Alert: Roseville, long dismissed by capital-region diners as a land of chain restaurants, really isn’t one anymore, having seen a steady growth in independent restaurants with from-scratch ambitions. Proof comes in many guises, but most recently in the appealing form of Range Kitchen & Tap, open since March in a space in the Palisades Plaza just a few doors down from Ciao, recently reviewed in this space.
Range won’t set the culinary world on fire, but it’s a solid dining experience from start to finish. The setting, with industrial-rustic touches — think big windows, a wide bar opposite a pizza oven, raw wood siding, pulleys as light fixtures — is hardly adventurous in its design. But it’s a pleasant, if a touch inoffensive, place to eat a meal and a successful conversion of what must have been a bland shopping-center storefront.
The restaurant is the brainchild of owner Kevin Kokoszka, a longtime veteran of the Bay Area restaurant scene who relocated to Roseville with his wife to be near extended family and raise their young daughter. Range strives to offer a moderate price point and a welcoming gathering place for neighborhood families. Kokoszka says, a few months in, they’ve become that hub, with families and regulars making up much of the usually bustling dinner crowd.
Lunch is still slow — on our lunch visit only a couple tables were full — but that’s not because of quality. The lunch menu, mostly sandwiches and pizzas, is smaller than the dinner choices, but there are several appealing options, including sandwiches featuring Italian beef, grilled vegetables and St. Louis-style BBQ chicken.
Service was ultra-quick (fast enough to work for those on a break from the office) and my turkey club was towering and very good, with freshness from its herb aioli, crunchy sourdough bread, crisp bacon, and moist house-roasted turkey. I loved the juicy fistful of shredded iceberg, a much-maligned lettuce that, perhaps like the Roseville dining scene itself, has been written off as bland but has more texture than it’s given credit for. (A recent New Yorker piece makes a strong case for iceberg.) The chopped tomatoes on the club were easier to eat than thick slices, which can pull out of the bread, but they were prone to falling out of the sandwich.
I ordered a side salad rather than house-fried potato chips, which are everywhere these days. The pretty salad was a strong choice and a lot better than the average lunch side-salad, with the pop of candied nuts, mixed greens and a tangy scatter of goat cheese.
My husband got a Greek quinoa salad, which was a smidge bland. I don’t know how much quinoa they’re eating in Greece these days, but it pairs well with traditional Greek-salad ingredients: cucumber, tomatoes, olives and grilled chicken, all formed into a long and skinny mound of salad on an oblong plate. The lemon-oregano dressing needed more of both, especially the spark of lemon, but overall the salad was pleasing.
Dinner visits offered a wider range of options. Appetizers are strong, especially a rich, ultra-creamy and cheesy boar bacon artichoke dip, with golden brown thick-fried pita chips. These were obviously made in-house and their crunch level varied, but surprisingly even the slightly chewy ones were pleasing. That same texture variance also defined the slightly gamy, smoky boar bacon, which along with a dose of hot sauce added punch. The dip itself was an elevated version of the party classic — think cream cheese instead of mayonnaise — with crusty edges. This one needs a crowd to finish.
Range’s kitchen isn’t shying away from butterfat in its thick mac and cheese in the ubiquitous tiny skillet, either. That’s a standard offering these days, but this one was unusually well executed, with silky sauce and surprisingly al dente orecchiette. The crumbs and herbs on top added crunch and contrast.
Spicy, savory bison meatball sliders anointed with beer cheese were another rich choice, the round flavors of fat balanced, if not entirely cut, the clean heat of lightly batter-fried jalapenos.
On the lighter side, a nontraditional ceviche was also served on one of those very long narrow plates, an affectation justified in this case by the dish’s prettiness. Watermelon radish, shrimp, cilantro and lime combined in a bright, refreshing tumble — excellent as an accompaniment to the Monk’s Cellar Biere Blanche, one of the several ever-changing local taps Range offers along with a good range of wines by the glass.
