When it opened in 1994, and for several years after that, Centro Cocina Mexicana was one of the coolest, most interesting and delicious restaurants in midtown.

After years of modest growth, Hot City Pizza has blown up in the past 24 months, becoming a beloved hole-in-the-wall destination for good pizza and amazing beer.

When Nagato Sukiyaki opened for business on Dec. 23, 1970, it was a true mom-and-pop operation – plus two young boys, making the restaurant a home away from home.

Two of the three best steaks I’ve had in recent memory were at High Steaks, the upscale steakhouse inside the massive Thunder Valley Casino complex in Lincoln.

In the restaurant industry, the staff eats a meal together that’s often very different than what the guests enjoy.

There’s a reason Indian restaurants are so popular in the Western world. The spices, the sauces, the robust cooking and the beautiful complexity of flavors are at once exotic, mysterious, welcoming and accessible.

The Burger Saloon is a large, casual and family-friendly restaurant where the food is solid and the burgers – 19 of them on the menu – are mostly $6.99 to $7.99. Even “The Heartstopper” is only $13.99, and it features three full-sized patties, two fried eggs, three kinds of cheese, thick strips of bacon, and pastrami.

Here’s a restaurant concept that’s new to Sacramento and has the potential to catch on and flourish. It’s exotic enough to be intriguing, unusual enough to be engaging and, yes, specific enough to be divisive.

In the 13 months Capital Dime has been open, its defining characteristic has been change.

Preserve Public House in Winters is an intriguing mix of old soul, forward thinking and classic style.

Little Saigon is so replete with restaurants that it’s not uncommon to find three, four or even five eateries in a single strip mall, with each having a specific appeal and distinctive style.

About one in four restaurants go out of business within a year of opening. This happens for all kinds of reasons. The concept is wrong. The food or service is substandard. The location is bad. The inexperienced owners thought it would be a fun way to get rich and didn’t realize all the hard work involved.

The 33rd Street Bistro has been around since 1995, when it exploded onto the local restaurant scene and established itself as a neighborhood hot spot with some cool ideas, pleasant surroundings and food that won raves.

We arrived for an early dinner on a recent Saturday, and already Auburn’s Tre Pazzi Trattoria was hopping.

Peruvian cuisine turns an ordinary waffle house into something special in Sacramento’s restaurant scene.

Since it began rather modestly in 1991 as a once-a-week, performance-style, hang-out-with-the-chef, three-courses-for-$35 restaurant, The Kitchen has grown into a beloved, unique, essential and very expensive destination at the upper end of the local pecking order.

Since he opened his modest little eatery in 2002, William Rolle has emerged as the witty, absolutely lovable, very French and very successful proprietor of Cafe Rolle.

The Volcano of 2014 is, in the best of ways, in the middle of nowhere and, at the moment, is more into showcasing history than making it. But that shouldn't discourage you from making the hour-plus drive from Sacramento to a modest little restaurant there that just might be the apotheosis of 21st century California casual cuisine.

The chain eatery targets its audience and then delivers expected if uninspired food.

When it first became clear that Cafe Dantorels was catching on and that its business seemed to be surpassing its predecessor, Crepeville, I wondered why.

More and more, tapas are finding their way onto menus and into mouths throughout the United States. If they’re not specifically listed as such, they’re called small plates, bites or appetizers, with a focus on cuisine that goes well beyond the traditional offerings in Spain.

One of dozens of eateries in south Sacramento’s bustling Little Saigon district, Yang’s Noodles is brightly lit, slightly shabby and has an almost fast-food feel. A fake flower decorates the front-counter tip jar, which, on a recent visit, contained six or seven dimes. The tables and chairs are unremarkable and well-worn. A handwritten sign affixed to the wall says they have ice cream, but they don’t. There’s no wine or beer on the premises.

We could go round and round on the topic of tacos.

Last fall, when I heard Michael Thiemann was back in town and doing pop-up dinners months before he was to open his mysterious new restaurant, I was on it.

When Capital Dime opened last July, pushing the idea that it would serve high-caliber farm-to-fork fare at eye-popping prices, the concept got a lot of attention, and the name of this potentially high-profile eatery made a lot of sense.

It’s eye-catching, but is a sushi burrito actually worth eating?

