On Taking My Mother to Mother

Pass the sea salt
Pass the sea salt

Have you heard? A new restaurant opened up on K Street. It’s vegetarian. It’s hip. It’s different. It’s the toast of the town. And I can say that because toast is vegetarian.

It’s called Mother. And if you don’t read the local print journalists, then you might not know that Mother is the best restaurant to open in the area since a tired woman first roasted a bluegill trout on the banks of the American River after first coming over the land bridge about 12,000 years ago. Seriously. If you think I’m kidding, read this. Or this.

People I know are going batshit about this place. I expect this of the vegetarian and vegan community in town, with their Jehovah’s-Witness-level zealotry and their incessantly low reviews on Yelp of restaurants that don’t cater to their self-imposed dietary restrictions. But straight up eaters are singing this joint’s praises. So, you go. Right? Continue reading “On Taking My Mother to Mother”

First Step Reached in Pulling Down “World’s Nicest Projects”

See, there are bricks, and trees.
See, there are bricks, and trees and stuff

If you’ve driven by the corner of Broadway and Muir (9th) anytime in your life and wondered what exactly the grouping of building was you were looking at, you know the ones, the one and two story brick jobs laid out in a wide open pattern, like some kind of Massachusetts militia base from the heady days of the war of British aggression, then I’m here to tell you that they are, and always have been, public housing.

The handsome brick structures surrounded by leafy old trees, green lawns, soccer and baseball fields, and a head start pre-school were built after WWII by a team of architects known for their impressive, enduring structures like the Elks Building, YWCA, and (less enduring) the Alhambra theater. To have such eminent architects work on public housing was no big thing back then, as public projects of any kind were ways to show American superiority and excellence on the world stage.

These days, the public housing project known as Alder Grove (they were originally called New Helvetia, probably because of all the poor Swiss people that lived there), boasts hundreds of residents, many of whom have lived there for decades.

Surrounding Alder grove on the South is the neighborhood “Upper Land Park,” a collection of mostly post-war houses, built to a slightly smaller scale than the larger Land Park homes east of Riverside Boulevard. Recently, this neighborhood has become one of the hottest real estate markets in the city, given it’s medium price range and proximity to downtown, as well as the charming nature and fine condition of many of its 70-year old houses.

But wouldn't it be great if it looked like this?
But wouldn’t it be great if it looked like this?

So, here’s the rub. The Sacramento Housing Authority (SHRA) wants to pull the Alder Grove residences down, run a bulldozer through them, rip them up, shred them to a pulp, and put up some multi-story cubes in their place. Put some commercial on the Broadway side and build some “mixed” housing including a mix of market-rate and subsidized housing behind the commercial frontage.

Yet, the main reason for the pull down given by the SHRA is “the housing communities suffer from severe physical distress, with outdated, 60-year-old building systems. Many of the 700 residential units are undersized and do not meet the needs of today’s families.”

It’s funny a bit that the surrounding neighborhood is also more than 60-years old, and was built with the outdated technologies of the time, yet it’s still one of the most desirable neighborhoods in town. Also, the families that live in the Alder Grove development haven’t complained at all about the living conditions and would have to be displaced for months if not years while their homes are destroyed and replaced. So, I’m trying hard to believe that this is “for the comfort of the residents.”

Instead, this seems like a project that, like almost any building project in the country, is designed to make developer, builder, owner, and politician a lot of money. It seems a shame, doesn’t it, to have this wide patch of land without something on it that you can gain a market income from. It seems a shame, doesn’t it, that there are wide open spaces wherein children can play rather than rent-earning apartments. It seems a shame, doesn’t it, that there is room to put up a Subway sandwich shop that doesn’t yet have a Subway sandwich shop occupying it.

Also, there’s always bound to be shenanigans. According to one frequent commenter and expertly knowledgeable individual that’s a personal friend of mine, “The weird part is that the city paid a consulting firm to determine if the buildings were eligible for the National Register, which is part of the environmental review process. The firm determined they were, so they buried the report and hired another consultant.”

Thanks, city council, for looking out for the needs of the citizens once again. Why don’t you work on the empty, I mean EMPTY, city blocks in Downtown and Midtown before you go ripping down perfectly good residences? Try finding a plan for the Ice Factory. Try building a public market. Work on that ridiculous rail yard boondoggle. Find some tenants for the empty buildings on K Street. Do something useful rather than what appears to be a naked grab for money designed to screw the lucky few comfortable, low-income folks in your town.

