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Quesatacos de birria from Don Chuy
Quesatacos de birria from Don Chuy
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The Hottest Restaurants in Sacramento Right Now, Winter 2020

From intimate breakfast cafes to Texas style barbecue, these are the joints that will rekindle your love affair with food

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Quesatacos de birria from Don Chuy
| southsacramento/Instagram

Sometimes you don’t just want to know which Sacramento restaurants are new and popular; you also want to know the best new places to eat. Good news: The Sacramento Heatmap contains all of the above. Our mission is to cast a wide and inclusive net, placing an emphasis on people and places that are off the beaten track — from the most delicious new barbecue joints to the buzziest taco spots that California’s capital has to offer. This is a true insider’s guide.

The Sacramento Heatmap will be updated every few months. This winter update brings an entirely new crop of hotspots that serve everything from tamales to knishes to gumbo.

Want to know what’s hot in San Francisco? Head right over here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Post Oak Barbecue

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3200 Fulton Ave
Sacramento, CA 95821
(916) 483-2090
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Thank your lucky lone star that this former food truck turned restaurant and its Central Texas-style low-and-slow brisket exists. Sacramento natives Ryan Metzger and Tony Nguyen use coast live oak and an offset smoker to give their meats a well-balanced, smokey richness that seamlessly pairs with the bracing do chua (pickled carrots and daikon) on the Vietnamese-inspired beef-cheek pastrami banh mi. Don’t miss out on the dino beef ribs on the weekends. This is the best barbecue in Sacramento, period.

2. Colo's Soul Food & Seafood

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2326 Del Paso Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95815
(916) 692-8948
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Originally known as Cora Lorraine’s and located in South Sacramento, the McCree family may have packed up and rebranded, but they’re still serving the same delicious soul food that they have since 2015: smothered fried chicken, shrimp and grits, fried catfish, black-eyed peas, collard greens, red beans, and mac and cheese. Don’t forget the cornbread, and make sure to try the ribs, which are smoked and then deep-fried. On Sundays, there’s gumbo and oxtails.

3. SouthPaw Sushi

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1616 Del Paso Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95815
(916) 550-2600
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Does Sacramento need another sushi restaurant? This part of town, which has been revitalized every decade to no avail, certainly needed something different. And that difference is...sushi. Lou Valente used to be the face and name of Lou’s Sushi in Midtown, but he has moved on and taken his vegan spider roll with panko-crusted oyster mushrooms to old Del Paso Blvd. Get the grilled oysters with red curry sauce or the off-menu chirashi — some of the freshest, most delicate fish served over a bed of fragrant rice.

4. Simpleton

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701 19th St
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 465-2519
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Located in the former Save Rite corner market in Midtown, the team behind third-wave Identity Coffee is luring hip scenesters with its trending grey-on-grey-on-grey exterior design aesthetic...and waffles. The vegan waffles topped with bananas and housemade chocolate-hazelnut spread are, in fact, one of the biggest draws, but so are the square biscuits stuffed with sausage, egg and cheese. Coffee comes from Identity’s own nearby roastery, and the shop also carries Milk Money doughnuts.

5. Solomon's Delicatessen

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730 K St
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 857-8200
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Named after Sacramento native Russ Solomon, the founder of Tower Records, and kerplunked into an original Tower Records on a main downtown thoroughfare, Solomon’s is one of the city’s few Jewish delicatessens. With a restored psychedelic mural from 1973, it’s also one of the most aesthetically unique restaurants in Sacramento. This is the place to get your pastrami, lox, whitefish, and knish fix. Don’t even think about passing up the pastrami bacon, egg, and cheese bagel.

6. Saigon Alley Kitchen + Bar

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1801 L St #70
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 758-6934
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Brought to you by Mymy Nguyen-Voong and husband Jimmy Voong, owners of the now-defunct Delilah’s by Make Fish, Saigon Alley is an upscale, contemporary homage to Nguyen-Voong’s Vietnamese heritage. With a modern palette of white marble and neutral tones, it would be easy to confuse this restaurant for any other generically trendy spot if it weren’t for the food. The menu consists of expected dishes like banh mi, sugarcane shrimp, and summer rolls, but there are unexpected nuances — banh mi tacos and the pho broth that’s poured tableside from a tea kettle.

