Empress Tavern

Dining News: Fish Face Poke Bar Announces Second Location


When Fish Face Poke Bar launched on R Street, Billy Ngo and his partners said that the R street location would be the first of several restaurants.

Now, the Sac Bee's Bob Shallit has the details on the second spot for the popular poke bar:

A poke bar run by Sacramento chef Billy Ngo is taking one of three remaining retail spots at the 4-acre culinary hub at 6241 Fair Oaks Blvd., and a gourmet “farm-to-fork” specialty market and a wok eatery are committed to the others...

“Everybody in town wanted” to recruit Ngo, said Dave Herrera, a Colliers International broker who is handling leasing for Davis.

Ngo said he was drawn to the “cool energy” at Milagro, noting that he knows several of the other restaurant operators opening there.

Read the entire story in the Sac Bee.

Ngo, who with his partners also own Kru and an upcoming, yet unnamed restaurant at 31st & Folsom, explained to Cowtown Eats that unlike his earlier attempts at expansion, Fish Face did not require a lot of his time. Ngo had previously opened Pork Belly Grub Shack with Aimal Formoli of Formoli's Bistro (which they sold) and Red Lotus (where I had my wedding rehearsal dinner, which has closed), but he said the two restaurants required too much of his time. Ngo has also brought in San Francisco chef Ricky Yap to run Kru while he spends more time expanding his empire.

I look forward to more Fish Face locations across Northern California.

More News:

Empress Tavern Impresses - After a long awaited opening, Empress Tavern definitely delivered on flavor and creativity. Be careful though, the chicken spinning on the rotisserie is hypnotizing. I know what I’ll be ordering next time! Aimee Darville on Girls on the Grid.

Feast Q&A: Sacramento twin brothers cook up tasty side job - In July, the brothers introduced their sweet-earthy Burgess Brothers bottled barbecue sauce to the shelves of local grocery stores, including some Safeway, Save Mart and Raley’s/Bel Air locations. A portion of proceeds from each bottle sold goes to the Firefighters Burn Institute. Last month, the brothers rolled out a new food truck. The truck will appear Sept. 26 at Sacramento’s Farm-to-Fork Festival on Capitol Mall. We caught up with the brothers, who are Sacramento natives and McClatchy High School graduates, at their restaurant. Carla Meyer in the Sac Bee.

A classic is still with us - With sentimentality in mind, we hurried over to [Simon's] for its signature dish, brandy fried chicken ($9; thighs only, please), and a heaped plate of chef’s special fried rice ($9). The dark crust on the chicken was crunchy and heavily seasoned, the meat inside moist and steaming. It’s long been one of the best dishes in town. Allen Pierleoni in the Sac Bee. (Second item.)

Burger battle winner suggests extreme toppings aren't always better - The winning creation chosen by judges at Thursday's Sacramento Burger Battle wasn't topped with macaroni and cheese, an egg or some unpronounceable seasoning. Its most extreme element was arguably a house-made sauce similar to Thousand Island dressing. But employees of Pangaea Bier Cafe, which won the judges' choice award, said extreme frills weren't necessary. Sonya Sorich in Sac Biz Journal.

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Dining News: Farm to Fork Restaurant Weeks Menus Thru Sunday, Sept. 27


The cynical among us may be tired of the Farm to Fork slogan, but one of the best things they're doing during this month's celebration is raising money for the Food Literacy Center, a local charity run by Amber Stott that tries to inspire kids to eat their veggies.

Restaurants, in coordination with the California Restaurant Association's Sacramento Chapter, are creating special menus that feature local ingredients. A portion of the proceeds from these meals go to the Food Literacy Center.

As much as I want to be a cheerleader for this year's effort, it seems like organization is lacking. I visited the Web site on Wednesday evening to take a look at the menus, and many were missing entire menus, prices on menus, or were formatted in a way which made figuring out the options confusing. I'd cut them a break, except for the fact that they sold hundreds of tickets to the Tower Bridge dinner for $175 each. Surely, they can find a couple bucks to get an accurate Web site up.