The most recent (Jan 21) city council meeting addressed the issue and the council voted to go ahead with a plan to acquire a plan to tear the thing down. They haven’t agreed to move ahead, just to develop a plan to move ahead. So there’s still time to stop the move if you, the citizen, so wants. Just sayin’.

Anonymous Do-gooder Does Good Well

Andrew Carnegie knew how to put his name on donations
Andrew Carnegie knew how to put his name on donations

It started as a few disparate people getting gift cards in the mail around Christmas. The cards were sent from an anonymous gift-giver who, from all evidence, seems to favor those people in the Sacramento community who do their thing and in the process make our town a better place.

I noticed several people in my Facebook feed thanking this anonymous Santa, people like Brian Crall, owner of the Sacramento Comedy Spot, or Chris Crotty, owner of ComedySportz, or standup Keith Lowell Jensen. Each of the three received a gift card with a note saying, “Thank you for all you do for the Sacramento comedy community.”

Thinking this was just a nice gesture from an ardent comedy fan, I stored it away as interesting and nice.

But, just in the last few days I’ve seen posts from John Marcotte, political satirist and high-brow prankster, Stephanie Rector, organizer of Sac Geeks, and a few other “non-comedy” souls. These cards were sent with custom notes that basically said thank you for making Sacramento a better place.

So, #1 This gift-giver is awesome and deserves high praise for true heart and brilliant execution. #2 I don’t need to know who it is, nor should you. They’ve chosen to remain anonymous and that’s just fine. #3 Their choice of recipients is interesting and I’d like to know if anyone else out there received such a gift. If you did or know of someone else that did, please comment below or shoot me an email at saceats at gmail dot com.

Stage Coach- Grease, Grits, and Cultural Exchange

20131105-114242.jpg

Sometimes brunch won’t do. Some mornings, the thought of mimosas and purse dogs and hungover waiters sours the stomach more than last night’s libations. Some mornings, breakfast is the only solution for what ails you. And a very specific breakfast at that, one with potatoes, biscuits, eggs, and all the other fixin’s. But, every now and then, you need to go farther. You need a gut bomb that feels like it was especially prepared by Paula Deen’s grandma, you know the one that thought the rotund racist was “too skinny” and kept inducing her to eat sticks of butter like they were popsicles. On those mornings, you go to the Stage Coach.

 Unprepossessing with its A-frame roof and 50-year old sign, the Stage Coach Restaurant offers the homiest of down-home cooking, the most comfortable of comfort food, the bombest of gut bombs. And, with its Florin Road location it also offer an intriguing intersection of white, black, Hispanic, and Asian customers who tend to mingle together in a common cause in a way usually reserved for houses of worship.

Continue reading “Stage Coach- Grease, Grits, and Cultural Exchange”

Sorry Folks, Bandera is Still the Best Burger in Town

I know it’s a chain. I know the drinks are too expensive. I know you can’t go there without getting hit on by some geriatric divorcee or Persian car dealer. I know. I know all of these things. It doesn’t make the burger taste any worse. It is a perfect burger.

Poppyseed bun. House ground, highest quality meat. Cooked to order on the doneness scale. More importantly, cooked correctly, to order, on the doneness scale. Topped with good cheddar, mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion. Served with a side of slaw. It’s everything you want in a burger and nothing you don’t.

Sure, it costs $16 and doesn’t even come with full release, but it’s worth it. This is not an everyday, got nothing in the fridge to cook, can’t decide on pizza or chinese, kind of burger. It’s a special occasion burger. It’s a birthday burger. It’s a breakup burger. It’s a promotion burger. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not better than Bandera’s $20 french dip, but that’s another story.

It is, however,  better than, in no particular order, Nationwide, Scott’s, Dime, Formoli, Squeeze, Jerry’s, Smashburger, Five Guys, and any other place you could name. It’s just that good. It’s definitely better than Nationwide. I don’t know what’s wrong with you people that keep telling me that place is the tits. It’s not. It’s just sad and weird and overpriced for what you get, and unexceptional. It’s like the Zelda’s of burgers. Oooooooooooooooooooooo, yeah I said it.

Bandera- 2232 Fair Oaks Blvd (at Howe), 922.3524,