Nosh Pit with Chris Macias

Chris Macias chops it up about local food and drink issues

The Nosh Pit: What’s missing from Sacramento’s food scene?

04/27/2014 12:00 AM

04/24/2014 1:41 PM

Welcome to Sacramento, a town saturated with sushi spots, tacos and enough craft beer to seemingly fill Folsom Lake. Sacramento isn’t just the self-proclaimed City of Trees, but a town that teems with food options.

And much of that food is truly tasty. Sacramento’s diverse population lends itself to a wide variety of eateries, not to mention that abundance of agricultural products that makes our city’s moniker as “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital” a legit claim, not just a civic branding campaign. But for all the succulent seasonal ingredients and top-notch pho spots, Sacramento still has a few holes to fill in its culinary scene.

Here’s what we’d still like to see in Sacramento:

More actual bakeries,

not just dessert boutiques

Sacramento’s seen no shortage of cupcake shops and other spots to satiate the sweet tooth. But beyond the cronuts and mini pies, what Sacramento needs are more independently owned spots that specialize in the most basic of food: bread.

Grateful Bread on Fair Oaks Boulevard and such central city spots as New Roma and The Bread Store have your fresh bread covered, but there’s plenty of room in the local market for independent bakeries with an eye for craft – not just another Panera or Boudin Bakery at the local strip mall. We’re thinking of the Sacramento equivalent of Davis’ Village Bakery, which produces some of the area’s finest breads and arguably the best hamburger bun in the region.

Cupcakes are so 2008 as it is. Pass the buttery loaf of brioche, or a timelessly tasty sourdough round fresh from the oven.

Sacramento’s equivalent

of The Chairman Truck

Local mobile aficionados know that a zen-like amount of patience is required if The Chairman Truck is pulling into town. Formerly known as Chairman Bao, this San Francisco-based food truck produces some prized Chinese buns stuffed with pork belly, miso-cured tofu and other hearty fillings. Just be prepared to wait up to an hour in an epic line to place an order.

Sacramentans sure love their baos, and many restaurants and bakeries have fresh ones – either baked or steamed – on stand-by. But how cool would it be if such local bao hot spots as ABC Bakery or Lam Kwong Market launched a food truck that specialized in pork buns and Chinese pastries?

Either way, some local entrepreneur would likely do well with some great bao recipes and a solid business plan. Sauced-up pork belly or tofu that’s sandwiched between a pillowy bun is a no-brainer. Let’s get more of them on the road.

More Mexican barbacoa

Sacramento’s seen a renewed interest in barbecue joints, via the recent openings of Tank House and Fahrenheit 250, not to mention the increasing presence of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchises around the region. Pork ribs and brisket are certainly all good, but a south-of-the-border influence would be a welcome addition to the slow-cooked scene.

Barbacoa is Mexico’s contribution to the world of barbecue, be it cochinita pibil (pork) wrapped in banana leaves, lamb, or in the tradition of northern Mexico, slow cooked chivo (goat). And if any cringe-worthy images of petting zoos come to mind, the impeccably tender and flavorful chivo barbacoa at Chicago’s Topolobampo will be your game changer.

Closer to home, Chando’s Tacos recently added cochinita pibil to its menu, and Lalo’s Restaurant of south Sacramento sells impeccable barbacoa by the pound on weekends. Instead of yet another taqueria, we’d love to see a barbacoa spot with Mexican craft cocktails and beers. Think of it as Tank House, but with tequila instead of bourbon.

Bring on the Jewish delis

The recent closure of Sam’s Kosher Style Restaurant and Deli made one style of eatery even more rarified in Sacramento: the Jewish deli. Apart from Bubbie’s Love Deli & Catering on Sunrise Boulevard, good luck finding a local spot with holishkes and matzo ball soup to go.

Sacramento’s food culture has a huge hole without more eateries like Bubbie’s Love or a local equivalent of Canter’s Deli, the Los Angeles deli that’s among the best in the country for lox, borscht and sandwiches piled with pastrami. Sacramento’s Jewish Food Faire draws up to 1,000 folks annually, but sources some of its key foods from Canter’s Deli and other purveyors outside the area.

It’s clearly time to serve up more brisket and cheese blintzes.

About This Blog

Chris Macias has served as The Sacramento Bee's food and wine writer since 2008. His writing adventures have ranged from the kitchen at French Laundry to helping pick 10 tons of zinfandel grapes with migrant farmworkers in Lodi. Chris judges regularly at food, wine and cocktail competitions around Northern California. Reach him at or 916-321-1253. Twitter: @chris_macias.


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