Best of the City 2011

Summer cocktails, lime-soda mocktails, mobile food trucks, jazzy Fridays, a sweet riverfront suite, a cupcakery that delivers, a King-sized rally, and a whole lot of purple. Here are a few (dozen) of our favorite things about this place we call home.


Pop Stars
At downtown’s new Sugar and Spice Specialty Desserts, owner Carissa Jones makes us feel like kids again with some of our favorite pops in town. That’s pop tarts, with buttery crust and thick sprinkle-coated icing (below), in flavors like strawberry-rhubarb and brown sugar-cinnamon. And then there are her pretty little cake pops, which are sweetly coated on the outside and moist within (they are only on sale occasionally, so keep an eye out). If you have more frequent cravings, or are looking for a more grown-up take on the cake pop trend, drop by anytime for one of Jones’ rum balls, which look like tiny truffles on a stick but are made with a mixture of cake trimmings, pecans, lots of chocolate, and a pleasantly buzzy hit of rum. These treats are the sweetest way we know to make a dull day, well, pop. 1201 F St. 952-5253.

Half-Baked Idea
There’s a lot of new pizza in town these days, and a whole lot of talk about which is best, but Zelda’s Gourmet Pizza—the famed midtown deep-dish joint—must reign as the longest-standing subject of debate. Are the servers too brusque? Is the place too janky? Are the waits too long? Our answer to all these is, “Well, kind of, but we love it anyway.” For us—and for others with a deep-dish craving—it’s just right. But what happens when you want to eat it in your PJs? That’s where Zelda’s take-and-bake pizza comes in. You get it hot but not quite done, and you refrigerate or freeze it until ready to cook. (Zelda’s offers frozen pizzas, but the selection is limited.) When you’re ready to nosh, just pop it in the oven for 20 minutes and you’re golden. If even that sounds too long, remember: The wait at Zelda’s is 30 minutes, minimum. 1415 21st St. 447-1400.



Bargain Bazaar
The name FreeStyle Clothing Exchange pretty much sums up this treasure trove of used fashions with brands ranging from Express to Prada to True Religion, and something for everyone from preps to Goths. Launched five years ago in Citrus Heights by fashion devotee Elizabeth Kelley who grew up working at midtown’s Cheap Thrills (and even lived above it for a while), it’s a mash-up of all your favorite stores with some killer vintage finds, too. Unlike some boutiques where items sit for a while, inventory flies fast here since shoppers are constantly selling their unwanted styles (they offer 35 percent cash or 50 percent trade value of the exact ticket price they put on the clothes you’re selling). The original location is a warehouse-size room with style-obsessed employees, but its second, more cozy location at 21st and L in midtown opened last year and hosts semi-regular $1 sidewalk sales. Now there’s really no excuse for being a fashion victim. Citrus Heights: 6412 Tupelo Dr. 725-3733.
Sacramento: 2101 L St. 441-3733.



Secret Garden
First built by the Works Progress Administration in 1940, Land Park’s WPA Rock Garden was an ivy-covered mess (and a casualty of Proposition 13 budget cuts) when Daisy Mah, a longtime Sacramento Parks and Recreation employee, took it over in 1988. These days, with budget cuts again imperiling the garden, Mah relies on community volunteers to help with planting and maintenance. And it’s a cause worth taking up. The peaceful one-acre oasis—with granite-edged paths and benches ideal for sitting and contemplating the hummingbirds and butterflies attracted by Mah’s plantings—is in gorgeous bloom, with surprises around every corner, from a fenced succulent bed with dramatic, bulbous plant forms reminiscent of Dr. Seuss illustrations to a nascent California native garden at a lower entrance and trees that remain from the original plantings, such as a graceful crape myrtle. One sweet-smelling tree to seek out is a banana shrub, at an entrance opposite Fairytale Town: The pretty tree, with small, aromatic red flowers that look like tiny magnolia blossoms, is a tribute to Mah’s mother, who used to perfume Mah’s childhood home with the blooms. 15th Ave. off of East Land Park Dr. To volunteer:


