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It’s no secret that Sacramento is at a tipping point. Amidst all the construction dust, however, there are a few areas, such as R Street, Oak Park and West Sacramento, that are ready for their close-ups right now, and they are where you should be heading this weekend if you want a taste or a sip of the buzziest neighborhoods in the region (a flaming Sex Panther cocktail, anyone?). Consider this your insider’s guide to these hot hubs, where new restaurants, bars, boutiques and one-of-a-kind urban experiences await your arrival.
Ready, set, go out!

By Elise Craig, Hillary Louise Johnson and Kate Washington
Photographs by Jeremy Sykes

R Street Corridor

A century ago, the R Street Corridor was a thriving warehouse and manufacturing district, complete with a rail line—but just 10 years back, it was largely deserted between venerable British pub Fox & Goose at 10th Street and then-new R15 at 15th Street. These days, thanks to a few persistent visionaries and a healthy dose of city redevelopment funds, the converted historic brick buildings in that stretch and some cool recent additions draw throngs of eager diners, cocktail drinkers and a burgeoning wave of residents, enticed by hot bars and restaurants like longtime fave Shady Lady Saloon and newcomers Bottle & Barlow and Amaro. The neighborhood’s growth has the momentum of a freight train—with more to come, predicts Michael Heller, who himself is developing the highly anticipated Ice Blocks at the eastern end of the area. “Can you imagine one day when we have a walking bridge connecting R Street over the river to The Bridge District? Now that gets me fired up!” he says. “There’s no doubt in my mind R Street will help define the future of our city.” —Kate Washington

What’s Hot

Iron Horse Tavern

Sprawling in a high-profile corner space at R and 15th streets and spilling out onto a packed patio decorated with hanging succulent planters, Iron Horse (a 2015 venture from fraternal restaurateurs the Wong brothers, whose other offerings include Firestone Public House and Cafeteria 15L) lures the after-work and sports crowds with easy-to-like bar bites, like the brandy-fried chicken nuggets made from a secret family recipe and the cheesy, oblong flatbreads—not to mention its expansive, hopping central bar. Both the name of the restaurant and its brick-and-tile décor nod to the area’s railroad history (look for a miniature vintage train above the tap pulls). Downing a cold one with friends, you’ll instantly feel like you’re in the heart of the neighborhood. 1800 15th St. 448-4488. ironhorsetavern.net

The parade of street life provides the entertainment for diners seated on Iron Horse Tavern's corner patio. (Photo by Jeremy Sykes)

Bottle & Barlow

If you’re going to hang with the R Street hipsters, you gotta get your hair right. Luckily dudes can do that in the district at Bottle & Barlow, which opened in mid-2015 with barbering ranging from a “corpse reviver” straight-razor shave to a haircut named The Morrissey (if you don’t know the reference, brush up on your ’80s alt-scene vocab). And since this establishment literally puts the “bar” in barbershop, grab your snips while drinking a beer or a Moscow Mule. Or skip the shears and stick to the watering hole side of the venue, which offers more complex spins on the classics, such as the Rented Mule. The difference from the Moscow variety? A stubbornly earthy, colorful slug of beets, plus an enameled camping mug with Bottle & Barlow’s quail logo. There’s a strong beer list, too, and cool cocktails like a daiquiri with avocado agave or the sharp kumquat-scented Second Kuming. 1120 R St. 379-7719. bottleandbarlow.com

Patrons at Bottle & Barlow can take the edge off with a Rented Mule or an avocado daiquiri. (Photo by Jeremy Sykes)

Nido

When longtime neighborhood favorite Magpie moved to its bigger midtown location in the summer of 2015, R Streeters were briefly bereft—until Nido (the name means “nest” in both Italian and Spanish) quickly took its place, helmed by the same owners, Ed Roehr and Janel Inouye. The sunlight still pours into the easygoing, brick-lined space, the bakery case still overflows with treats like the storied carrot cake cookies, and the sidewalk patio still adds to the lively street scene. And best of all, the casual yet high-quality breakfast and lunch fare tastes happily familiar to Magpie devotees (yes, the signature smoked paprika hummus and Sampling the low-tech, hi-fi wares at the WAL’s Kicksville Vinyl & Vintage (Photo by Jeremy Sykes)fantastic chicken salad both remain on offer), with distinctive twists like the hearty house-made sausage sandwich on a pretzel bun (don’t miss the Day-Glo-colored pickles), luscious breakfast biscuit sandwich upscaled with savory portobello mushroom, or pork belly bao with a miso dressing. More good news: Brunch hours, which currently run until 4 p.m. daily, will be expanded to 9 p.m. on weeknights and 10 p.m. on weekends starting this summer, when dinner service launches. 1409 R St. 668-7594. hellonido.com