However, some restaurants did submit their menus and were posted by FarmtoFork.com. Of those, these seemed interesting to me:

  • Esquire Grill, $35 per person (menu)
  • Ella Dining Room & Bar, $45 per person (menu)
  • Blue Prynt, $35 per person (menu)
  • Centro, $25 per person (menu)
  • Foundation, $35 per person (menu)
  • Grange, $25 per person (menu)
  • Hock Farm, $35 per person (menu)
  • Rio City Cafe, $35 or $45 per person, depending on menu
  • The New Old Sloughhouse Inn, $25 per person (menu)
  • The Waffle Experience, $10 per person (menu)


Check out the menus and see what tickles your fancy. I haven't tried The Waffle Experience yet, and this seems as good a reason as any. I'm also intruiged by Grange's $25 menu and Esquire's $35 menu.

For more information, visit http://www.farmtofork.com/events/restaurant-week/, though be ready to be disappointed by their level of detail.

More News:

Why California’s alcohol taxes are so low - An end-of-session legislative proposal to add a 5-cent tax to cocktails – everything from happy hour shots of bourbon to pricey craft concoctions – again made clear the Capitol’s sustained aversion to alcohol levies. Christopher Cadelago in the Sac Bee.

Soil Born celebrates fall in true farm-to-fork spirit - What could be a more farm-to-fork experience than sampling fresh-made food at a farm? Tickets are now on sale for Soil Born Farms’ Autumn Equinox Celebration, featuring dishes created by dozens of local chefs and food professionals. The event will be held from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 19, at Soil Born’s Hurley Way farm at 3000 Hurley Way, Sacramento. A working farm in the city, the 1.5-acre Hurley Way farm grew some of the produce that will be served during the evening. Debbie Arrington in the Sac Bee.

Capay Organic's harvest festival aims to strengthen farm-to-fork bonds - The company’s farm, Capay Organic, will play host to the 5th Annual Capay Crush, featuring live music, food vendors, petting zoo, grape stomping, art and a tractor tram. Running from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 19, the event features food and a limited number of camping sites in the orchards of the working farm in the Capay Valley. Mark Anderson in Sac Biz Journal.

Empress Tavern evokes meaty past, artful present - I can say now that Empress is unlike any other restaurant in the Sacramento region...Considering we were there the first night Empress opened to the public, its level of execution impressed. The flavor-packed prime rib gave way easily to a butter knife, even at its rarest sections. The satisfyingly salty bone-marrow bordelaise served with it lent itself well to dipping by moist, dense Parker House rolls. Carla Meyer in the Sac Bee.

Popular Citrus Heights restaurant shuts down - Linda's Chicago Style Pizzeria has closed its Citrus Heights restaurant, but a location in Loomis remains open. The eatery on 7815 Greenback Lane shut its doors this month due to "lease issues," owner Linda Ellington wrote on the restaurant's website. Ellington's sister, Zelda Breslin, is the namesake of Zelda's Original Gourmet Pizza in midtown Sacramento. Breslin died in 2006. Sonya Sorich in Sac Biz Journal.

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Dining News: Meet & Eat to Replace Crepe Escape on Freeport

Cafe dantorels

After fire closed Crepe Escape in Land Park in 2013, Meet & Eat, by the owners of Cafe Dantorels in Curtis Park, will fill the space, reports Bob Shallit in the Sac Bee.

Turns out it’s going to be called Meet and Eat and will have a mix of locally sourced menu options. The opening date? That’s still not certain. And a beer and wine license application for the place is still pending...

One employee, who asked not to be identified, said the new place will have a “European” feel with a smaller menu than Dantorels and will provide full service at dinner as opposed to the counter service offered at the Curtis Park location.

Read the entire story in the Sac Bee.

