Allen Pierleoni

Be patient – Carmichael’s Milagro Centre is on the verge

Pork-radish-cilantro tacos are part of the soft-opening menu at Mesa Mercado, in the Milagro Centre in Carmichael.
Pork-radish-cilantro tacos are part of the soft-opening menu at Mesa Mercado, in the Milagro Centre in Carmichael. apierleoni@sacbee.com

For the past two years, anxious foodies have been asking the question: When is the Milagro Centre going to open?

Milagro is the upscale, 46,000-square-foot soon-to-be destination that will offer a variety of restaurants (two are now serving), a 7,000-square-foot events center, and a giant patio (with Godzilla-size fireplace) for communal sipping and supping.

The 4-acre center was modeled after the concept that has brought such great success to the Oxbow Public Market in Napa, and the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco. That is: a single food-and-drink-centric space where multiple vendors offer choices, and where celebratory events draw people together for shared experiences. Sort of like what the Golden 1 Center will be like, but without the Kings.

Milagro’s entranceway is grand, with stone fountains, rows of palm trees lit up at night, and a clever logo artistically incorporating into its lettering a cluster of grapes, a wine bottle, a pizza, various cutlery and heat waves coming off a covered dish. The landscaping is inviting.

Milagro (the Spanish word for “miracle”) is the heartfelt project of real-estate developer Allan Davis, who tore down a tired strip mall to erect the classy plaza. It will be the “legacy” of his late wife, Nancy Emerson-Davis, who was his partner at the beginning of the dream.

“(Opening it) is ongoing and I’m still dealing with it, but there has been a lot of progress,” Davis said on the phone Monday. We stopped by a few times and made some phone calls. Here’s the latest what’s-what:

▪ After helping pioneer Sacramento’s craft beer movement beginning in 1993, River City Brewing Co. moved from the razed Downtown Plaza to open in Milagro about three months ago. Two house brews are on tap now (made off site at New Helvetia brewery), along with 14 brews from other area breweries.

“We’re hoping to start our own production here in the next five to six weeks,” said manager Carol Jensen, with an initial offering of at least eight house brews and numerous “guest brews.”

The menu show a lot of pub grub (flatbread pizzas, bratwurst, fish ’n’ chips) and more formal dishes (garlic-asiago crusted chicken, grilled salmon). Reuben egg rolls from the “Appetizers” list are basically a Reuben sandwich (corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese) chopped up and stuffed into egg roll skins and deep-fried ($8). The grainy “pub mustard” was the perfect match.

▪  Conjoining the brewpub to the next-door Mesa Mercado restaurant will be an open farm-to-fork market, charcuterie and juice bar, possibly opening in October. Veteran restaurateurs Ernesto Delgado (Tequila Museo Mayahuel) and Chris Jarosz (Saddle Rock, Broderick Roadhouse) are partners in the venture.

The motto of Delgado’s artfully decorated 2-week-old Mesa Mercado is “Market to Table Mexican food.” Its current dinner menu is limited, but the Sept. 1 grand opening will bring changes.

“The focus now is getting dinner up and running, with more of a complete menu,” Delgado said. “Lunch and a taco bar will follow a week or two (after the grand opening), then the retail market and then the patio, in that order.”

The retail market will be on the opposite end of the restaurant space from the farm-to-fork market next to the brewpub, and will specialize in “Mexican artifacts, products and wood-based kitchen tools,” Delgado said. “I see it as a mini Williams-Sonoma, focused on the education and creation of Mexican food.”

We sampled al pastor soft tacos (pork chunks, grilled pineapple, radish and cilantro, with excellent salsa), chicken enchiladas with creamy red sauce, and tender chicken breasts smothered in dark, rich mole sauce. In a word: outstanding.

▪  Meanwhile, Jarosz continues work on his 5,000-square-foot Patriot restaurant, which is “about 60 days (from completion),” he said optimistically. “We’ve had a hard time with planning and permitting, which put us behind the eight ball.”

Jarosz also leases the Milago Experience events center. “We have a lot of bookings coming up – parties for the holiday season, wedding receptions – but we don’t have any big chefs events on the schedule yet. This fall is when you’ll see Milagro come together.”

▪ Ghiotto Gelato will sell its organic, seasonally flavored cold treats beginning Sept. 1. “All of our gelato will be made daily from fresh ingredients sourced as locally as possible,” said owner Ovil Nasui. Also, customers can sip European wines (and two from the Napa Valley), imported beer and a line of “adult gelatos” infused with wine and beer.

▪  Melissa Jayne Archuleta will bring Jaynee Cakes to the scene, with custom cakes and “boundary-pushing, edible sugar art,” along with cake by the slice, cupcakes, cake pops, brownies and pastries

“Our goal is to open in October – fingers crossed – but we’ll see what comes about,” Archulea said. Her work space will be “out in the open, so customers will be able to watch me create my cakes,” she said.

▪ Insight Coffee Co. will have a store “sometime this fall, we don’t have a date,” said a spokeswoman.

▪ Billy Ngo, owner/chef of Kru and Fish Face Poke Bar, recently broke ground for a poke restaurant that he expects to be up and running “sometime in October.”

▪ We did reach Linda Melody, executive director of the Carmichael Chamber of Commerce, which will relocate to Milagro after Labor Day. As part of it, she and Milagro troubleshooter Lani Gannon will host a concierge desk, fielding questions about Milagro and Carmichael. They’ll also help organize special events, such as the inaugural Octoberfest on Oct. 22.

“The exciting thing (about Milagro opening) is having new and a little bit higher-end restaurants come (to Carmichael),” she said. “ We expect it to be the hub of (our city), with people coming from all over to enjoy the experience.”

Milagro is at 6241 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael. Information: 916-359-2800, milagrocentre.com.

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe

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