OK, guys, Father’s Day isn’t till June 19, but there’s nothing wrong with starting the party now. Your significant others may disagree, but that’s OK – gender differences can sleep in the guest room.
While Mother’s Day is all about brunch and fancified cocktails, Father’s Day trends toward more casual fare (sardines forked on saltines over the kitchen sink) and less expensive firewater (so many craft beers, so little time).
In the spirit of choosing homey over haute, we offer a baker’s dozen where Dad can dress down and get with a plate of grub without worrying about trivialities such as cutlery or table manners. Note: It’s always wise to call first for days and hours. We’ve alphabetized this recommended list.
Dominick’s Italian Market & Deli: 8621 Auburn-Folsom Road, Granite Bay; 916-786-3355, www.dominicksmarketdeli.com
Wrap your hands around the Goodfella, a hoagie roll stacked with ham, hot coppa, salami, provolone and hot cherry peppers. Or go for calzone, lasagna, Italian sausage with sautéed peppers and onions, arancini (meat-stuffed rice balls) or “Mom’s” gargantuan meatball covered in marinara sauce and melted mozzarella.
Limelight: 1014 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento; 916-446-2236, www.limelightsac.com
Food in the front of the house, a card room in the rear, with a bar in between – a guy’s dream-come-true. Spend time at the jukebox or perusing the vintage baseball-centric photos while waiting for tri-tip sliders, the Cuban Reuben (think pastrami), meat-loaded thin-crust pizza, and triple grilled cheese with bacon and avocado.
Loving Hut: 8355 Elk Grove Blvd., Elk Grove; 916-478-9590, http://lovinghut.us/elk_grove_01/
What if Dad prefers broccoli instead of beef, soy instead of salami? Of the vegan/vegetarian restaurants we’ve visited, we like this vegan destination best for its imaginative dishes, real cooking and outstanding presentations. Choices are many, including Lucky Lemongrass (fried tofu in lemongrass-chile sauce), Three Mushroom Delight (shiitake, straw and button ’shrooms with bok choy, snow peas and carrots), and HK Crispy Noodles (wheat noodles covered in fresh veggies).
Macau Cafe: 4406 Del Rio Road, Sacramento; 916-457-8818
The “Gone with the Wind”-size menu specializes in a fusion of Chinese, Malaysian and Portuguese dishes – shouting “authentic!” – including crispy roast duck, lobster and noodles, Thai-style fried vermicelli with chicken, sautéed lamb brisket and whole steamed flounder.
19 Handles: 4235 Arden Way, Sacramento; 916-487-4979, www.19handles.com
It may be a British-themed pub with shepherd’s pie and first-rate fish ’n’ chips (hand-battered, center-cut Alaskan cod), but owner Alice Bolednik also offers goulash, potato pancakes, chicken and pork schnitzels, stuffed pepper and apple strudel from family recipes she brought from Czechoslovakia. Oh, and there’s lots of beer.
Peace Cuisine: 829 Jefferson Blvd., West Sacramento, 916-375-1499
This archetypal hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant has what many others lack – an expert chef. Order from the menu – wokked Singapore vermicelli with pork and prawns, general’s chicken, salt-and-pepper tofu – or be smart and take the kitchen up on its offer to customize a menu for you. Give a day’s notice for the tender Chinese-style fried chicken, encased in dark, semi-brittle skin.
Pennisi’s Deli: 1237 J St., Sacramento; 916-448-5610, facebook.com/pennisisdeli
It’s the destination for the muffuletta sandwich, conceived in 1906 in New Orleans. Salami, mortadella, Danish ham and provolone cheese are stacked on a Dutch crunch roll and heaped with muffuletta spread. That’s a piquant mix of chopped olives, peppers, cauliflower, carrot, celery, mushroom, artichoke, onion and garlic in olive oil.
Poor Red’s Bar-B-Q: 6221 Pleasant Valley Road, El Dorado, 530-622-2901, www.poorreds.com
The iconic roadhouse in a tiny Gold Rush town found new ownership, underwent a makeover, and reopened to out-the-door crowds. Drop in for the history, the Golden Cadillac cocktail, pork ribs and the hand-cut 16-ounce bone-in rib eye grilled over oak and mesquite.
Sol Cubano: 5734 Watt Ave., Sacramento; 916-332-2883
Versions of the classic grill-pressed Cuban sandwich continue to show up on mainstream menus, but the closest we’ve found to the real thing is at this tiny family-owned eatery. Remember, the real Cuban is assembled from citrus-marinated and slow-roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickle chips, layered on Cuban bread (Sol Cubano continues to work on that) smeared with ballpark mustard.
Sticky Gator: 2322 K St., Sacramento; 916-382-9178, www.stickygatorbbq.com
Soul food and ’cue crowd the menu – sliced tri-tip, pulled pork, pork ribs, cornmeal-crusted fried catfish, buttermilk-soaked fried chicken, alligator and crawfish gumbo, collard greens, and four-star cornbread stuffing. A pitcher of sweet tea is your new best friend.
Tank House BBQ: 1925 J St., Sacramento; 916-431-7199, www.tankhousebbq.com
The place to be is on the patio near the smoker, where succulent meats cook over oak and cherrywood coals. The house-made sauces only improve the baby back ribs, juicy brisket and pulled pork, chicken, turkey and hot links. The habanero-spiked sweet sauce is brought out from behind the bar “only by request.”
Tori’s Place: 1525 Grand Ave., Del Paso Heights, Sacramento; 916-646-6038
It may look like a shack painted vivid violet, but the sign out front says it: “Home cooking.” The tiny soul-food kitchen turns out spicy gumbo, fried chicken and catfish, black-eyed peas and pinto beans, collard greens, and crisp-soft cornbread. Outside seating only.
Yianni’s Bar & Grill: 6628 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael; 916-482-0796, www.facebook.com/Yiannis-Bar-Grill
Yes, it’s Greek but the Thursday-night specials will surprise you, from extra-thick veal chops to lobster thermidor. A whole lamb goes on a charcoal-fueled rotisserie grill in the parking lot every other Friday (the next cookout is June 17). The main draw (other than the 18-stool bar) is the marinated and grilled lamb chops.
Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe