As 2012 winds down, it’s time to reflect and remember the culinary blessings Sacramento received this year with the opening of several new restaurants in the area. From Caribbean cuisine to a restaurant that takes “local” to a whole new level, 2012 has been a good year for the Sacramento-area dining scene.
Caribbean Breeze Cuisine Restaurant
5015 Stockton Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95820
One type of cuisine that has certainly been inadequately represented in Sacramento is Caribbean. Thankfully, Vincent Semper and his wife Amelia are rectifying that. Caribbean Breeze Cuisine Restaurant opened its doors in August and offers a number of Caribbean specialties right here in Sacramento. Semper hails from the Virgin Islands, while Amelia once called Panama home. Together, they fuse their love and knowledge of food from the Caribbean region and are now sharing that passion with Sacramento-area residents. Look for specialties like stewed chicken, curry chicken, rice and beans, stewed oxtail, jerk chicken and island-style fish.
The Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar
2718 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95816
Partially inspired by the new artwork at the Sacramento airport, the Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar opened its doors in early 2012. It took the spot of the Red Lotus Kitchen and Bar that closed its doors in September, 2011. Red Rabbit is the brainchild of mastermind Matt Nurge, bartender at the Shady Lady Saloon, and his business partners and is taking “local” to a whole new level. The cuisine is drawn from a variety of cultural influences, including Vietnamese and Hawaiian, but what really sets Red Rabbit apart is its business model. When Red Rabbit says it focuses on local, the owners are not merely talking about the source of the restaurant’s ingredients. They are talking about what really makes a restaurant successful — the staff. Employees have an actual stake in how well the business does as a percentage of the restaurant’s profits is doled out to the workers each quarter.
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Firehouse Public House
1132 16th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
With a new take on the “sports bar” theme, Firehouse Public House was a newcomer in 2012 as well. While the 16 flat-screen televisions and the 60 beers on tap are enough to capture most patrons’ attention, another shining star of this new hot spot is its menu. Offering more than just chicken wings and burgers, Firehouse Public House offers a prime spot for good food while catching up on the latest game-day entertainment.
It’s no surprise that Firehouse Public House is a game changer given the masterminds behind the concept. The Wong family, who run Mix Downtown, Cafeteria 15L and the Park Ultra Lounge, teamed up with the de Vere White family, of de Vere’s Irish Pub, to bring Sacramento diners something new. The menu brings together many American classics, while offering some interesting twists for those wanting something unexpected. Try the banh mi sliders or the blue crab ravioli. And if you are not a beer person, Firehouse still has a variety of cocktails to suit your taste — including a menu of “skinny drinks” all under 200 calories.
Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill
238 Vernon St.
Roseville, CA 95678
Roseville’s Vernon Street became a celebrity spot this fall when Sammy Hagar opened a new Sammy’s Beach Bar and Grill in town. It took the home of the old JC Penney store built in the 1920s, the perfect spot for the continued revitalization of Roseville’s downtown area. The restaurant features an island-style menu, lots of rum cocktails and live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. You are likely already familiar with Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas and his world famous Cabo Wabo Tequila. Now, Hagar dips into the realm of sugar cane with his Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum, which is the rum featured in the drinks at Sammy’s Beach Bar and Grill.
Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Company
1630 S St.
Sacramento, CA 95816
The name might not scream restaurant, but this newcomer on the scene is definitely worth a try. Its name is a reference to the historic volunteer fire department of Sacramento, “The Mutual Hook and Ladder Company.” The restaurant is located at 17th and S streets, a historic region that is being rejuvenated. It replaces Hangar 17, which closed its doors in 2011, and is owned by the talented team behind The Golden Bear restaurant and bar. The menu at Hook and Ladder is varied, offering everything from appetizers like the frito misto, a quinoa salad, to the housemade sweet potato pappardelle pasta. Be sure to save room for sweets like brown butter cake made with fresh fig, local honeycomb and lemon verbana ice cream or the pumpkin pudding with pecan clusters and bourbon cinnamon gelato.
Erin De Santiago is a freelance travel and food/wine writer and photographer from Sacramento, California. She is a regional membership coordinator for the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and writes for a number of publications in addition to publishing her own blogs. She has traveled to over 40 countries on five continents in search of the best food and wine around the globe. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.