7. The Morning Fork

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1111 21st St
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 476-6765
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In the space that was once home to Lucky Cafe, the Morning Fork is another well-attended breakfast diner in the heart of Lavender Heights that serves large plates of Americana. Jennifer Swiryn, a long time Lucky Cafe waitress who now owns the restaurant with her husband Keith, has preserved the lunch counter and its original brown vinyl swivel stools. Sit there (or at a nearby booth) to tuck into fried chicken and bacon-laced Belgian waffles, crab and shrimp cake Benedict, and pancakes that spill over the edge of the plate.

8. BAWK! Fried Chicken

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1409 R St #102
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 465-8700
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An R Street corridor fried chicken sandwich spot opens up with a faux-graffiti laden interior and an oversized mural of Muhammad Ali. A partnership between the Selland restaurant empire and Rob Archie, owner of Pangaea Bier Cafe, Bawk serves juicy fried chicken on its own with the bone, in between a bun for on the run, or in a bucket for a ducat (or, well, $30). What distinguishes Bawk are its Gus’s-inspired wet-style batter and its secret “magic” seasoning, which is reminiscent of Popeyes Cajun Sparkle.

9. Don Chuy Birria

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8131 Alpine Ave
Sacramento, CA 95826

Originally located inside of a gas station, Don Chuy developed a cult-like following for its quesatacos de birria before it closed last year. Now risen from its ashes, like a glorious phoenix-goat combination, the new food truck incarnation of Don Chuy is once again serving tacos stuffed with beef or cinnamon-laced goat (you want the goat) and melty cheese, placed on the flattop, and showered with the cooking broth, which turns the corn tortillas bright orange and crispy. Pair these with the fiery “orange salsa,” and don’t skip the rich, meaty consomé — it’s necessary for taco dipping like a pro. (Note: On weekends, the truck parks at a different location, at 6035 Stockton Boulevard, outside of a strip mall.)

10. Yolanda's Tamales Factory

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6885 Luther Dr
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 256-7342
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Open as a tamaleria since the 1990s, last year Yolanda’s decided to convert a portion of its factory space into a family-run restaurant: Yolanda Vega and her son Andres Yanez work the line while Andres’ wife Sandra operates the register, and their young son runs around the shop. The tamale masa here is soft and buttery, whipped until fairies float towards the heavens. Try the chile verde; the crispy shrimp tacos; and, during special times of year, the magical mole estilo Michoacán that’s used for tortas ahogadas and, in a special twist, to cover tamales.

11. Flame Cafe 香港地

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4220 Florin Rd
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 382-9889
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An updated version of the classic Hong Kong Canto-Western tea house, this well-lit restaurant has ping pong paddle menus and endless green booths. Stop in with friends for a snack of curry fish balls; thick French toast topped with a condensed milk drizzle; or one of the baked rice platters, which might feature a pork chop covered in spicy black-pepper gravy and baked until irresistible. Definitely try the teppan sliced steak — a sizzling platter of rice, thinly sliced beef, and corn that you mix and cook at the table. Luckily, you’re already in a booth. Perfect for the nap you’re going to need afterwards. 

12. Louisiana Heaven

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6623 Valley Hi Dr
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 689-4800
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In a town that harbors very few black-owned restaurants (and, among those, even fewer that serve gumbo), Louisiana Heaven is an important addition to the local scene — even when it’s tucked into the corner of a micro-parking lot near a grocery store that’s set to close. Come for the perfectly crispy fried shrimp and fried fish, as well as harder-to-find menu items like boudin balls (boudin blanc sausage and dirty rice rolled into balls and deep fried). The chicken-and-sausage gumbo has shrimp and Dungeness crab laced throughout. Shrimp and grits and oxtails are served Sundays only.

13. Falafel Corner

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8251 Bruceville Rd #140
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 229-6200
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The new Bruceville location of this Northern California chain offers Mediterranean food in the form of fresh gyro sandwiches: soft pita, thinly sliced gyro meat, shredded lettuce, hummus, and a savory sauce. You can also get a towering Badmash burger (an all-beef patty, gyro meat, grilled onions, and cheese) or a simple shawarma plate. Whatever you do, don’t skip the Philly fries.

