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To borrow from Ernest Hemingway, Oak Park became one of Sacramento’s newest hot spots two ways—gradually, then suddenly. Call it a renaissance, call it the dreaded g-word (gentrification), but the buzz on the historic neighborhood, which has been percolating for years now, is fast approaching critical mass. Some of Sacramento’s most celebrated architects, designers, craft brewers, coffee roasters and all-around placemakers are carving out niches for themselves—and their community—here, injecting the area with new energy after decades of decline. Architect Ron Vrilakas is doing more than any one person to develop the look and feel of this reborn neighborhood; Roshaun and Maritza Davis, who run the event marketing outfit Unseen Heroes, are enlivening the Broadway Triangle with street festivals and storefronts; design and architecture firm Popp Littrell—which created the looks for local destinations like Magpie, Masullo and Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates—moved to the neighborhood last year; and a notable Bay Area restaurateur opened an eatery here recently, with one more on the way. Welcome to the new Oak Park. —Elise Craig
Gateway Arch and McClatchy Park
Standing under the sculptural, 52-foot span of the new Oak Park Gateway Arch (shown above) and watching moms with strollers or kids riding bikes on their way into McClatchy Park, it’s easy to see that the neighborhood’s revitalization is about way more than the new shops on Broadway. In December, the Oak Park Business Association erected a replica of a century-old city landmark—the arch that once welcomed visitors to an amusement park called Joyland. The slightly smaller steel version now sits at 35th Street and 5th Avenue at the edge of the park, which got its own refurbishment—including colorful playgrounds, new basketball courts and a butterfly garden—in 2014. The space next to the arch is also home to a popular Saturday morning farmers’ market, which runs from May through October.
Rire and Nectar
Last July, Josie Lee opened her third brick-and-mortar store at 34th Street and Broadway—the first two Rire shops are in midtown and Davis—bringing the same playful mix of trendy but reasonably priced dresses (some as low as $32), separates and accessories (think chunky stone rings and knotted statement necklaces) to Oak Park. The boutique is also the only one in the neighborhood that’s open seven days a week. For one-of-a-kind bling that won’t break the bank, head next door to Nectar, which opened last June and focuses on owner Janell Lacayo’s handcrafted jewelry, from gold-and-black agate hoop earrings ($18) to wire-wrapped bloodstone pendants ($38). Rire: 3330 Broadway. 668-7412. rireboutique.com. Nectar: 3328 Broadway. 616-5724. collectingnectar.com
Sacramento native Tom Schnetz already had four Bay Area restaurants under his belt, including Oakland hot spots Doña Tomás and Flora, when he came back home to launch La Venadita in Oak Park with his brother, David, last May. The bright, pink-accented spot has all the things you hope for in a taqueria—an outdoor patio, an array of tasty tacos, and chilaquiles for the ultimate hangover breakfast. It also has something you might not expect: a full bar. Show up for happy hour between 3-6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, and you can bag two tacos and a margarita for only $13. Your best bets? The crispy (read: deep fried) and succulent carnitas taco, and the messy vampiro, with al pastor pork and salsa ranchera. La Venadita also serves breakfast and brunch, and recently started offering its popular egg-filled burritos all day long. 3501 3rd Ave. 400-4676. lavenaditasac.com
Stripping down to your birthday suit and floating in a tank of warm saltwater might not be your first thought when it comes to relaxation, but Capitol Floats says that its tanks can improve sleep and mental clarity, enable self-reflection, and help you realize your potential. In the year since the center opened, it has clearly won a lot of fans—on a recent Saturday, the 60-minute floats were fully booked from 8 a.m. to the last float of the day, at 8:30 p.m. For fanatic floaters, there’s even a “Full Moon Float” once a month that lasts seven hours(!) and will set you back $150. If you’re skeptical of the benefits, or the $65-an-hour price tag (which goes down to as low as $35 an hour with a subscription plan), know that lying in the LED-lit tank is relaxing, the ambiance spa-like, and, at 5-by-8 feet with 8-foot ceilings, the floating rooms feel far less claustrophobic than you might think. Just be careful not to get saltwater in your eyes. 3513 Broadway. 739-1218. capitolfloats.com
