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Shake off the stiff workday duds at Pop Ups Internet Lounge and Gaming Center — attire is casual.
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“My plan is to own a bakery,” LaThomas Holmes says to a videographer, breaking into a smile as she recounts the compliments her pies and cakes have earned. Before LaThomas got to Plates Café and Catering, that dream was far from her reality. Like the other women at Plates, LaThomas is part of a 90-day program that teaches food-service skills to mothers experiencing homelessness, bringing them closer to self-sufficiency. The restaurant is run by St. John’s Shelter Program for Women and Children, which realized that its clients don’t just need housing—they need employable skills that will help them keep that housing. The shelter’s innovative response to this need, a training-oriented restaurant, has become a media-buzz magnet, earning televised praise from Good Day Sacramento and KVIE’s Rob on the Road and glowing printed words from the State Hornet and Sacramento Business Journal.
These profiles of Plates don’t just express admiration for the eatery’s mission; they also extol the deliciousness of its food. Though it prioritizes its social mission, Plates hasn’t neglected the art of crafting breakfasts and lunches from ingredients such as honey-roasted bacon, basil aioli, and pineapple chutney. Those desserts that bakery-destined LaThomas has perfected? They range from maple-pecan bread pudding to bittersweet chocolate Kahlua cake. The feasts arrive in a dining room that used to be a commissary for the US Army Depot, now redecorated in cheery shades of magenta and yellow. Plates doesn’t yet serve dinner in the dining room, but it does cater evening feasts, as well as earlier breakfasts, salad bars, and buffet lunches. Catered entrees rely on ingredients from local growers who engage in organic and sustainable practices, reflecting a commitment to the environment also seen in Plates’ biocompostable flatware, plates, and cups, which save diners the hassle of bringing their own pitchforks.
Founded in the Southside neighborhood of Sacramento in 2011, Insight Coffee Roasters sources and roasts batches of carefully selected coffee seeds in the back of their shop. Their brewing methods blend science with a passion for the coffee-making craft in an effort to accentuate the flavorful qualities of each seed.
In 2013, Insight opened a location at Pavilions Plaza with coffee cart service before moving to their permanent space in 2014. Also in 2014, Insight opened a new cafe a few blocks from the State Capitol, where they serve their locally made coffee, along with tea and pastries. Customers are welcome to learn more about brewing, tasting, and the company's techniques by attending coffee and tea-tastings.
In many larger U.S. cities, it's not uncommon these days to spot an eatery selling boba or pearl tea?blends of tea, milk, fruit juice, and flavored syrups that buoy marble-size spheres of chewy tapioca. On the West Coast, at least, Tapioca Express is partly to thank for that trend. Wayne Lin founded the growing chain of drink and snack shops in 1999, starting with simple versions of the Taiwanese delicacy and then systematically designing and testing new flavors?such as coconut pineapple and vanilla cookie?in a state-of-the-art flavor collider.
Today, the menu tallies more than 100 different kinds of drinks, including yogurt and fresh-fruit smoothies, creamy coffee drinks, and tea-based slushies. Snack choices may be a little easier: favorites from the concise, pan-Asian menu include crispy chicken, steamed buns, and tempura.
From its downtown location near Capitol Park, Eliana’s Cafe serves up classic American diner and café fare at lunch, inviting Mexican flavors to make an appearance at breakfast. The cooks spice up morning-time munching with southern-influenced breakfasts of country-fried steak and eggs steaming alongside chilaquiles and chorizo con huevos. Burgers topped with cheese, bacon, and sautéed onions fill bellies at lunch, and patrons can ward off clouds with telepathic threats while enjoying a shrimp and avocado salad on the outdoor dining area.
At Root of Happiness, named for the relaxing properties of the kava root, visitors unwind while sipping kava brew from petite bowls that resemble coconut shells. Baristas also fill shot glasses with potent, concentrated kava that they flavor with cane-sugar syrup, prepare pour-over coffee, and steep exotic teas. Polynesian artwork and hand-carved wooden sculptures lend the cafe the relaxed ambience of an island tiki bar.