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Illustration by Laura Matranga

Elvis cinnamon rolls crowned with peanut butter and bacon, heavenly angel food cake French toast, a hidden tearoom to cozy up to, a steampunk bicycle repairium, a mobile boutique in full bloom, grape-clove shrub syrup for your homemade soda, a basketball tale that became a Cinderella story, and much more. Behold this year’s top crop of the people, places and things that make our hometown a home run—or a slam dunk—for everyone.


Written and reported by: Hillary Louise Johnson, Tori Masucci Cummins, Jessica Rine, S.T. VanAirsdale and Kate Washington
 


Visual Feast for a Starving Artist

If you’re an aspiring painter or sculptor whose earnings as a barista are earmarked for art supplies, you probably already know which galleries have the best free wine and cheese spreads on Second Saturday, but you may not have realized that the new Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum on the UC Davis campus, which opened last November, has free admission all day, every day. Get a crash course in local art history from the museum’s recent acquisitions (on display through June 30th), featuring works by an illustrious group of former UCD professors, including Wayne Thiebaud, Manuel Neri, Roland Petersen and William T. Wiley. The facility can be toured in an hour, but plan to spend at least half a day: The sculptural building is itself a work of art, its gridded concrete and aluminum canopy an homage to the industrial agricultural heritage of the region with its slatted beams painting an ever-changing light show across the welcoming plaza. Bring your camera or your sketchpad and feel free to linger—your gallery can always reach you via the museum’s free Wi-Fi should one of your masterpieces suddenly sell. 254 Old Davis Rd. Davis. 530-752-8500. manettishrem.org

Photo by Iwan Baan courtesy of SO-IL and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Reason to Break Bread

Bring a group of friends to Woodland’s Morgan’s on Main and prepare to get handsy—with the Pull Apart Bread appetizer, a savory, monkey-bread-like starter cooked up by executive chef John Gamboni. The dish begins with little balls of dough tossed in garlic-infused butter, which are then layered inside a bowl with Parmesan cheese, fresh chives and even more garlic butter, and baked to order. The resulting warm, homey clump of bread has a deliciously soft and chewy interior that releases a steamy cloud of garlic aroma when you break open the smooth top crust reminiscent of a pretzel’s outer shell. Leave the knives and forks aside and use your mitts to divvy the softball-size loaf into bite-size portions, which are ideal vehicles for moving the accompanying creamy béchamel cheese sauce from ramekin to mouth. The hands-on app perfectly exemplifies the two-year-old restaurant’s motto of “Eat. Share. Drink,” though the sharing part with this particular dish may prove challenging. You’d better order two, just to be safe. 614 Main St. Woodland. 530-402-1275. morgans-on-main.com

 

Burrito Virtuoso

If you’re downtown looking for lunch and you’ve got a fiver in your pocket, seek out the rainbow umbrella that can be found most weekdays (weather permitting) on the southeast corner of 7th and I streets. Underneath it you’ll find Señor Burrito, aka Roberto Lopez, selling $5 burritos, the same way he’s done for the past 23 years. The 71-year-old Sacramentan grew up in Mexico City and digs his gig as downtown’s go-to burrito man. He says he tried to retire last year, but his loyal regulars wouldn’t have it, so he came back. And the burritos? Lopez’s scratch-made fillings—choices include carnitas ’n’ beans and chicken chile verde ’n’ rice—are tasty and hearty, prewrapped (read: no substitutions) in a handmade tortilla that is thicker and chewier than your store-bought variety and served with au jus. It’s a little taste of Sacramento history—with a side of chips and salsa.


Fries That Are Just Ducky

You’re stumbling from taproom to biergarten, the latest triple IPA limited release sloshing around in your hollow leg, when you’re gripped by an impulse that dates back to at least 3000 B.C., when a Sumerian much like yourself first indulged in a bit too much of the hop and thought, “What I need right now is a big plate of grease!” But Photo courtesy of LowBrauthere’s no reason this beery gut bomb need be lowbrow if you’re anywhere near LowBrau, the midtown German beer hall where you can order up another round along with a heavy helping of the wildly popular duck fat fries. The golden spears are made from Kennebec potatoes cut into thick wedges with the skin left on for texture. They’re blanched, fried and tossed in garlicky duck fat from Stockton-based Grimaud Farms, then sprinkled with salt, pepper and chives and served with your choice of four dipping sauces (go for the creamy beer cheese, our favorite and head chef Brock Macdonald’s too). With just the right proportion of salt to grease and a smooth umami undercurrent from the rich, pleasantly gamy duck fat, nothing does a better job of setting you up to handle that last pint of imported doppelbock. 1050 20th St. 706-2636. lowbrausacramento.com

