Sacramento’s Midtown offers an itinerary of eclectic adventure and history

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Most of us think of Sacramento as a destination for lawmakers, but the city is having a moment, thanks to its vibrant food scene and eclectic energy, set within the gridlines of a historic city. Whether you’re day tripping, weekending or en route to the snow, California’s state capital offers a quick getaway for Bay Area residents eager to escape the day-to-day.

Here’s how to spend a fun weekend hitting up the charms of the city’s Midtown neighborhood.

Friday: Settle in for happy hour

Unless they’re planning to lobby lawmakers, most Sacramento visitors head for the historic Old Sacramento Waterfront or the downtown hustle, bustle and basketball of the Golden 1 Center. We have a better idea: Head a dozen or so blocks east to explore Midtown, a hip neighborhood crammed with craft breweries, trendy dining spots, art galleries and notable historic sites.

If you’re spending the night, one good hotel option is the Hyatt House Midtown, which opened last year directly across from Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park in the historic, Romanesque Revival-style Eastern Star Hall, built in 1928. Check out the killer Star Lounge which serves up cocktails and small bites on the third floor. Then heat out on  foot to explore the neighborhood along J, K and L streets, winding through the Alleys — Kayak, Improv and Jazz — and pausing to take in the impressive street art presence, as well as vintage shops, record stores and tattoo parlors.

You’ll spot colorful murals throughout the neighborhood, from John S. Huerta’s “Frida” mural, which marks Midtown Central at the corner of 24th and K streets, to Maren Conrad’s “Prosperity Through Perseverance” on the Marrs building at 1050 20th St., inspired by a Chinese dragon origin story about koi on the Yangtze River.

Maren Conrad's "Prosperity Through Perseverance" mural in Sacramento's Midtown was inspired by a Chinese dragon origin story. (Courtesy Amber Turpin)
Maren Conrad’s “Prosperity Through Perseverance” mural in Sacramento’s Midtown was inspired by a Chinese dragon origin story. (Courtesy Amber Turpin) 

Feeling peckish? Hit up happy hour at Ro Sham Beaux wine bar for a snack and a glass of natural wine or low ABV cocktails ($11-$14) made with vermouth, sake and amaros. The popular Cheese Whiz ($7) is no spray cheese; it’s whipped Manchego and Parmesan on crostini. Or go big with the Raclette ($19), broiled and shaved tableside (or barside) onto roasted fingerling potatoes.

Chef Billy Ngo, seen here at Sacramento's Farm to Fork Grand Tasting in September 2023, is known for his contemporary Japanese restaurants, including Kru. (Francisco Chavira/Visit Sacramento)
Chef Billy Ngo, seen here at Sacramento’s Farm to Fork Grand Tasting in September 2023, is known for his contemporary Japanese restaurants, including Kru. (Francisco Chavira/Visit Sacramento) 

Or try the happy hour option — 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays — at the hotel’s Star Lounge. Enjoy beautiful cocktails and tasty small bites as you lounge on deep blue velvet banquettes in the golden glow of vintage lighting. It may be tempting to stay put and make an evening of this, order the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin ($35) with cauliflower “risotto” for dinner, perhaps. But you need to pace yourself for the mind-blowing dinner to come.

The minute you decide to book your getaway to Sac, make reservations for Kru, chef Billy Ngo’s contemporary Japanese restaurant, which is a 10-minute walk from the hotel. Ngo, whose restaurants include Fish Face Poke Bar and Kodaiko Ramen, pays homage to traditional Japanese food but takes a fun, contemporary approach to his craft. We loved the Sashimi Tapas ($32), which offers five different fish, prepared five different ways, and the stunning Sunshine roll ($19), filled with shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, green apple and lemon, and served with a creamy garlic sauce.

Details: Rooms at Sacramento’s Hyatt House Midtown, 2719 K St., start at $219; www.hyatt.com. The hotel’s Star Lounge opens at 3 p.m. daily; www.historicstarlounge.com.

Ro Sham Beaux opens at 2 p.m. weekdays and noon on weekends at 2413 J St.; www.roshambeauxbar.com. Reservations are essential for Kru Contemporary Japanese Cuisine, which opens at 4 p.m. weekdays and 5 p.m. weekends at 3135 Folsom Blvd.; www.krurestaurant.com.

Saturday: From java house to gastropub

This is a coffee town, and Midtown boasts a dazzling array of places to get caffeinated — and they all open bright and early. Try Temple on K Street, The Mill on I Street, Mast on 28th or Scorpio Coffee on 16th, especially if you were born between Oct. 23 and Nov. 21. Stock up on the sweets tucked away like a secret behind Midtown Bakery’s blue door. Pastry chef Angela Harris’ diminutive shop offers everything from cinnamon-dusted French puffs ($3) to sweet-savory corn muffins ($5) filled with corn, jalapeños, chives and cheddar and topped with bacon.