Place to Grab a Joint (No, Not That Kind
For sheer truth in advertising, not to mention porky deliciousness, you can’t beat the crispy pig knuckle at Macau Cafe, an off-the-beaten-track spot just below the zoo, in South Land Park. The cafe specializes in the Portuguese-influenced Chinese fare of the city of Macau, with oddities like cheese-topped baked pork chops and adventuresome fare like goose intestines with black bean sauce (which, we’ll admit, we haven’t worked up the nerve to try). The crispy pig knuckle might be the reigning queen, however, of this simple restaurant whose only hint of decor is a large amethyst geode by the cash register. The pig knuckle, redolent of five spices and with reddish skin fried to crunchy perfection, is just as much of a gem. Sliced into rounds, the brick-red flesh and creamy fat is as salty-sweet as ham but with a richer, more yielding texture, and with the majestic bone alongside. It’s atavistic cooking, the kind of thing you pick up and gnaw, and worth a special trip. 4406 Del Rio Rd. 457-8818

Mod Squads
If you, like us, swoon for mid-century modern design, there are a few key things you need to know about Sacramento. One, we have serious bragging rights in MidMo circles since one half of the legendary design team, Charles and Ray Eames, was born and raised right here in River City. That’s right—Ray, or Alexandra Kaiser, as she was known in her formative Land Park days, was one of us. Second, you need to know about three very cool sites that celebrate ’50s-era design in our fair city. The first, Eichlerific, is a must-read blog launched with a focus on modern homes in Sacramento by the late celebrated architect Joseph Eichler, but has grown to encompass all things mid-century here, from local landmarks to artists and the modern architects who helped shape this city. Next up is Mimomito, an addictive site run by a few dedicated style huntresses who search high and low to find mid-century modern furnishings in this region and beyond, and post their treasure-hunting results almost daily. And finally, there’s Scout Living, an online shopping destination for MidMo designs that’s about to go retro in another way—by opening its own brick-and-mortar version on June 11 next to 58 Degrees in midtown (1215 18th Street). So kick back on your lounge chair and ottoman and start surfing these three nifty fifties sites. Ray would be proud.;



Reason to Take the Stairs
The Crocker Art Museum’s new wing, which debuted in October and more than tripled the size of the oldest museum in the West, is the best thing to happen to the city’s art scene in ages. We love many things about the expansion, from the Wayne Thiebauds on the third floor, to the new Baby Loves Art classes, and the Crocker Louie, with its local greens, salty fried capers and chunks of sweet snow crab and shrimp, at the museum’s cafe (run by Patrick and Bobbin Mulvaney). But one of our favorite discoveries is among the most hidden: the projection Rapunzel #10, by Los Angeles artist Jennifer Steinkamp. Tucked away in the front stairwell, it’s a mesmerizing video installation of waving fronds in soothing colors that look like something from under the sea—or outer space. We could stare at it all day. Happily there are plenty of places to sit. 216 O St. 808-7000.



Antique Roadshow
It’s open season for bargain and antique hunters, as hundreds of dealers converge every second Sunday of the month (from 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m.) spanning two blocks under Highway 50 filled with hundreds of booths in midtown at the Sacramento Antique Faire. It’s sweetly ironic that while the sound of car engines speed overhead, you’re strolling gently through row upon row of everything from delicate vintage French lace parasols to vintage furniture, tipping a hat to the slower pace of bygone eras. While the scene and wheel-and-deal attitude is more bustling flea market than dusty antique store, the wares lean toward quality collectibles. According to marketplace director Marylon Rose, about 20 percent of vendors own brick-and-mortar shops, like Steve Brooks, owner of Old Sacramento’s Brooks Novelty Antiques and Records, who hauls over vintage slot machines and neon signs from his Firehouse Alley location. 21st St. between W and X streets. 600-9770.

