The Porch

Dining News: Second Sac Restaurant Adds Kitchen Tip Option


Following in the footsteps of Magpie, Ella has added a kitchen tip option to their receipts.

For those unfamiliar with the way tips are distributed, generally, only service staff can legally share in the tips. Kitchen staff is prohibited by law from getting a cut (unless servers choose to share their tips as a gift), and this leads to great pay disparities between the front of the house and back of the house staff.

Click here for a more detailed explanation of the issue.

Magpie was the first Sacramento restaurant to add a line where diners could choose to leave a tip of any amount for kitchen staff. Ella's option is similar, but the receipt asks if you want to "allocate 5% of the above tip to the Kitchen Staff." My server clarified that it meant that for every $100 in tips collected, $5 would go to the kitchen staff. This does not mean that if you leave a 20 percent tip, 5 percent goes to the kitchen, with the remaining 15 percent going to the servers.

One of the criticisims of the Magpie system is that some servers started to see less take home pay as diners started splitting the same tip percentage between service and kitchen staff. The Ella system seems to try to tackle this issue by strongly suggesting that 5 percent go to the kitchen, though I suppose one could change that 5 percent split to any number.

Selland's PR contact did not respond to a phone and e-mail request for comment and elaboration on Wednesday afternoon. My server at Ella during an afternoon visit said that the change took place at the beginning of the year.

While we're on the topic of tipping, there was a great San Francisco Chronicle article earlier this month that examined what's happened to restaurants that have tried to eliminate tipping and increase wages.

So when Sous Beurre Kitchen opened in the Mission in February, Mauschbaugh followed the example of five Bay Area restaurants that abandoned tipping in late 2014. He printed all-inclusive prices on his menu, which allowed him to pay his kitchen staff well above minimum wage and offer health insurance.

This October, though, Mauschbaugh aban-doned the tipless model and issued pay cuts. “We got overrun with taxes, and it became unsustainable,” he said.

Read the entire article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Rum Rok - The weather may be cooling down but this newly opened Tiki bar has been heating up the downtown bar scene ever since it opened Dec. 9...Co-owner Bob Simpson hopes that the bar, which occupies a former nightclub space on the corner of H and 15th streets, will become a go-to stop for concert and theater-goers attending shows at nearby Memorial Auditorium and Wells Fargo Pavilion. In Sactown Magazine. (Fifth item.)

Soup as medicine: Aka Tonkotsu, Ryujin Ramen House - But there’s no rest for the busy, so I load up on soothing soups like the Aka Tonkotsu ($8.95) from Ryujin Ramen House. With spicy red ginger, green onions, BBQ pork and plenty of super-hot broth, it’s like medicine in a bowl. I love the semicooked egg, too, for its creamy smoothness. Ann Martin Rolke in Sac News & Review.

That parm, tho - Rocklin recently got its first Jimboy’s Tacos, which held its official grand opening last week. Welcome to Parmesan-dusted heaven, Rocklin. The Rocklin Jimboy’s (5410 Crossings Drive) joins the Folsom location and a few spots further away in testing new Jimboy’s menu items. Janelle Bitker in Sac News & Review.

Tea, please - More and more boba shops keep opening in Natomas. The latest is T4 U, which boasts hip decor and excellent credentials. The first T4 opened in Taiwan in 2004, slowly adding more Taiwan locations before expanding to Malaysia in 2012. Janelle Bitker in Sac News & Review. (Fourth item.)

Bakery’s invisible expansion - Its customers may not realize it, but the popular Karen’s Bakery & Cafe in Old Folsom has practically doubled its space. After years of having its cooking and baking staff squeeze into a tiny kitchen, the business has leased a nearby building that formerly housed the Thai Siam Restaurant. Bob Shallit in the Sac Bee.

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Dining News: Firehouse Crawfish to Replace Sapporo Grill


Sapporo Grill has been sold and will become a Firehouse Crawfish, according to a notice required by the state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

According to ABC license information, Firehouse Crawfish is owned by Trinh Cong Le. Le also owns Firehouse Crawfish in South Sac.

The restaurant specializes in a seafood boil where diners select a seafood, a flavor (original, fusion, lemon pepper, garlic roasted, butter, etc.) and level of spiciness from mild like a rookie to call the fire department. Customers are encouraged to wear a big and eat the food with their hands, though utinsils are also available.

