“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.
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.
Next door to the historic Colonial Theatre, the chefs at Cafe Colonial plate up burgers, fries, and nachos for hungry omnivores and vegans alike. Daiya cheese can be subbed in for dairy cheese, and Boca replaces beef with a simple request. The kitchen has also become known for whipping up a mean Indian frybread taco garnished with refried beans, ground beef, lettuce, tomato, and cheese. On weekends and weeknights, the café plays host to artistic events, live bands, and movie nights.
Tapioca Express's menu features more than 100 drinks, many centered around their signature tapioca bubbles. The staff brings the flavor out of their tapioca by paying close attention to how it's made. They rehydrate and cook tapioca pearls in every location's kitchen, blending the raw cassava with brown sugar to create globes with the right texture.?They pair their signature drinks with a deliberate selection of food and snacks, including savory combos of Asian-inspired entrees.
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.
Running late again. The clothes from the dryer were still wet. The dog just wouldn’t go outside—clearly he’s a jerk. Luckily, Java House has a convenient walk-up or drive-thru window for steaming Java City coffee so that morning commuters needn't even turn off the ignition. Hot-chocolate drinks exceed traditional cocoa expectations with mayan-white and salted-caramel variations, and espresso drinks and hand-mixed sodas grant patrons a taste of Italy that's easier to slurp through a straw than a meatball. Tazo teas are also available for those who need a soothing boost.