Hundreds of thousands of people attend conferences at the Sacramento Convention Center every year — it’s one of the main event hubs in the entire state. You might find yourself navigating the downtown Sacramento complex (1400 J Street) just once or twice, or you might become a regular. Either way, read on for the best places to eat and drink within a 15 minute walk of the Convention Center, from morning pastries to quick lunch stops and happy hour cocktails to big expense account dinners.Read More
Where to Eat and Drink Near the Sacramento Convention Center
From affordable lunches to expense account feasts
Estelle Bakery & Pâtisserie
Enjoy a taste of France at Estelle, which offers quiche, salads, and simple sandwiches like prosciutto and brie at lunch. The main draws are the city’s most exquisite pastries and desserts, including buttery croissants, fluffy brioche doughnuts, colorful macarons, and beautiful tarts.
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Sacramento’s first food hall, the Bank, offers a few eating options — more food stalls are still on their way — but more importantly, three bars and a gorgeous environment in which to drink. The setting: An historic bank building, with decadent gold ceilings and other regal details still intact. Head to the basement for more than 60 self-serve beer taps, allowing you to taste on your own terms.
Tiger Bar and Restaurant
At this industrial, two-story restaurant splashed with neon, dim sum-style carts roll through with eclectic bites and cocktails all night long. It’s supposed to feel like perpetual happy hour, with the likes of pickled deviled eggs and ambitious cocktails luring you to hang out a little while longer.
Open since 1939, Frank Fat’s is a Sacramento institution — so much so that it’s even won James Beard America’s Classics Award. This is Americanized Chinese food done right, in a fun, classy setting. The deep-fried Peking duck and brandy fried chicken are both strong bets, and the banana cream pie is deservedly famous.
Backbone Cafe caters to keto, paleo, and gluten-free eaters with a host of protein-rich, low-carb breakfast and lunch dishes. You’ll find tasty bone broths, bowls, curries, burgers, and more, with a healthy dose of vegan options, too.
Temple Coffee Roasters
It’s tough to choose a favorite roaster in Sacramento’s robust coffee scene, but for many, it’s Temple. This location offers some of the best cappuccino and cold brew near the Convention Center, all in a sleek, contemporary setting.
La Bonne Soupe Café
The white board menu changes daily at this downtown staple, where you’ll find a few deeply flavored soups as well as sandwiches on freshly baked French bread. With options like duck confit with brie, smoked oysters with Provolone, and wild salmon chowder, it can be hard to choose, so plan on a sandwich and a cup of soup.
Bud’s Buffet feels like a relic from another era, with enormous sandwiches featuring hot roasted meats and rotating specials like salisbury steak and meatloaf. The roast beef with au jus is the classic order, but regardless, you’ll want to prepare for a food coma.
Ten Ten Room
Mid-century cocktails, decor, and dishes converge at this fun downtown bar, with the likes of meatballs with grape jelly and deviled Scotch eggs. The cocktails are the main attraction, though, with a mix of creative originals and faithful renditions of classics. Note: Happy hour goes until 7 p.m. daily, with $1 off cocktails and bites.
Descend into the cavernous depths of Empress Tavern, located below the historic Crest Theatre, and find contemporary renditions of old-school American classics like prime rib, fried chicken, and pimento cheese. It’s explicitly meat-heavy, though the vegetable dishes are no joke — nor are the cocktails.
San Francisco pizza wizard Tony Gemignani is behind this loud, brash, and kitschy restaurant. The menu isn’t quite as lengthy as the one at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, but it still manages to offer Neapolitan, Roman, Sicilian, Californian, and Detroit-style pies, among others.
At the all-vegetarian restaurant Mother, meat eaters are known to completely forget their more carnivorous cravings. Try the fried mushroom po boy, or the carrot nut burger, or the chili verde, or any of the fresh pastas. Fun, relaxed, and not remotely preachy, Mother is a solid choice for lunch or dinner.
