Best Fall and Summer Restaurant around Sacramento, CA
Is it still summer? Is it fall already? The Sacramento weather gods couldn’t make up their minds in September, so my food choices fluctuated a lot.
Nothing sounded better than light beer and German sausages when a heat wave pushed record temperatures to the region earlier this month. A few weeks later, a cool rain sent me down south to Sacramento for some tasty Vietnamese soups.
Other best dishes I ate in September included fried fish from a Peruvian/Mexican place and a Thai lemongrass chicken and shrimp dish that got its best flavors from a surprise ingredient: bananas. Yes really.
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Kathrin’s Beer Garden, Rocklin
Kathrin Grosse could sometimes miss her native Germany. But like Kathrin Beer GardenThe menu says “Durst ist schlimmer als Heimweh”.
Translation: “Thirst is worse than homesickness.”
No drinker should leave thirsty at 4810 Granite Drive, Suite A1 in Rocklin, home to the most German restaurant and bar in the area. Pints and tasting flights are easy to spot in Grosse’s concept at Sierra Meadows Plaza. It has a festively decorated indoor space as well as two patios with shade structures and misters.
Kathrin’s offers over 30 draft beers, mostly imported but some brewed locally, as well as bottled beer, wine, radlers and ciders. There’s also a trio of non-alcoholic beers with coffee, sodas, and a nice selection of teas for sober folks.
Sauerkraut meatballs ($12 for 6 or $30 for 16), relatively common throughout Bavaria and the Midwestern United States but hardly seen in those regions, makes a fun appetizer. Ground bratwurst is the main ingredient, tossed with sauerkraut and cream cheese, then rolled in breadcrumbs and fried to create a kind of crispy meatball.
Wiener Schnitzel ($17)a Viennese escalope not to be confused with the hot dog chain, came with the option of chicken or pork and fries or sp tzle (little savory dumplings). It was well done: lightly breaded, flattened, and sprinkled with a mixture of herbs which, along with a squeeze of lemon, kept the fried meat from tasting too heavy.
This schnitzel is included in Kathrin’s Oktoberfest Sampler ($40), served on fries with braised red and green sauerkraut and a choice of five savory sausages. A smoky and salty homemade brat known as “dirkat” is a must-try, and the hot Louisiana tie lives up to the heat in its name.
Phở Le, South Sacramento
Some people usher in fall with pumpkin spice lattes or trips to Apple Hill. For me, it’s when I can finally comfortably dig into the richness of South Sacramento noodle soups that warm the belly and the soul.
When the first substantial rain since April started falling on the weekend of September 18, I headed for Pho Le at 8785 Center Parkway, Suite B180 in the Laguna Village mall near the Elk Grove border. I was not alone and waited 30 minutes for a table.
Phở was obviously a necessity, and the combination phở ($12 for medium bowl, $13 for large) was the best way to try each cut beef in savory, umami broth. That meant very thin cuts of steak, delicious beef tendons and meatballs, and brisket and tripe that looked excessively fatty.
Shellfish lovers must seek out the North Vietnamese soup bún riêu ($14). Its orange broth slammed the palate so well with flavors of crab paste and shrimp, backed by spiced ground crabmeat and topped off with extra-thin pork, tomatoes, tofu and vermicelli.
Clotted pig’s blood cubes are optional; if you’re curious but intimidated, Phở Le is a good place to try them, as these cubes didn’t taste as strong as some others.
Knowing Sacramento, we are not done with the hot sunny days yet. Next time, opt for the version of Phở Le gỏi gà ($13)a refreshing chicken salad with shredded cabbage, daikon, carrots and white onion.
Peruvian and Mexican restaurant Jimmy’s, Arden Arcade
Exit the Capital City Freeway near Fulton Avenue, find parking among the mobile homes at Vickers Court RV Park, and walk to the oddly shaped red building at 3032 Auburn Blvd. You are about to enter Peruvian and Mexican restaurant Jimmy’sa culinary oasis in a region where lomos saltados, salchipapas and Inca Kola are hard to find.
The Sacramento area is full of Jalisco-style taquerias, but there’s only one other Peruvian restaurant to speak of (the excellent restaurant in Roseville Peruvian Shisha Kitchen & Coffee), casting Jimmy’s South American options in a more appealing light.
While there’s not much overlap between the Peruvian and Mexican menus at Jaime Gonzalez’s restaurant, don’t miss the creamy aji verde alongside the pico de gallo and other classic salsa bar options. The House shisha morada ($4.75)a Peruvian purple corn drink, eschews the cloying sweetness that some imitators fall into and pairs well with just about any food.
Jalea de pescado ($19) is priced, listed, and portioned as a dinner entree, but a plate full of crispy fish nuggets over yucca fries seems like an ideal entree for parties of about four. The surprisingly airy bits of swai played well with a bit of Peruvian corn and salsa criolla (pickled onion salad), although the yucca fries were a bit overcooked.
Keep Jimmy’s Land meat dry ($19.75) in mind when the temperatures cool down. Cooked chunks of beef and pinto beans provided the protein, but most of the standout flavor came from the dark green cilantro-based broth.
In Christmas colors Jimmy’s Burrito ($15) grabbed me from the Mexican menu. Half drizzled with a zesty green enchilada sauce, half drizzled with a smoky red version, its lively coatings brightened up an otherwise ordinary core of chicken, rice, cheese and onions.
Thai Chili, Elk Grove
I like a Thai restaurant that goes out of the tried and true options Thai chili at Elk Grove had enough to pique my interest (as well as plenty of familiar options for those looking for comfort food).
New customers may have already eaten at owner Teerayut Phupong’s other restaurants, [email protected] Thai Restaurant in downtown Sacramento and Thai Spoon in Natomas, before arriving at Thai Chili at 8696 Elk Grove Blvd., Suite 5. There is some overlap between the different concepts, but also many unique dishes.
I will probably never return to this 18 year old Thai restaurant without ordering the lemongrass chicken and shrimp with banana ($17.50), sautéed with mixed vegetables in a chili sauce. Those perfectly ripe banana slices incorporated all over are a game-changer – just the wedge of a spread around the other ingredients adds a surprising yet welcome burst of fruity sweetness.
Thai Chili and other restaurants in Phupong are among the few to offer po tak ($14) in the Sacramento area. A cloudy lemongrass soup with shrimp, scallops and squid rings along with button mushrooms and cauliflower would be super soothing for someone nursing an illness. Described as “spicy” on the menu, it’s really very mild – spicier than anything else, thanks to the lemongrass.
Have you ever had your drunk noodles with crabmeat ($18) mix? The soft, rich flesh of the crustacean (real stuff here, no imitation crab) cuts through the substantial heat and earthy flat noodles to create a candler’s version of an intestine-packed classic.