Room to Raise a Renoir
Maren Conrad’s Art Studio will transition your tyke from a Pollock phase to something closer to Picasso. Tucked in an East Sacramento strip mall devoid of signage, the nondescript space looks more like a warehouse then a Left Bank garret. But inside the cozy warren of rooms, youngsters crowd around long tables where Conrad and partner Gayle Stowell lead small classes through easy-to-follow steps that culminate in sophisticated projects, including folk-themed sugar skulls and Dutch-inspired still life paintings. Conrad opened the studio in 2009 after searching unsuccessfully for an art program for her young son, Hunter. An artist herself (with a degree in art education), she was concerned that most kids abandon any artistic pursuits by the time they hit puberty.
Determined to shift that trend, she began putting together programs for local schools that blended history on greats like Diego Rivera and Mary Cassatt with hands-on techniques. Classes run month to month, but drop-ins are welcome, and in summer, there are camps, some bending yoga into the mix. 3120 O St. 717-9948.



Example of Tea & Sympathy
It may look like your typical charming artisan coffee shop with its high ceilings, cheerful service and students’ heads bent over laptops. But look closer inside Origin Coffee & Tea in Rocklin and you’ll notice something different, like the oversized black-and-white photographs of children above the register, the all-volunteer staff, and the fair trade coffee brands that insure no child labor was involved in the production. That’s because, after covering overhead costs, every dollar made here goes to fighting human sex trafficking and supporting women and girls in recovery, with proceeds going to rescue groups like the International Justice Mission. It’s the first of its kind in the nation, and even scored some national recognition when its founders—Chad Salstrom and pastor Mark South—recently appeared on The Nate Berkus Show. We’ll drink to that. 2168 Sunset Blvd., Rocklin. 787-5676.

Radio Station That’s Really Dialed In
The radio show podcast Phoning It In seeks high art in decidedly lo-fi places. Not only do up-and-coming bands call in from around the country to chat and to play some tunes, but they play into the phone. Seriously, into the phone. It’s as free-form and obscure in its musical subject matter as it could be. And yet it all transforms into something splendid. The result, broadcast Monday nights on UC Davis station KDVS 90.3 FM, is commensurately low in fidelity, and turns every band’s performance into a kind of threadbare folk music. Subsequent MP3 compression and distribution as a podcast just furthers the sonic decay. Even the lowest of lo-fi has its standards, however. Says the show’s current host, Elisa Hough, “I try to tell artists it definitely has to be a landline with a cord. Cordless phones pick up interference. I’ve never even experimented with cellphones. That’s a no-no.”



Wheel Estate
When Coldwell Banker agents Leslie Tuel and Leslie Blevins found out about a real estate agent in Colorado who was showing his clients prospective homes by bike, their wheels started turning. Literally. After all, Tuel and Blevins were agents in Davis, the Bicycle Capital of the U.S.—what better place to roll out this eco-friendly concept? Thus last August, with a fleet of six cruiser bikes, Davis Homes by Cycle was born. “You get a truer sense of the neighborhood when you’re biking or walking, than when you’re driving up,” says Tuel. “People have really enjoyed it.” In fact, bike tours now account for one-third of all their appointments, and home sales have gone up roughly 20 percent. So despite the current housing crisis, with stats like those, it looks like these two will ride things out just fine. 505 2nd St., Davis. 530-522-8326.

Designing Woman with a Manhattan Project
New York, here she comes. Caren Templet, the British-born fashion designer who opened the doors to her chic midtown Sacramento boutique two Junes ago, is about to take Manhattan by storm. Already the toast of this town for her impossibly elegant fashion shows (see page 51 PROVIDE PARTY PAGE LINK WHEN UP HERE!) that showcase her luxuriously silken and decidedly feminine creations ranging from romantic maxi dresses to structured pencil skirts, Templet plans to make her Big Apple debut next year at either the high-profile New York Fashion Week or highly specialized Couture Fashion Week. Meanwhile, closer to home, the El Dorado Hills resident is planning her first couture wedding show, featuring a parade of exquisite custom dresses with hand-beaded details, in July or August (details will be on her Facebook page as it draws nearer), which would make this summer in Sacra-mento not just hot, but haute to trot. 1801 L St. 376-7361.