If you've never been to Cafe Dantorels, here's what then-Sac Bee dining critic Blair Anthony Robertson said in May 2014:

My search for answers about why this restaurant is so crowded so often came up with the only one that makes sense: The people in the Curtis Park neighborhood really want it there and want to see it succeed. It’s certainly not a destination eatery, and I can’t say it’s worth driving across town to check it out. I do recommend it as a place for a quick bite and some good beer or wine. It’s also a good bet for breakfast with quality coffee.

But if Cafe Dantorels is going to maintain its momentum and embrace the obvious goodwill from the neighborhood, it must take a careful look at what’s missing in the kitchen and take meaningful steps to improve the food.

Read the entire story in the Sac Bee.

If there's one thing going for it, Meet and Eat doesn't face strong competition in that part of town. I hope they find success.

More News:

Drinking with your dog: Canine-friendly breweries, wineries abound - Sacramento is fast becoming a dog-friendly city, with a dozen off-leash parks and a long list of restaurants allowing pooches on patios. For wineries and breweries, which typically don’t have the health complications of having food preparation on the premises, courting canines seems like a no-brainier. Many drinking establishments with outdoor areas easily accommodate pet lovers without degrading the experience for those with allergies or fear of dogs. Others have created special playpens to accommodate animals. All stress that owners are ultimately responsible for their dogs’ behavior. Featuring Track 7, Bike Dog Brewing, Oak Park Brewing and many others. Sammy Caiola in the Sac Bee.

Ballad of chicken hearts - All around, the flavors were simple but spot-on; the execution flawless...With the bustling open kitchen, large and striking full bar and ridiculous beer bottle list of something like 40 rare brews, Empress promises to be one of the hottest destinations in town. My only question: Can you eat too many chicken hearts? Janelle Bitker in Sac News & Review.

Sacramento Farm-to-Fork Festival sets a record — and it hasn't even started - This year, the festival features five live cooking demonstration stages, up from three last year. The festival is a chance to meet the region’s chefs, growers, farmers, grocers and other foodie-type groups in the community. The vendors include everything from food trucks to ranches and supermarket displays to restaurants and museums. Sonya Sorich in Sac Biz Journal.

New Galleria restaurant opened this week - A major new addition to the dining lineup at the Westfield Galleria in Roseville is almost ready to serve customers. Locally owned restaurant Land Ocean opened at 11 a.m. Friday, pending final approvals, according to a post on the eatery's Facebook page. It's the second location for Land Ocean, which is co-owned by Mark Platt and Karoline Platt. The restaurant serves entrees such as steaks, chicken and seafood. Sonya Sorich in Sac Biz Journal.

New wine bar to open downtown in October - Oenophiles, get ready to be wined (and dined). San Francisco restaurateur John Marco is adding to downtown Sacramento’s transformation with the opening of a new wine bar at 4th and L, next to Foundation Restaurant & Bar and one block from the Golden 1 Center. Whired Wine (which gets its name from the combination of “white” and “red”) is set to open its doors in mid-October, and will feature a rotating menu of local wines, along with six taps of regional beers and even sake. It will also serve small plates, cheese and charcuterie. Amanda Lash in Sactown Mag.

Continue reading "Dining News: Meet & Eat to Replace Crepe Escape on Freeport" »

Dining News: Empress Begins Her Reign


Empress Tavern, the meat lovers counterpart to the vegetarian Mother, is scheduled to open on Thursday for dinner.

Over the last several days, they've been holding preview dinners, including a big party on Saturday.

The best preview that I've seen over the last week is from Catherine Enfield on Munchie Musings:

Inside the bar occupies the center with 360 degree access. I liked that many of the tables have leaves on them to make them either square or circle in shape. The benches are similar to Mother in that they also act as storage bins. On the far wall are the most impressive tables. There are several arched alcoves with longer tables for parties of 6-8. Someone joked that they should place bar doors on them so it would look like prison cells. At the farthest corner is the Chef's Table, long and beautiful.

The open kitchen is in full view with the star being the large rotisserie. When I arrived it had two racks of chickens and a rack of porchetta. Yum!

