Archive for the ‘Midtown Life’ Category

Second Saturday: April 2010

Spring seems confused in Sacramento.

We kicked off April with a wet and dreary Easter Sunday. Mother Nature followed that up with gray skies and chilly breezes for Second Saturday.

Second Saturday in Midtown Sacramento

Still, it looked like Midtown businesses, galleries and outdoor vendors got a decent amount of traffic from this monthly shopping affair.


Outside of Plum Blossom

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Variations on Comfort Food

The ladies who lunch….

…end up at Tuli Bistro. On my lunch dates in Sacramento, ladies always suggest meeting up at this intimate foodie spot on S Street. Folks who have been working for 10-hours in a windowless office will enjoy the sunny skies on the patio. On colder days, we can warm up by the bar and the woodfire oven.

Mac-n-Cheese from Bistro Tuli

“That’s not from a blue box,” pronounced one chef behind the bar.

Tuli’s lunch menu offers modern, gourmet versions of burgers, fries, pizza and more. I always come back to this classic comfort food: Macaroni and Cheese. Tuli’s bakes gemelli pasta with three cheeses and cured ham. This scrumptious dish works for me in warm and cold weather.

Lately, I’ve been challenging myself to whip up my own versions of comfort food. This year, my hubby asked for Mac & Cheese for Valentine’s Day.
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Pizza and a Movie

Blue tails whipping in the air.
Wispy souls dancing on a breeze.
Metal monsters blasting anything that moves.

Yes, I finally saw Avatar in IMAX 3D. This our second attempt to watch the James Cameron film at the IMAX theater on K Street. On our first attempt, we made the mistake of trying to purchase our tickets at the theater. This time around, we reserved our seats online.
Great Success.
IMAX Theater in Sacramento
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Second Saturday

We were lucky we found parking in Midtown Sacramento. Several streets were blocked off to traffic and packed with people mingling by tables of art, tchotchkes and fliers for future events.

It was my first Second Saturday and it was delightful.

I enjoyed listening to a DJ mixing Lady Gaga outside of Plum Blossom as another artist spray-paints the final touches on his canvas.
Outside of Plum Blossom

Before the pulsing dance club beats, we heard tabla drumming outside of McMartin Realty on K Street. That’s where we enjoyed a belly dancing performance as others browsed the photography and jewelery booths nearby.

Belly Dancers at Second Saturday

Finally on 21st Street, we watched Art Lessing and the Flower Vato play outside of Time Tested Books.

Art Lessing and the Flower Vato
[vimeo]http://www.vimeo.com/6558372[/vimeo]

Shady Lady, Some Visible Values

This will be one of my few visual aid-free restaurant reviews, but oh well: Had a chance to check out the new Shady Lady Saloon at 14th and R.  Their “thing” is twofold: first, no TVs!  Second, they do old skool – like way old – cocktails.  The lack of TVs could explain the light crowd on Sunday night given that we were there smack in the middle of the NBA championship game.  The cocktails, however, did not disappoint.  I enjoyed a Pim’s Cup – just the way I would in England, cool and full of crisp cucumber and fragrant herbs.  Cocktails are all around the $8 mark which makes them very close in price to the menu items.

I would recommend the tomato soup at $5.   I didn’t get details on it, but I would guess it was free of cream even though it had the traditional creamy texture (vegans or lactose intolerant diners should check, of course).  Bonus for being garnished with a grilled cheese sandwhich (no really).  My husband and I shared the soup and each ordered the Cobb Salad.  At $7.50 it was a relatively good salad value, with it’s pleasing straight lines of ingredients and ample bowl size making mixing easier and less messy.  I was surprised, however to find the dish remarkably bland.   That sounds harsh – but it did lack any real flair.  I wouldn’t call it bad, though.  I originally asked for my salad with dressing on the side but was persuaded to go for it as-is by the server who said it was better tossed and was dressed with a light hand anyway. Maybe too light, in this case.

The venue also hosts regular live music acts in the spacious, warehouse/saloon-chic interior.  I love live music, but I wondered why both acts on Sunday felt the need to use all available amplification when the wide, hardly-full room probably could’ve experienced their sound just fine without any electronic help whatsoever.  Translation:   it was LOUD – too loud to engage in much meaningful conversation among our table of seven for very long.  Maybe they could turn it down a wee bit during the dinner hour?  Then everyone could enjoy both food and entertainment without sacrificing good companionship along the way.

Lastly: the hunt for a good burger in the new R Street complex continues, according to my friend who gave the Shady Lady burger a tepid so-so review.  I told her not to rely on Burgers and Brew either – unremarkable, especially when there is better in town.

White dudes in Midtown, listen up.

You’re all suspects. That is, if you are between 5’9″ and 6 feet, and in your 20s. Where were you on December 12 at lunchtime?

Wachovia at 19th and S was robbed. Don’t you think that’s just wrong? I mean, Wachovia is still recovering from a buyout. And they get robbed. Whose money did the robber get, anyway?