Best Dressed Burger
At the Squeeze Inn, the diners wear jeans; the Squeeze Cheese burger, however, wears a skirt with an ingenious construction worthy of a particularly over-the-top Project Runway contestant. It’s a cheese skirt, you see, created by some clever cooking on a flat-top grill: After the final flip of the burger, the cook tops each burger with a hefty fistful of shredded cheddar. It melts, it bubbles, it crisps into deliriously greasy ruffles and flounces, and a delicious, cheesy heart attack in a basket is born. A Food Network appearance on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives brought customers in droves to the bite-sized original location, but thankfully, we can all get our Squeeze fix a bit faster now: Not only has the original location moved to a bigger spot, there are also locations in Galt, Roseville, a brand-new West Sacramento spot, and one set to open at 17th and K in Sacramento this fall. And there are plans for more. Constructing the perfect cheese skirt takes time, though, so arrive early for lunch—and plan a workout for the next day.



Place to Ogle an Ungulate
Looking for a new peek experience? Last year the Sacramento Zoo unveiled Tall Wonders, its state-of-the-art giraffe habitat, complete with an eye-level viewing platform for getting up close and personal with the elegant beasts. (The platform also affords views into the adjacent zebra area and a tortoise enclosure below.) The most popular feature is the one that allows visitors, for a nominal fee ($3), to hand-feed the long-necked creatures (turns out they’re very fond of green twigs). Actress Betty White, who visited the exhibit while it was under construction, loved  it so much that she even mentioned it on the The Tonight Show. True animal lovers can rent out the expansive 1,100-square-foot platform for parties, private dinners and weddings. But the amenities aren’t just for humans: The giraffes’ space has been upgraded, too, with a heated barn so that females Val, Goody and Skye have a cozy place to sleep. There’s also a new birthing area, just in case—and perhaps just in time: A new male giraffe, Chifu, was added to the exhibit in May. 3930 West Land Park Dr. 808-5888.

Place to Take Your Pint-Sized Dates
If you need a night out but the babysitter’s booked, don’t give up and stay in. For good gastropub fare, frosty pints and crayons for drawing, there’s de Vere’s Irish Pub, where kids eat almost free on Family Sundays. Cross the rich, dark wood threshold into a friendly pub right out of Dublin. A lively Irish band plays (4-7 p.m. every Sunday) unobtrusively enough so you can comfortably converse with your spouse, yet loud enough so you don’t get dirty looks when the wee ones start clanging utensils like drumsticks on your salad plate (a delightful take on a house salad topped with caramelized onions and balsamic vinaigrette). Dip toasty, buttered grilled cheese into the sweet and savory tomato soup while even your pickiest eater cleans his or her shepherd’s pie or fish ’n’ chips plate (kids meals are only $2 with the purchase of an adult entrée after 4 p.m.). You and your brood will think you died and went to craic heaven. 1521 L St. 231-9947. Davis location opening by September (217 E St., Davis).



Rallying Cry
When this city came together to save its NBA franchise, it was a thing of true beauty. Never before had this community used the word “we” as loudly and proudly as it did in the weeks leading up to the Maloof’s decision to keep the Kings in town for at least one more year. Never before had we spoken with one voice like this one. Locals dressed in purple garb and Sactown expats in NYC rallied outside the NBA offices. Citizen leaders like #HereWeBuild founder Carmichael Dave and #HereWeStay founder Blake Ellington stepped up and inspired us. Business leaders like Jiffy Lube’s Matt Graham and the Metro Chamber’s Matt Mahood stomped on the notion that corporate Sacramento doesn’t have what it takes. But most of all, Mayor Kevin Johnson rose to the occasion in just the right way at just the right time, and led an All-Star team of passionate purple players to the unlikeliest of outcomes. The game is far from over. But hot damn, people—we’re in it once again. #HereWeProud  #HereWeBuild  #HereWeStay  #HereWePurple  #HereWeRally

