Top 12 Best Restaurants in Sacramento

Last Updated on February 8, 2024 by Emily Johnson

As California’s farm-to-fork capital, Sacramento’s dining scene captivates foodies with fresh innovative flavors celebrating regional bounty. Between James Beard honorees and trendsetting chef collabs, discovering the city’s top tables means enjoying seasonally-driven cuisine focused on sustainability.

Restaurant NameCuisine/Highlights
The FirehouseUpscale dining in a historic fire station setting
The WaterboyItalian-inspired dishes with a focus on seasonal ingredients
The KitchenInteractive dining experience with a changing menu
Ella Dining Room & BarNew American cuisine with a modern twist
Mulvaney’s B&LFarm-to-table dining showcasing local ingredients
Frank Fat’sClassic Chinese dishes in a historic setting
Grange Restaurant & BarFarm-to-fork cuisine highlighting local produce
Hawks Provisions & Public HouseInnovative dishes using locally sourced ingredients
CanonCasual spot offering creative cocktails and comfort food
SouthSouthern-inspired dishes in a cozy atmosphere
The Porch Restaurant & BarSouthern-inspired comfort food with a twist
The Melting PotFondue restaurant offering interactive dining experience

From all-star fine dining concepts to food trucks crafting Instagram-worthy bites on the go, these 12 restaurants capture Sacramento’s impressive culinary identity ready to impress palates.

Ella Dining Room & Bar

Name and Location: Ella Dining Room & Bar in downtown Sacramento

History and Significance: Opened by renowned chef Kelly McCown in 2011, Ella brings farm-fresh fine dining preparations blending European style with California ingredients served through multiple stylish yet comfortable rooms inside a historic brick structure near the Convention Center.

What to Expect: Seasonal New American cuisine masterfully crafted into ornate compositions like squab breast paired with artisanal cocktails and an extensive wine list befitting the upscale ambiance perfect for romantic dinners or business impressed with detail.

Visitor Information: Dinner nightly 5–10pm, weekend brunch 10am–2pm. Entrees $28–47. Valet parking available, casual elegant attire.

Led by Chef Kelly McCown, the seasonal New American tasting menus at Ella Dining Room & Bar creatively intertwine refined technique with peak-fresh ingredients as the foundation elevating Sacramento’s fine dining experience since 2009. Their elegant warehouse location in Downtown Commons (DOCO) sets an intimate ambiance for experiencing multi-course meals that might open with delicate Monterey abalone plucked from Pacific waters that very morning.

Zesty carotene-hued pea shoot risotto primes palates for sustainably-raised grilled quail entree interplaying sweetness with herbed game bird essence. Finally satiny chocolate ganache tortes glittering with edible 24-karat gold flakes leave a crowning impression you’ll crave long beyond your last Ella bite. With dedication towards regional partnerships, inventive preparation and flawless hospitality, Ella’s ongoing accolades testify to Chef McCown’s flair for finery that need not be fussy, just fantastic.

Localis

Name and Location: Localis located on H Street downtown

History and Significance: Open since 2012, Localis helped energize Sacramento’s local food movement through an ever-changing menu fusing global preparations showcasing premium ingredients by Central Valley farmers/purveyors paired with craft beer and natural wine selections.

What to Expect: Inventive California-sourced dishes that may include Moroccan-spiced quail, mushroom risotto or salmon crudo using fresh components reinvented nightly across a lively yet laid-back urban loft interior equally suited for intimate gatherings or large group dining.

Visitor Information: Dinner from 5pm daily. Plates $13–29. Casual attire welcomed.

Led by co-owner Chef Chris Barnum-Dann alongside visionary Chef Oliver Ridgeway, Localis thoughtfully sources 90% of seasonal provisions from within 100 miles to create distinct Sacramento-inspired progressive California cuisine. Since first firing up stoves along Del Paso Boulevard’s warehouse district in 2016, their converted auto garage dining room filled with reclaimed wood tables and flickering pillar candles has electrified Sacramento’s food community.

Embrace the spirit of adventure by opting for Localis’s Chef’s Table blind tasting allowing their culinary team to customize nightly dishes highlighting hyper-regional bounty’s depth often overlooked. Recent menus celebrated Yolo County premier growers featuring delicate English pea and fava bean ravioli wearing an opulent champagne cream corona.

Steelhead trout seemingly leaped fresh from the American River onto Localis plates wearing herbaceous green chermoula sauce sharpened by preserved lemon. And their pastry team elevates even humble classics like donuts into award-winning masterpieces by frying brioche rounds then filling them tableside with brown butter crème fraîche and preserves from their backyard plum tree.

