Evan’s Kitchen

Located in Antique Row in East Sacramento off Elvas Avenue, Evan’s Kitchen is in a rather odd spot. Tucked amongst antique stores, it isn’t exactly where you might expect to find a restaurant. But here we are. Recommended to me by a guy I knew in high school (in the Midwest!) who also happened to end up in the Sacramento area, I had no idea Evan’s was even there. All I can say is, “Wow.” This place is the offspring of a Midwestern comfort food restaurant and a California cuisine bistro. Or something akin to that. With an interior that was reminiscent of a place  along the St. Croix River I used to go to as a child, and menu items like smoked salmon risotto, I was rather puzzled, and intrigued at the seemingly odd juxtaposition in my psyche of Midwestern youth and Californian adulthood.

On this visit on a Saturday at 7:00, which we all know is typically prime time dining hour, there was no problem getting a table without a reservation. The wonderfully homey dining room was populated with mostly “blue hairs,” both in groups and with their families. I must admit, it felt like I was at a post-church brunch in rural Minnesota. However, the disdain of the older folks in the booth behind us for “the religious right wingers” reminded me that I was, indeed, ensconced in California democratic central.

Furnished in matching heavy oak tables and the kinds of chairs that you might still find in a Midwestern home – indeed, I think we had these chairs growing up – Evan’s is a place that is designed to feel like you’re at someone home, eating up some of the best, heartiest homegrown fare you could possibly want. The walls are decorated with art from local artists, all for sale, and it really does feel super homey and comfortable. Almost like you missed something in your childhood you never realized you missed.

The dining room

The dining room

They immediately ply you with their homestyle yumminess with fresh from the oven buns. They’re warm, gooey on the inside, crunchy on the outside globs of enriched white starchiness. I tried my best not to over indulge, as I knew what was coming for me. First up… helloooo, house smoked salmon appetizer. On a ridiculously yummy potato pancake rested the absolutely amazing, freaking awesome, both texturally and flavor-wise, smoked salmon. Atop that, was an avocado salsa that was out of this world. As I’ve aged, I’ve developed a slight allergy to avocados that really has kind of pissed me off. However, like with heavy dairy items, I will carefully indulge with small bites. This salsa is not to be missed. Ripe avocado and cilantro are a perfect pairing already, and stick a bunch of it on top of the aforementioned, along with strips of fried onion, and you’ve got a sublime mountain comprised of nothing but sheer delight. Mount Doom, you got nothing on this concoction.

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Along with the entrees came side salads. The champagne vinaigrette was quite delightful, and it wasn’t too heavy on stuff like cheese that I’m not that interested in. For a side salad, and at only $1.00 extra, it was quite perfect and a good size.

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For the entrees on the table: (More) Smoked Salmon and cremini mushroom risotto. Forget the rice, can I just have the salmon and mushrooms? Well, okay, so that’s not exactly risotto. For me, the rice was a tad under seasoned; I will assume that’s because the salmon has a lot of sodium to make up for it. However, this salt fiend would have preferred just a touch more. Other than that, I have very little criticism for this dish. Mix almost anything with salmon or mushrooms and I’m a pretty happy camper.

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Also to make an appearance was butternut squash tortellacci in a “light curry and ginger sauce.”  And when they say “light,” I think they mean so creamy your arteries slightly harden the second the plate lands on the table. But who cares. I popped a Lactaid and enjoyed what I could, which wasn’t much, because I was already pretty full from the appetizer and the salad, and could eat less than half. While it had a wonderful flavor, the menu description made it seem like it would be a little less creamy and more curry… which it means. This isn’t Indian curry, this is curry curry, as in yellow curry. Curry. Curry. Curry. The word’s lost all meaning. What hasn’t lost meaning is the crunchy bread that accompanied both dishes. I mean, seriously, this is probably not the best place for a “diet.” (I put the word in quotes, because I don’t believe in “dieting” as a concept, but that’s neither here nor there, at the moment.)

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I am extremely excited to go back to Evan’s for some brunch action. The menu sounds amazing, with more smoked salmon in a benedict, in an omelet, and who knows where else. This smoked salmon could show up in a tire and I’d probably eat it. Maybe I can ask for a “vegan” omelet with tofu, soyrizo… and smoked salmon. Speaking of which, they have both a vegan and vegetarian menu. If you are looking for vegan food, the server may say that they have limited options, but let her know what you’re thinking and she’ll ask the chef what is possible. I get the feeling that you could probably just make up something loosely based on a menu item and they’d try to accommodate you.

Overall, I really liked this place. The portions were incredibly generous and will most likely provide you with two meals at an very reasonable price. In addition to the aforementioned items, a bottle of wine was also included and I don’t believe the check was more than $75 before tip. Again, i can’t wait to go back for brunch, and will most definitely be going back for dinner! With other such delightful sounding items like lobster ravioli, vegetarian burgers, and seafood pasta (cioppino style), I anxiously await my next visit! They also do catering and I believe they have a private room for rent, as well, but don’t quote me on that.