1. Post Oak Barbecue

3200 Fulton Ave, Sacramento, CA 95821

Thank your lucky lone star that this former food truck turned restaurant and its Central Texas-style low-and-slow brisket exists. Sacramento natives Ryan Metzger and Tony Nguyen use coast live oak and an offset smoker to give their meats a well-balanced, smokey richness that seamlessly pairs with the bracing do chua (pickled carrots and daikon) on the Vietnamese-inspired beef-cheek pastrami banh mi. Don’t miss out on the dino beef ribs on the weekends. This is the best barbecue in Sacramento, period.

3200 Fulton Ave
Sacramento, CA 95821

2. Colo's Soul Food & Seafood

2326 Del Paso Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95815

Originally known as Cora Lorraine’s and located in South Sacramento, the McCree family may have packed up and rebranded, but they’re still serving the same delicious soul food that they have since 2015: smothered fried chicken, shrimp and grits, fried catfish, black-eyed peas, collard greens, red beans, and mac and cheese. Don’t forget the cornbread, and make sure to try the ribs, which are smoked and then deep-fried. On Sundays, there’s gumbo and oxtails.

2326 Del Paso Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95815

3. SouthPaw Sushi

1616 Del Paso Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95815

Does Sacramento need another sushi restaurant? This part of town, which has been revitalized every decade to no avail, certainly needed something different. And that difference is...sushi. Lou Valente used to be the face and name of Lou’s Sushi in Midtown, but he has moved on and taken his vegan spider roll with panko-crusted oyster mushrooms to old Del Paso Blvd. Get the grilled oysters with red curry sauce or the off-menu chirashi — some of the freshest, most delicate fish served over a bed of fragrant rice.

1616 Del Paso Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95815

4. Simpleton

701 19th St, Sacramento, CA 95811

Located in the former Save Rite corner market in Midtown, the team behind third-wave Identity Coffee is luring hip scenesters with its trending grey-on-grey-on-grey exterior design aesthetic...and waffles. The vegan waffles topped with bananas and housemade chocolate-hazelnut spread are, in fact, one of the biggest draws, but so are the square biscuits stuffed with sausage, egg and cheese. Coffee comes from Identity’s own nearby roastery, and the shop also carries Milk Money doughnuts.

701 19th St
Sacramento, CA 95811

5. Solomon's Delicatessen

730 K St, Sacramento, CA 95814

Named after Sacramento native Russ Solomon, the founder of Tower Records, and kerplunked into an original Tower Records on a main downtown thoroughfare, Solomon’s is one of the city’s few Jewish delicatessens. With a restored psychedelic mural from 1973, it’s also one of the most aesthetically unique restaurants in Sacramento. This is the place to get your pastrami, lox, whitefish, and knish fix. Don’t even think about passing up the pastrami bacon, egg, and cheese bagel.

730 K St
Sacramento, CA 95814

6. Saigon Alley Kitchen + Bar

1801 L St #70, Sacramento, CA 95811

Brought to you by Mymy Nguyen-Voong and husband Jimmy Voong, owners of the now-defunct Delilah’s by Make Fish, Saigon Alley is an upscale, contemporary homage to Nguyen-Voong’s Vietnamese heritage. With a modern palette of white marble and neutral tones, it would be easy to confuse this restaurant for any other generically trendy spot if it weren’t for the food. The menu consists of expected dishes like banh mi, sugarcane shrimp, and summer rolls, but there are unexpected nuances — banh mi tacos and the pho broth that’s poured tableside from a tea kettle.

1801 L St #70
Sacramento, CA 95811

7. The Morning Fork

1111 21st St, Sacramento, CA 95811

In the space that was once home to Lucky Cafe, the Morning Fork is another well-attended breakfast diner in the heart of Lavender Heights that serves large plates of Americana. Jennifer Swiryn, a long time Lucky Cafe waitress who now owns the restaurant with her husband Keith, has preserved the lunch counter and its original brown vinyl swivel stools. Sit there (or at a nearby booth) to tuck into fried chicken and bacon-laced Belgian waffles, crab and shrimp cake Benedict, and pancakes that spill over the edge of the plate.

