Restaurant News & Reviews

She helped run two Mexican restaurants. Now this Tres Hermanas sister has her own

Dora Saenz's 3 Hermanas first began serving customers on June 12, but won't be fully up and running until early July.
Dora Saenz's 3 Hermanas first began serving customers on June 12, but won't be fully up and running until early July.

The third sister in the Tres Hermanas family has soft-opened her own restaurant in East Sacramento and expects to be fully up and running by early July.

Dora Saenz began serving 3 Hermanas customers on June 12 but doesn't yet have all she needs for a grand opening, she said. The property at 3260 J St., Suite B is still a couple weeks away from receiving its license to serve beer and wine, needs to add a couple more sets of hands in the kitchen and lacks certain ingredients needed to distinguish itself from the Saenz sisters' other restaurants.

Most of 3 Hermanas' customers so far have been East Sacramento residents, and several regulars from Tres Hermanas and Three Sisters Mexican Kitchen Y Cantina have followed Saenz over to her new restaurant in the same strip mall as Club Raven and Thai Palace.

"I feel like I'm in my house. I don't feel like, 'Oh, I don't know anybody,'" Saenz said.

The current menu only reflects dishes sold at Tres Hermanas (2416 K St.) and Three Sisters (5100 Folsom Blvd.), but Saenz said she plans to eventually start selling more dishes from her home state of Chihuahua. She plans to have a sister-in-law bring north the peppers needed to make chile pasado on a visit from Chihuahua next month.

Other Mexican specialties currently waiting on 3 Hermanas' back-burner include birria (goat stew from the state of Jalisco) and barbacoa made from cow's head or tongue. Employees will serve "margaritas" spiked with white wine instead of tequila once the California ABC gives them permission to do so, but Saenz hasn't applied for a license for full liquor sales, she said.

Saenz helped her sister Sonja open Tres Hermanas on K Street in 1997 before serving as her sibling Norma's executive chef at Three Sisters since its inception 18 years ago. Starting a restaurant is like having a child, she said. Now that she's doing it on her own, it's like being a single mom.

"When you have a baby, you have a lot of pain and then later you forget," Saenz said. "It's the same thing happening. I forgot how much pain I had when opening the other restaurants with my sisters, and now I say 'why?'"

The restaurant's eastern interior wall is covered by a mural of Copper Canyon, three sisters in traditional clothing and an outline of Chihuahua filled with blue leaves. Apples near the canyon's base call back to major industry in the Saenz sisters' hometown of Cuauhtemoc.

Roughly 60 people can dine at 3 Hermanas at once, including 15 on an outdoor patio.

The Bee's Benjy Egel is launching a new effort to cover Sacramento's dining and beer scene. Please send tips and story ideas by email at, on Twitter @BenjyEgel or by phone at (916) 321-1052.