If that sounds like a cop-out, well, consider where you’d go if you were trying to be famous: Los Angeles, or Sacramento? The overall lack of self-promotion -- and, if we’re being honest, Sacramento’s enduring rep as a cow town -- hasn’t overturned the presumption that Sacramento has no taste.
“Chefs will go an hour and a half away because there’s an audience in San Francisco,” says Marvin, the LA and Vegas chef setting up shop in Sac. “But what I’m seeing is that audience is coming to Sac because people who were living in the Bay Area get priced out. And the city is about to blow up. In five years you’ll be talking about it just like you do about Portland or Seattle. You watch.”
Sunset’s Ladoceour concurs with that timeline.
“In terms of ingredients, yes, Sacramento is right up there with San Francisco or any other city,” she says. “There just aren’t big, newsworthy restaurants causing a scene on a national level yet. There aren’t enough fine dining places to nerd out over yet. But in the next five to 10 years, it will solidify itself as a major dining city.”
And it’s one that’s worth a visit as anywhere in the region. It’s close to wine country and the mountains. You can bike through orchards and pick your own fruit. There are even farmers who make their own cheese. It’s all the same stuff that draws people to Provence, yet only a scant 90 minutes from San Francisco.
It doesn’t have the accolades yet of Italy or LA -- or, for that matter, of Napa. What Sac does have are ingredients on par with anywhere on the continent and young creative chefs who are building their own thing. If you’re planning a trip to Northern California, make dinner in Sacramento a stop on the way. You can still discover it before it’s cool, but not for much longer.