This is how the restaurant describes itself on its Web site:

Firehouse Crawfish is a Sacramento family owned business, we take great pride in using only the finest and freshest ingredients.
We have been happily serving our neighbors since August of 2011.

Our restaurant specializes in crawfish along with other fresh seafood. If you're not in the mood for crawfish, we have a wide variety of seafood with something for everyone. We offer lots of delicious flavors and seasoning options in a fun, casual and friendly atmosphere.

According to the hostess who answered the phone when I called on Tuesday evening, Sapporo Grill is expected to stay open through mid-January.

Sapporo Grill, which first opened in 2009, can be found at 1118 16th St. and can be found online at

Previously: Sapporo Grill Closed temporarily by Health Department in 2012

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TBD Fest co-founder sued, accused of breach of contract - Clay Nutting, co-founder of TBD Fest and partner in LowBrau/Block Butcher Bar, has been named in a lawsuit over nonpayment of a $200,000 loan. The breach of contract and fraud lawsuit was filed Dec. 9 in Sacramento Superior Court on behalf of Katrina Arnaud, a Sacramento-based certified public accountant who says she took out a mortgage on her house to provide half of the loan she gave to Nutting, an organizer of the three-day concert that incorporates art, food and fashion. Chris Macias in the Sac Bee.

Gluten-free bakery Pushkin’s expanding in midtown Sacramento - Pushkin’s, the popular midtown gluten-free bakery, is expanding its operations, taking over the ground floor of a new mixed-use building at 1813 Capitol Ave. Co-owner Danny Turner said Wednesday he and his wife, Olga, will move their fast-growing business into the new, 3,000-square-foot location in April and offer breakfast and lunch as well as baked goods and coffee. Bob Shallit in the Sac Bee.

Behind the Apron with Mary: Local Foodie Gift Guide - Believe it or not, Christmas is less than 10 days away! In an effort to make your gift shopping a little easier, I have created a small local gift guide for the foodies in your life. Foodies can be tough to shop for as they likely already have a stocked kitchen. If you want to give something a little more personal than a gift card to the Paragary’s or Empress Tavern, this guide is here to help (although there is no shame in the gift card game). Remember to shop small, and no one is looking if you end up keeping any of these gifts for yourself! Mary McCune on Girls on the Grid.

Feast Q&A: The Porch’s patrons won’t be home for Christmas - But a little digging reveals other options for dining out Friday, Dec. 25, in Sacramento. Among establishments serving meals are the Hyatt Regency hotel, which is putting out a giant brunch buffet ($64.95 adults; $32.95 children; 916-443-1234) from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; East Sacramento’s Hoppy Brewing Co., offering a limited menu from 2-9 p.m., and midtown’s Southern restaurant The Porch, open from 1-8 p.m. The Porch had been in business only a few weeks when it served its first Christmas Day meal, in 2011. We spoke to co-owners John Lopez and Jerry Mitchell about what is becoming a holiday tradition. Carla Meyer in the Sac Bee.

Why Bobby Coyote opposes proposed Davis tax on ‘Big Soda’ - Bobby Coyote, owner of Davis-based Dos Coyotes Border Cafe, says he is sympathetic to arguments concerning health problems caused by sugar. But he opposes the soda tax out of the fear that it would create a logistical challenge at his restaurants. Dos Coyotes offers fountain soda dispensers and free refills, Coyote said. He said he doesn’t know how his staff would track consumption of the sweetened beverages. Allen Young in Sac Biz Journal.

Two area restaurants prepare to close - After nearly 30 years of business, Vince's Ristorante at 8901 Elk Grove-Florin Road will have its final day of business on Dec. 20. In a phone interview, officials with the restaurant said the closure is due to retirement. Vince's covers about 5,000 square feet. Sonya Sorich in Sac Biz Journal.

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Dining News: Owners of The Cinders to Open Oak Park Taqueria


Brothers Tom and David Schnetz grew up in Sacramento. The former went on to open five successful restaurants in the East Bay. The later became a successful Sacramento construction expert.

Now, the two brothers have partnered on a second Sacramento establishment - an upscale taqueria and cocktail bar in Oak Park, reports Bob Shallit in the Sac Bee.

The menu will likely include a mix of tacos with Niman Ranch meats, tortas, tamales and soups along with beer, wine and cocktails using tequila and mezcal...

He worked for a couple of San Francisco restaurants, then opened his own place – Doña Tomás – in the Temescal district of Oakland in 1999.