Way to Get Linked In
The aroma sends your olfactory lobe into overdrive—a pleasant wave of wood smoke followed by a slightly pungent tang of mulched flesh that vibrates in your nostrils. The sheer carnality of Morants Old Fashioned Sausage Kitchen, which has been grinding, stuffing and curing meat for more than 20 years, may be too much for some. But for others, it’s the perfect antidote to supermarket sterility. Long before “artisanal” became a culinary meme, owner Dirk Müller, who spent five years in Germany earning his “Meister” certificate, was hand crafting memorable versions of German bratwurst, Basque chorizo, and even Hawaiian pork links with pineapple; all made fresh weekly, all with limited or no nitrates. Most of his natural-casing masterpieces are the size of a baby’s arm—big enough to give any bun an inferiority complex—and displayed in a no-nonsense deli case that seems to befit Müller’s philosophy: Sure, add some spice, but always remember that the meat is the marquee attraction. 5001 Franklin Blvd. 731-4377



Domed Domiciles
One of Davis’s greatest assets is its quirkiness—the double-decker buses imported from London in the ’60s, the tunnel built for frogs, the fistulated cow (don’t ask). But now word comes that UC Davis is threatening to raze the 39-year-old student housing development known as “The Domes,” or more formally, Baggins End (yes, from The Hobbit), and they want the students out by July 31. The 14 igloo-like apartments made of fiberglass shells house two students each. School officials say they need to go; students say they can be maintained for at least five years until “Domes 2.0” can be built, and are fighting to save their cooperative community where they grow their own food, raise chickens and practice sustainable living. Hats off to the students for fighting for this unique social and architectural wonder. A Sacramento band, Orange Morning, even wrote a song for the movement: “You won’t find another place like the Baggins Domes/They’re unique and funky and charming and so down home/In a world of clones, they’re in a class of their own.” Home Sweet Dome, indeed.


Summer Cocktail

The Anglophile writer Henry James famously said that there are no more beautiful words in the English language than “summer afternoon.” Add a refreshing drink to that picture, and we agree. And the Anglophile drink we love for summer, the official drink of Wimbledon, and the one that makes us feel like perhaps we’re en route to a royal wedding? That would be a Pimm’s Cup, made superlatively right here in Sacramento by the Shady Lady Saloon. What makes it so delicious? First, they make their own ginger ale, just as it was made 100 years ago, starting with fresh ginger root and sugar; they skip the gin that many bartenders blend with the delicate Pimm’s No. 1 liqueur (invented in England in 1840, as a health tonic; we feel better already); and they garnish it with cucumber, mint and an orange slice, in traditional English style. The result is a refreshing, light, lower-alcohol cocktail that you can sip all afternoon. Cheerio! 1409 R St. 231-9121.

Summer “Mocktail”
We love everything about Vic’s Ice Cream, from the ’50s vibe and clean-lined black-and-white awning, to the old-school hot dog sandwiches to, of course, the ice cream. But perhaps our very favorite thing in this vintage Land Park soda shop is a simple, old-fashioned drink, the nonalcoholic lime rickey. Each one is made to order, with fresh-squeezed limes (one lime for a single, two limes for a double), simple syrup and soda water. One of the secrets to this simple drink’s effervescent character? That soda water is extra bubbly, thanks to Vic’s special soda fountain, called a soda draft arm, which produces far more bubbles than you would get from your average carbonator. (Vic’s, founded in 1947, is currently on its third fountain, installed in 1984; according to co-owner Craig Rutledge, son of co-founder Ash Rutledge, very few places have soda draft arms anymore.) If you want to add a little extra twist, you can ask for a splash of flavored syrup (cherry is a favorite). And soda-fountain aficionados, take note: That’s just one of the secret items not found on Vic’s menu; another in-the-know drink, the Suicide, which mixes chocolate, cherry and vanilla syrups with Coke, and has been served at the fountain since the ’50s. 3199 Riverside Blvd. 448-0892.



