Counter culture: Keep your cool at this al fresco trio

08/27/2014 5:00 PM

08/27/2014 11:46 AM

Even though summer’s winding down, and there’s a faint trace of fall in the air, Sacramento may still be a bit warm for comfortable al fresco daytime dining, especially at sidewalk cafes facing heavily trafficked streets.

If you prefer a bit of a chill (or less carbon monoxide) with your lunch or brunch, you’re going to need to find cooler climes, as you will on the deck or a patio of this trio of restaurants. Yes, they all have heat lamps.

MoMo’s in San Francisco is the go-to before or after a San Francisco Giants baseball game. Not only is it a cool place (literally for patio dining, figuratively for the South of Market vibe), it’s directly across the street from AT&T Park.

On game days, we’ve paid a small fortune for parking and have had to squeeze through crowds at MoMo’s for late lunches, but the Gruyère-Black Forest ham mac ’n’ cheese ($12), Dungeness crab cakes with caper remoulade ($25) and three-cheese pepperoni pizza ($15) were worth the hassle.

We did a change-up when one recent Sunday we stopped by MoMo’s for brunch. The surrounding streets were empty, metered parking was free, and the restaurant patio was nearly deserted. Was this really the same place, or was it a set for a sci-fi movie about the last people on Earth?

We split a near-perfect version of eggs Benedict – not-too-runny poached eggs and thick Canadian bacon on top of tender cheddar biscuits covered in well-balanced Hollandaise sauce, with crispy-creamy potatoes and a side of fruit ($16).

A pot pie – when you can find one on a menu – can be sublime or mundane. MoMo’s hit a homer with its ramekin of turkey pot pie, a “stew” of two-day-brined, house-roasted and cubed turkey breast and al dente celery, carrot, potato, fava beans and peas. The ingredients swam in a superb cream sauce topped with a round of crispy phyllo dough as big as a catcher’s mitt ($16).

The sauce was so good I later phoned executive sous chef Earl Arredondo to ask about it. “It’s chicken stock enriched with a roux (involving) cream and butter, and herbs – sage, rosemary, thyme and parsley,” he said.

Other best bets: Gumbo, orecchiette (“small ears”) pasta with Italian sausage, Thai chicken.

Where: 760 Second St., San Francisco; (415) 227-8660, www.sfmomos.com.

Mellow in Tahoe City

Deck dining is the big draw around Lake Tahoe’s 72 miles of shoreline, but as soon as the weather turns cold, the decks will close until next summer.

We pulled up chairs at Jake’s on the Lake in Tahoe City, a relatively mellow scene with a medium-size two-tier patio overlooking the Tahoe City marina, featuring great views (are there any other kind?) of the lake.

We shared two sandwiches – crispy, fresh-tasting sea bass on toasted focaccia, smeared with macadamia nut pesto and Sriracha aioli and topped with alfalfa spouts (which seemed retro and out of place), with a side of coleslaw ($18); and a hefty cheeseburger with fries ($14).

Other best bets: Braised beef short ribs, grilled lemongrass shrimp, apple-walnut salad.

Where: Boatworks Mall, 780 N. Lake Blvd., Tahoe City; (530) 583-0188, www.jakestahoe.com.

Bistro cool in Carmel

The Village Corner Bistro in Carmel, around for 60 years, was a locals haunt long before the tourists “discovered” it. We sat in the courtyard next to the fire pit, relished the misty fog and watched a few super-cars slowly rumble past. Their owners were in town for the Concours d’Elegance spectacle of world-class automobiles at Pebble Beach golf course. Later in the day, the buzz was all about the 1962/1963 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta that had been auctioned for a record-setting $38,115,000. Did that come with fries?

The bistro’s menu items are many, the food is consistent, the portions are substantial. It still serves the legendary Joe’s Special ($11), a scramble of eggs, ground beef, onions, mushrooms, spinach and tomato that originated in the 1920s at New Joe’s on Broadway in San Francisco. That’s the food-lore story, anyway. Regardless, when we see a Joe’s Special, we jump on it.

We also went for a Belgian waffle topped with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries ($10.25) with a side of crunchy applewood-smoked bacon ($5), and a tender-crispy calamari steak with three eggs, toast and melon ($13.50).

Other best bets: Mediterranean omelet, mozzarella-portobello mushroom sandwich, crab ravioli.

Where: Dolores and Sixth, Carmel; (831) 624-3588, www.villagecornerbistro.com.

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