Food & Drink

Feast Q&A: 10 years of Dine Downtown event in Sacramento

Hook & Ladder, led by chef Brian Mizner, left, is one of several Sacramento restaurants participating in Sacramento’s Dine Downtown Restaurant Week beginning Thursday
Hook & Ladder, led by chef Brian Mizner, left, is one of several Sacramento restaurants participating in Sacramento’s Dine Downtown Restaurant Week beginning Thursday

Ten days, 26 restaurants, three courses for $31. The numbers add up to the 10th annual Dine Downtown Restaurant Week, a bargain-priced opportunity for foodies and newbies to revisit old favorites and discover new ones.

From Thursday through Jan. 24, participating dining houses will serve special prix-fixe menus in addition to their standard lunch and dinner fare. How about pork cheeks and balsamic-glazed salmon at the Firehouse? Or roasted carrot linguine and maple-brined pork chop at Hook & Ladder? For a complete list of participating restaurants and their offerings, go to

The cooperative marketing campaign is sponsored by Downtown Sacramento Partnership, under the umbrella of California Restaurant Month. That’s the statewide campaign organized in 2011 by Visit California, the state tourism board. DSP’s charity partner, the Food Literacy Center, which helps children make healthful eating choices, gets a donation for each meal sold.

As we made our own list of downtown restaurants we plan to visit, we caught up with Lisa Martinez, director of marketing for the downtown partnership.

Q: What’s the point of Dine Downtown Restaurant Week?

A: It’s the gateway to Sacramento’s foodie scene and a great way for restaurants to get in front of a bunch of hungry Sacramentans. Being the farm-to-fork capital of America, food is essential to our cultural identity and brings us together.

January is a slow time for the restaurant market, so our restaurants see this as a great boost to the start of their year. It continues to bring new customers to downtown from (outlying areas). And if you treat yourself to Dine Downtown, you’re helping the Food Literacy Center help kids build a healthy lifestyle and make good decisions in the long term.

Q: How was it conceived?

A: The concept came about in 2005, when we started to see immense growth in downtown restaurants, and when people started recognizing downtown as a dining destination. It was first modeled after the Restaurant Weeks in other cities. Our urban core continues to be the place for iconic restaurants, and our farm-to-fork (template) is seated there.

Q: What was the inaugural event like?

A: It was difficult the first year, we had only 15 restaurants. But later (the restaurant community) realized it worked for them to work together, and it allows them to come up with creative menus.

Q: How popular is it now?

A: In January 2014, almost 14,000 people ordered off the Dine Downtown menus.

Q: Which restaurants get the most traffic?

A: I’m not able to share that, but people see this as a chance to (get a good deal) at their favorite restaurants or new (to them) restaurants. You don’t think of Ella as a place to get a three-course meal for $31. It gives restaurants that are new to the game an opportunity to launch a much wider net. … Iconic restaurants like Frank Fat’s and Esquire Grill (have) a chance to remind folks (they’re still there).

Q: Shouldn’t every town and city be doing this?

A: The program is very replicable, so you can take the concept and turn it into something that works for your market.

Q: What are your own go-to’s?

A: I’m a hard-core foodie, always posting photos of what I’m eating. I love all 26 of these restaurants for my own reasons. If I can get to all of them in 10 days, I will.

Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe.

Lisa Martinez

Director of marketing for Downtown Sacramento Partnership

Dine Downtown Restaurant Week is expected to draw record numbers.

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