicy.



The Rind

Source: Michelle Krebaum

Source: Michelle Krebaum

Cuisine: Wine & cheese
Price Range: $$

The Rind is an adorable little wine and cheese (and beer) bar not far from the capitol. They serve a small selection of wines and a smaller selection of beers, but I've never had a bad glass there. The first time I went I was introduced to the place by a couple of girlfriends (thanks Alicia and Gloria!), and I knew I had to come back. I stopped by last night, and was reminded why I enjoyed it so much the first time. Along with our glasses of wine, we split the "Brielicious" grilled cheese sandwich: slices of brie and heirloom tomato wedged between two halves of a croissant with pesto. Though my pants may be fitting a little tighter today, I don't regret one bite.

Hook & Ladder

hook and ladder

Cuisine: Californian
Price Range: $$$

I had a hard time deciding under which category to put Hook & Ladder. I've been for brunch, happy hour, and dinner, and I've never been disappointed. The classic breakfast burger is deliciously eggy and hearty with just the right amount of spice. The burratta pizza and the lava cake are both amazing, too. However, H&L has a cocktail like none I'd ever had. As far as soft drinks go, they make their own honey blueberry lemonade that I could bathe in, and their house-made ginger beer is to die for. As far as stronger drinks go, the ginger beer makes for a perfect compliment to their incredible Moscow mule, and their vanilla-infused old fashioned is rumored to be the best in the city. It's not currently on the menu, but they'll make it if you ask. This place really shines at night.



Rick's Dessert Diner

ricks dessert diner

Cuisine: Casual desserts
Price Range: $

Rick's Dessert Diner is a self-explanatory dessert spot that looks like it time traveled from the 50's. This funky little place is overly crowded at night, so go early for an afternoon sugar fix and you won't be disappointed. Split a milkshake in one of their vinyl booths, or order a cake to go. I've heard amazing things about their pies, too, but have yet to try one. I really don't think you can go wrong with anything at this little diner.


I'll update these as I check out more locations in the area, and if there are any places that are to-die-for that I haven't yet checked out, enlighten me... I'd love to try them!

the ultimate chocolate chip cookie

There's something about classic, homemade chocolate chip cookies... they're a comfort food to an extreme. As a frequent baker, I tend to turn to them when I'm in a crunch to make something quickly.

Details:  Caphalon  insulated cookie sheet, Sur la Table exclusive  Silpat  baking mat

Details: Caphalon insulated cookie sheet, Sur la Table exclusive Silpat baking mat

Though I have two favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes, this quick and easy recipe never lets me down, and I thought I'd share. I managed to snap this photo on my iPhone, but the finished product vanished before I could take another picture. They only take about ten minutes total preparation time, and the Kitchenaid mixer saves a lot of stress.

Ten Minute Chocolate Chip Cookies:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (better yet... vanilla bean paste)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (about 12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (good quality chocolate - I always reach for Guittard semisweet)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

  2. Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets**

  3. Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. 

**I would highly recommend investing in some insulated baking sheets and a Silpat or two. The baking sheets allow for an even temperature, so the cookies to bake evenly to chewy perfection, and the Silpat saves you the calories that you would have gained from the extra butter from greasing the sheet (as if people think about that when they're making cookies...). The Silpat also makes for WAY easier clean up, and it works for everything from cookies to roasted veggies.