The food will be familiar carvery selections. I'm glad they will be going truly nose-to-tail based on some of the offerings at the event. Offal selections that night included chicken hearts with chimichurri and lamb sweetbreads. But most folks will probably stick with the steaks, porchetta, chickens, and burgers. We asked to see a menu, but there were none to be found at the event.

Read the entire post on Munchie Musings.

Empress Tavern is located at 1013 K Street and can be found online at http://empresstavern.com/. You can also make reservations for meals starting Sept. 9.

More News:

Empress Tavern opens Thursday for meat nirvana - Start making your reservations now. Empress Tavern—the meat-centric restaurant from the Mother team—opens on Thursday, but it’s already booked solid until the following week. Those earliest reservations were snatched up by friends and industry folks who attended a preview gala Saturday night—and understandably so. The space is stunning. It feels undeniably, well, cool. Janelle Bitker in Sac News & Review.

Empress Tavern to open in downtown Sacramento on Thursday - Appetizers went fast at Saturday’s party, though we did snag a piece of turducken (a chicken stuffed into a duck, with the result then stuffed into a turkey). It offered an intriguingly sweet finish and tasted most prominently of turkey. Plans to allow Crest patrons to take alcoholic beverages to their theater seats have been put on hold, theater manager Yulya Borroum said, until details are worked out. Carla Meyer in the Sac Bee

Food, setting shine at Oak Park Brewing - The food at Sacramento’s Oak Park Brewing Co. meets all expectations for craft-beer companionship, and then some. Chef Steve Yarbrough and crew deliver the fat, salt, heat and sugar that pair so well with beer, and at a higher level than one might expect in a restaurant that affords a view of large metal fermenters in the next room. Carla Meyer in the Sac Bee.

Icy fresh: Fruit Basket sorbetto, Devine Gelataria - Summer demands delicious seasonal refreshment—the colder the better. Devine Gelateria's Fruit Basket sorbetto is made from fruit in the prime of its season, and the recipe regularly changes to highlight whatever is fresh and delicious. Meg Masterson in Sac News & Review.

Not your usual fare: Gala dinner chefs come from outside the grid - Oliver Ridgeway of Grange and Ravin Patel of Selland Family Restaurants are the lead chefs for this year’s sold-out dinner. In May they began recruiting chefs for the event, which will serve about 740 people. The result is a culinary lineup that’s not confined to well-known eateries on the grid. “I think it’s nice to widen that scope,” Ridgeway said. “I think everyone’s brought a different skill set.” Sonya Sorich in Sac Biz Journal. ($$)

Continue reading "Dining News: Empress Begins Her Reign" »

Dining News: Empress Tavern Preview


Empress Tavern is scheduled to open on next week, and they've been giving previews to local media. The Sac Bee's Chris Macias tweeted that the space is a "game changer."

Here's a little more from S.T. Vanairsdale in Sactown Mag.

Thiemann promises a meat mecca when Empress opens, a carvery rooted in the sanctity of the French dip and with heaping servings of everything from prime rib to short ribs to seafood and even the turducken—the Thanksgiving specialty of chicken stuffed inside duck, then stuffed inside turkey, that Empress will offer year-round. 

Former Mother chef and longtime Thiemann confederate Matt Masera will lead the kitchen, a massive space with a rotisserie oven at its heart, pastry and ice cream stations at the ready (desserts are Masera’s forte) and a halo of gleaming pots, pans and other implements dangling from the ceiling.

“It’s like a steakhouse, but with all meats, which allows us to keep the price point really reasonable,” says Thiemann, who emphasizes Empress highlights like salmon and Hangtown fry (the oyster omelet delicacy hailing from the Gold Rush) nearly in the same breath as bone marrow with escargot.

 Read the entire story in Sactown Mag.

Vanairsdale also reports that the opening date has been refined from the week of Aug. 31 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

For some gorgeous pictures of the space, check out chef/partner Michael Thiemann's Instagram account.


Empress Tavern

A photo posted by Michael Thiemann (@chefthiemann) on Aug 24, 2015 at 11:19pm PDT

Empress Tavern is located at 1013 K Street, and can be found at EmpressTavern.com.