Empress Tavern

Name and Location: Empress Tavern restaurant located downtown Sacramento

History and Significance: Housed inside Sacramento’s historic Crest Theatre, Empress Tavern opened 2013 inspired by British gastro-pubs while celebrating California’s incredible bounty through seasonal sharing plates made for pairing with their whiskey library boasting over 100+ labels and barrel selections to taste.

What to Expect: Classic cocktails, craft beers and curated wines complement smoked trout dip, braised rabbit cavatelli, citrus-brined fried chicken, cast-iron s’mores and other creative regional eats across distinct, theatrically-inspired rooms animated by upbeat energies.

Visitor Information: Open daily 11:30am–9pm for lunch/dinner. Shareable plates $7–19. Casual dress code welcomed.

Crowned restaurant royalty status as a consistent dining favorite across Northern California since debuting in 2013, Empress Tavern transports gastropub fare to stately new heights with a seasonal menu emphasizing peak flavors and quality handcraft preparation.

Under the innovative direction of founding Executive Chef Michael Thiemann and Chef de Cuisine Matt Goodrich, Empress Tavern celebrates Sacramento’s cultural connection as the West’s first railway terminus through rich dishes like bison shepherd’s pie crowned in fluffy Idaho potato cloudstuffing hearty enough to fuel frontier settlers after shoveling snowbound Sierra summit passes. Pan-roasted chicken piccata bathes each moist heritage breed fowl morsel in a sunny bath of white wine, lemon and caper berries made vibrant by winter citrus season’s juicy height.

Even Empress Tavern’s casual Sunday Supper Roast series comforts with fork-tender Wagyu tri-tip carved tableside awash in veal stock gravy awaiting to coat generously sliced slices of rustic ciabatta bread begging for sopping. So for eventide dining fit for a queen any day of the week with lively atmosphere to match exceptional plates arriving, all hail Empress Tavern as Sacramento’s enduring gastropub gem.

Frank Fat’s

Name and Location: Frank Fat’s restaurant located in downtown Sacramento

History and Significance: Open 80+ years since 1939, Frank Fat’s holds court as Sacramento’s oldest standing restaurant owned by the Fat family now operated by third generation proprietors who have preserved the landmark’s vintage allure still preparing Chinese-American favorites perfected decades ago – an icon of the city’s dining heritage.

What to Expect: Renowned for their signature chicken salad and fat burgers plus old-school pagoda decor, the old-time diner ambiance matches time-honored dishes like cashew chicken, pot stickers, chop suey and more American Chinese staples making you feel decades younger inside an establishment refusing to quit.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday–Saturday 11am–9pm. Entrees $10–15. Cash only payments. Counter seating plus booths.

As the capital city’s quintessential neighborhood restaurant since first launching along a sleepy Stockton Boulevard strip in 1939, Frank Fat’s holds court today as Sacramento’s timeless dining staple serving Chinese-American cuisine perfected over four generations of stewardship by the storied Fat family.

Current sibling co-owners Michael, Vicky and Maggie Fat continue expanding their parents’ American dream realized through hard work building Frank Fat’s into the bustling multi-prong restaurant and event space found today.

Traditional favorites passed down like cashew chicken, chow mein and chop suey soothingly rich from slow-braised meats, bouncy bean sprouts and Cantonese accents still anchor the menu alongside contemporary additions injecting vibrant personality when the signature Frank’s logo winks playfully from spicy dragon chicken wings dressed with chili crisp.

Daily specials might unveil regional twists as decadent Dungeness crab cakes with yuzu aioli or spin classic French dip sandwiches by swapping aromatic pho broth in place of jus for porous house baked baguettes crying out to sop comforting pools of flavor. Now offering onboarding for the fourth Fat generation to carry Frank Fat’s forward, this steadfast family operation remains committed to consistently delicious meals shared between loyal regulars gathering happily just like one ever-expanding dynasty.

Canon

Name and Location: Canon progressive bar and restaurant located in downtown Sacramento

History and Significance: Opened 2011 inside restored 1890s brick corner building, Canon pioneered Sacramento’s craft cocktail culture by sources artisanal spirits for their seasonal drink menu supporting nearly 100 specialized labels best experienced paired with shareable plates celebrating California’s agriculture bounty sourced within miles of downtown through frequently refreshed preparations.