In any case, be careful out there. Times are tough all over.

Loud Lounge

 A Second Saturday or so ago, my friends and I, tired yet energized from dealing with the mobs on 20th, decided that lounging on 20th sounded pretty good to us, so we put in for a table at Lounge on 20.

The wait was so long, we popped into the bar-formerly-known-as-Headhunters for a pre-drink drink. Finally, however, we made it to a table.

Lounge definitely aims to bring more hip to midtown. Cavernous, furnished in a communal, Scandanavian chic manner, the place is designed simultaneously for and against catching up with your nearest and dearest. Seating options range from low-slung couches, to long, family-style gathering-height tables you might share with several other parties. That’s the for. The against comes thanks to the sleek, hard-surfaced walls and floors. The place gets l.o.u.d. Don’t expect to whisper secrets to your gal pals here – you’ll need to speak from the diaphram to beat the din.

The bar menu is both edge and by-gone-bar-era-chic, while at the same time working in local flavors and fresh sources to capitalize on current cocktail trends.  Sadly, two kinds of cocktails and my preferred bubbly were out (at 7pm), which led to some disappointing substitutions surprisingly early in the evening.

The food menu is similarly hep-cat: you’ll find the requisite Dish With Truffle Oil listed above Poutine (who’s been to Montreal? Any Québécois in the hizzouse?), yuppie stapple fried Mac ‘N Cheese, and if-you-have-to-ask-you-can’t-afford-it caviar.  We opted for the cheese palte and the charcuterie plate to share among 4 people. They probably share better with two.

The cheese plate over at 58 degrees spanks Loung on 20’s in both quality and quantity and, on our visit, the crostini were covered in enough oil to interfere with the more delicate sheep’s cheese offering. (more…)

BREAKING NEWS! You can soon turn left

No really. I know, hardly hugely breaking news, but for those of you who like driving east on H Street, you’ll soon be able to turn  – wait for it – left on 21st Street! So sayeth the KCRA camera man I saw capturing B-roll this morning.

So, slow news day, kids?

Brewers Festival!

It’s like Miller Time, but so much more: California Brewer’s Festival at Discovery Park this Saturday!  Weather should be good. Beer should be better. Add in live music, food, and shady trees and you’ve got a great second chance for anyone who misssed Second Saturday last weekend.  See you there!

Sactown Budget Dining a la Frommer’s

I don’t know about you but I’ve been limiting all my summer travel to day trips–you know, the kind that cost a tank of gas, max, to get there and back. So, in the sprit of day trips, I picked up a (library) copy of Frommer’s California 2008 guidebook and started riffling through it. The pages fell open to Chapter 10, Sacramento, The Gold Country, & The Central Valley. How wonderful that we rank enough these days to be listed by name. It was fun to note we have only one “expensive” restaurant–Biba’s, but even better was the budget dining section. I don’t know if I agree with the selection of spots–I think they might have been hip and cheap 10 years ago, but here they are, as recommended by former Sacramento resident and Frommer’s writer, Matthew Richard Poole, with my reaction in italics afterward:

Best Burger: Willie’s Burgers on 16th Street I haven’t been to Willie’s in awhile, but I wonder why The Squeeze Inn was listed for best burger? Maybe they’re charging more after their foray into fame with the Food Network? Or perhaps the author didn’t go further than Midtown for budget dining…

Best Coffee: Java City at Capitol and 18th Street Hmm, I haven’t really been a big fan of the Java City on 18th–are they still there? I think they got swamped by all the construction in that area in the last 5 years. I’m saddened that The Naked Lounge wasn’t listed–maybe Java City is cheaper and better, but I don’t have reason to believe it.

Best Mexican: Taco Loco Taqueria at 24th and J Street I’ve walked by Taco Loco on occasion and maybe I’ll try it. I can tell you that I know why Vallejo’s isn’t and shouldn’t be listed as a “best”. But that’s for another post.

Best Breakfast: Cornerstone Restaurant at 24th and J Street I just want to know if Matthew Richard Poole ever worked for the Sacramento News and Review. They seem to love the Cornerstone with a passion not unlike Paula Deen’s passion for butter.

Best Brewery: Rubicon Brewing Company at 20th and Capitol Oooh, pretty lights at the Rubicon. But other than that, I don’t drink (even if my posts ramble as though I do), so I haven’t had the occasion to sample their brew-bicon.

I did enjoy paging through the Sac section of the guidebook, but isn’t there anything outside of downtown/midtown worth visiting? Or do we just look like any other California city once you get past the grid? What’s your best budget dining spot? Surely there’s something outside the grid worth hopping on the light rail or biking towards?

UPDATE: I did overlook a mention of Funderland, The Sacramento Zoo, and Fairytale Town, as well as a quick blurb about where to rent a river raft (in Rancho Cordova), so I guess we did briefly saunter outside the grid and into the “suburban sprawl” as Poole terms everything outside of said grid.

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