Appetizers

First Impressions: Federalist Public House & Beer Garden

Margherita pizza and River City Root Beer are part of the menu at Federalist Public House & Beer Garden.
Margherita pizza and River City Root Beer are part of the menu at Federalist Public House & Beer Garden. cmacias@sacbee.com

First Impressions visits dining spots in the region that are new or have undergone recent transitions. Have a candidate for First Impressions? Email us at taste@sacbee.com.

The opening of Federalist Public House & Beer Garden was slated originally for the spring of 2014, just as Sacramento’s outdoor dining weather kicked into full swing. Federalist uses seven cargo containers to form its edifice, a novel bit of design also seen at midtown’s Der Biergarten, for a quasi-outdoor dining space and beer hall.

But after a series of delays, Federalist debuted in early December, just as the ballyhooed “Hellastorm” was about to drench Sacramento. The storm was a quick test of how well Federalist could brave the elements, and this pizza spot and beer hall not only stayed open for business but has continued to draw bustling crowds.

They’re coming to an alley on 20th Street near N Street for a beer program that highlights local brews, and a pizza program overseen by Shannon McElroy, former sous chef at Masullo’s. Proprietors Marvin and Bridgette Maldonado live next to the property, with Federalist essentially serving as their backyard.

Here’s what you can expect thus far at Federalist:

Menu: To quote Ben McLemore in the oft-played commercial during Sacramento Kings games, “Are you a pizza guy?” Hope so, because pizza represents the bulk of Federalist’s menu. A wood-fired pizza oven at the back of Federalist serves as the heart of its food program, with seven pies to choose from. Options include a traditional margherita pizza, the “Capitol” with cremini mushrooms and smoked pancetta and the “Southside,” which is kind of like Mexican breakfast on a pizza with chorizo and potato as toppings.

The menu is expected to expand to 10 pizzas and include sandwiches and a line of shawarmas.

A small prep kitchen also assembles a line of salads, including kale with sautéed apple, and arugula topped with prosciutto and red onion. The mixed greens salad comes with goat cheese and dried cranberries.

If you want dessert or something else to nosh besides pizza and salad, for now you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Price point: The food costs for Federalist are about on par with those at Sacramento’s leading artisanal pizza spots, i.e. the ones really serious about the nuances of dough recipes and a perfectly charred crust. A basic cheese pizza at Federalist costs $9, and prices top out at $17 for “The Governor,” which features tri-tip, sautéed peppers and potatoes. The margherita costs $12, and it’s $15 for the “Southside.”

Pizzas can be embellished with extra toppings for $2 or $3, including egg, Italian sausage and arugula.

Salads cost $9 for the kale or arugula, and $10 for the mixed greens.

Ambiance: An urban eyesore has been transformed into a welcoming spot with thoughtful design elements. Once a vacant lot, the space feels at once clean and sharp yet rustic, with its mix of metal and wood materials. Long community tables run through the space for eating and drinking, along with countertops for those who need to eat on their feet. Despite the shipping containers as a core part of the construction, nobody’s going to feel like a stowaway. The space invites a feeling of community and conviviality.

Drinks: Local beer is the focus here, with offerings from Track 7, Ruhstaller and Bike Dog all on tap. A few other California-centric selections are also available, including beers from Sierra Nevada and Firestone Walker.

The wine offerings also reflect a local spirit. The albariño and pinot noir are bottled by Carrier of Sacramento, which sources its grapes from the Central Coast.

For those craving non-alcoholic beverages, Federalist carries Sacramento’s Silk Road sodas and other brands that use cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup in their soda recipes.

Service: Order at the front counter and look for a seat. Food runners deliver the orders. In the future, diners can use the Leapset app to order additional food and drink from their seats.

First impressions: A welcome addition to the midtown grid and worth the wait. The emphasis on seasonal products and local purveyors seems sincere, and the food program is off to a good start. But will it stay comfy during the day when triple-digit temperatures reach Sacramento this summer?

Try it if: You want to grab a pizza and some brews with the crew in a funky, beer-hall styled setting.

Forget it if: You yearn for more foods that require a knife and fork, or if you want a fully enclosed restaurant.

Call The Bee’s Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias.

Federalist Public House and Beer Garden

Where: 2009 N St., Sacramento

Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 11:30 a.m.-midnight; 10 a.m.to 10 p.m. Sundays

Information: (916) 661-6134; www.federalistpublichouse.com

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