What to Expect: Changing craft cocktails and dishes like burrata with roasted grapes, ricotta fritters, duck confit flatbread and other creative small plates sharing an adventurous ethos inside an urban-refined setting perfect for conversations over inspired bar bites.

Visitor Information: Open daily 5pm–late for dinner/drinks. Cocktails $13+ and small plates $7–15. Street parking available.

Minimalist clean lines meet maximized flavors at Canon showcasing modern Japanese cuisine enhanced by prime ingredients, artful plating and tranquil ambiance within downtown Sacramento’s bustling Golden 1 Center zone.

Their sleek sushi counter sets an airy yet inviting stage for experiencing Nigiri and makimono sushi rolls engineered for optimal enjoyment including smooth tuna akami, buttery salmon belly uncured for purity or sweet shrimp popping in the mouth with chilled brightness from delicate meat tenderly peeled, deveined and brushed with citrus.

Small sharing plates like their ever-popular hamachi kama collar wows with overt unctuousness needing only a light drizzle of yuzu vinaigrette allowing mineral taste of the yellowtail bone itself to shine alongside lightly torched skin carrying a hint of smokiness. For fullest immersion into Chef Brad Cecchi’s contemporary Edomae-Osaka culinary mashup, opt for the 10-course omakase chef’s choice flight precisely presenting Japan’s oceanic bounty through Canon’s focused flavor lens.

Whether popping in for happy hour seasonal craft cocktails with Ossetra caviar potato croquettes or reserving the private tatami mat room for an exquisite customized multi-course dinner marking life’s special moments, Canon brings honored Japanese foodways into inspired modern focus within California’s Capital center.

Hawks Restaurant

Name and Location: Hawks restaurant located downtown Sacramento

History and Significance: Established in 1930, Hawks is an historic fine dining destination located inside a restored Victorian home near the Capitol where its white tablecloth ambiance paired with flawless service creates an ideal old-world charm setting to enjoy Continental classics evolved for contemporary times still focused on quality execution.

What to Expect: Signature dishes like Dungeness crab cakes, oak-grilled filet mignon and crème brûlée prepared tableside focus on timeless presentations of seafood, chops and comfort finishes across intricate rooms filled with dark wood accents, fireplaces and artifacts from early 20th century Sacramento.

Visitor Information: Open Monday–Friday 11:30am–2pm for lunch, 5–9:30pm dinner. Jackets preferred for gentlemen. Entrees $15–39.

Classically trained Chef Mick Achatz captures peak flavors across land and sea guiding seasonally inspired New American cuisine destination Hawks Restaurant established downtown since 2002.

Renewing their focus towards conscientious provisions, partnerships with regional ranches and farms drive ever-evolving dishes displaying Sacramento’s rich agricultural foundations. Housemade tagliatelle pasta coils luxuriate under roasted Rohan duck confit generously strewn with foraged morel mushrooms in spring. Summertime salads shine spotlighting just-picked baby vegetables and juicy stone fruits from neighboring farms.

Brined-to-perfection Mary’s heritage turkey takes starring role in Hawks sandwiches or season-spanning savory pie iterations. And the restaurant’s signature rotating Hawks Burger always soars by grinding beef locally and piling proteins high with thoughtful toppings and slip-resistant fries so no delicious morsel dares drop unfettered to the plate.

At the helm of multiple concepts further spurring Sacramento’s dynamic food and beverage identity from his right-hand role leading operations for the Selland Family Restaurants group, Chef Achatz ensures warm hospitality meets quality cuisine keeping Hawks Restaurant among California’s Capital dining mainstays.

Mother Vegan Cuisine

Name and Location: Mother Vegan Cuisine located in Oak Park neighborhood

History and Significance: Opened in 2014, Mother Vegan Cuisine prepares 100% plant-based comfort foods like seasoned seitan served over mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy and tofu meatloaf with an experienced touch focused on familiar textures and soul-warming flavors across a tiny cafe filled with just a few counter seats plus patio.

What to Expect: Daily changing plates $11–15 including soyrizo tacos, jackfruit po’boys and burgers appealing to vegans/vegetarians through traditional dishes reenvisioned cholesterol-free by Chef Kali using fresh ingredients sourced locally when possible.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday–Saturday 11am–7pm. Call-ahead takeout orders available. Cash only, seats 12 maximum.

As Sacramento’s first exclusively plant-based eatery, Mother reflects Executive Chef and Owner Janique Barber’s passion supporting compassionate clean living through vibrant vegan plates brimming with global spices, appealing textures and nutrient-dense superfoods.