Miel’s shelves are a magical curio cabinet stocked with everything from old-school crank eggbeaters to stone cutting boards and children’s toys. After finding her online store a lonely operation, Ruebi Jimenez opened the shop at the end of 2016. She curates a mix of vintage finds and goods made by local artisans, including The Kitchenwitch and candle maker Peace, Love, and Soy Wax. Stop in for everything from beaded collars to wooden magic wands and retro music prints. 3324 Broadway. 836-4351. mielhome.bigcartel.com
Oak Park Brewing Company
With slick steampunk touches like gauge-topped taps and industrial light fixtures—not to mention its extensive beer menu—it’s hard to believe that Oak Park Brewing Company started out with Dave Estis and Tom Karvonen home brewing in Estis’ garage. The duo opened the brewery and restaurant in 2014—complete with massive brewing tanks visible from virtually every seat in the house—and offer a dozen beers, all of which make for perfect warm-weather antidotes on the property’s expansive patio. They also recently brought on noted local chef Carina Lampkin, founder of downtown’s Blackbird Kitchen, and she has already started to amplify the menu by making beer a more prominent cooking ingredient in the kitchen, with items like the beer-braised Brussels sprouts that use Ropeswing Cream Ale, and French fries doused in gravy infused with Aerostat Amber Ale. The team is also planning block parties to celebrate the brewery’s seasonal releases. 3514 Broadway. 660-2723. opbrewco.com
The Plant Foundry
In 2014, Angela Pratt left her job at the venerable Talini’s Nursery in East Sacramento and set out to put down her own roots. By the summer of 2015, she had found her oasis in the form of an old tire shop at 35th and Broadway, which she transformed into the Plant Foundry—a lush wonderland full of herbs and veggies from Sweetwater Nursery, a celebrated organic farm in Sebastopol; rare and heirloom plants from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials in Richmond; and fruit trees and water-wise landscape plants. If you can tear yourself away from the orderly jungle outside, check out the well-curated gift shop inside. Look for intricate air plant frames crafted by Santa Monica designer Josh Rosen; fun books like The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks; herb kits from Urban Agriculture Co.; and perfumes and lotions from the coveted TokyoMilk brand. 3500 Broadway. 917-5787. plantfoundry.com
Vibe Health Bar
Vibe Health Bar’s menu of Liquidology cleanses, coconut-oil-and-butter-laced coffee and acai bowls might be a little intimidating for novice health nuts, but the friendly service, bright storefront and huge windows looking out on Broadway are reasons enough to pull up a stool and hang out, even if you’re not quite ready for a full-on cleanse. Pick up a single juice—try the Bottle Rocket for the sweetness of watermelon with a kick of cayenne—snag avocado toast topped with pistachio pesto, or opt for Oak Park’s own Brass Clover Nitro cold brew coffee in flavors like bourbon vanilla latte and salted caramel mocha. 3515 Broadway. 382-9723. vibehealthbar.com
At the end of 2014, when Roshaun and Maritza Davis decided to open a pop-up shop next door to their event marketing agency, Unseen Heroes, they put a few parameters on the project. One, the installations in the store needed to change every few months. Two, all of the goods needed to come from California designers. Just over two years later, Display has kept to its promise, featuring unique items from Golden State artisans, such as hand-sewn, neighborhood-themed throw pillows by East Sacramento’s Alicia Kerr, Newton Booth Builds’ carved California-shaped bottle openers, and Dom Pérignon-infused gummy bears from Los Angeles-based Sugarfina. Buoyed by the successful launch of Display, the Davises teamed up with Maritza’s cousin Sylvianette Thomas and her husband, Marvin, to open Damas, which only carries brands with female designers or CEOs behind them, last September in the same building. 3433 Broadway. 822-4925. displaycalifornia.com
Part street fair, part dance party, part massive backyard barbecue, Gather brings out neighbors of all stripes on the second Thursday of the month, from May to October, luring them to 3rd Avenue and Broadway with artisan beers, local wines, a pack of food trucks and the musical stylings of everyone from the Sacramento Philharmonic to the 11-piece salsa band Conjunto Liberación. The food lineup changes each month, but you can expect to see options like lobster rolls from Cousins Maine Lobster and Mama Kim’s blackened catfish tacos. This year, the event—which was launched in 2014 by Unseen Heroes and the Oak Park Business Association—will also add restaurant booths to the mix, as well as a kids’ disco, an art lab and a carnival. Can’t make it on a school night? Try Gather’s sister event, First Fridays, where you can walk into the businesses of Broadway ’til 9 p.m., grab a glass of wine, and even get an art lesson. gathernights.com