Amaro

The newest restaurant on R Street, which opened in January, comes courtesy of owners Jason Boggs, Garrett Van Vleck and Alex Origoni, who scored hits with nearby Shady Lady and B-Side. At Amaro Bistro & Bar, the focus is on Italy, with a cocktail list built on astringent Italian digestifs (the eatery’s name means “bitter”) and décor as ruby red as Campari. We love the walls of all-scarlet books, but we’re especially enamored with the Renaissance-themed portraits that add an irresistibly sophisticated Young Pope vibe. With a spacious patio overlooking the ever-growing foot traffic of R Street, on a warm night Amaro is the closest thing you’ll find in Sacramento to al fresco dining in a bustling Italian piazza—an impression that’s only heightened when you try the Naples-style pizzas, the saffron arancini (fried risotto balls) or cannoli filled to order. Add a bracing cocktail like a classic Negroni or an orange-zested Red Shirt Sour, and any hint of bitterness turns to la dolce vita. 1100 R St. 399-4145. amarobistrobar.com

The lavish Italianate atrium has everyone looking up at Amaro, the Shady Lady team’s hot new dining spot. (Photo by Marc Thomas Kallweit)

WAL Public Market

With artist lofts upstairs in this thoroughly renovated historic warehouse, it’s no surprise that the downstairs public market, which launched in May 2015, is cooler than cool. Burnish your collection of vintage threads at Old Gold, where the window displays are always crave-worthy; check out the rotating art exhibits on the WAL walls; or give the classic records and mid-mo goods at Kicksville Vinyl & Vintage and Medium Rare a spin. Hungry or thirsty? Fish Face Poke Bar, from Kru chef-owner Billy Ngo, dishes out an endless variety of bowls (our fave topping: tiny crisped rice balls), and Metro Kitchen & Drinkery serves up everything from quinoa bowls to fresh-pressed juices. WAL hosts events as well, such as its “First Friday” art walks, during which the building’s enviable rooftop patio, normally reserved for residents, is open to the public. And on June 24, an R Street block party with live music, art and more will take over the vibrant corridor. 1104 R St. walpublicmarket.com

What’s Still Cool

Fox & Goose Public House

Long before hip bars and farm-to-fork eateries took a chance on a formerly gritty R Street, Fox & Goose was packing ’em in for classic pub grub, live music (singer-songwriter Jackie Greene was discovered during one of its open mics) and trivia nights. (Developer Michael Heller, who is building the Ice Blocks project down the street, says, “We have Fox & Goose to thank for the Fox & Goose inaugurated the R Street scene in 1975 and added an outdoor patio in 2012. (Photo by Jeremy Sykes)early pioneering.”) Open since 1975, the English pub—named for a centuries-old tavern in the Yorkshire home village of original owner Bill Dalton—occupies the 1913 Fuller Paint and Glass Co. building. Inside, it’s a cozy, high-ceilinged warren, decorated with old-world ale posters that represent many of the British and Irish beers available on draft. The restaurant is especially popular for breakfasts like the traditional Full English (which includes “banger” sausage, eggs and baked beans) and the Welsh rarebit omelet, but vegans, take heart: tofu scrambles, tempeh bacon and other meatless options are equally tasty. 1001 R St. 443-8825. foxandgoose.com

Shoki Ramen House

A Sacramento favorite since 2007 and an R Street institution since 2011, Shoki has adopted the motto “a bowl of dreams,” and justly so. We do dream about the ramen here, with chewy noodles nestled in perfect broth that takes six to eight painstaking hours to make. There’s now a bigger sister location on 21st Street, but the busy little space on R Street still ladles up casual bowls of the signature tan tan men (ramen with spicy chili-spiked broth) to cure a cold—or a hangover, if by chance you’ve been hitting the R Street bars a little too hard. 1201 R St. 441-0011. shokiramenhouse.com

A poke bowl at Fish Face in the WAL Public Market (Photo by Jeremy Sykes)