Incredible Shrinking Woman
When zaftig American Idol finalist Mandisa first auditioned for Simon Cowell in 2006, he quipped, “Do we have a bigger stage this year?” Well, what he really needs is a bigger plate for all that crow he’ll be eating. That’s because while fellow Idol star Jennifer Hudson has been grabbing the headlines for losing 80 pounds, Mandisa has quietly shed more than 100 pounds over the past two years—120, to be exact—by replacing her love of fast food with grilled chicken and egg white omelets, and Zumba-ing her butt off. And the Citrus Heights native is burning up the charts as fast as she’s burning off the calories; by late May her single “Stronger” off her new album What If We Were Real had climbed to No. 2 on Billboard’s Christian songs ranking. Simon, eat your heart out!

Never-ending Storybook
You can’t judge a book by its cover—or a book sculpture, for that matter. What looks like graffiti—a heart doodle here, a “Happy Birthday” scribble there—on Authors of Our Own Destiny, the massive 10-foot-tall, 14-foot-wide steel tome in front of the North Natomas Library, is actually an inspired example of public art. Installed in April of last year, the statue was created by artist Joe Scarpa with the express intention that it be painted over and over again by members of the community. And happily, it seems that every few days or weeks, someone takes him up on his offer, whether it’s with images of colorful fish, the American flag or a spray-painted “Here We Build!” message for the Kings. Tag, you’re it! North Natomas Library. 4660 Via Ingoglia



Down-to-Earth Eatery for your Flights of Fancy

Tucked inside Sacramento Executive Airport on Freeport Blvd., Aviators Restaurant leaves no detail unturned as it envelops you in its aero theme, from the converted fuselage that serves as a hostess stand, to the jet fighter canopy-turned-splash guard for the salad bar, to the bevy of colorful model airplanes hanging from the ceiling and names of menu sections like “Senior Test Pilot” and “Cadet.” Not to mention, it also boasts a view to a thrill, as planes—from propeller-engine Pipers to Gulfstreams to helicopters—take flight. (Those who want to get even closer to the high-flying action can jet to the expansive patio.) As for the menu, chef-owner C.S. Chik puts the kitsch in the kitchen too, where everything is made from scratch, with off-the-menu items like Loco Moco, a Hawaiian dish made of rice topped with a hamburger patty, fried eggs and gravy, and S.O.S., a popular military meal consisting mainly of ground beef (flavored with Worcestershire sauce) and gravy served over toast. (Chik’s philosophy: If he has the ingredients, he’ll make it.) Aviators offers more traditional fare too, like omelets—breakfast is served until 3 p.m. daily—and sandwiches that all come with prices that are almost as retro as the ’70s redwood décor (example: a two-egg plate with potatoes and a biscuit will only set you back $4.25). Ready for takeoff? We are. 6151 Freeport Blvd. (Dinner served only on Fri. & Sat.) 424-1728

Pork We Love to Pieces
Carnitas aficionados come in two camps: those who prefer it moist and those who like it crispy. We’re in the latter camp; who can resist the toasty, roasted flavor of those browned shards of meat? That said, we don’t like the rest of the meat dry, either, a common failing. Lovers of both styles may be able to find common ground at the out-of-the-way Los Gallos Taqueria, where cheery brightly painted walls and slightly kitschy rooster-themed folk art (“gallo” is Spanish for “rooster”) provide a surprising setting for what might just be the best carnitas in town. It’s spectacular on the basic tacos (priced right at just $1.40), but we like to go all out with the carnitas plate, where you get a generous dose of tangles and shreds of perfectly cooked meat, with refried beans, rice, and herbaceous, thin guacamole on the side. Carnitas may mean “little meats,” but at Los Gallos, it equals big taste. 2990 Northgate Blvd. 565-1125



