The Patriot, the latest opening from prolific local restaurateur Chris Jarosz, adopts what some might find to be a rather pugnacious name for these politically divisive times.
But according to Jarosz – co-founder of Broderick Roadhouse, of which there are now four, and formerly of now-closed midtown restaurant Saddle Rock and much-lauded Localis – the new venture is meant to celebrate all of America’s regions.
A sandwich board out front, in a Revolutionary War broadside-style font, proclaims The Patriot “a true artisan restaurant, making our own sausage, bacon, and charcuterie, East Coast style pizza, a bakery, even bagels, New England seafood ... a farm to table restaurant, but not just by sourcing locally ... we’ll source small farmers, fishermen, and ranchers from all over the country.”
All this might sound a little rambling or perhaps overly industrious, but The Patriot has ambition as large as the space it inhabits. The restaurant occupies half of a hangar-like edifice at Carmichael’s Milagro Centre, sharing the building with Fish Face Poke Bar to one side and an event space at the back. The Patriot’s dining room is demarcated by a large bar and flanked by a pair of open kitchens. In between, there is seating for as many as 200 people.
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On most of my visits, the restaurant wasn’t busy enough to warrant that much seating. But even with the empty two- and four-tops, the restaurant felt buzzy, helped along by the live music. Tunes, such as an acoustic, slow-jam version of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” improved the ambiance, but didn’t do much for the service, which felt harried and rushed even when The Patriot was at half capacity. On another day, at brunch, the entire place was empty when my party arrived at 11.
It’s a pity The Patriot isn’t drawing bigger brunch crowds, because the brunch menu was, in my experience, far more successful and consistent than the dinner one.
Many details at The Patriot feel like they’re not quite ready for prime time. The menus, for instance, varied on our visits. One day we were handed a sheet of copy paper, with the menu much reduced in size and apparently degraded by repeated replication. Of course, what paper a menu is printed on is far from the most feature of an establishment, but illegibility isn’t an ideal first impression.
On other visits, we had to ask repeatedly for the wine list, which has several options, all available by the glass. Pricing, however, seemed haphazard. A Whispering Angel rosé was $15 a glass; the Groundwork Grenache was $8. This despite the fact that their retail bottle prices are similar, in the low $20 range.
The wine program needs work in other areas as well. On one visit, after drinking a lighter red, I asked a server which of the two grenaches she would recommend. She got a deer-in-the-headlights look and said she would bring the wine list back so I could decide. However, there are no descriptions on the menu, so this didn’t help. I picked one more or less at random. Fifteen minutes later, our server reappeared with a glass of white, which she brought to the table twice. She eventually just left it, saying it had been poured by mistake. She finally showed up with the grenache just as I was nearly finished with my entree.
Service problems like this were sadly common. On another night, I ordered grilled salmon and my husband ordered a pizza. These are produced in different kitchens, and we were seated next to the line where dishes are set before being brought to tables. It was a busier night, and there was some lag time between the finishing of our appetizer and the arrival of our entrees.
At one point, I saw my salmon appear under the heat lamps, ready to be served. About five minutes later, my husband’s pizza was brought over from the other kitchen. A few minutes later, the pizza disappeared. More time passed. My salmon came to the table with an apology that the chef had not found the pizza acceptable and had asked for it to be remade. I certainly understand not wanting to serve food that didn’t look right, but when the pizza finally arrived, it was clear that it had been rushed, its crust pallid and slightly underbaked.
That was a pity, because otherwise the roasted pear and bacon pizza, topped with an alfredo sauce and drizzled with saba (a syrup somewhat reminiscent of balsamic vinegar, made from cooked-down grape must), was a pleasant surprise. I’m not often a fan of sweeter pizzas, but this one was quite good, despite the issue with the crust. Roasting the pears concentrated their flavor but didn’t make them overly sweet, and big chunks of super-smoky bacon scattered over creamy brie gave the dish contrast and punch.
My salmon, though, had suffered from its heat-lamp wait and was chalky. It also was pan-fried rather than grilled as promised by the menu. That said, its golden-brown exterior, finished with flaky salt, was the best part of the dish. The menu also said my fish would come with a “warm grain salad,” which turned out to be about a half a cup of gluey, barely warm, flavorless pearl couscous, and “seared wild mushrooms and spinach,” which arrived as a few leaves of wilted spinach and four or five halves of what appeared to be perfectly tame, bog-standard brown mushrooms.
