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!

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/

Hilltop Tavern

Ahhhhh, Hilltop. What can I say about this place, other than it is a great “dive” bar? I whiled away many an hour here decompressing from the onslaught of literary theory and books filled with words that made their way into casual conversation NEVER. Hilltop has the feel of a classic, comfortable dive bar you might find in any town or city. It’s a place filled with strong drinks, and strong personalitied regulars. It’s where you just might find that one guy the bartenders know well for whom they have the cab company on speed dial. But you also may find the chef of one of the area’s most popular eateries.

Located right across the street from One Speed, Waterboy’s Rick Mahan’s pizza restaurant, it’s a great place to go when there’s a wait at the aforementioned, or to run for a gin and tonic after filling yourself with delicious doughy delicacies, also at the aforementioned!

That is just what I did one night… okay, and on an afternoon. But anyway, not only is the actual bar a great place to hang out, but the other half of the room contains two pool tables that convert into ping pong, plus two dart boards and a large golf arcade game. While always advisable to bring your own darts, they do have a set or two you can use.

There is no food to be had here, other than chips and maybe a beef sausage stick or two. But that’s not why you’re here… You’re here for the atmosphere, maybe the games, and definitely the drinks.

I always enjoy myself when I go there, whether it’s for a quick drink or an afternoon of fun with friends.

Hilltop darts   Hilltop Pool

 

Hilltop Tavern:
4757 Folsom Blvd
Sacramento, CA

http://www.hilltoptavern.net/
916/456-2843