1111 21st St
Sacramento, CA 95811

8. BAWK! Fried Chicken

1409 R St #102, Sacramento, CA 95811

An R Street corridor fried chicken sandwich spot opens up with a faux-graffiti laden interior and an oversized mural of Muhammad Ali. A partnership between the Selland restaurant empire and Rob Archie, owner of Pangaea Bier Cafe, Bawk serves juicy fried chicken on its own with the bone, in between a bun for on the run, or in a bucket for a ducat (or, well, $30). What distinguishes Bawk are its Gus’s-inspired wet-style batter and its secret “magic” seasoning, which is reminiscent of Popeyes Cajun Sparkle.

1409 R St #102
Sacramento, CA 95811

9. Don Chuy Birria

8131 Alpine Ave, Sacramento, CA 95826

Originally located inside of a gas station, Don Chuy developed a cult-like following for its quesatacos de birria before it closed last year. Now risen from its ashes, like a glorious phoenix-goat combination, the new food truck incarnation of Don Chuy is once again serving tacos stuffed with beef or cinnamon-laced goat (you want the goat) and melty cheese, placed on the flattop, and showered with the cooking broth, which turns the corn tortillas bright orange and crispy. Pair these with the fiery “orange salsa,” and don’t skip the rich, meaty consomé — it’s necessary for taco dipping like a pro. (Note: On weekends, the truck parks at a different location, at 6035 Stockton Boulevard, outside of a strip mall.)

8131 Alpine Ave
Sacramento, CA 95826

10. Yolanda's Tamales Factory

6885 Luther Dr, Sacramento, CA 95823

Open as a tamaleria since the 1990s, last year Yolanda’s decided to convert a portion of its factory space into a family-run restaurant: Yolanda Vega and her son Andres Yanez work the line while Andres’ wife Sandra operates the register, and their young son runs around the shop. The tamale masa here is soft and buttery, whipped until fairies float towards the heavens. Try the chile verde; the crispy shrimp tacos; and, during special times of year, the magical mole estilo Michoacán that’s used for tortas ahogadas and, in a special twist, to cover tamales.

6885 Luther Dr
Sacramento, CA 95823

11. Flame Cafe 香港地

4220 Florin Rd, Sacramento, CA 95823

An updated version of the classic Hong Kong Canto-Western tea house, this well-lit restaurant has ping pong paddle menus and endless green booths. Stop in with friends for a snack of curry fish balls; thick French toast topped with a condensed milk drizzle; or one of the baked rice platters, which might feature a pork chop covered in spicy black-pepper gravy and baked until irresistible. Definitely try the teppan sliced steak — a sizzling platter of rice, thinly sliced beef, and corn that you mix and cook at the table. Luckily, you’re already in a booth. Perfect for the nap you’re going to need afterwards. 

4220 Florin Rd
Sacramento, CA 95823

12. Louisiana Heaven

6623 Valley Hi Dr, Sacramento, CA 95823

In a town that harbors very few black-owned restaurants (and, among those, even fewer that serve gumbo), Louisiana Heaven is an important addition to the local scene — even when it’s tucked into the corner of a micro-parking lot near a grocery store that’s set to close. Come for the perfectly crispy fried shrimp and fried fish, as well as harder-to-find menu items like boudin balls (boudin blanc sausage and dirty rice rolled into balls and deep fried). The chicken-and-sausage gumbo has shrimp and Dungeness crab laced throughout. Shrimp and grits and oxtails are served Sundays only.

6623 Valley Hi Dr
Sacramento, CA 95823

13. Falafel Corner

8251 Bruceville Rd #140, Sacramento, CA 95823

The new Bruceville location of this Northern California chain offers Mediterranean food in the form of fresh gyro sandwiches: soft pita, thinly sliced gyro meat, shredded lettuce, hummus, and a savory sauce. You can also get a towering Badmash burger (an all-beef patty, gyro meat, grilled onions, and cheese) or a simple shawarma plate. Whatever you do, don’t skip the Philly fries.

8251 Bruceville Rd #140
Sacramento, CA 95823

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