Pastry chef Angela Harris' tiny Midtown Bakery does a brisk business in sweet and savory pastries on weekends in Sacramento's Midtown. (Courtesy Amber Turpin)
Pastry chef Angela Harris’ tiny Midtown Bakery does a brisk business in sweet and savory pastries on weekends in Sacramento’s Midtown. (Courtesy Amber Turpin) 

The Midtown Farmers Market runs year-round from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and sprawls over five blocks. With more than 200 vendors on site, fresh produce, flowers, bread and handmade treats are just the tip of the iceberg.

If you slept through breakfast — or missed the globe-spanning food offerings at the farmers market — head down 14th street for a slice, a sandwich or salad at Pizza Supreme Being. The pizzas range from Heatwave (hot coppa, jalapena and hot honey) to Greek veggie, and the sandwich lineup includes a meatball sub and kimchi grilled cheese. Craft beer, natural wine and soft serve — try the horchata coffee flavor — make this recently-expanded spot a no-brainer.

If you’re still down in this neck of the woods come 4 p.m., sneak into The Snug for a memorable cocktail amid moody, speakeasy vibes.

Tonight, you can play it mellow back at the hotel or hit the town for a night of music at Ace of Spades or Harlow’s or improv and sketch comedy at the Sacramento Comedy Spot. Or you can indulge your inner foodie at one of the many great Midtown eateries. Book early for chef Chris Barnum-Dann’s 12-course tasting menu ($197) at Michelin-starred Localis. Or head for Hawks Public House, a great gastropub option for delicious, hearty food with a twist, and a menu that ranges from high-end pub bacon cheeseburgers ($25) to risotto ($28) with carrots and kabocha squash and miso-glazed salmon ($38) with creamy sushi rice.

Details: Midtown Bakery is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends at 2301 J St.; www.midtown-bakery.com. Find details on the farmers market, 1050 20th St., at www.exploremidtown.org/midtown-markets. Pizza Supreme Being is open from noon to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday at 1425C 14th St; www.pizzasupremebeing.com.

Localis opens at 5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday at 2031 S St.; www.localissacramento.com. Hawks Public House is open for lunch on weekdays and dinner Monday-Saturday at 1525 Alhambra Blvd.; www.hawkspublichouse.com

Sunday: Meander the past and present

Spend today browsing the past at Sutter’s Fort, a European colonial settlement that was the region’s economic powerhouse from 1939 to 1849, when gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill. The fort, according to state historians, was “a gateway, a private kingdom, a symbol of both hope and oppression” and the work of Swiss-German entrepreneur John Sutter. He was glorified in the history books of the last century as a visionary, despite being a “swindler” who fled his debts and family in Europe and built the fort by coercing labor from the local Nisenan Indians. The State Indian Museum is here too.

Sutter's Fort State Historic Park in Sacramento's Midtown offers a glimpse of California's colonial past. (Courtesy Amber Turpin)
Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park in Sacramento’s Midtown offers a glimpse of California’s colonial past. (Courtesy Amber Turpin) 

Afterward, take one last meander through Midtown, where shops and still more eateries await. Check out the compound of Mexican art and handicrafts at Placita MX, the Cuffs boutique and for spirits enthusiasts, the Good Bottle shop.

Then grab brunch — you don’t want to hit the road hungry, do you? The brunch lineup at Mother — chef Michael Thiemann’s popular vegetarian restaurant opened in Midtown last fall — offers a lineup of Dutch babies ($18) with pineapple compote and squash latke Benedicts ($21).

If you’re hankering for fried chicken instead, Bawk is the place for a fried chicken sandwich ($16) with garlic herb mayo, slaw and fries, chicken and buttermilk waffles ($17) and non-chicken delights, including fried cauliflower bites ($12) and smashburgers ($17).

Bawk in Midtown Sacramento is the place for fried chicken lovers, whether they're hankering for a crispy chicken sandwich with garlic herb mayo and slaw or chicken and buttermilk waffles. (Francisco Chavira/Visit Sacramento)
Bawk in Midtown Sacramento is the place for fried chicken lovers, whether they’re hankering for a crispy chicken sandwich with garlic herb mayo and slaw or chicken and buttermilk waffles. (Francisco Chavira/Visit Sacramento) 

Details: Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park and State Indian Museum are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 2701 L St. and 2618 K St., respectively. Admission is $3-$5; www.parks.ca.gov/.

Placita MX opens at 11 a.m. Tuesday-Sunday at 2331 K St.; www.placitamx.com. Cuffs opens at 11 a.m. Monday-Saturday at 2220 J St; www.shopcuffs.com. And Good Bottle opens at 10 a.m. Monday-Saturday at 2527 J St.; www.goodbottleshop.com.

Mother is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for “brunchy lunchy” on Sundays at 2319B K St.; www.mothersacramento.com. Bawk! by Urban Roots opens at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday-Friday and 11 a.m. on weekends at 1409 R St., Suite 102; www.bawkfriedchicken.com.

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