Crawdad's River Cantina

Dining News: New Chef at The Kitchen

Video of Kelly McCown from 2004.

For the third time in 2.5 years, The Kitchen has a new executive chef.

The Selland Group announced yesterday that Kelly McCown would take over for David Chavez as executive chef of The Kitchen. Chavez was preceded in recent years by John Griffiths and Noah Zonca.

McCown most recently served as the driving culinary force behind the upcoming 'Obo Italian Restaurant by the Selland Group. He has also worked at Napa's Goose & Gander and served as executive chef at Ella, another Selland restaurant.

Chavez, according to the Sacramento Bee's Allen Pierleoni, decided to move back to Los Angeles to take a job with Sprouts.

“Because of construction issues, (the opening of OBO’) is taking much longer than we thought, so we probably won’t open until January or February now,” said Randall Selland. “Kelly helped Nancy (Zimmer, Selland’s wife and a partner in the group) develop all the recipes for OBO’, and when David decided to move back to Los Angeles and take a job with Sprouts, Kelly said he was ready to commit to (The Kitchen job). We’ll find another chef for OBO’ when the time comes. (The situation) just sped things up. Kelly wants to make a career with us, and we’re really lucky.”

“Ultimately, we knew Kelly would play a role in The Kitchen,” added Josh Nelson, Selland’s son and co-owner of The Kitchen. “David had committed himself for only two to three years. The timing just happened the way it did.”

Read the entire story in the Sac Bee.

The Kitchen remains on track to move to Broadway. I drive by its new location every day and demolition continues on the existing building.

I do wish Chef Chavez good luck. I spotted him at a recent preview for Billy Ngo's Fish Face Poke Bar. I don't know if he was pushed out or left on his own, but I enjoyed his accessibility, showmanship and the food he served.

Click here to read the entire press release.

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Another local cupcake shop crumbles - A cupcake shop in Roseville has closed, suggesting the rise of doughnut ice cream sandwiches and bite-size desserts continues to mute the local cupcake obsession. Cupcake A La Mode permanently closed on July 11, according to a post on its Facebook page. Sonya Sorich in Sac Biz Journal.

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Counter Culture: Heaps o’ meat and spuds in Auburn, then pie - So many restaurants have preciously clever names, or names so obscure or confusing they don’t mean anything until the managers explain them. On the other side of that is Meat and Potatoes in Auburn, which has as straightforward a link to its lunch and dinner menus as possible. “It says we’re going back to basics,” said co-owner Michael Smith. Allen Pierleoni in the Sac Bee.

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Dining News: Third Strike Cafe Coming to West Sac on May 27


Third Strike Cafe, serving "essential comfort food," is scheduled to open one block from the Rivercats stadium in late May.

The location will serve the large DGS and CalSTRS state worker populations during the mornings and hungry minor league baseball fans in the evening.

Per their Web site, they'll serve dinner starting on May 27 for game days from 4 to 7 p.m. and and be open for breakfast service starting on June 2.

They describe dining options as BBQ ribs and chicken, mac and cheese, beer, artisan coffee and sweet pastries.

I stopped by earlier in the week to check the place out, but it was all locked up. I'll definitely give the place a try on my way to a Rivercats Game.

Third Strike Cafe is located at 630 3rd St. in West Sacramento, across from the Ziggurat Building, and can be found online at

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Shady Lady team and Deftones drummer to open Amaro Italian Bistro & Bar - Downtown’s R Street corridor will soon get a taste of Italian food and drink, via a partnership that includes the owners of Shady Lady Saloon and a Sacramento rock star. Amaro Italian Bistro & Bar is slated to open this fall at the corner of 11th and R streets, featuring a menu that includes 11 pasta dishes and eight pizzas. The setting is the historic Rochdale Building, which was vacant for a decade before being conceived as a mixed-use project by developers Bay Miry and Ali Youssefi. The 4,000-square-foot Amaro will occupy the ground floor of the three-story building at 1100 R Street. Chris Macias in the Sac Bee.

A Yacht, Not a Dinghy; What to expect when you’re expecting to dine on the river - The style coming out of the kitchenat Crawdads is mostly of the beige, fried variety, but with a few Cajun additions. Don’t go expecting the same world-class execution and brilliant flavors of Tuli Bistro and Restaurant 13. Pechal isn’t in the kitchen here. Yet there are some highlights that show Pechal’s hand in designing the menu. Greg Brown at Inside Publications.

The Cultured and the Cured brings unique cheeses to town - East Sacramento’s food scene continues to expand as it welcomes the artisanal cheese shop, The Cultured and the Cured, offering unique cheeses, cured meats and a small but alluring menu. Located on 3644 J St., The Cultured and the Cured focuses on delivering the best cheeses from farms all over the West Coast. Cailin Jessup in the Sac State Hornet.

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Dining News: Lou's Sushi Shows 'Expertise & Grace'


Lou's Sushi at 28th & P is helmed by Lou Valente, probably best known in Sacramento for a stint at Zen Sushi on the corner of 15th & I.

The Sac Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson recently delivered his verdict on the restaurant.

Then there’s that amazing rice. Valente uses a strain called Koshihikari, which he refers to as some of the most expensive rice available. The textural quality and expressive flavor of this rice just might amaze you.

The chef spares no expense on this ingredient, and it makes a significant difference, even if most diners don’t stop to appreciate exactly why...

Lou’s is an appealing, intimate place to eat, with a great neighborhood feel about it – it’s in a more residential section of midtown on P Street several blocks from most of the bars and eateries.

Whether you order from the menu or hand the reins to Valente and dine omakase style, you’re bound to find the experience to be satisfying, entertaining and inspiring.

Read the entire review in the Sac Bee.

