If you find yourself hungry in the Californian state capital, you'll find plenty of places to take care of that primary need. The self-proclaimed farm-to-fork capital of the United States is home to long-standing, well-rated eateries; brand-new places with innovative chefs; and a few places that serve some unique culinary creations.
The list below focuses on the best of the best, places that are well-rated and awarded. There's only one Michelin-starred restaurant in town, but some of the places listed below won Michelin's Bib Gourmand award (high-quality meals that include two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less), and Michelin Plates.
The Kitchen was among the first Sacramento restaurants to emphasize farm-to-fork dining when they opened in 1961. They were nominated for a James Beard Award in 2012 and won a coveted Michelin star in 2019.
Executive chef Kelly McCown hosts a unique dining experience, explaining every step of the preparation and encouraging diners to talk to the chefs and wander through the kitchen. Your dining experience will last about four hours, with courses presented in six acts with an intermission. You can check the most recent menu on their website. The Kitchen is the most expensive and hardest-to-book restaurant in town, making reservations essential.
After earning a Michelin star two years in a row at Solbar in Calistoga, Sacramento native Brad Cecchi returned home in 2017 to open Canon, which describes itself as a "chef-driven neighborhood restaurant with creative and shareable fare."
Check their menu for their current dishes, most of which are small plates made for sharing. Among the chef's most popular creations are Urfa chile chicken drumsticks with orange zest and smoked beer-can chicken.
The East Sacramento restaurant earned a Bib Gourmand rating from Michelin in 2019. As you might expect, it's packed most of the time, so you need to book a reservation.
Frank Fat's won the James Beard Foundation's "American Classics" award in 2013 and received a Michelin Bib Gourmand rating in 2019. That's quite an achievement for the oldest single-family-owned restaurant in town, which has been around since 1939.
The décor can be described as both "throwback" and elegant. The menu has both traditional Chinese dishes and American favorites such as steak and banana cream pie. Despite the odd mix, Michelin says "everything is beautifully executed, from the fried chicken marinated with brandy and ginger to addictive garlic-chili green beans."
Frank Fat's is just two blocks from the State Capitol. Your fellow diners could be the leaders of the Senate and Assembly, the attorney general, and the governor. In fact, it's so popular with legislators and policy-makers that it's sometimes called the "Third House" of California government, where political deals have literally been inked out on the back of a napkin.
This upscale Mexican restaurant earned a Michelin Plate rating in 2019. The menu includes regional highlights like Puebla-style chicken enchiladas smothered in handmade mole poblano and Michoacan-style carnitas tostadas. They also have an extensive tequila selection. With an elegant interior and large patio, Zócalo has a strong following; reservations are a good idea.
Sacramento's famous Squeeze Burger wears a skirt (of sorts). The so-called Squeeze With Cheese features a beef patty ringed with crispy-edged cheese that spreads an inch or more beyond the edge of the meat patty.
If that all sounds vaguely familiar, television star Guy Fieri once visited this place for his show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," rating their burger one of the best in America.
Pizza Rock is a regional chain, and its head pizzaiola (pizza-maker) Laura Meyer is shaking up the pie world. She proved that in 2013, when she became the first American and woman to win the World Pizza Championship for pan pizza in Parma, Italy. On the Pizza Rock menu, you'll find pizza styles from Naples, Rome, Sicily, California, Detroit, and Chicago. Because, after all, they're each too good to overlook.
Hawks Public House is pretty much the best place to go for brunch in the city. The menu has less than a dozen items, yet offers something for everyone, including a fancy twist on the Egg McMuffin and breakfast pasta (bucatini carbonara, Spanish chorizo, and a four-minute egg).
Their brunch cocktails are worth a look, including a martini made with Earl Grey gin and a cold brew old fashioned.
Ella's dining room feels both rustic and refined. With floor-to-ceiling curtains and white linens, it's just the place to celebrate an anniversary, impress your date, or stage an engagement.
The Michelin Plate-rated menu includes fresh Pacific seafood and is heavy on meat-based entrées. Don't even think about skipping dessert. Michelin says their "fruity pebble" semifreddo with vanilla-coriander meringue and raspberry milk is "a sight to behold."
Make reservations well ahead of time to avoid waiting in line.
When Guy Fieri filmed an episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" here, he raved about their signature Dad's Burger. He called the eight-ounce bacon and blue cheese-encrusted beef patty the most "righteous" and "juiciest" burger ever. In addition to burgers, Dad's specializes in other American-style comfort food like soups and meatloaf. Their Hot Blonde chicken panini sandwich also gets rave reviews, especially when served with avocado.
The atmosphere is casual, and the back patio is especially good if you're taking the kids.
The menu at this Michelin Plate-rated restaurant features expertly-crafted breakfast items, but the biscuit sandwich is the dish people rave about most often: eggs, cheese, bacon, and caramelized onion piled on top of buttery biscuits and smothered with bacon gravy.
Expect a wait, no matter when you go. The line may extend around the block in the middle of a Wednesday morning, and one-hour waits on the weekend are normal. To avoid that, try to arrive at opening time before the line has a chance to form.
The James Beard Foundation. "Awards Watch: The 2012 Restaurant and Chef Awards Semifinalists." February 21, 2012.
MICHELIN Guide. "The Kitchen." 2019.
MICHELIN Guide. "Canon." 2019.
James Beard Foundation. "America's Classic: Frank Fat's." May 6, 2013.
MICHELIN Guide. "Frank Fat's." 2019.
MICHELIN Guide. "Zócalo." 2019.
MICHELIN Guide. "Ella." 2019.
MICHELIN Guide. " Bacon & Butter."