His next venture, in west Berkeley, was an upscale taqueria called Tacubaya, which will be the model for the Oak Park operation.

Schnetz has three other restaurants – Flora, Fauna and Xolo – clustered at 19th Street and Telegraph Avenue in Oakland.

The restaurant does not yet have a name. Read the entire story in the Sac Bee.

* Photo via Google Street View.

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Taqueria to Inhabit Historic Oak Park Building - A successful Bay Area restaurateur with Sacramento roots is preparing to open a taqueria in a now-vacant building at Broadway and 35th Street in Sacramento's Oak Park neighborhood...Schnetz is partnering with his brother, David, in the yet-to-be named business...A specific date has not yet been set, but Schnetz is planning on a February 2016 opening. Dennis Shanahan on FOX 40.

Sacramento’s Oak Park Neighborhood Seeing Revitalization - Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood was once one of the most popular neighborhoods in Sacramento with local shops and businesses within walking distance from homes. Then Oak Park experienced a downturn as many businesses and homeowners left. Now the neighborhood south and east of Downtown Sacramento is experiencing a revitalization. An old building will soon house a new space, home to a new taqueria run by Dave Shnetz and his Bay Area restaurateur brother Tom. Kelly Ryan on CBS 13.

Sacramento bartender spent months making nocino liqueur - Not only is Ryan Seng the head bartender at the four-star Grange restaurant inside the Citizen Hotel, he’s also an accomplished alchemist. The proof is his handmade batch of nocino, more than three months in the making. “I played around with it for awhile,” Seng said. “I’m really happy with how the flavor turned out.” Allen Pierleoni in the Sac Bee.

Feast gift guide: 15 (mostly) local ideas ready for wrapping paper - The holiday gift-giving season will be out of the oven shortly, a merry post-Thanksgiving feast of hunting and gathering that somehow seems to arrive at the table each year before we do. It’s not too early to cook up ideas for stocking stuffers, host gifts and under-the-tree presents for your favorite food enthusiast. To help, we’ve prepped some dishy ideas. In the Sac Bee.

Pizza restaurant plans Howe Bout Arden location - A build-it-yourself pizza chain is coming to the Howe Bout Arden shopping center, where a massive redevelopment plan is in the works...The address posted on Facebook says MOD Pizza will fill suite 180, an address that previously belonged to Baja Fresh. The Mexican restaurant closed its Arden Way location this past summer. Sonya Sorich in Sac Biz Journal.

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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

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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: RIP Wahoo's Fish Taco on L (At Least for April)


After being open eight short months, the Wahoo's Fish Taco at the L Street Lofts has closed, at least temporarily.

According to a sign posted on their door, the restaurant will be closed until May 1, and per Yelp comments, the restaurant's been closed since at least Monday.


I called the restaurant tonight, but the phone number was disconnected. There was no mention of the closure on Wahoo's Facebook page or Twitter account.

The fact that the bar will remain open a couple days a week is telling. When Enotria had a similar limited bar schedule, they explained it was done to keep their liquor license.

Reviews of the place were mediocre. Here's what the Sac Bee's Allen Pierleoni wrote in August:

The Maui onion rings were mundane, the Wahoo’s Bowl of teriyaki-sautéed carnitas was filling, the Kale Kai salad with chicken breast was disappointing.

His critique confirmed the experience I had over two visits early on. There was nothing wrong with the food, but nothing stood out. It was just unremarkable and what you'd expect from a chain.

I'll speculate that when the restaurant reopens, it may not be as a Wahoo's. The location is a franchise (as evidenced by their liquor license), so they can probably switch concepts. As always, I'll keep you updated.

Thanks to Cowtown Eats reader @Cody_Paz for the tip.

Wahoo's Fish Taco is/was located at 1820 L Street.

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Karen’s Bakery star wins big prize at National Creative Decorating Competition - Facing off against some of the top professional cake decorators in the U.S. and overcoming dizzy spells that nearly thwarted her chances, Emily Pille of Karen’s Bakery & Cafe was crowned the grand champion Sunday in the 14th annual National Creative Decorating Competition in Chicago. Blair Anthony Robertson in the Sac Bee.

Brunch at the Porch - The Porch has been my favorite restaurant in Sacramento for the past couple of years, but somehow I had never made it in for brunch. I now know how much I was missing out. Last weekend some friends and I stopped by for some midmorning munch and drinks at The Porch, and the end result was me taking a big post-brunch nap due to the delicious food-coma that ensued. Megan Foster in Sac Foodies.