I'm in the minority when it comes to Lou's Sushi. All of my friends who have tried it love Lou and his sushi. I went in late November, and with a group of people, ordered nearly everything on the happy hour menu during my visit. While everybody else raves about Lou's Sushi, I found it to be decent but unremarkable.

Maybe I didn't go on a good day. There were two sushi chefs there that day. Maybe I didn't get Lou. But based on the Bee's review and on the feedback I keep getting from my friends, it's probably time to give it another chance.

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Instant Reaction: Crawdads River Cantina


It's hard to be tough on restaurants that just opened. They're brand new and still working out the kinks. So normally, when I encounter less than excellent experiences at brand new restaurants, I find other things to write about.

But when you're a "celebrity" chef like Adam Pechal, the standards are a little higher. Putting your name on a restaurant means that it represents the quality and experience that you're know for.

That's why I've decided to give my initial reaction to a meal I had at Crawads on Friday evening.

I think there are three main aspects to a good dining experience - ambiance, food and service. To be really successful, you need to be great at at least one of those three. But one of them cannot be terrible. Unfortunately, that's what I encountered when I visited Crawdads on the first Friday of Spring and their first Friday open.

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Dining News: Crawdad's May Become 'River’s Premiere Party Spot'


When I travel to other cities, I marvel at what a destination their river front is. Even a mid-tier city like Milwaukee has a great river front for people to dine at, stroll and enjoy.

Even with the revitalization of Crawdads's, we're not there yet, but we're one step closer.

Here's the First Impression from the Sac Bee's Chris Macias:

Is it just a matter of time before someone takes a belly flop into the river? Given the combination of hearty food and drink, and a space reinvigorated with new ownership that specializes in good times, Crawdad’s could re-establish itself as the Sacramento River’s premiere party spot.

Try it if:

You miss Pechal’s Capitol Burger, or fancy an uptempo place to sip on cocktails that come with mini umbrellas.

Read the entire review in the Sac Bee.

Other Sacramento food writers have commented on the new venue via Twitter. Here's a sample:

Just checked out Crawdad's Cantina on the river, gorgeous space, revamped menu, cool furnishings, what's not to like? Opens Friday night.

— allen pierleoni (@apierleonisacbe) March 13, 2014


Long lunch on the river. #Crawdads. @ChefAdamPechal & crew drew me back to river after 20 years of not wanting to dine among river drunks.

— Ed Murrieta (@edmurrieta) March 15, 2014

I have yet to make it out there, but I hope to in the next week or so. If you've been, please share what your experience was in the comments below.

Crawdad's is located at 1375 Garden Hwy, and can be found online at

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Dining News: Crawdads to Reopen on March 14


Crawdads River Cantina, the newest venture by former Tuli Chef Adam Pechal and Bar West owner Trevor Shultz, will open on March 14.

Originally opened in 1986, the restaurant changed hands recently, and the new team originally hoped to open by March 1. It now appears the opening date has slipped by a couple weeks - a very common occurrence among new restaurants.

A Cowtown Eats source has been to the restaurant as they've fine tuned their recipes, and I'm hearing great things. Joining Chef Pechal to oversee the kitchen is Paul Caravelli, a fellow contestant on the first season of ABC's The Taste. Word is that he's a dessert specialist, and will work well to compliment Chef Pechal.

Crawdad's is located at 1375 Garden Hwy, and can be found online at

More News:

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Dining News: Chef Adam Pechal, Fellow Taste Contestant to Lead Kitchen at Crawdad's


Crawdad's River Cantina, the party spot next to Chevy's on the river, will soon feature food by Chef Adam Pechal and fellow ABC cooking show contestant Paul Caravelli, reports the Sac Bee's Chris Macias.

Shults, who also owns midtown’s Pour House and Vanguard 1415 at 14th and L streets, tapped Pechal for the project just as the chef was preparing to close Restaurant Thir13en. The two had talked about partnering on a project during the past year to combine Pechal’s cooking skills with Shults’ nightlife experience...

Pechal, a semifinalist contestant on ABC’s “The Taste,” will also serve as executive chef. He’ll be joined by Paul Caravelli, a fellow contestant from “The Taste” who cooked in the Chicago area during the show’s run, to help lead the kitchen.

Pechal plans to keep the seafood-centric menu at Crawdad’s but add some new twists. He hopes to work with such Sacramento-area purveyors as midtown’s Sunh Fish and Sloughouse’s Passmore Ranch to supply such ingredients as catfish, clams and calamari. Pechal will also bring his Capitol Burger, a staple of Restaurant Thir13en with house-made pickles, to Crawdad’s.

Read the entire story in the Sac Bee.

Pechal hinted that he would have a new project when Restaurant 13 closed at the end of January.

I'm hopeful that Pechal can help elevate dining on the river. Chevy's definitely has its place, but it's not something you'd call a upscale dining experience. Pearl On The River tries to fill that role, but the three times I've eaten there, I've found that it's food is good, but unremarkable. Hopefully Pechal will help make the river a year round destination.

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Tako Korean BBQ: A tale of two food ethnicities - Bulgogi sliders are the true hit of the menu. These are Korean-marinated steak stuffed into light bread, served with cabbage, cheese and a tangy house sauce, and my only complaint is that the cheese isn’t melted—such a touch would give the dish a bit more oomph...Tako achieves what fusion food attempts to do, though there’s plenty of room for improvement and growth. It’s what all fusion food must do. Push boundaries. Experiment. Learn from failures. Exceed past successes. Tako seems well on the way in all of this. Garrett McCord in Sac News & Review.

Continue reading "Dining News: Chef Adam Pechal, Fellow Taste Contestant to Lead Kitchen at Crawdad's" »