More News:

Here's what happened after I ordered a glass of wine at Starbucks - Instead of "tall" or "grande," I was deciding between pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. And strangely, extra whipped cream was not an option. Welcome to the new Starbucks experience. Sonya Sorich in Sac Biz Journal

Sacramento’s thriving cocktail culture lures back a hometown star - Scores of Sacramentans have faced this dilemma: Should I stay, or should I go? Jayson Wilde grappled with this choice five years ago. Burned out from his desk job at a Roseville insurance company and unhappy that his punk band was stuck in limbo, he took a side job as a bar back at the Shady Lady Saloon on R Street. There, he found his calling making craft cocktails – impeccably prepared mixed drinks featuring fresh ingredients and dynamic flavor combinations. Chris Macias in the Sac Bee.

Truly, deadly, delicious - Formoli’s Bistro radically changed its lunch menu for the first time since, well, ever. The only remaining items are the stuffed dates and—don’t freak out—the whiskey burger. That means there are a whole lotta new dishes to try. I recently sampled a simple salad with perfectly seared salmon ($12); a fried chicken sandwich that surprises with a light tempura-beer batter ($10); and deadly, deadly braised lengua tacos ($9). Sometimes, the taco plate offers pork instead. But when it’s lengua—my goodness—you must. Janelle Bitker in Sac News & Review.

Sweet, savory, seasonal: Prosciutto and watermelon pizza, Paesanos - Meat and melon on a pizza? I wasn't so sure about it going in, but I've seen the light. Paesanos' delicious seasonal pizza ($13.95) has just the right balance of sweet and savory on top of a tasty crust. Meg Masterson in Sac News & Review.

The Berhane sisters serve up coffee with a side of sass at Tiferet - Sabrina and Makeda Berhane have made their East Sacramento business, Tiferet Coffee House, such a neighborhood gathering place that not long ago, a young man who had just passed his bar exam brought in champagne for the sisters and their customers. The reason: He had done most of his studying there. Ed Goldman in Sac Biz Journal.

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Dining News: Empress Tavern Sets Opening Date


Empress Tavern, Sacramento's most heavily anticipated restaurant, will open at the end of the month, the Sac Bee's Chris Macias reports on Twitter.

Empress is latest effort by Chefs Michael Thiemann and Matt Masera, the team behind the always packed vegetarian restaurant Mother on K Street. The restaurant, located in the basement of the Crest Theater, is expected to focus on rottisserie meats such as smoked prime rib, turducken and porchetta. The bar will be focused on gin, with several local beers on tap and a charity tap, where proceeds go to a local charity. Click here to see a longer menu preview in the Sac Bee.

While prices have yet to be revealed, Thiemann also says that the price point will be below that of the nearby Ella.

The Empress management and staff has long been hired and trained. On a recent visit to Mother, the Empress bar manager was keeping busy by running the cash register, waiting for Empress to open.

The team behind Mother has other concepts in the pipeline, including Maiden, an ice cream parlor, and Queen's Market, a fish shop.

When Empress Tavern opens, it will be located at 1013 K Street, and can be found online at http://empresstavern.com/.

More News:

First Impressions: Fish Face and Metro Kitchen on the R Street Corridor - The fresh-tasting ahi and smoky-flavored (and cooked) octopus arrived in generous portions in plastic cups. From the point where one first digs in, to about midway into the cup, there’s just enough sauce on the fish to enhance its flavors. But at cup’s bottom, where the fish had been sitting in sauce, things grew overly salty. (Since we visited a few weeks ago, Fish Face has switched to metal bowls for eat-in orders.) Carla Meyer and Allen Pierleoni in the Sac Bee.