Appetizers were also mixed. Short rib poutine was a hit even with my Canadian husband, a self-proclaimed expert in the dish. The rich beef gravy was lip-smackingly delicious, featuring a well-reduced meat stock and tender chunks of meat. The cheese (grated rather than curds) could have been melted more thoroughly, but the flavor and the fries were wonderful.
Lamb riblettes were a nice idea, smoky and with a deep, pleasing gamy flavor balanced by the tart cherry barbecue sauce. I previously had encountered lamb ribs only in a long-braised stew, and there might be a reason for that: This rib meat was tough, chewy and gristly to the point of crunchiness. I don’t mind gnawing to get the best bits of meat on the bone, but the texture was a challenge despite the spot-on flavor.
Mac and cheese, served in a cute, if trendy, iron skillet, was finished in the pizza oven, possibly a too-hot misstep. It came to the table sizzling – unfortunately, because the savory sauce of Gruyere and white cheddar had broken, with the fat leaching out, leaving a curdy mess left behind. A good quarter inch of oil lay in a deep, unappetizing puddle at the bottom of the skillet.
Sandwiches are a mainstay of the combined lunch/brunch menu and also appear on the dinner menu. I tried two, both of which had the same problem: bread over-toasted to the point of being unpleasantly charred in spots. Toasting is a pretty basic skill that the kitchen should not be biffing. That said, the French dip had a great horseradish aioli and a hefty pile of beef, and the hot chicken sandwich was well-fried, tender (except for a small bit of cartilage untrimmed from the boneless skinless thigh), and with a good tangy-hot flavor.
Fried chicken thigh also featured in my favorite dish from the entire menu: a brunch offering of chicken and biscuits. There, the fried poultry was shatter-crisp on the outside, perfectly juicy within. Fluffy biscuits were smothered in gravy good enough that my party joked we would happily eat it as a soup.
A close runner-up was a dish of spicy, legit chile verde, with tender shredded pork contrasting with thick, crunchy chips, and two just-right over-easy eggs on top. Similarly, over-easy eggs topped a dish of pastrami hash that had a good bit of salty chew and crisp-tender potatoes.
Dedicated day drinkers may wish to know that The Patriot has bottomless mimosas at brunch for just $14. I’m sad to report, however, that the Bloody Mary is unremarkable. The drinks on the cocktail menu leaned toward the sugary and were not really my thing, but the “Wicked” rum punch tasted like vacation, and the Old-Fashioned was just fine.
The Patriot’s biggest strength, its brunch fare, is available daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and with its huge number of seats it would be a good choice for a big group. It’s a tougher sell for dinner at this point, but there’s promise for better days ahead if Jarosz can fix the serious service issues and deliver on his ambitious all-American vision.
Email Kate Washington at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @washingtonkate
6241 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael. 916-550-5080. patriotrestaurant.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Beverage options: Full bar, with cocktails that tend toward the sweet. Happy hour 3-6 p.m. daily.
Vegetarian friendly: There are several vegetarian options, including pizza.
Gluten-free options: Yes.
Noise levels: Moderate; the big, high-ceiling space seems like it would echo, but fabric panels are installed above to help with noise.
Ambiance: Barn-like, ambitiously big and wide open, with two kitchens in view and a see-and-be-seen feel that succeeds when the restaurant is busy but can be off-putting when it’s dead. Big driftwood installations and dozens of light fixtures in widely varying styles add charm and interest to a space that could be bland.
All-American and aiming to be pan-regional, The Patriot seems to be trying to be all things to all diners, with mixed results. Service and food are both uneven, at dinner especially, and need work to make this outsized new restaurant a success.
Some dishes seem lazy (grilled salmon and mac and cheese, two crowd-pleasers that should be easy slam dunks, are misses here), where others succeed against expectations, like a counter-intuitive pear and bacon pizza or a hot chicken sandwich. Hearty brunch fare, like chicken and biscuits or zingy chile verde topped with eggs, is the best bet.
Servers are enthusiastic but amateurish, often unable to answer basic questions about the drinks and food, and they can’t keep up when the restaurant gets even a little busy. We experienced one or more major glitches (such as the wrong drink or entree being brought to the table or one entree arriving more than 10 minutes before the other) at each of our three visits.
Overall the menu is reasonably priced ($20 for a salmon dish; brunch dishes around $14; $16 for a specialty pizza), but alcohol pricing can be uneven and some dishes feel like outliers, such as a relatively simple salad for $17 or an appetizer with five small lamb riblettes for $12.