Their intimate elbow-to-elbow casual bistro space quickly cultivates community filled with regulars continually returning for Barber’s soulful interpretations of familiar cultural recipes enlivened by curative vegetables and herbs.

Ethiopian red lentil stew bubbles with hearty red chard, sweet potatoes and smoky paprika ready to scoop using fresh injera flatbread that pulls supplely to the spoon without crumbling. Chinese-style black pepper tofu puffs to a perfect golden crust waiting to meet funky fermented bean sauce sharpened by pickled red chili kick. And Southern style dirty rice gets a fresh makeover sautéing mushrooms, zucchini and sunburst cauliflower rice punctuated by kidney beans and toasted cashews.

Whether visiting Mother for a quick power bowl lunch between meetings or planning celebrations with friends over family-style platters, healthful plates heaping with comfort received resounding applause as an appealing gateway to experiencing vegan cuisine at its vibrant best in California’s thriving Capital.

Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co.

Name and Location: Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co. located downtown

History and Significance: Housed inside a converted fire station built 1901, Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co. retains period details like the antique firepole while serving handcrafted sodas, brick oven pizzas and tacos made with local ingredients across colorful indoor booths plus patio event space.

What to Expect: In addition to eats showcasing regional farms, breweries and bakeries, an on-site restaurant incubator allows visiting guest chefs preparing anything from popsicles, cysteine cakes, arepas tapas and more unique weekly specials.

Visitor Information: Open daily 11am–10pm for lunch/dinner. Entrees $11–18. All ages until 10pm. Hosts private functions.

The lavishly restored red brick boiler factory at 16th and S Streets now houses Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co whose bustling restaurant fuels Sacramento’s creative class with beautiful open-flame wood oven Neapolitan pizza and small batch ales brewed on-site.

Their cavernous yet cozy industrial warehouse dining room sets a convivial mood under exposed iron trusses and glimmering Edison lightbulbs for enjoying thin-crusted individual pies pulled hot with charred leopard spots.

Ingredients sing simplicity garnished with verdant Finish pesto made vibrant by Sacramento’s year-round growing season or sweet fennel sausage from neighborhood farmers. Libations flow freely from 32 rotating taps pouring Hoppy Amber ales, refreshing Kolsches and funky tart Wild Child Sours concocted by Brewmaster Peter Hoey, named among California’s most talented rising brewers.

Shared starters like bone marrow drizzled in tangy chimichurri match beautifully with wine from Hook & Ladder’s sister winery, Pipeworks (housed conveniently under the same roof). With quality cuisine fueling fellowship made flavorfully by friends and neighbors, Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co. deserves every toast as quintessential brewpub dining done deliciously right.

Nash & Proper

Name and Location: Nash & Proper steakhouse located in downtown Sacramento

History and Significance: Opened 2018 from chef Oliver Ridgeway, Nash & Proper brings carefully sourced steaks, seafood and craft cocktails served through an upscale yet relaxed environment filled with warm lighting, leather banquets and romantic patio complete with fire pits overlooking downtown’s city lights.

What to Expect: Hand-cut prime beef, fresh oysters and smoked salmon arrive carefully prepared tableside accompanied by elegant wine pairings best enjoyed slowly across three levels filled with welcoming service worthy of special celebrations.

Visitor Information: Open daily 5–10pm for dinner/drinks. Reservations recommended. Steaks average $45+. Valet parking available. Business attire suggested.

Chef Sean Currid’s soulful seasonal California cooking comes into full creative focus at his intimate downtown 12-seat chef’s counter Nash & Proper. Since first firing up stoves along downtown Sacramento’s historic R street corridor during 2018, Currid’s inventive small plates menus continue winning widespread acclaim including his first Michelin Star nod.

His historic press house location sets an ideal stage experiencing Sacramento’s innovating dining future playing out nightly by Currid’s crew handcrafting exclusives like peak summer sweet corn agnolotti wearing edible marigold petals and corn milk sauce or intensely vegetal charred broccolini paired alongside nutty farro and tangy fava bean hummus. Standout desserts might highlight peak strawberry season expressed through a composed tart layered with fluffy torched meringue and buttery shortbread that crumbles desirably against each spoonful.

While cozy counter seating invites conversation with fellow diners and kitchen staff plating nightly changing compositions, private table reservations inside two chic suites ensure memorable occasions feel properly celebrated. So for intimately elegant tasting menus revealing Sacramento’s rising young culinary star power, be sure to shine your spotlight by securing seats at Sean Currid’s showstopping Nash & Proper performances delighting diners dish by inspired dish.