#FoodPorn Star

Since joining the Tahoe Park breakfast mecca Bacon & Butter in October 2014, pastry chef Nena Rasul has been churning out myriad morsels just begging for their close-ups on Instagram. Think shimmering jam-filled Danishes, one-offs like the bacon Butterfinger bonut (a cross between a biscuit and a donut, of course) or salacious indulgences like Elvis cinnamon rolls with banana, peanut butter and bacon (pictured)—all broadcast fresh from the oven, making for one of the most drool-worthy photo feeds in town. Word to the wise: The inventive patissier rarely repeats flavors, so if a particular post of, say, churro doughnuts or blueberry cream pie provokes a craving, then run—don’t walk—to claim said treat, because with Bacon & Butter’s hungry Instagram followers (over 15,000 and counting), the object of your desire may be gone faster than you can type #foodporn. 5913 Broadway. 346-4445. baconandbuttersac.com

Photo by Jeremy Sykes

Spot to Tune Up a 1977 10-Speed

Don’t be fooled by the entry, a ramshackle fence tucked behind a beauty salon in the Poverty Ridge neighborhood. Once you venture into the bike-filled yard of Addison’s Bicycle Repairium you’ll feel like you’ve walked into a mechanistic, steampunk wonderland. Inside the spacious tin shack that is the shop floor, you can peruse shelves of books while you wait, or better yet, belly up to the clubby wooden bar that looks like it once graced a Gold Rush-era saloon (you’ll have to bring your own beverage) and have a chat with owner Addison Quarles while he fixes your flat. If you’re used to being judged by bike shop snobs who think your ride isn’t cool enough for school, prepare to be charmed. A trim, courtly gentleman in jeans, suspenders and a wool vest, the 28-year-old Quarles learned to work on classic bikes and cars from his dad while growing up in Rancho Cordova, and in 2013 opened the Repairium, where he found his calling. He knows his way around just about any two-wheeler you might schlep in, but give him a vintage Raleigh with a lugged steel frame and you might just get back the ride of your life. 2311 S St. 554-8845

Photo by Max Whittaker

Place to Toast the End of Prohibition

As the seat of the Gold Rush, early Sacramento was overflowing with so many breweries and liquor distilleries it was known in some circles as the “wettest” city in the country—until Prohibition abruptly shut down the party in 1920. Although Prohibition was repealed in 1933, state ordinances from the alcohol-free era lingered on the books—something Cris Steller and Gordon Helm discovered in 2008 when they attempted to open a tasting room for their El Dorado Hills distillery, Dry Diggings, and found themselves afoul of the law. Undeterred, Steller founded the California Artisanal Distiller Guild and launched a lobbying campaign that resulted in Gov. Brown signing Assembly Bill 933 in 2013, which revoked rules that forbade distilleries from operating tasting rooms. Two years later, Helm and Steller opened theirs, which is an homage to the Sacramento area’s hooch-filled heyday and features vintage photographs of 1800s-era Placerville, Tiffany lamps, a corrugated tin ceiling from the 1850s, and, of course, a bar where you can chill as you swill Dry Diggings’ line of 21 bespoke spirits—like the “31 N 50” bourbon or Diamond Springs vodka, which won the American Distilling Institute’s title of best new vodka in 2015—and drink up, knowing you don’t have to “speak easy” (i.e. quietly) or risk being thrown in the pokey. 5050 Robert J. Mathews Pkwy. El Dorado Hills. 542-1700. drydiggingsdistillery.com

Shock to the Chakra System

Of course we love the quiet, kick-back vibe at Asha Urban Baths, a new co-ed spa-style bathhouse (yes, everyone wears swimsuits) located just north of Broadway, which opened late last year. Asha, attached to the adjacent yoga studio of the same name, lets you chill out in several ways: by floating in the soaking pool, melting away tension in the steam room and lolling quietly on a chaise longue or in the massage room. But what we’re really addicted to is the literal chill the bathhouse offers, in the form of a cold plunge pool (kept at a nippy 59 degrees Fahrenheit), recommended for use just after leaving the dry sauna or steam room. Dunking all the way in takes a bit of liquid courage, but it feels as refreshing and purifying as jumping in a cold creek after a hot hike. And you won’t believe how good the warm pool will feel afterward. So take the plunge—at Asha, no matter the temperature, the water’s always fine. 2417 27th St. 837-3290. ashaurbanbaths.com

A.M. Ice Cream

If you’ve been driving into San Francisco and standing in line at Humphry Slocombe for a scoop of the famous cornflake-cookie-and-bourbon-laced Secret Breakfast every time you get a hankering for a decadent frozen eye-opener, welcome home. West Sacramento’s Devil May Care ice cream parlor, which opened last November, has cracked the code with its cult-favorite version of the most important meal of the day: Coffee & Doughnuts. The obsession-worthy sensation is a mainstay on the rotating menu (check the shop’s Instagram page for the current lineup), despite taking a bit of extra time and effort to make. Using fresh ground beans from local roasteries like Insight or Old Soul, chef-owner Jess Milbourn cold brews the coffee directly in the ice cream base—twice—then adds crumbled old fashioneds from City Donut. Like all his creations, the result is an intense, dreamy concentration of flavor that stirs the soul while it wakes up the body. 322 3rd St. West Sacramento. 572-0456. devilmaycareicecream.com