A city of beers - So, I was curious about Sacramento’s efforts to sell its burgeoning beer reputation. Turns out, the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau is all over it. “Obviously beer is big everywhere these days, but we feel like Sacramento is historically California’s beer capital,” said Nick Leonti, the director of tourism. Blair Anthony Robertson in the Sac Bee. (Second item.)

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Dining News: Local Chef Not Headed to ABC's The Taste

Despite publicly musing that competing on ABC's The Taste might be in his future, Chef Keith Breedlove tweets that he won't be participating in Season 3 of the cooking reality show.

But for fans of Chef Breedlove's, he's set to appear on Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen on Dec. 7 and Guy's Grocery Games in October. Chef Breedlove will be (at least) the second Sacramento chef on Cutthroat Kitchen, with Kru's Billy Ngo appearing in Feb. 2014.

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The Press Still Delights - It’s been a long time since I’ve had an opportunity to visit The Press, located smack-dab in the heart of midtown. A recent dinner there convinced me that chef/owner David English is still firmly on his game, celebrating our seasonal bounty and offering patrons “food and drink of the Mediterranean table.” Kira O'Donnell in Sac Mag.

Try It: The Porch’s Tuscaloosa Fried Green Tomatoes - I’m reveling in this season’s bounty of gorgeous, sweet, sun-kissed tomatoes, but a dish I had recently at The Porch Restaurant and Bar reminded me that green, unripe tomatoes can also knock my socks off. Kira O'Donnell in Sac Mag.

Green Thumb Deli offers specialty sandwiches in West Sacramento - Owners of a new West Sacramento eatery are making it easier to be green. Green Thumb Deli opened about three weeks ago at 322 Third St. It offers "a little healthier slant than your normal deli," according to Paul Mallary, who manages the business and owns it with his wife, cousin and uncle. Sonya Sorich in Sac Biz Journal.

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Dining News: Mother Begets Maiden?

Maiden will be a "pop up starting soon," announced Mother executive chef Matt Masera on Instagram earlier this week.

I reached out to a contact at Mother to learn more, but information was not immediately forthcoming. It's also unclear whether the pop up restaurant was a project of Chef Masera separate from Mother, or as part of the Mother brand, but given the name, I'd be willing to bet that its the latter.

I'll keep you posted as I learn more about these pop ups. I'm excited to see where else they go next.

Relatedly, Masera will also be the featured guest at the August edition of the Plates Guest Chef Dinner. Plates Cafe is run by the St. John's Program for Real Change (formerly St. John's Shelter) where homeless women learn front of the house and back of the house skills that will help set them onto a path of financial sustainability.


The guest dinners are held the first Thursday of every month and feature a high profile chef. The meals are prepared by the guest chef and served by staff from the cafe. While I don't think it's technically all you can eat, the times I've attended, you can ask for seconds and you won't leave hungry. It's a good meal, a worthy cause and you'll have a great time.

August's guest dinner will be held on Thursday, Aug. 7. Tickets are $50 per person and can be found here.

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Tropics on a Budget: Mikuni’s Key Lime Moto - Wishing you were slathered with sun block and baking luxuriously in the tropical sunshine? If finances and hectic work schedules thwart your travel plans, head to midtown’s Mikuni Sushi for the bar’s Key Lime Moto—it’s guaranteed to catapult you directly into vacation mode. Kira O'Donnell in Sac Mag.

The Inaugural Sacratomato Week Begins July 21 - The inaugural “Sacratomato Week” will be held from July 21 through July 27, and locals can expect to find tomato-themed menu options, drink specials and more at Sutter District establishments such as Café Bernardo (heirloom tomato, avocado and chèvre sandwich with basil pesto) and INK Eats and Drinks (the “Harvest Hooch”—rye whiskey, tomatoes, strawberries, lemon juice, simple syrup and orange bitters). Kira O'Donnell in Sac Mag.

Dawson’s -  I had the opportunity to hang out with Jason Poole, the executive chef of Dawson’s last week, and learned that his restaurant is anything but an industry cliché. Located at 1209 L Street, Dawson’s is the Hyatt Regency’s in-house steakhouse. But don’t call it a “hotel restaurant.” Dawson’s stands on its own. “We’re not a hotel restaurant. We’re better than that stigma,” Poole says. “Yes, we have rooms here, but we’re so much more.” Megan Foster in Sac Foodies.

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