We may be falling back into Sacramento’s autumnal rhythms — cue the shrinking lines at Gunther’s ice cream and the raining down of dappled leaves — but the city is also springing forward with a healthy crop of restaurant openings. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does represent a smattering of exciting post-pandemic launches.
One shuttered favorite is reopening after an evolution. Another spot reanimates the space of a former neighborhood go-to. Whether long-awaited reimaginings from local stars or brand new passion projects from dynamic transplants, these restaurants are sure to be a bright spot in your fall dining plans.
Bodega Kitchen and Cocktails
Open since late summer at 6401 Riverside Boulevard in Sacramento
A few pop-ups last December proved Sacramento residents including those from across the Caribbean diaspora would turn out for Puerto Rican cuisine — making it clear that third-generation restaurateur Rafael Jimenez Rivera and his business partners had a hit on their hands. Rivera, Chris Sinclair, Matt Brown, and Emily Neuhauser decided the menu for their permanent restaurant Bodega Kitchen and Cocktails would zoom out to showcase a broader, pan-Caribbean menu. Since two of the partners are residents of the Pocket area, the neighborhood was the team’s obvious choice.
Rivera says Bodega’s cubano might be the greatest hit so far; Bodega’s version opts for Jamaican coco bread, fluffy so it absorbs all the tangy sauces. Another standout for fall weather is the plate of mussels — brothy and fragrant with an emulsion of coconut, lemongrass, cilantro, and garlic. Hearty vegan options abound, including a Trinidiadian street food called “doubles,” consisting of turmeric flatbread, curried chickpeas, and pickled mango, and red onion. Spiced dishes are cut with cool “island wines” from the Greek and Canary islands.
Casa East Sac
Open at 5401 H Street in Sacramento
Interest in Casa East Sac has been high after the short-lived yet beloved Joon Market, the previous occupant of the building the restaurant now occupies, closed its doors earlier this year. Fresh, floral-printed wallpaper has been put up, a pizza oven has been installed, and lunch is already being served. Casa was named by co-owners and brothers Theodore and Steve Gibanov as a nod to the structure’s history as a house, though they’re not serving Mexican cuisine. And the building is homey indeed, with its original fireplace intact and welcoming yard full of community tables. The former caterers are serving a self-proclaimed “best burger in town” featuring homemade buns, pickles, and bacon jam, as well as a New York-inspired deli sandwich packed with 10-day-cured pastrami. Dinner is in the works, as is happy hour once the partners secure a beer and wine license.
Camellia Coffee Roasters
Open as of September 24 at 1200 R Street, Suite 130, in Sacramento
Camellia Coffee Roasters has outgrown the storefront cafe space within WAL Public Market where it’s sold its coffee and insanely popular breakfast sandwiches since 2018. When the Starbucks down the block closed down during the pandemic, co-owners Ryan Harden and Robert Watson jumped at the chance for Camellia to take over. The expansion allowed them to combine their robust wholesale operations and R Street cafe into what Harden describes as “one super Camellia.” The new space is outfitted with locally made tables and a mural featuring the characters printed on each of the company’s Benjamin Della Rosa-designed coffee bags. But all the other mainstays will carry over: the breakfast sandwich, Faria pastries, and lox sandwiches made with Mel’s Bagels. With a few more weeks of early fall heat in store, grab a horchata cold brew.
Open at 6511 Folsom Boulevard in Sacramento
Sacramento doesn’t have enough bakeries. The demand is clearly there, as evidenced by the immediate success of Moonbelly Bakery in East Sacramento, which opened in mid-August. Area native Lucia Plumb-Reyes has 15 years of experience at tiny bakeries across California, Washington, and Massachusetts. With Moonbelly, she’s decided to keep it small and specialize in the baked goods she loves most — sourdough and croissants. The gentle namesake was inspired by Plumb-Reyes’ bakerly rhythms — waking up early when the moon is still out — as well as a term of endearment used by her family. A sweet fix at Moonbelly could take the form of a chocolate chip shortbread cookie, a cinnamon bun, or a jar of homemade jam for later. Chocolate croissants are the top seller, but only because Plumb-Reyes manages to produce more of them. To round out your fall fix, grab a seeded sourdough loaf or olive twist.
Betty Wine Bar and Bottle Shop
Opening in November at 1103 T Street in Sacramento
The quaint, tree-lined quadrant of Southside Park where South recently shut down will soon be infused with new energy in the form of Betty Wine Bar and Bottle Shop. Colleen Fleming, previously the owner of Napa’s hip wine bar Cadet, partnered with Sarah Milstein as wine director and Jenna Sargeant as general manager to open the spot, which she describes as a “more mature, bigger sister” to Cadet (although the new venture is completely independent).
Named after two of the team members’ grandmothers, the new establishment will stock a broad selection of bottles spanning numerous regions and price points. A market area will offer dinner party essentials, stylish homewares, and last-minute gifts. Fleming is working with a local designer to transform the back patio into a lush garden with outdoor seating. Big salads and sandwiches will fill the quick-service lunch menu, while dinner will see the space morph into a moodier atmosphere with small, seasonal plates. The team hopes to host weekly wine tastings, pop-ups with local chefs, and a wine club.
Shoki’s Ramen, Gyoza & Koji
Reopening in early December at 2530 21st Street in Sacramento
A kitchen fire, a pandemic, and supply chain delays couldn’t keep Shoki down. The Sacramento treasure, which closed its R Street location in Spring 2021, is reopening in early December as Shoki’s Ramen, Gyoza & Koji. According to co-owner Kathy Ueyama, Shoki’s will be back and smaller than ever with what will be her and husband chef Yasushi Ueyama’s “last restaurant.” The couple opened the original Shoki’s in 2007 before it burned down in a fire in 2018.
With plans for only Yasushi and Kathy to operate everything from the kitchen to the service, expect limited seating and an emphasis on to-go orders. The new restaurant will embrace a return to Yasushi’s roots with handmade gyoza; the 300-year-old Japanese fermented superfood koji; the traditional fermented beverage amazake; and, of course, ramen. The last will be offered as a pared-down, rotating selection using local, seasonal ingredients.