Spot to Marvel at Comics
Last year marked a quarter century for World’s Best Comics. And founder and sole employee Dave Downey, didn’t do a thing to celebrate. The lack of self-congratulation is true to the fans-first approach that’s kept World’s Best afloat during the comic industry’s many ups and downs. Downey’s is a true comic store for true fans. True fans are the ones who, when asked who Iron Man is, say “Tony Stark,” not “Robert Downey, Jr.” This Downey founded the shop in midtown in 1985, but eventually moved to Watt Ave., near the former site of the very first Tower Records. Downey supports local creators, such as Sacramento-bred New Yorker artist Adrian Tomine, who sold his Optic Nerve at World’s Best while in high school. “There’s a one-page story he did of him coming into my store to see how his book was selling, and leaving all disappointed,” says Downey, with a laugh. Tomine adds, “I have no idea if Dave somehow saw some glimmer of promise in that early work or if he was just a nice guy, but I’ll always be grateful for his early support.” 2608 Watt Ave. 973-8973.


Dinky Doughnuts
With Krispy Kreme a distant memory in Sacramento, the only place to watch fresh, hot doughnuts roll off the assembly line these days is the brand-new Danny’s Mini Donuts in Old Sacramento. The tiny golden orbs of dough, flavored on the spot with chocolate, vanilla, caramel, cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar are made fresh to order all day long in this tiny corner shop (which also carries mini versions of other sweets like cookies, cupcakes and turnovers) across the street from the railroad museum. A six-pack is $4, and a hot dozen will only set you back $6. Homer Simpson would swoon. Dough! 900 2nd St. 498-9255.



Food Revolution

They’re big in Portland, Austin and Los Angeles, but here in Sacramento, mobile food operators are treated almost as poorly as fugitives—they have to keep moving every 30 minutes. Happily, the organizers of the first annual SactoMoFo (Mobile Food) Festival proved there’s a hunger for high-quality meals on wheels, and drew nearly 10,000 eager eaters to their one-day celebration on April 30 in Fremont Park with out-of-town vendors like Chairman Bao, Seoul on Wheels and Curry Up Now, and new local trucks like Drewski’s Hot Rod Kitchen and MiniBurger Truck. Here’s hoping the city will soon reverse its arcane laws and get on board with this truly tasty trend.

Sweet (Potato)

Sure, we love any kind of fries. But when they’re sweet potato fries? Well, that takes it over the top. The shatter-crisp coating of the perfectly fried ones at Star Ginger (the recently opened East Sacramento eatery owned by chef Mai Pham) quickly became our new favorite treat, thanks to a pairing with a dipping sauce of zingy Sriracha aioli. And then we tasted the adorable, delicious sweet potato tots from MiniBurger. It turned out we had a tie for our yam affections. MiniBurger owner Davin Vculek is cagey about what makes the tiny tots so delicious (calling them a “secret weapon”), but there’s no doubt about it: These are the tots you only wish your grade-school cafeteria had. How do we choose which to have with lunch? Well, it’s a toss-up, so we let the location of the MiniBurger truck (tweeted daily; get there as fast as you can) decide for us. Either way, you can’t go wrong. These spuds are for you. Star Ginger: 3101 Folsom Blvd. 231-8888. MiniBurger: locations vary.