Blackbird 2.0, six months removed from a mini scandal after it shut down suddenly and then broke the news to unsuspecting employees via email, has three new business partners, a new craft beer emphasis, a more tightly focused menu and a revamped floor plan that adds seating to the main level of this very attractive restaurant and bar.

For a place with a superb chef, a savvy and opinionated owner with a propensity for blogging, and a retail wine shop with an excellent inventory of hard-to-obtain bottles at easy-to-like prices, Carpe Vino does not generate nearly as much buzz as it should.

Aji may have some hits on the menu, but this is a big restaurant with big ambitions, and the food program doesn't seem to know when to say when.

Stepping inside Lou’s Sushi, this small but bustling neighborhood joint in midtown, it isn’t hard to understand what draws people here and turns them into fans. Humble, charismatic and talented, Lou Valente has committed the better part of his adult life to learning the craft of making sushi.

Colfax, this tiny town in the Sierra foothills with the quaint main street and rich Gold Rush history, may be one of the last places you would expect to find pizza made in the tradition of Naples, Italy.

The Sloughhouse Inn, nestled in the midst of a rural landscape rich in history and abundant in its agricultural bounty, is attempting a comeback.

Source opened for business in late 2010 with ambitions to showcase “global tapas,” meaning it wouldn’t be bound by a particular cuisine when it designed its menus and that its many small plates would, we assume, be eclectic and engaging.

It was hard to do this with a straight face. I got in line at a concession stand during a recent Sacramento Kings game, caught up in the moment, sure, and submitted myself as a willing participant in a scheme to extract inappropriate amounts of money from my person.

Michael Thiemann and company are within days of opening Mother, the vegetarian restaurant on K Street that already has whetted appetites and wowed devotees during a series of recent pop-up dinners.

Cielito Lindo, an aspiring upscale Mexican restaurant that opened in September, has a significant problem to overcome, partly because its menu and mostly deft cooking suggest elegance, while the building in which the magic happens is anything but.

I’m sitting at Orphan, a bustling east Sacramento breakfast and lunch eatery, looking down at a plate of perfectly cooked pumpkin pancakes. The morning light catches a wisp of steam billowing up from the table.

The concept at Seasons 52, this health-conscious, calorie-aware, casual fine-dining restaurant at the Arden Fair mall, boils down to a message you may not want to hear: We are a nation of gluttons, we cannot control our impulses, and we hate ourselves when we can’t fit into our skinny jeans.

It’s worth looking into the past to see what Sacramento was all about, like this restaurant, open since 1952.

With its hearty plates of Mexican comfort food, El Pueblo Meat Market and Taqueria/Deli in Winters strives to keep things simple and old-fashioned.

We show up for dinner early on a Sunday evening, knowing it’s the best chance to snag a table before the sun sets and the crowds come, as they surely will.

To assess Zocalo, the stylish, upscale and ever-popular Mexican restaurant in midtown, it’s worthwhile to put it in context.

When it comes to Indian cooking, fans of these exotic yet welcoming flavors often start by asking whether we are talking about southern or northern India. It’s a key question, for the ingredients, the seasonings, the overall approach can vary noticeably according to where you are on the map.

Three visits resulted in three varied experiences — from spot-on to inedible.

In the nearly seven years Ella Dining Room & Bar has graced our downtown dining scene with an exciting and original brand of urban elegance, the restaurant has had four chefs, three general managers and one very hands-on family.

It’s a simple question with a complicated answer: Why do people like chain restaurants?

If you could carve out a little dream for yourself, a romanticized life that revolved around beautiful food, a small town, an unhurried pace and simmering fanfare for the work you do, wouldn’t it be nice to have it look something like this?

It is tempting to be cynical when it comes to Hock Farm Craft & Provisions. The name, for one thing, came out of nowhere to be the coolest restaurant name ever.

Looking from the parking lot through an oversized window into the kitchen, I stopped to watch one very focused chef handling a heavy, smoking pan as I headed toward the front door.

If you show up at Kru on a Sunday or Monday, you're apt to rub elbows with some of the finest chefs in town. They come to pay respect to Buu "Billy" Ngo, the 32-year-old, Chinese-born chef-owner who just happens to be doing the most interesting and dynamic Japanese food around.

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