Appetizers

Dishing the news about the Sacramento area food scene

First Impressions: Goldfield Trading Post

08/19/2014 4:21 PM

08/19/2014 4:22 PM

First Impressions visits dining spots in the region that are new or have undergone recent transitions. Have a candidate for First Impressions? Email us at taste@sacbee.com .

Sacramento’s certainly become more cosmopolitan over the past decade, given its welcoming of $12 artisanal grilled cheese sandwiches and impeccably prepared craft cocktails. But make no mistake, y’all: Sacramento’s always been a country kind of town.

The biggest stars in country music can always count on a show in Sacramento, whether it’s Taylor Swift or Tim McGraw. (By comparison, folks had to travel to San Francisco to see Jay-Z and Beyoncé in concert). Much of the country action has taken place in the ‘burbs, through such defunct clubs as In Cahoots and Denim ’n’ Diamonds.

But that country flavor has slowly started to migrate toward the central city, including Stoney Rockin Rodeo on Del Paso Boulevard and the now-shuttered Bulls Restaurant & Bar near 13th and H streets.

Goldfield Trading Post opened Thursday as the new country music club and eatery on the block – make that near the corner of 17th and J streets in midtown. This spot was formerly home to Hamburger Patties, and from the 1950s until 1993 was a beloved Sam’s Hof Brau with its meat-centric menu and smokin’ live blues music.

Goldfield aims to find the sweet spot between a downhome saloon and crafty spot to sip small-batch bourbon or a “Battle of the Alamo” cocktail with mezcal and ancho chili liqueur. The Goldfield business partnership includes Bret Bair and Eric Rushing from the Ace of Spades and Assembly music clubs, and Tyler Williams of Tank House, the bustling barbecue eatery about two blocks away from Goldfield at 19th and J streets.

Here’s what to expect if you’re planning to boot scoot over to Goldfield:

Menu: Despite its affiliation with Tank House, you won’t find any barbecue here. The menu focuses on Western-theme items with a city slicker approach to ingredients and presentation. The selection of Vittles,” or small plates, includes blistered shishito peppers, cowboy poutine with slow roasted pork and cornmeal fried pickles.

The line-up of burgers and “sammichs” includes a French dip-style “cowpoke steak sandwich,” a veggie burger and Tank House BBQ Burger that’s loaded with fried onion rings and a housemade sauce. Dinner options stick to country classics, such as meatloaf, porterhouse steak and rib eye steak cooked in a cast iron skillet – you know, like maw maw used to make.

A section of the menu is also dedicated to soups and salads, for those craving less-gut-busting fare.

Price point: On the whole, the cost is pricier than some roadhouse joint, though Goldfield’s fried chicken ($15) is about $8 cheaper than what you’ll find around the block at The Porch. The bulk of Goldfield’s dinner plates range from $15 to $18, save for the $22 rib eye steak.

Burgers and “sammichs” start at $9 for both the “grown-folk grilled cheese” and roasted chicken sandwich, and top out at $14 for the “Tank House BBQ Burger” or “Cowpoke Steak Sandwich.” Small plates run between $4 and $10, and salads are priced from $9 to $12.

Ambiance: Creating a well-worn, downhome look from scratch can be tricky, but Goldfield presents an old-timey character that doesn’t feel overly touristy. Rushing and Whitney Johnson, a maven of local restaurant interior design, helped create the look and feel of Goldfield that plays on Western themes and Sacramento’s own history.

Goldfield is divided into three rooms, with a center space for live music, country karaoke and line dancing. Take a seat, and you’ll hear tunes like “Good Hearted Woman” by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson being pumped through the sound system.

There’s a taste for taxidermy with stuffed buffalo and deer heads on the walls, and a large cow skull over the entrance leading to the bathrooms. The decor also features reproduced ads from days gone by of Sacramento drinking establishments, including the Lager Beer Saloon, which opened in the late 1800s near Sixth and J streets. The overall vintage and rustic feel is something like Shady Lady or Tank House but with more pronounced Western-isms.

Drinks: No proper country music establishment serves only beer and wine, and you’ll certainly find a full bar here. Goldfield is well stocked with whiskey and bourbon, and many other spirits. House cocktails include the Bootstrap, with scotch, Cynar and Art in the Age Root liqueur. For those who don’t drink alcohol, folks can listen to country tunes and cry in their bottle of River City Root Beer and other sodas.

Service: We dropped by during the tail end of lunch hour and took a seat at the bar, where a few folks were polishing off their food with tequila shots. The bartenders were all friendly and tended to say things like, “You doing all right there, brotha?” when checking on customers. Table service is also available.

First impressions: A promising return to this building’s roots as an eatery with a live-music program. Will it turn into Sacramento’s version of the Double Deuce from “Roadhouse”?

Try it if: You want to sip on some rye before learning new line dance moves, or showing off your best Merle Haggard during live band karaoke.

Forget it if: You’re not down with country music, or you’re still hung up that this spot isn’t a Sam’s Hof Brau anymore.

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