If it’s January in Sacramento, it’s time for Dine Downtown week, where some of Sacramento’s best restaurants create fixed menus for $30.
If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you know that this annual occasion is the highlight of the New Year for me, and we break our post-holiday diets so we can eat at great restaurants on the cheap.
New restaurants this year include the popular Blackbird Kitchen and Bar and Red Rabbit. Other participating downtown restaurants include: 4th Street Grille, Biba, Blue Prynt, The Broiler Steakhouse, Capitol Garage, Cafeteria 15L, Chops Steak, Seafood & Grill, Dawson’s at the Hyatt, Ella Dining Room & Bar, Esquire Grill, Fat City, The Firehouse Restaurant, Frank Fat's, Grange, Il Forniao, The Melting Pot, Mulvaney’s B&L, Paragary’s Midtown, The Pilothouse at The Delta King, The Porch, Spataro, Restaurant Thir13en, River City Brewing Company, Rio City Café, Ten22, Tequila Museo Mayahuel, and Tulí Bistro.
My previous experience with the brewery is admittedly limited. I’ve downed a liter of beer before heading up to the theater to watch a movie and hung out on the porch for happy hour during the long summer evenings. (Hint – they have a fabulous BBQ oysters on Fridays during the summer). But of all the times I’d been there, I had never had dinner there. I was excited to give it a try.
It turns out that it’s not just the beers there that are big – it’s their portions too.
I went with my wife, and we ordered two appetizers off their prix fixe menu – the Crispy Eggplant Napoleon (two crispy eggplant rounds layered with goat cheese, basil pesto and sun-dried tomato tapenade, served on a pool of red pepper coulis) and the Brewer’s Salad (mixed lettuce, blue cheese dressing, bacon, sliced apples, spiced pecans, red onions and crumbled blue cheese).
The Brewer’s Salad was good – I loved the candied pecans – but the star of the appetizer round was the Eggplant Napoleon. The fried eggplant had a nice crisp, and the pesto/sun-dried tomato/goat cheese acted as a good binder to keep the tower together.
For our main course we ordered the Kobe Beef Steak (6oz sirloin with roasted red potatoes, grilled asparagus, sautéed mushrooms and onions and green peppercorn demi glaze) and the Grilled Marinated Pork Tenderloin (served with roasted garlic smashed potatoes, garlic spinach, blue cheese crumbles and demi glaze). By far, the superior entrée was the sirloin steak. Steak is a rare dish that is simple to get right, but easy to get wrong.
Too often, I’ve ordered a steak medium-rare only to get it medium-well. River City Brewing Co.’s chef nailed it right on the head. The side of sautéed-mushrooms and onions were steakhouse quality too.
The pork was a quality dish, but given the choice, I’d order the steak every time.
For dessert, we ordered Caramel Gelato (served with chocolate sauce and whipped cream) and a French-style Cheesecake (graham cracker crusted with toffee, caramel and whipped cream). I have a real sweet tooth, and found both desserts delicious. The gelato would have been more accurately described as a caramel gelato sundae, but I loved it no matter its name.
As for the cheesecake, I thought it was worthy of being from the Cheesecake Factory. I also liked the density of the cheesecake. I’ m not a big fan of dense cheesecakes that are more lead weight than culinary treat. This dessert chef got the density of the dessert exactly right.
Being married with no kids, we often end up at bars or stuffy upscale happy hours that really aren’t appropriate for families. However, it was a refreshing change to see families with young children behaving themselves and enjoying a meal out together. Despite being a brewery, this restaurant seemed like a perfect place to bring the family to.
One last note that I have to add. We had wonderful service from Lettie. She was knowledgeable, attentive and friendly -- all you could ask for from a waitress.
If you have a family and are looking for a place to try for Dine Downtown, I can easily recommend visiting River City Brewing Co. and ordering the Crispy Eggplant Napoleon, Kobe Beef sirloin steak and either of the desserts. The portions are huge, the beer is delicious, the value is great, the service is fabulous and you’ll have a fun time.
Note: River City Brewing Co. hosted the food portion of the meal, and I paid for my own drinks.