The Shack

Arguably, summer has arrived in Sacramento. With temps in the upper 70s to 80s, the time has come when we start biking everywhere, sit outside, picnic and enjoy the weather before the dead of summer hits and it’s too hot to do anything but sit inside someplace air conditioned. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I met some friends for brunch at The Shack. Having driven past many times, but never been there, I was excited to check it out. The Shack boasts an incredibly impressive beer selection, from cherry ciders, lambics and the like, to medium bodied beers, to dark and nutty… from Belgium, to the US, to ?? This is a beer drinker’s heaven. I know they have wine, too, but I’m not sure what that list looks like.

Located a few yards away from Trader Joe’s on Folsom Boulevard, this East Sacramento hotspot is a regular stop for folks on that side of town. But it’s also very bikeable. Their bike racks are always full with those seeking hoppy libations.

But the best part of The Shack? Its incredible patio. There is a large patio with heavy wood picnic-style tables in the front of the restaurant…

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The front patio

..and even more space along the side.

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Side patio

Some folks were asking about dog-friendly patios in the Sacramento area… and The Shack is one of the best places. In the two and a half hours I was there, I saw about eight dogs enjoying the beautiful day with their people. Labs, golden retrievers, a shih-tzu, and several others. The Shack keeps several dog bowls next to a hose bib right outside their front door, so you immediately know this is a place where Scooby is just as welcome as Shaggy!

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The Shack has a nice selection of breakfast items, including omelets, benedicts, waffles, sandwiches, and salads. It’s an all-inclusive menu with something for everyone… even a vegan! I, however, am not vegan, and ordered the veggie benedict, aka the Jenny Bene. I am rather particular about how my eggs are poached and these were just right. Cooked just enough so that the egg whites weren’t runny on the inside, but not too much that the yolks were hard at all. These expertly poached eggs were atop spinach on an English muffin. The hollandaise sauce, which I always get on the side, was a lighter, lemony sauce that was really delicious. The potatoes were classic breakfast potatoes.

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Veggie benedict

The other item was “The Veg.” Pesto cream cheese, cucumber, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and onion usually on toasted whole wheat, although this version is on toasted sour dough.

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“The Veg” sandwich

Now onto the beer! I wanted a hard apple cider, but there wasn’t anything available that day, so the server brought out this extremely unique beer. It was sweet, sour, and totally unique. I initially balked at the $8.50 price tag, but  it is worth every penny.

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My second beer…

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I had told the server I liked lighter ales, Belgian whites, and pilsners. After she (Charlie, and she’s awesome) gave her recommendations, all of which I had already tried, I asked her to surprise me. The Fin du Monde was floral, a little bit sweet, and a nice way to close out brunch.

Bottom line, The Shack is a great place to hang out with your friends over a leisurely meal, whether it’s comprised of food, or just the liquid kind, and has better than average fare for a beer garden, an amazing selection of beer, super friendly staff, and lots of fun events for the beer lover, the dog lover, and the lover of life! I am very excited to go back!

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Front door

Overall: 4.5/5
Service: 4/5
Price: $$/$$$$

The Shack
5201 Folsom Boulevard
(East) Sacramento, CA  95819

916.457.5997

Monday 11am-3pm
Tuesday through Friday 11am-9pm
Saturday and Sunday Brunch 8am-3pm

website: http://eastsacshack.com/

Hock Farm Craft & Provisions

I was a fan of Spataro. I loved their happy hour and spent many an hour there with various friends. In fact, it was a spot that saw me meet new friends, say good bye to some, and introduce others. It was a place where I spent birthday parties, had impromptu knitting parties, and enjoyed drinks, dishes, and time with friends. In retrospect, it was kind of an important place for me. So when I heard they were closing, I was, of course, disappointed. However, when I visited Hock Farm Craft & Provisions, I said, “Spa-what-ar-o?”

Thanks to Cowtown Eats, I discovered Hock Farm was opening and taking reservations only for Thursday through Saturday, ahead of their grand opening. Perfect, I thought. I’m taking a special someone to see Billy Elliot at the Sacramento Community Center Theater on Saturday and it would be a perfect spot to enjoy a pre-show dinner.

Though still owned by the Paragary Restaurant Group, the entire look and feel of the restaurant has changed. The interior has had a much better facelift than Joan Rivers, and reflects the brand of Hock Farm. It is open, airy, with lots of windows. Community tables dot the center of the space, with two “chef’s tables” sitting perpendicular to the kitchen window. Where the private room of Spataro was now resides Hock Farm’s bar. I really love the new interior. It’s homey, warm, welcoming, and just generally a pleasant space.

The bar area

The entrance and bar area

The dining room

The dining room

Okay, so how’s the food? Oh-Em-Gee. That’s all I have to say.

First up, from the Bites menu:
Dressed egg. This is basically a super delicious, gourmet version of your classic deviled egg. With capers and mayo, with a perfect spot of anchovy, this was divine. I am a huge fan of deviled eggs – one of the reasons I could never be vegan! These had a wonderful side of picked golden beets, which were a nice palate cleanser and a wonderful counterpoint to the egg “stuffing.” The anchovies really made this. The filling wasn’t too heavy, like some deviled eggs can be. It was relatively light – whipped, even – and expertly seasoned.

