Restaurant News & Reviews

2015 to bring fresh dining options to area

Chicken tacos are a popular item on the menu at Chando’s Tacos on Arden Way. A new Chando’s is opening in Roseville.
Chicken tacos are a popular item on the menu at Chando’s Tacos on Arden Way. A new Chando’s is opening in Roseville. Sacramento Bee file

Gaze into the crystal ball for 2015, and you’ll see plenty of new restaurants taking shape. Italian food, carved meats, Mexican food and expansions of popular existing restaurants are all on tap for the coming months.

A healthy chunk of the action will take place on Sacramento’s burgeoning R Street corridor, where the development of retail, residential units and restaurants between 10th and 15th streets are coalescing into a potential hotbed of nightlife and urban dwelling. The city’s 16th Street will also see a resurgence of foodie activity as retail tenants begin opening at 16 Powerhouse, a mixed-use building at 16th and P streets.

But suburban areas won’t be left out, either, including new eateries planned for Roseville and West Sacramento.

It all adds up to good news for food enthusiasts, who are ever searching for the latest spots to sample dishes and Instagram them. The feeling is much different from the recent Great Recession, when it seemed like restaurants were shutting down by the week.

While 2015 will surely witness its share of closures, a slew of new eateries are on track for opening in the coming weeks and months, including the new Shoki Ramen House location on 21st Street at the former Trail’s Restaurant, and a Natomas location for Track 7 Brewery.

The trick is nailing down when exactly these eateries and watering holes will officially debut. Opening a restaurant entails many moving parts, from securing full financing to navigating the city’s permitting process. Hiccups definitely happen.

Either way, 2015 looks like a robust one for restaurants. Here are some of the most anticipated Sacramento eateries:

Chando’s Tacos

Address: 943 Pleasant Grove Blvd., Roseville

Projected opening: Near the end of January

Concept: “We’re going to go with what we do best and stick with the original menu,” said owner Lisandro “Chando” Madrigal. That means spiced and charbroiled chicken, traditional Mexican stew, adobada pork, burritos, quesadillas, tacos and more. At this strip-mall location, Madrigal’s signature open-flame barbecue and vertical broiler will move from outside into the built-out kitchen.

The scoop: This will be the third Chando’s Tacos that Madrigal and his crew have opened since 2010; they also have a food truck. The business has humble roots, beginning as a catering operation that specialized in parties in customers’ backyards. It’s since grown to occupy a spot among the elite taquerias in town. “We’re going to get really aggressive about opening more locations,” Madrigal said. “I want to believe our success is due to us really paying attention to the details – from the quality of the product to creating a clean and friendly environment. You can never be content. You always have to push yourself to do better, and do it right.”

Empress Tavern

Address: 1013 K St., Sacramento

Projected opening: “The first or second week of February, by Valentine’s Day,” said chef and co-owner Mike Thiemann.

Concept: Subterranean meat carvery and bar, with ability to take cocktails upstairs to the Crest Theatre. Once open, Empress Tavern will be something of the antithesis of its sister eatery, the all-vegetarian Mother. Meats will take the spotlight at Empress Tavern, including French dip sandwiches and prime rib. Some foods may be packaged in a grab-and-go style to be consumed upstairs while watching a movie. Like the series of pop-up dinners featuring guest chefs and the “86’d” chef competition at Mother, a rotating series of special events are planned for Empress Tavern once the restaurant is up and running.

The scoop: The owners of Empress Tavern had originally hoped to debut on New Year’s Eve with a companion concert upstairs at the Crest Theatre. But construction issues, which entail transforming a former basement-level theater in the Crest to a fully functioning restaurant, have pushed its projected start date back about six weeks. “You have to do something different to keep people excited,” said Thiemann. “We’re going to program the restaurant like you’d do a theater.”

Amaro Italian Bistro & Bar

Address: 1100 R St., Sacramento

Projected opening: Late March/early April

Concept: Casual Italian fare, including pizza and pastas, with an Italian accent on its beverage program. The ownership team behind Shady Lady Saloon, along with Deftones drummer Abe Cunningham, will branch into Italian food and drink. In the historic Rochdale Building and adjacent to the Warehouse Artist Lofts, Amaro aims for a dining room that seats 70 plus an outdoor patio and lounge that can accommodate 60 more patrons.