Way to Jazz Up Your Weekend
In 2002, Time magazine famously declared Sacramento the most diverse city in America, and by the looks of the crowd gathering at Old Soul at 40 Acres’ new Friday live music nights, we’re in no danger of losing our melting-pot crown. People of all races and ages are here from 7:30-9:30 p.m. to catch a regular rotation of acts, from jazz quartet Lambazz to blues-soul-rock band Tess and Hip Trash. And come mid-June, they’ll be able to get a little BBQ with their B.B. King when Old Soul starts grilling up tri-tips and garden burgers. Wash ’em down with a glass of an exclusive coffee porter brewed by Rubicon, or on cool summer nights, a cup of hot cocoa made from a blend of Ginger Elizabeth and Ghirardelli chocolates. A night of sweet treats and even sweeter sounds? We’re getting Friday night fever just thinking about it. 3434 Broadway. 453-8540.

Mystery Meat
Feeling lucky? Then order the Corti Special next time you’re in the understandably long line at the venerable specialty market that Colman Andrews (co-founder of Saveur magazine) once called the world’s best grocery store. At just $4.99, it’s the least expensive sandwich on their menu, by far the most popular, and definitely the most fun: Every time you order, you get a different combination of meats (it’s put together from meats the deli staffers overcut) that are all top-notch quality, ranging from mortadella to turkey, prosciutto to bologna. You circle the bread and fixings you prefer on your sandwich form, and then you pick up your hefty poor boy a few minutes later. (While you’re waiting, browse the amazing selection of specialty pickles and arcane liqueurs that line the aisle opposite the deli counter.) And we do mean hefty: on a recent occasion, a Corti Special stuffed with ham, salami and plenty more weighed in at a whopping 1 pound, 9 3/4 ounces. Talk about a lucky number. 5810 Folsom Blvd. 736-3800.



Splashy Staycation Spot
From its prime riverfront location in the heart of Old Sacramento, to its lavish champagne Sunday buffet brunch, and its rich history—we love everything about the Delta King. But one thing even frequent visitors may not know about this local landmark that has counted Gov. Jerry Brown and actor Josh Brolin among its guests, is its romantic, old-world Captain’s Quarters that will make you feel as glamorous as Kate and Leo in Titanic. Sitting at the bow of the historic steamboat, the 1,200-square-foot, bi-level suite boasts a wet bar, library, fresh bouquet of a dozen red roses, pull-chain loo, 16-foot ceilings and, naturally, a prominent wooden steering wheel that harks back to the room’s former life as the boat’s wheelhouse. And last but not least, a private wraparound deck overlooking the Sacramento River, which will make you want to shout, “I’m the king of the world!” and actually feel like one, too. $650 per night. 1000 Front St. 444-5464.


Special Delivery
Busy Bees Cupcakery may be brand new, but it’s already as busy as the name implies—and no wonder. It’s a mind-boggling concept: You order cupcakes, and they’re brought right to your door (with just 24 hours notice or sometimes less). Dangerous, we know. Even better: the unbelievably moist cakes (many of them filled) come in fun flavors like peanut butter cup (cutely topped with chopped candies, this was the first flavor owner Bridget Pesce developed); the After-Dinner Mint, with a gooey peppermint patty baked right in; and Caramel Delight, topped with homemade Dulce de leche. She offers a number of sweet vegan flavors, too, from coconut to red velvet. And Pesce hopes to eventually launch a cupcake truck as well. No one is safe. 243-8479.



Blue-Light Special
When Nacht & Lewis Architects and Skanska designed the new Sacramento Central Utility Plant to house and circulate water to cool 23 downtown office buildings, they smartly played off the inspiration of blue water. And it didn’t hurt that a growing number of downtown structures were making their mark with bold blue lighting features (the U.S. Bank Tower, Esquire Tower, Convention Center, and the Alhambra Reservoir to name a few). The result is a 126-foot “thermal energy storage tank” that holds 4.5 million gallons of water and adds to the skyline at the same time. Look closely and you’ll see a simulated water drop, with blue and white insulating tiles that dissipate toward the top, as well as a steel crown and an aluminum mesh screen that “splash” outward, all surrounded by blue lights that set the tank aglow at night. When it comes to public utility plants, this is one tall, cool drink of water. 625 Q St.