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Second, was smoked salmon croquettes. Holy hell these were tasty. With a bit of dilled creme fraiche and some chives, this was insanely yummy. Instead of the usual reaction of “where the hell is the fish,” this had clear, obvious, and visible pieces of salmon. The croquettes were perfect spheres of crunchy goodness. They weren’t greasy, but had just enough crunch to give them the textural desire of a croquette.

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Next came three items off the Small Plate menu.
Of course I have to get the Macaroni and Cheese. This is made with bleu, cheddar, and parmesan cheeses, with some pieces of crispy prosciutto and sage breadcrumbs. I have had mac and cheese at several local restaurants and this does rank in the top. However, I still rank Restaurant Thir13en’s just a bit higher. The reason is because this was prepared more in the style of a pasta dish and not a casserole; I prefer the casserole. The cheese sauce was a bit runny for me and I wanted more breadcrumbs. There were a few pieces of prosciutto, which felt as though they were suddenly remembered and tossed on top, and I also felt like the breadcrumbs were tossed on immediately prior to serving, instead of baking in. This may not be a big deal to some people, but to me, it was a detracting factor. I also wish there was more of a bite. But, keep in mind, I like my mac and cheese to be baked, casserole style, and with lots of sharp, bitey, stinky cheese, which most definitely isn’t everyone’s taste. However, that being said, it was still tasty. The decision to use orchiette instead of a different kind of pasta is always a good idea with a runnier sauce, since the shape of the pasta lends itself to scooping up yummy sauce.

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Second up was kampachi. Kampachi is a kind of yellow jack or amber jack and reminiscent of Tai, or red snapper, but much softer.  It is a white fish, with a mild flavor. Hock Farm prepares theirs raw (best choice), with avocado, thinly sliced red radish, a piece of celery heart, a Marcona almond, smoked sea salt, and lemon infused olive oil. All components came together for a wonderfully rich mouth feel and flavor party. The kampachi is pretty mild, but provides a gentle fishy taste, along with a firm texture. I loved the spicy feeling the radish lended, while the almond was a fabulous textural and flavor addition. The smoked sea salt was really fabulous, giving each bite a wonderfully unexpected dimension. The avocado gave unselfishly of itself. The fat content made the mouthfeel rich and sensuous, while the flavor tied all the others together. The only thing I would say about this was that you need just a little bit of avocado to accomplish this. The amount in each bite of kampachi was a bit much. Just cut it into a third and give that a try.

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The final selection was Gulf Shrimp. This was served on a bed with creamy Arbuckle grits, and Tasso ham. Slightly spicy, which expertly cut through the cream of the grits, with aesthetically pleasing spirally cut shrimp, this had a delicious smoky flavor. It made me think of chipotle Tabasco sauce. By this time, I was quite full, but not to the point of hailing a wheelbarrow.

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Indeed, I just enough room left for dessert. And the two-scoop gelato was it! They always have vanilla and chocolate, with a rotating third flavor. If you can get their strawberry, do it! They get their gelato from a place in Berkeley; I was sad to discover it wasn’t someplace local, so I could go there whenever I had a hankering for delicious gelato! The chocolate had little bits of chips and the strawberry was super fresh and refreshing. Put the two together and you get chocolate covered strawberries! So awesome. But if you choose this combo, get more strawberry than chocolate on your spoon! The finishing touch is a house made sugar-encrusted shortbread cookie. Is it bad that I wanted an entire sheet of these?!

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I get the feeling that there are several employees of Spataro who work at Hock Farm and are accustomed to the rush that sometimes accompanies making it to a show on time, so this will still be a great place to visit pre-show.

The bar area that Spataro had separate from their restaurant space will be used by the same guy who owns BarWest. It will be a high end, high-cover charge night club, separate from Hock Farm. Hock Farm has their own happy hour, which includes a selection of artisan cocktails and about half a dozen bites.

All in all, I was extremely pleased with my experience at Hock Farm and I’m looking forward to going back and trying out some of their Large Plates!

The only “negative” I would say is that the food came out in really quick succession. However, it is because our server knew we were going to  see a show, and she thought it started earlier than it actually did. This was a nice surprise, which showed she was aware of a time constraint without anyone telling her, and if we had needed it to arrive as quickly as it did, we would have had no problem making it on time to the show.

Overall, I am so excited to go again and experience more of the menu!

Overall: 4/5

Ambience: 4/5. It was a lot noisier than Spataro, but I absolutely love the new decor.

Price: $$.5/$$$$. Each appetizer was only $5, while the small plates ran no higher than $14 for scallops. Entrees went up to $23 for the salmon and asparagus dish. Bottles of wine are also priced where you’d expect. Overall, I was very pleased with the value. Portions were generous without being overwhelming.

Service 4/5

1415 L Street
Sacramento, CA  95814

916.440.8888

Restaurant hours
Monday-Thursday: 11am-9pm
Friday: 11am-10pm
Saturday: 5pm-10pm

Bar hours
Monday-Thursday: 11am-close
Friday: 11am-close
Saturday: 4pm-close

Website: http://www.paragarys.com/sacramento-restaurants/hock-farm/about/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HockFarm

The new facade

The new facade

he dining room
Towards the kitchen

Towards the kitchen

Ceiling treatment

Ceiling treatment