The scoop: The name Amaro refers to the traditional Italian digestif, and two amari will be served via draft. Twelve to 14 beers also will be on draft, and draft cocktails and wine will augment the bar program. Plans call for Amaro’s draft system to be divided into three temperature zones: One for red wine, another for beer and cocktails, and a third line for white wine and amari. “A lot of expense has gone into that small difference of being able to serve everything at ideal temperature,” said Alex Origoni, a partner in Amaro. The Shady Lady team – Origoni, Jason Boggs and Garrett Van Vleck – is eyeing a busy 2015 with other projects. B-Side, situated at the former Monte Carlo Club on 15th and S streets, is slated to open by early March. Their re-vamp of West Sacramento’s Sail Inn on Jefferson Boulevard is due to debut by June.

Hawks Provisions and Public House

Address: 1525 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento

Projected opening: April

Concept: The fine-dining destination Hawks in Granite Bay will lose the white tablecloths when two casual, sister restaurants debut in adjacent buildings sharing a patio. The smaller space will specialize in pre-made grab ’n’ go breakfast (an emphasis on baked goods), lunch and take-home dinner, with a “well-edited” menu of sandwiches and salads. Note: It won’t be a deli. The larger sit-down gastropub will have a full bar and stained-concrete floors, along with Hawks’ same dedication to quality and farm-to-fork philosophy.

The scoop: “Some dishes will travel from Hawks, (such as) our hamburger and our short ribs,” said co-owner Molly Hawks (with husband Michael Fagnoni). “The dishes will be simplified and focused more on ingredients, so we won’t have so many flavors on one plate. We want a restaurant that will allow us to go outside Hawks’ very defined parameters, so we promised ourselves we wouldn’t limit the menu.”


Address: 16 Powerhouse building, 16th and P Streets, Sacramento

Projected opening: April

Concept: The current Magpie – whose purist philosophy drives the menu – will open a second location, joining Orchid Thai, Sun & Soil Juice Co. and Insight Coffee Roasters in the mixed-used building. The menu at the new Magpie will be “similarly quirky” as the current menu at the Magpie mother ship along the increasingly hip R Street corridor, said co-owner Ed Roehr (with Janel Inouye). The dining room at the new digs will be larger, and the kitchen will have “new toys” – a deep fryer and a grill among them. “We would like to make fish ’n’ chips and a hamburger,” Roehr said. “We just need to figure out what it means for Magpie to make a hamburger.”

The scoop: “We’re starting off with the same team and the same core values, but with a bigger space (2,900 feet, 600 square feet larger than the current space),” Roehr said. “We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel, but we want to do some things we can’t do now. We’re going to have a full bar, and we’re curious to explore what that means for Magpie. This is a new adventure, and it’s inspirational.”

The R Street site will become more of a bakery-cafe and handle the catering.

Iron Horse Tavern

Address: 1800 15th St., Sacramento

Projected opening: “Maybe in May,” says co-owner Mason Wong.

Concept: European style tavern with a new American menu and emphasis on whiskies.

The scoop: The Wong brothers – Mason, Alan and Curtis – are setting up shop near the burgeoning R Street corridor in a new 15th Street complex that will also house additional locations for Roxie Deli and Dos Coyotes Border Cafe. The Wong family also owns the popular central city destinations MIX Downtown, The Park Ultra Lounge, and Cafeteria 15L, and partners with the de Vere family at the sports bar-themed Firestone Public House.

The name “Iron Horse” references an old-time nickname for railroad engines, and also pays homage to the train tracks that used to run through the R Street corridor. That area of R Street from 10th Street to 15th Street will see plenty more development in 2015 with anticipated openings for Amaro, Bottle and Barlow, a hybrid barbershop and bar, and Fish Face, a new sushi eatery from Kru’s Billy Ngo.

“We’d been looking into that area for about a year and a half,” said Mason Wong. “We thought this was going to be the next midtown. I think it’s the only area left in all of downtown that provides the room for retail, restaurant and residential growth.”

Call The Bee’s Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias.

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