More than two decades after the original Saddle Rock closed its doors, a new iteration of Sacramento’s first restaurant will open to the public Wednesday.
Saddle Rock, located at 1801 L St., bears the name of the original Old Sacramento establishment that shuttered in 1995 after nearly 150 years in business. Chris Jarosz, the local restaurateur behind version 2.0, describes it as “a cool, hip spot to hang out, but backed up with really fantastic food.”
Jarosz initially planned to open Saddle Rock in mid-June, but construction, hiring and other issues pushed the timeline back, he said. Under a soft launch, the restaurant will begin offering dinner service Wednesday and gradually expand to include brunch and lunch in the following weeks.
“Saddle Rock to me is more than just a restaurant or another business,” Jarosz said. “It’s a real slice of Sacramento’s history and California’s history. We just want to make sure that we’re doing it right at the end of the day. We want to make this a place where people can go and come back and celebrate what Sacramento is all about.”
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Preparations included teaching the staff history lessons about the original outpost, which he hopes they then pass on to guests. The staff is led by general manager Michael Williams and chef Matt Masera, formerly of Mother and Empress Tavern. Jarosz had lined up Kevin O’Connor, who previously worked at Blackbird, to take the reins in the kitchen, but O’Connor walked away from the project in the spring.
The restaurant features a second-story dining room overlooking a swanky bar and lounge on the ground floor. The space seats more than 100 people and includes two patios for al fresco dining. The menu plays off the old and the new, with dishes like pickled eggs with black-eyed peas and rye toast, or cioppino with crayfish, sturgeon, catfish and oysters.
The original Saddle Rock advertised a separate “ladies” dining room in 1910, according to archives found in the Sacramento Room Digital Collections. It was called the Saddle Rock Restaurant and Oyster House back then and located at 1019 Second Street.
Saddle Rock returns as the latest edition to the city’s booming farm-to-fork dining movement. Jarosz has helped grow Sacramento’s culinary reputation as the proprietor of Localis and the Broderick restaurants in West Sacramento and midtown. He is slated to open another new project, a 5,000-square-foot restaurant called The Patriot, in two months at Milagro Centre in Carmichael.