Business & Real Estate

Three R Street restaurants are shuttering. Is Sacramento’s hottest block cooling?

The Dos Coyotes Border Cafe on R Street will be shutting down at the end of the month.
The Dos Coyotes Border Cafe on R Street will be shutting down at the end of the month. hamezcua@sacbee.com

It’s known as one of the most bustling blocks in a revitalizing central city. So why are three high-profile restaurants closing on Sacramento’s R Street corridor?

Located on R and 14th streets, Nido, the counter-service offshoot of popular Magpie Café, shut its doors last week. Down the block toward 15th Street, Roxie Deli & Barbecue ceased operation in early May. Dos Coyotes Border Grill is slated to move out of its nearby space later this month.

All three were branches of popular eateries in the area. But owners said they had trouble attracting traffic on R Street, particularly during evenings and on weekends, as people who flocked to the corridor gravitated more toward its nightlife options.

Their departures reflect an ongoing evolution in the identity of the burgeoning midtown Sacramento stretch. “The businesses that go in need to have sort of both lunchtime and nighttime vibes,” said Wendy Saunders, head of the Capitol Area Development Authority, which has backed projects in the area including the Warehouse Artist Lofts.

Originally a bakery and café, Nido had expanded its menu but still catered largely to a daytime crowd. Roxie’s made-to-order sandwiches and deli items made it a popular lunchtime stop for nearby office workers but business slowed in the evenings. Dos Coyotes also performed well during weekday lunch service but has not seen the kind of dinner rush it hoped to attract from nearby neighborhoods, owners said.

The space vacated by Dos Coyotes will be taken over by the owners of the adjacent Iron Horse Tavern, who said they intend to open a casual Mexican restaurant and bar concept. In the same building, the owners of de Vere’s Irish Pubs have plans to open a small tavern called The Snug.

Their closures, however, do not signify that R Street is trending toward becoming exclusively a nightlife destination, said Michelle Smira Brattmiller, administrator of the R Street Partnership, a business improvement organization. The hope is that soon restaurants along the corridor will be able to draw both days and evenings from a growing residential population.

The Ice Blocks project, along R Street between 16th and 18th streets, includes a 150-unit apartment complex that should welcome its first occupants this year. The Press, a 253-unit apartment building planned for 21st and Q streets, is set to begin building this summer. It’s part of a wave of more than 600 housing units under construction within three blocks of 19th and Q streets.

More residents in the immediate area could benefit from a grab-and-go eatery like Roxie, while increased foot and bicycle traffic would mean less reliance on customers who must drive in, find and pay for parking on a busy street.

“The more housing we have, and it’s coming, the more I think we’ll be able to provide patrons for all different types (of concepts),” Brattmiller said. “I think if this was a year from now, (these closures) wouldn’t have happened.”

Dos Coyotes, which operates 10 restaurants in Northern California, opened on R Street in 2015 hoping to attract residents from nearby Land Park in the evenings, said Trevor Sanders, the franchisee who ran the location. But the restaurant did not catch on with those patrons nor with a late-night crowd.

After a certain hour, Sanders said, the area “is where you go to kind of drink, and the eating becomes secondary. We thought about, ‘Do we do a cheap burrito, stay open until 3 a.m., and do something like that?’ But it goes against the core of who I am. It just didn’t make sense.”

Nevertheless, Dos Coyotes would have remained at the location had it not received an offer from the Iron Horse Tavern owners to take over the space, Sanders said. The new concept from Mason, Alan and Curtis Wong – whose venues also include Cafeteria 15L and Firestone Public House – will be next door to Iron Horse but a separate entity. The menu and design elements for the casual Mexican eatery are still in the works.

“There’s a really great energy at R Street,” Mason Wong said. “Like any hot spot, there is going to be a lot of movement and growth, and new ideas for food and entertainment in the area.”

Iron Horse is among the R Street spots, such as The Shady Lady, Burgers and Brew and R15 that stay open until early-morning hours on some nights. Chris Tannous, co-owner of Roxie, said doing so would have spread his team too thin between catering and running its flagship location on C Street in East Sacramento.

“It was kind of pulling us apart from the original location,” said Tannous, who added the decision to close on R Street was a move “back to our roots.”

Magpie Café thrived in the space at 1409 R St. before moving to a larger location at 16th and P streets two years ago. Nido offered a variety of menu items, but as the bakery location for the Magpie restaurants, it remained somewhat morning-oriented, said co-owner Ed Roehr.

“We’re a bakery-café in an area that’s got a lot of night traffic,” Roehr said. “So for us, I think we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

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