Ella Dining Room & Bar
Sacramento’s political players regularly dine at Ella, a local favorite for its gorgeous interior, elegant Californian cuisine, and fabulous cocktails. Happy hour offers an unusually good bargain for such high-end fare, with Ella’s signature gin and tonic at $6.50 and small plates hovering around the same price. Save room for dessert.
Tony's Delicatessen & Catering
Tony’s has been serving the downtown lunch crowd since 1991 with simple, Italian-leaning sandwiches. It’s fast, reliable, and affordable — most sandwiches cost about $8 — making it an obvious candidate when your conference’s lunch fare looks especially sad.
All of the French classics are on offer at Brasserie Capitale, an elegant restaurant just steps from the Convention Center. Oysters, foie gras, scallops, steak, duck, lamb — whatever fancy food you’re craving with your expense account, Brasserie Capitale can accommodate.
A pleasant walk across Capitol Park lies Yellowbill, a weekday-only cafe spun off from popular Sacramento restaurant Magpie. Yellowbill serves seasonal lattes and other drinks; house-made baked goods (try the carrot cake sandwich cookie); and squares of pizza al taglio-esque focaccia for a quick lunch.
Capital Hop Shop
With more than 30 beers on tap, Capital Hop Shop is a prime choice for post-convention (or post-work) drinks. The selection is reliably strong, with a host of local beers to sample alongside California’s best, plus basic pub grub like burgers and wings.
Station 16 feels like a logical progression of Viet-Cajun food — fittingly, the family who owns it also runs a Viet-Cajun spot in south Sacramento. Instead of seafood boils, Station 16 specializes in seafood cooked in big cast iron skillets. Oysters, lobster rolls, and Cajun garlic fries also beckon.
The owners of this Cal-Italian spot also own Lucky Dog Ranch, which means beef tends to be a highlight, whether it’s in the burger or braised short ribs. Either way, a meal at Lucca is never complete without an order of zucchini chips for the table.
The Press Bistro
This Mediterranean-influenced, neighborhood restaurant delivers on staples in a rustic, date night-appropriate setting. Start out with a few tapas, like roasted garlic arancini and fried meatballs in yogurt, and then move onto one of the Press’s pastas or braised beef short rib.
Folks with dietary needs should make a beeline for Puskin’s Restaurant, which is entirely gluten-free and offers a sizable vegan menu. Gluten-free baked goods from cookies to breads are attractions on their own, while the shakshuka draws lines for weekend brunch.
The Rind is all about cheese: Cheese plates, mac ‘n’ cheese, grilled cheese, cheesy desserts — it’s all here, and it’s all prepared well. Consider it the ideal stop to experience California’s delicious bounty of dairy, with a thoughtful wine and beer list for pairing.
Sampino's Towne Foods
This old-school, Italian deli stocks its display case with tempting lasagna, eggplant parmesan, and a fleet of fresh pastas. They’re all good bets, but most regulars keep coming back for the meatball sandwich, loaded up with three cheeses, garlic aioli, pepperoncini, and tangy tomato sauce.
Mulvaney’s B&L is often credited as one of Sacramento’s most influential farm-to-table restaurants. The menu changes daily and always credits local farms, though it’s worth noting a few seasonal staples: seared foie gras, tomato and hand-pulled mozzarella salad, and grilled double-cut pork chop.
Block Butcher Bar
The glass-walled butchery room shows where Block Butcher Bar’s priorities lie, but the restaurant also serves composed salads, impressive sandwiches, and top-notch cocktails in addition to big charcuterie and cheese boards. The hip, low-key spot is ideal for whiling away the evening, and you can also order sausages and other German fare from Block’s more rowdy next door neighbor, LowBrau.
This tiny Hungarian restaurant is a true mom-and-pop operation, with just a few tables, bar stools, and a decor that feels like it’s trapped in time — and so does the menu, where you can still find hearty lunch specials like goulash and chicken paprikash with spetzle for less than $8. All dinners are automatically three-course meals, with soup or salad, your choice of entree, and apple strudel for dessert.