Can there be too many Thai restaurants? Well, yes. Redundancy is an issue, for instance (didn’t we see these same curries at those other Thai restaurants?), as are the places that seem to link their menu pricing to the number of artworks in the dining room.
If you’ll settle for comfy over fancy, this straightforward pair offer good eats at reasonable costs.
Part of the appeal of the 7-month-old JP Thai Kitchen is the retro decor, a break from all the metal, concrete and stone surfaces that make so many newer restaurants deafening (“Huh?”).
At our table of lunch pals was a serious foodie with definite opinions. Tina Macuha’s duties at CW31’s “Good Day, Sacramento” include her regular segment “Dishin’ With Tina.” In the videos, she visits restaurants suggested by her viewers and interviews the owner-chefs and customers on site.
Past segments have included some of this column’s favorites, including 36 Handles in El Dorado Hills, Station 16 in midtown and Giovanni’s Old World New York Pizzeria in East Sacramento. Two of Tina’s personal go-to’s in Sacramento are Nagato on Marconi Avenue and Magpie Cafe on 16th Street. In Auburn, she likes Eric’s Home Plate.
We were discussing dining destinations when dishes of steaming fare began to arrive, prepared from family recipes by husband-wife owners Jai Saechao and Premika Phiphatteanchai. The food was homespun, yet delivered a well-balanced spectrum of flavors and textures.
We especially liked Panang red curry with crispy-creamy tofu; fresh ginger sautéed in ginger sauce with shrimp, mushrooms, onion and scallion; and sautéed eggplant with beef in a melange of chili, red curry paste, basil and coconut milk.
JP Thai Kitchen, 6004 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento, 916-391-8996, www.jpthaikitchen.com
On the subject of down-home Thai cooking, Thai Hut is a destination. There, husband-wife owners Ten and Tuck Siri can always be found in their tiny kitchen, turning out big dishes.
Among our must-order dishes: chicken-filled steamed pot stickers with ginger sauce; rice paper-wrapped shrimp spring rolls with peanut and plum sauces; oven-roasted pork spareribs marinated in lemongrass, curry, honey and coconut milk; and crisp-skin “barbecued” chicken.
Thai Hut, 5800 Madison Ave., Sacramento, (916) 348-1880, www.thaihut.org.
Some best of the wurst
Sometimes, you just don’t feel like a trumpet mushroom-stuffed roast leg of veal with jus. Instead, nothing will do but a good ol’ hot dog on a soft bun. Since Capitol Dawg closed its midtown store in 2012, taking away its menu of 30 choices, we’ve found two reliable replacements:
If the 14 specialty dogs at Ruffhaus Hot Dog. Co. aren’t diverse enough, try adding some of the 40 other toppings. Our faves are the Wolfsburg Edition (beer-steamed bratwurst with sauerkraut and German mustard); the Chicago (all-beef frank with tomato, onion, pickle spear, sport peppers, mustard, Chicago neon relish and celery salt on a poppy seed bun); and the Montecrisdog (battered frank with applewood smoked bacon, Monterey jack and blackberry jam). Of course, the house-battered corn dog is always a star, the State Fair notwithstanding.
The best dish is the three-sausage sampler board. Choose a trio of grilled, sliced wurst and dip the pieces into port wine-infused mustard, German mustard or habanero pepper-infused mayo. Add a basket of house-made potato chips.
Ruffhaus Hot Dog Co., 4355 Town Center Blvd., El Dorado Hills, 916-941-3647, www.ruffhaushotdogco.com
Two of the draws at the Wienery are its steamed Caspers-brand hot dogs and its homemade soups. Caspers foot-long frankfurters have been around since 1934 and are made “from a street vendor’s recipe.” The hickory-smoked dog has a characteristic “pop” when you bite into it, from the casing. The Wienery dresses ’em up in imaginative ways, including one in bacon. Don’t forget the root beer in a frozen mug.
The second attraction is the homemade soups that rotate by the day of the week (split pea with ham Thursday and beef barley Saturday are especially popular), though the luscious navy bean is a daily staple, for good reason.
The Wienery, 715 56th St., Sacramento; 916-455-0497, www.thewienerysacramento.com (closed Sundays)