Verge Center for the Arts

The arts organization—which relocated to this area from Southside Park in 2014 and houses art studios, gallery shows and classes—lies a block away on S Street, but is a key element of this neighborhood’s rebirth. Check it out for monthly movie nights, comic book workshops, and contemporary and experimental exhibits in the gallery. (On April 20, Verge will host a screening of Don’t Blink—Robert Frank, a 2016 documentary about the groundbreaking photographer, and in the fall, it will present a show by the famed feminist art group Guerrilla Girls.) Also, look out for special events like the popular TV Dinner fundraiser, which this year takes place May 20 and has a Dynasty theme. 625 S St. 448-2985. vergeart.com
Editors' Note: These events have passed. Please check the website for updated information.

Verge Center for the Arts anchors the local creative community with cutting-edge exhibits and special events like its popular TV Dinner fundraisers. (Photo by Makoto Hawkins)

Shady Lady Saloon

With its sexy speakeasy vibe and craft drinks, Shady Lady was not just a trailblazer in Sacramento’s cocktail renaissance but also an anchor of R Street redevelopment when it opened in 2009. (Jason Boggs, who with co-owners Alex Origoni and Garrett Van Vleck worked down the block at R15 before they launched Shady Lady, remembers the industrial block as a “wasteland” then.) A big bar with open sight lines, crimson-colored flocked wallpaper and photos featuring old-time shady ladies all encourage lingering. So do the excellent libations, which are inventive (like the Red Daisy, a blood orange margarita—which means “daisy” in Spanish—spiced up with jalapeños) or classic (foamy, tart pisco sours; impeccable Old Fashioneds). Get the duck tots—yes, they are tater tots with duck confit inside—and you’ll never want to leave. 1409 R St. 231-9121. shadyladybar.com

 Shady Lady’s boudoir vibe and ahead-of-the-curve craft cocktails have earned it hat tips from both Esquire and Playboy. (Photo by Jeremy Sykes)

What’s Next

Places to eat and drink will keep coming: A small bar project from Simon and Henry de Vere White, The Snug, is slated to fill the empty space next to Roxie Deli in the 15th and R building (no word on an opening date, Set the night on fire by ordering up the off-menu Sex Panther at Shady Lady. (Photo by Jeremy Sykes)as the brothers are awaiting permitting). The de Vere Whites, owners of de Vere’s Irish Pub, also plan to occupy the corner space of a large Cordano Company development at 11th and R streets—a revamp of the historic Sacramento Granite & Marble building—with a pub concept (but not another de Vere’s). The project’s manager, Steve Dolim, says he hopes to break ground in June 2017, with an estimated completion date of late 2018 or early 2019. Near 12th and R, craft coffee maestros Tim Jordan and Jason Griest will open what Jordan describes as “an Old Soul on steroids” in late summer or early fall. To the east, between 16th and 18th streets, the Ice Blocks, on the site of the old Crystal Ice building (which largely burned to the ground in 2015, necessitating a sharp pivot from reuse plans), is going full steam ahead. Developer Michael Heller expects the “Ice Sheds” building to open this summer, with cult San Francisco coffee chain Philz as a confirmed tenant. Also expanding the area’s retail offerings (and livability) are new grocery options: In addition to the recently opened Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op down the street at 28th, Raley’s is set to launch its own natural foods store, Market 5-One-5, in the heart of the neighborhood at 10th and R.

Gimme Shelter

The Warehouse Artist Lofts (WAL) helped pioneer new housing in this once-industrial area with a mix of market-rate studio apartments and larger affordable apartments aimed at working artists. Across the street at 11th and R, the Cordano Company’s upcoming adaptive reuse project, designed by renowned local firm Vrilakas Groen Architects, will have 26 residential units. The two floors of apartments will be set back from the street-front profile of the historic building below and feature a sleek contemporary look that complements the preserved brick. Down the street at Ice Blocks, Heller expects apartments—142 units in total, from studios to two-bedrooms—to be move-in ready this July (iceblocksmidtown.com). Patrons at Bottle & Barlow can take the edge off with a Rented Mule or an avocado daiquiri. The parade of street life provides the entertainment for diners seated on Iron Horse Tavern’s corner patio. Not your mother’s shopping mall: The WAL Public Market caters to lovers of mid-century eclectica and handicrafts.