More Than Just Hot Dogs

OK, next up on the Big Eight is Capitol Dawg on Capitol and 20th Streets. That’s right, I’m listing what is basically a hot dog stand in my top eight favorite bars in Sacramento.

Why would I do that? Well besides offering a smorgasbord of ‘specialty’ dogs and like fodder, Capitol Dawg also offers you perhaps the most elusive drinkable I’ve sought throughout Sacramento’s sprawling barosphere: the sublime Olympia lager.

Continue reading “More Than Just Hot Dogs”

Railyard Recycled

So here’s a new (-ish) video about the Sacramento Railyards project. The Center for Creative Land Recycling is one of many partners – public, private and nonprofit – trying to redevelop Sacramento’s historic (and historically blighted) former Union Pacific railyard.

240 acres of abandoned railyard has been spooning the north-west corner of downtown Sacramento for years. City leaders hope to transform this rail-etched wasteland into a downtown annex with housing, retail, office space, and entertainment and cultural venues, not to mention development of the riverfront. Continue reading “Railyard Recycled”

Fairweather Fan at Streets of London

I stopped by Streets of London for a drink yesterday and decided its still too early for Streets of London. Streets is a proud member of the Big Eight, Summer Edition. Why? Because it’s a great pub and most of its plaudits are earned in its outside area.

Between the outside foosball table and fact that there’s more seating in the backyard than inside, this little pub’s every quirk favors the great outdoors to its claustrophobic interior. For one, Streets is cacophonic when it’s crowded; you’re going to want to be outside. For another, did I mention foosball? Yeah, that’s outside too. Continue reading “Fairweather Fan at Streets of London”

Geeks of the Underground

I recently dragged the wifey to a new history geek attraction: Old Sacramento Underground Tours. Turns out, beneath those kitsch saloons and taffy vendors we know today as Old Sacramento, there are a bunch of underground tunnels where the streets used to be before landowners used screw jacks to literally raise the city in the 1860s.

They did it because the Sacramento River kept flooding. So streets, sidewalks and buildings all had to come up about 10 or 15 feet. Some buildings stayed put as the sidewalks rose up around them so, as Mark Twain once observed, pedestrians could literally peer into people’s hotel bedrooms from the sidewalk. Creepy.

For $15 you get an hour-long tour of the tunnels left behind and, at least in our case, a very knowledgeable tour guide to explain all things Sacramentan history. I don’t usually find dirt and flood prevention inspiring but I was actually inspired. It’s a great testament to Sacramento’s time-honored tradition of thumbing its nose at those pesky forces of nature, such as gravity and water.

Best of all, it turns out the very serious show Ghost Adventures even visited Old Sacramento to inspect these very tunnels for evidence of the undead and we were lucky enough to get the same tour guide as Zak, Nick and Aaron.

How much more a part of history can you get?

Westfield Downtown Mall: Not as Bleak as You Remember It

Sacramento’s downtown mall has struggled the last five or six years. Maybe the toughest blow came when Hard Rock Cafe closed and the giant plastic guitar came down. I still snuck over there yesterday for quick shopping for a birthday gift, because, well, it’s downtown and that’s convenient if you work downtown.

It’s actually not as bad as it used to be. Vacancies on the first floor are about five percent, and maybe 35 percent on the second floor. Still, an improvement. Foot traffic looks pretty good. And the cinema, Macys, and River City Brewing Company remain as anchors on the mall’s west side. The Doubleday bookstore has been gone for a few years, which sucks (bookstores are generally great places to shop for hard-to-shop-for people). But still there are signs of life sneaking back into the mall.

The cavernous 24 Hour gym is even undergoing an expansion (and hopefully renovation) that will take it to the second floor on the mall’s east entrance.

Back in February, a team of urban planners recommended restructuring the mall into an open mixed-use area for retail, housing and workspace. I really see the virtue in that. Right now, its frontage looks more like a fortress than a market, buttressed against growing national trends that favor outdoor malls or “lifestyle centers.” Open it up if Westfield wants to front the money.

Full disclosure, I sit on the board for Sacramento’s redevelopment agency, which has some jurisdiction with streetscape improvements and tenant attraction in the area. My comments shouldn’t be taken as representing any city officials other than yours truly.

In the meantime, a slow rebound in the mall’s current structure appears to be picking up steam. That funky exotic antique store is gone, where I almost bought a samurai sword once. But if trends continue, something better will come along.

Hello, I like to drink on the river.

 It’s Springtime. And if tradition holds, Summer will probably follow. There can be no better time, then, to dust off the Big Eight, Summer Edition. This being my first post on Sac Rag, I could talk about what I do or where I grew up. But in my experience, the best way to get to know somebody is to get to know their bars. I’ve got eight of them. Eight summer bars, I mean.

I’ll start with the Virgin Sturgeon, since right now I feel like a beer and cigar on a deck overlooking the Sacramento River. If you’ve never been to the Sturgeon, it’s unlikely you’ve ever walked a jetway onto a floating barge-turned-seafood-shack-and-bar. And that would mean you’re missing out.

Don’t take a first date here and don’t wear your clubbin’ shirt (or clubbin’ skirt, ladies). The Sturgeon’s no place for putting on airs. And the only dress code, as far as I can tell, is the sign outside kindly asking that you wear a shirt and shoes. Continue reading “Hello, I like to drink on the river.”