Zocalo Midtown

Name and Location: Zocalo Midtown located on S Street

History and Significance: Since 1995, family-owned Zocalo Midtown has served thoughtful Mexican dishes highlighting regional cooking traditions through recipes perfected across generations now focused on conscientious preparations from scratch using ethical ingredients supporting local farms that supply fresh tortillas, salsas and more daily.

What to Expect: Beyond enchiladas and tacos, traditional moles, complex entrées and homemade tamales reflect Oaxacan lineage across bustling interior near outdoor patio seating filled by loyal regulars who leave happily filled by generous portions every visit.

Visitor Information: Open daily 11am–10pm for lunch/dinner. Entrees $15-25. Casual attire welcomed.

As an avid supporter of Sacramento’s arts organizations and partner promoting California’s authentic cultural heritage, Chef Oswaldo Bibiano launched Zocalo Midtown in 2016 as a contemporary gathering place celebrating vibrant Mexican cuisine traditions through gracious hospitality. His scratch kitchen and friendly staff honor timeless family recipes from across regional states specializing in dishes the Bibiano family personally grew up enjoying at home.

Housemade corn tortilla chips still warm from the press welcome diners alongside traditional table salsas like avocado-tomatilloand charred chile de arbolvarieties ready to scoop liberally using thick triangular wedges. Moist Yucatán-style cochinita pibil simmers juicy citrus-marinated suckling pig to fork-pulling perfection paired wonderfully with delicate tlayudas toasted in cute animal shapes to excite kids.

And specialties honoring Chef Bibiano’s Michoacán heritage might present through complex mole rojo lending layered sweetness dancing effortlessly beside tender chicken. With cultural roots extending across California likewise interwoven throughout Sacramento’s diverse communities, Zocalo Midtown stands today as an authentic bridge between tradition and togetherness through satisfying hand-crafted Mexican meals.

Bacon & Butter

Name and Location: Bacon & Butter restaurant located downtown

History and Significance: Opened 2015 from Na’im Sultan, Bacon & Butter plates heartstopping combinations allowing guests to build their own epic meal starting with protein/base selections followed by unlimited trips procuring from prepared pans keeping French toast, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, potatoes plus toppings hot and ready daily.

What to Expect: Customize gluttonous plates stacking meats like fried chicken, sausage links and burger patties over waffles drowned beneath syrup, whipped cream and candied nuts across order-at-the-counter cafe pumping hip-hop loud.

Visitor Information: Open daily 8am–3pm brunch. Signature plates from $12–15. Counter seating plus sidewalk patio available first-come.

Husband-wife owners Billy and Carolyn Ngo bring spirited personalities infusing playful twists across familiar gastropub fare at their flagship downtown restaurant Bacon & Butter since 2016. Alongside quality craft cocktails, their menu leans decadent by adding everyone’s favorite fatty indulgences into artfully plated dishes meant for sharing. Candied pork belly strips make magical meal starters wearing spicy miso caramel popcorn clusters that bring crispy-chewy-sweet textural joy.

And epic large-format entrées like their whole crispy roasted cauliflower elliptically channels quintessential porchetta allure once sliced across the board unveiling golden cracks revealing fluffy, lemony herb stuffing tucked inside every generous portion. Brunch wows weekend diners with Chicken & Waffles Benedict featuring shatteringly crisp Belgium waffles crowned by whisper-soft poached eggs wearing velvety housemade chicken sausage gravy speckled with crisp candied pecans.

From small downtown kitchen origins towards their second suburban Elk Grove location with additional concepts in the works, Billy and Carolyn Ngo’s penchant for partying over plates all rooted in quality, consistency and creativity poise The Bacon & Butter Restaurant Group to lead Sacramento’s effervescent emerging culinary scene.

Conclusion

With soil and waterways supplying incredible bounty across Northern California’s lush Central Valley breadbasket, Sacramento chefs take full flavor advantage crafting sustainable seasonal cuisine locals proudly call “America’s Farm to Fork Capital.” Alongside decades-standing family-run dining icons, new generations launch trailblazing kitchen concepts fusing global techniques to hyper-regional provisions that fully express Sacramento’s authentic tastes and identity as a resilient cultural mosaic city.

From street food celebrations of heritage passed lovingly between generations to Michelin-starred chefs spinning specificity from on-site gardens under spotlights, experiencing Sacramento’s impressive table means enjoying one of America’s emerging gastronomic destinations whose independent food community fully captures the zeitgeist of California’s Capital Region converging towards a bright flavourful tomorrow carrying forward all who came before them.

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