Sacramento Burger Battle sells out quickly; event announces competitors - Six weeks before some of the area’s best chefs compete for bragging rights and burger supremacy at Cesar Chavez Park downtown, Sacramento Burger Battle has already sold out. In just its fourth year, the Burger Battle has gone from an unknown event organized by a self-proclaimed burger junkie to a must-attend gala for foodies. The 2015 rendition takes place Sept. 17, but just last week, the last of the 900 tickets were gobbled up. Blair Anthony Robertson in the Sac Bee.

Chef changes at Pangaea Bier Cafe - Chef Robb “Rossi” Venditti quietly left Pangaea Bier Cafe earlier this month to launch a new catering company with chef Aimal Formoli of Formoli’s Bistro, according to Pangaea’s new chef Brett Stockdale. Janelle Bitker in Sac News & Review.

Morgan’s on Main - Jeff and Kellie Morgan, the husband-and-wife team behind the Woodland-based hospitality company Yolo Eats, will open this new restaurant in downtown Woodland in the fall. According to Yolo Eats general manager Brett Gardenhire, Morgan’s on Main (which takes over the space previously occupied by a steakhouse called Hoof and Fowl) will invoke an “old-world industrial feel [and] a modern wood approach” with wrought iron and saddle leather accents, wooden table tops and suspended beams in the dining room. In Sactown Magazine.

Pop-Up Dinner at Block Butcher Bar - Monday Supper is back at Block Butcher Bar on Monday, August 3. Monday Suppers offer a pop-up dinner experience at Block’s intimate hideaway where Chef Allyson Harvie presents a 4-course meal paired with spirit-forward cocktails by Bar Manager, Karina Martinez. We spent the last 5 days with Chef Allyson and Karina as they prepared for Monday Supper, from farmers market trips to hanging tomatoes and testing cocktails. Susan Yee in City Scout Magazine.

Continue reading "Dining News: Empress Tavern Sets Opening Date" »

Dining News: What's Next for the Team Behind Mother after Empress?

Empress tavern

The highly anticipated Empress Tavern, the restaurant for carnivores by chefs Michael Thiemann and Matt Masera and the rest of the team behind Mother, will open any week now.

Their signage is up. The management and staff have been hired and trained. They've toured local farmers markets.

But that doesn't mean they're resting on their laurels. The Sac Bee's Chris Macias scoops in a larger story about the upcoming Empress:

Thiemann’s plan is to create a string of restaurants with feminine names. Mother opened in 2014 and has emerged as a favorite of vegetarians and carnivores alike. Empress takes its moniker from the former name of the Crest Theatre, and there are two more projects in the works: Maiden Sacramento Ice Cream, and Queen’s Market, a fish shop similar to Hog’s Island Oyster Co.

Read the entire story in the Sac Bee.

When Empress Tavern opens, it will be located at 1013 K Street, and can be found online at http://empresstavern.com/.

More News:

Cask & Barrel: A better barbecue - Cask & Barrel is certainly doing a lot of lovely things with the concept of barbecue, turning it over and dressing it up, blurring the lines between tablecloth dining and eating with your fingers. Some of it is good, some of it is excellent and a few dishes need work. Still, if you have dinner plans this week, I recommend you cancel them and immediately go check out Cask & Barrel. Garrett McCord in Sac News & Review.

Is Starbucks serving up more stores with booze? - It appears Starbucks is continuing its effort to add beer and wine to some of its Sacramento region stores, with at least four possible locations set to get boozy in the future. Sonya Sorich in Sac Biz Journal.

Counter Culture: Hana Tsubaki relies on favorite family recipes - The lunch pal summed it up: “With its Japanese fans, soft lighting, restrained ambiance and Japanese staff, Hana Tsubaki is the next best thing to dining in Japan – and a heckuva lot cheaper!” Allen Pierleoni in the Sac Bee.

Band of Brothers: Childhood friends launch social-savvy wine brand from hometown in Clarksburg - Yet time and circumstance eventually led all three back to the family farms of Clarksburg and, ultimately, to a table at Club Pheasant in West Sacramento. It was there, in March of 2014, they decided to do together what all three had dreamed of separately: open a winery. Michelle Locke in Comstocks Mag.

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