A tomato salad with chunks of watermelon and cucumber and a thick schmear of burrata cheese (for the unfamiliar, it’s like mozzarella wrapped around oozing cream) was little more than thick slices of unbelievably good Cherokee purple tomatoes, which the kitchen wisely let shine in all their glory. A couple of embellishments were plenty. Juicy watermelon enhanced the dish; little knots of baked parmesan dough did not, being soft and uninteresting. These were an unnecessary flourish on a dish where local produce was the star; I got the sense they were just a way to use up pizza dough, but they did little for an otherwise outstanding dish, one of several using seasonal produce that will, Kokoszka told me, rotate with the seasons.
Pork porterhouse with nectarines and smashed fingerling potatoes was a straightforward and well-executed piece of grilled pork steak, rich with piggy flavor and the hint of char.
A burger, accompanied with excellent golden fries and topped with “drive-thru sauce,” was thick and juicy, a solid American classic. The kitchen knows when to leave the classics alone, and it loads up the menu with other crowd-pleasing basics: Mom’s meatloaf, fried chicken, bavette steak with fries.
In more adventurous fare, the kitchen recently introduced a Game of the Week special. On my visit, it was venison, cooked perfectly just-rosy, tender and bias sliced with surgical precision. Purple potato hash with roasted kernels of sweet corn was good, with the balancing astringency of shishito peppers, but the real triumph of the dish was a silky, rich sauce with cherries. Often fruity sauces can veer to the candy-sweet, but this one retained savory depth and complemented the gamy lean meat.
Pizzas, a focus here, are just so-so. The toppings are strong — as in a special pizza with chunks of nectarine, salty prosciutto, and the tang of goat cheese — but are let down by the dough, which on my visits was flat and tough, seeming underproved (as they say on The Great British Bake-Off).
Dessert options are not overwhelming, but the few the kitchen offers are likely to appeal. We asked for chocolate mousse, but they were out, so we opted for espresso crème brulee instead. It could have used two more seconds of torching — a couple of spots of the sugar top were grainy instead of glassy and shattering — but that’s a quibble.
The rich, caffeinated custard beneath went down as easy as Range will for most diners. You won’t find the next big thing here, by any means, but if you’re looking for well-executed comfort food, you’re unlikely to leave hungry.
Range Kitchen & Tap
1420 East Roseville Parkway, Roseville, 916-865-4317
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon-Fri, 3 p.m.-10 p.m. Sat.
Beverage options: Beer, with an emphasis on local producers and some interesting handles, and wine.
Vegetarian friendly: Salads, pizzas, a cheese plate and various apps provide enough options for vegetarians to eat well, but the entrees focus on meat.
Gluten-free options: Yes, including gluten-free pizza crust.
Noise levels: Reasonable on our visits, though on the loud side when the dining room is full.
Ambiance: Casual and comfortable (especially the booths), Range is straight-up-the-middle twenty-teens, with a rustic-industrial look that would be right at home on HGTV: reclaimed wood, a white faux deer head and cursive on chalkboards. A teensy bit basic? Sure, but the lack of edge gives it a welcoming, surprisingly homey air.
Likeable and engaging, Range isn’t breaking any new culinary ground, but its solid twists on comfort fare, a deft hand with fresh seasonal produce and an iconoclastic streak—as evidenced in specials like wild game of the week—make it a crowd-pleasing option in Roseville.
Chef Kevin Bowes formerly had a food truck, and the brash, flavor-forward style of truck cooking shows in dishes like bison meatballs with fried jalapenos and beer cheese or the towering burger. But Range also has a more refined side that pushes seasonal ingredients forward, such as in the ultrasimple tomato salad with burrata or a special pizza topped with nectarines and prosciutto.
Unobtrusive but friendly, unpretentious and efficient, the service makes for a smooth experience and lets the food take center stage.
Prices are reasonable given the invention and craft in the kitchen. Dinner entrees are all under $25 and most under $20; at lunch, hefty sandwiches hover around $12 and hearty salads around $10.