What’s Still Cool
Arthur Henry’s Supper Club & Ruby Room looks and feels like an old-school steak joint, with dark lighting, big leather booths and Ray Charles on the jukebox. Owner Chris Pendarvis, who owns the popular Orphan Breakfast House and Naked Coffee (whose roastery also resides in Oak Park), opened the eatery—named for his grandfather—in 2013. It’s charmingly anachronistic without veering toward divey, right down to a throwback lineup of grill-it-yourself meats and veggie skewers. The idea of heading to a restaurant to cook your own food may feel like an odd one, but armed with a $10 Old Fashioned, tasty marinades and spices, and helpful grilling tips on the menu, you have all the tools you need for a perfect steak. Just remember to bring the cash, and leave the kids at home; they don’t take credit cards or those under 21. 3406 Broadway. 737-5110. arthurhenrys.net
The 40 Acres cultural center—which was created by former Mayor Kevin Johnson’s St. HOPE organization and kicked off the Oak Park renaissance in 2003—houses the restored historic Guild Theater, which will host the 2017 Sacramento Asian Pacific Film Festival in May, and the excellent Underground Books, which is run by Johnson’s mother, Georgia West, and includes an impeccable collection of African American literature. The complex also contains an Old Soul cafe, which opened at 35th Street and Broadway in 2010. Of all the coffeehouses in Oak Park, Old Soul is the buzziest, with friends meeting up for a beer or a glass of wine in front of the shop’s taps in the afternoons, and laptop-toting worker bees parking at tabletops for the free Wi-Fi. It attracts a diverse crowd with its chill vibe, long hours—it’s open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day—and its drip, cold brew, Chemex pour over, and French press coffee options. guildtheater.com. underground-books.com. oldsoulco.com
The Brickhouse Gallery
Brickhouse has the spare appeal of a sheet metal factory—because it was one. The converted space, which has been a presence in the neighborhood since it first opened in 2003, has a rustic, minimalist vibe and an open flow that makes it easy to focus on moving exhibits, like the recent African + American (A Forced Marriage) show featuring the work of Milton Bowens, a former military illustrator turned painter and fine artist, and an upcoming presentation in May of photographs by incarcerated foster youth. The complex, which is run by curator and director Barbara Range, also has a bigger mission: to encourage artists, and bring art into the community. To that end, Brickhouse also has nine studios, housing artists including Range herself, as well as ceramicist Deborah Pittman and photographer Quinn Ung. The gallery is open Thursday through Saturday. 2837 36th St. 475-1240. thebrickhouseartgallery.com
The Schnetz brothers are bringing a new concept to the Broadway Triangle—German food. A nod to Sam’s Hof Brau, where the Schnetzes ate as kids, as well as the Teutonic side of their heritage (their father is German, their mother Mexican), Oak Haus, which is set to open in early April near 34th Street and Broadway, will feature casual bites, like a roasted eggplant sandwich with olive tapenade, that harken back to the menu the siblings used to serve at their now-defunct ’90s-era midtown coffee shop, Marshall Grounds, as well as a beer garden in the outdoor patio. The two will also pour German beers and local craft beers made in German styles. Meanwhile, Tim Jordan and Jason Griest plan to open a wine bar, tentatively named Cooper on 3rd, next to their Old Soul cafe at 40 Acres in the fall.
If your aesthetic leans more toward classic architecture, but you prefer modern, clean finishes inside, would rather hang out on your patio than commit to the maintenance of yard work, and want to go out to dinner without ever getting in your car, consider the newest residences in the Broadway Triangle development. The fourth phase of developer Ron Vrilakas’ project, Triangle East, brings six single-family homes to Oak Park—two three-bedroom Craftsman-style houses with full porches, two smaller bungalows and two townhouses. Each has its own private patio and access to a shared, grassy yard. The properties should be available by the end of the summer, but take note: Last year, the 11 homes in the first three phases of the project sold so quickly that Grounded, the broker, didn’t even list them all.