 

Photos by Jeremy Sykes

Reason to Watch Paint Dry

Our creative community likes to make a big impression—whether it’s with the Art Hotel or ArtStreet or the 2016 Sacramento Mural Festival, an event that was expected to produce building-sized works of art, to be sure, but which wildly exceeded expectations when it captivated our town for eight days last August, becoming a celebratory happening. The 11 participating artists fanned out to sites scattered throughout the city’s urban core, tasked with the daunting responsibility of creating enduring, placemaking pieces in mere days—with nowhere to hide. But the painters’ spirits were buoyed by a tide of admirers who thronged to watch the works in progress. Muraling requires some athletic prowess—like the confidence to hug a ladder or hang off a cherry picker while wielding a brush or spray can—so it’s no wonder it became a spectator sport. The event was such a whopping success that this year, organizers—led by art auctioneer David Sobon—have reinvented it as the Wide Open Walls fest (Aug. 10-20), with an expanded lineup that includes over 40 artists, spots beyond the grid (like Natomas, Del Paso Heights and Oak Park) and a packed schedule of intentionally interactive happenings—from walking tours to pop-up exhibits and even a mural-finding phone app—modeled after the spontaneous ones that formed last summer. It might sound like an ambitious step up, but where there’s a wall, there’s a way. wow916.com

Political Toonsmith

Sacramento Bee cartoonist Jack Ohman’s searingly witty take on California politics is so deft you’d never know he isn’t a native—making it all the more impressive that the Pulitzer Prize committee awarded him its top honor last April for a portfolio of drawings whose highlights range from a multi-panel depiction of the political corruption of the former first dog Sutter Brown to the scathingly satirical yet poignant “U.S. Citizen Mass Shooting Report Form.” As recently as 2012, the nationally syndicated cartoonist was being named a finalist for the very same award for his work at The Oregonian, where he had been drawing barbs for almost 30 years. But fate intervened, and by the end of that year, he had moved down to Sacramento to take up the pen in honor of his best friend, Bee cartoonist Rex Babin (also a Pulitzer finalist), after Babin died of cancer. Four years later, this South Land Park denizen has fallen madly in love with the River City, so Sutter Brown’s sister, Colusa, might want to put up a new sign at the governor’s mansion: Beware of Cartoonist.

Courtesy of Jack Ohman


Food Desert Oasis

Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services is putting the philanthropic pedal to the metal with a new truck that makes the rounds to food deserts throughout Sacramento County—urban neighborhoods with little or no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Part of the food bank’s Produce for All program, the vehicular vendor stops at easy-to-access locales like Tahoe Park’s Hiram Johnson High School and Natomas’ Peach Tree health clinic, where prepackaged green groceries from area farms (such as Davis Ranch in Sloughhouse and Soil Born Farms in Rancho Cordova) are handed out for free to all who show up. Along with bags brimming with seasonal staples that can range from carrots and potatoes to strawberries and apples, the truck dispenses printed recipes for the day’s crops and tips on food storage. Since its March debut, the truck has distributed more than 40,000 pounds of nature’s bounty to those in need. To that we say, keep on truckin’. sacramentofoodbank.org



Christmas in a Cup

You’ll want to put on your ugliest sweater, kiss under the mistletoe and hum “Mele Kalikimaka” after just a single sip of The Painkiller, one of the classic island-inspired libations served up at the new tiki bar known as The Jungle Bird, which took flight in midtown last October. While the sweet, citrusy beverage comprises such tried-and-true tropical cocktail ingredients as coconut cream, and pineapple and orange juices, plus a hearty 2-ounce pour of Pusser’s British Navy rum, it’s the sprinkle of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg that conjures aroma-fueled images of sleigh rides and pine trees. Served in a tin white-and-blue camping mug, which further distinguishes this killer concoction from the rest of the menu’s vibrantly hued, umbrella-laden drinks, the super-satisfying, soul-warming blend of holiday spices, tart tropical fruit nectars and rich coconut cream will have you dreaming of a white sand Christmas. 2516 J St. 476-3280. thejunglebird.com

Minimalist Maker

Amid all the reclaimed wood cutting boards, embroidered textiles, quirky ceramics and other avowedly handmade goods flooding Sacramento’s thriving maker scene, Genesis Duncan has carved out a niche with her clean, beautiful designs. As the founder of Graphic Anthology, the Oak Park artist creates prints and greeting cards that eschew overwrought, insincere whimsy in favor of sharp lines, unfussy shapes and bold type treatments to convey everything from love and birthday wishes to the simple grace of a forest. (Duncan counts her “Geometric Trees” pattern among her most popular and favorite illustrations.) Her work has earned her a national following since she sold out her first offerings on Etsy in 2010, with retailers like West Elm now carrying her line, and has become a ubiquitous presence here at art fairs and in shops (such as Oak Park’s Miel boutique and midtown’s Relles Florist), making Duncan a local card-iologist worth writing home about. graphicanthology.com

Courtesy of Genesis Duncan