Overall: 4/5
Service: 4/5 (they’re very friendly, prompt, and welcoming)
Price: $$.5/$$$$
Ambience: Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. Not romantic, not swanky, but comfy, nonetheless.

Evan’s Kitchen: http://www.chefevan.com/default.aspx
855 57th Street, Ste. C (between H and J)
(East) Sacramento, CA  95819
(916) 452-3896
Open 8:00-9:00 (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Closed Mondays.

You can't miss the driveway!

You can’t miss the driveway!

Evening with a Chef

Looking for something to do for Second Saturday? Well, how about dinner before and a lovely time chatting it up with new friends?! Chef Adam Pechal of Restaurant Thir13en and Tuli Bistro has partnered with local farm Feeding Crane Farms and Lulu’s Kitchen, formerly Steel Magnolia Kitchen, to put on an event that is both delicious and informative. This night was an evening of oysters and sparkling wine. The former was provided by Drakes Bay Oyster Company, located near Point Reyes, and the sparkling was by Mumm of Napa Valley. I’ve never had the opportunity to visit to Drakes Bay, although now I can’t wait to get there, but I’ve been to Mumm several times and they have one of the best outdoor areas in the Valley. A local mixologist who is a member of the Bartenders’ Guild crafted some wildly delicious champagne cocktails to accompany each dish.

After being seated at one of two community tables, we got a brief introduction to Drakes Bay, the drinks being served, and the partnership between Chef Pechal and Feeding Crane Farms.

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As my lucky Sagittarius vibe would have it, the person sitting right next to me were the wonderful owners of Drakes Bay, Kevin and Nancy, along with Nancy’s mother, Rosie, an East Sac resident. This wasn’t just informative and loads of fun, but also incredibly helpful once these guys were set upon the table…

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Yes, unshucked oysters, harvest a mere hours before, alive (not kicking, thank goodness) and soon to be in my belly! We got a quick lesson in how to become (mother)shuckers and were let loose to practice our newfound skills! So, with oyster glove in my left hand and shucking knife held tightly in my right hand, I made my first lame attempts to shuck. Let’s just say I need a LOT more practice!

After this we strolled into the (very hot) kitchen to see how to make a classic mignonette sauce to accompany the oysters we were about to enjoy.

Paired with this was a drink called the Royal Flush. Gin, fresh strawberry and lemon, along with bitters, and champagne, the unexpected aspect of this beverage was the rinse with absinthe. But, don’t worry. I didn’t see any green fairies dancing around that looked a lot like Kylie Minogue (if you get that movie reference, I’ll be impressed), or Julia Roberts in Hook.

Our next adult beverage was a Shady Garden, a really fabulous blend of vodka, fresh lime and cucumber, with a lavender tincture, and, of course, champagne. This was to go along with the Oyster Po Boys that were to come next. Once again, we sojourned into the kitchen and watched as Chef breaded some very large oysters (ones we hadn’t shucked) in a buttermilk batter with panko bread crumbs. To slather on the toasted slider-sized buns was a fabulous chipotle remoulade, and some simple carrot and radish slaw to cooly crunch it up. I completely enjoyed this.

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Making the remoulade

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Hungry yet? Luckily, I still was! The next item: Oysters Sacramento, a local take on baked oysters. Using arugula from Feeding Crane Farms, Chef Pechal cooked up garlic, bacon, and parmesan and threw them on an oysters to bake all together. This was out of the world.

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The drink with this was a Veronica Rose… Aperol, homemade rosebud syrup, orange bitters, and champagne. I think this was my third favorite drink; the Shady Garden was hands down my favorite, especially with the cool cucumber on a hot night!

Finally, the night wrapped up with Oyster Stew. A single oyster on a tasting spoon with a delicate broth and homemade mustard, including the whole, brined seeds. To drink beside this little nugget was Baja Bubbles. This had tequila, and I’m not a big tequila fan, so it scored at the bottom of my favorite drinks. That being said, it was still delicious. This had tequila and champagne, obviously, grand marnier, grapefruit, and kaffir leaves.

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All in all, I had a wonderful time, left with a goodie bag: reusable tote, happy hour coupons for Restaurant Thir13en, an issue of Edible Sacramento, recipes, and some greens fresh from Feeding Crane Farms, and thrilled about our vibrant food scene that is so closely intertwined with local produce. Suffice it to say, I love living in a place that is supportive of local business, farms, ranches, and vineyards.

I highly recommend checking out one of the classes in the future!

For more information, visit the Eventbrite site, check out Restaurant Thir13en’s Facebook Page, or follow them on Twitter: @ChefAdamPechal, @TuliBistro, @FeedingCrane, @Thir13enSac.