Each day after its opening in 1981, La Bou Café & Bakery’s customers would line up to grab one of owner Trong Nguyen's handmade croissants and a flavorful espresso drink. The plucky local café’s customer base was so loyal that La Bou eventually opened 12 locations across the Sacramento area.
La Bou pairs rich, regionally roasted coffee from Capricorn with apple strudels, scones, and low-fat berry muffins. Without ever relying on passports or wormholes, the eatery brings together light café food from around the globe. Its menu includes salads of soy-marinated noodles and cabbage, turkey sandwiches, grilled chicken paninis, and creamy clam chowder.
The chefs at Rivers Edge Café & Espresso pack lengthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus with more than 150 dishes of handcrafted comfort fare. Commence your recovery from a night of excess or a 24-hour C-SPAN bender with the Hangover, which unites homemade biscuits and gravy with a full order of hash browns stuffed with cheddar, sour cream, and mounds of center-cut bacon ($9.25). A selection of 15 traditional or egg-white omelets halts morning hankerings with farm-fresh eggs and a cornucopia of fillings ($9.99–$11.99), and the griddler combo satisfies the food pyramid's baked-goods requirement with pancakes, french toast, a traditional waffle, or belgian waffle ($9.99). A protein-packed blue-cheese burger ($10.25) staves off energy crashes later in the day, enhancing awareness in meetings and performance during inner-office spelling bees. Plunge forks into a homestyle dinner, such as a four-piece plate of country-fried chicken ($12.99) or homemade meatloaf ($13.99), each accompanied by a medley of vegetables and seasoned mashed potatoes.
At multiple locations throughout the Sacramento area—including the newest one downtown—the chefs at Perko's Cafe are busy cracking fresh ranch eggs into omelets, skillets, and scrambles featuring ingredients such as portuguese linguiça or hickory-smoked ham. They turn hand-cut, marinated steaks into tri-tip sandwiches au jus, and they build towering double-decker burgers whose half-pound ground-beef patties teeter with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and thousand-island dressing. To match the beef- and barbecue-filled menu, many of the welcoming dining rooms have a decidedly Southwestern feel, with corrugated-tin accents, old-timey tools, and booth dividers that resemble a black-and-white cow or an incredibly complex inkblot test.
A chocolate flower hovers on a fluffy cloud of whipped cream. A crispy caramel cookie emerges like a half-moon from behind a tuft of caramel frosting. For Esther, cupcakes aren’t just dessert; they’re miniature masterpieces. Fortunately for sweet-toothed connoisseurs, the seasoned pastry chef pays due respect to what’s inside as well, using unrefined and local ingredients and baking cupcakes in small batches throughout the day. Her meticulous attention to her treats’ quality, appearance, and emotional health has earned Esther’s Cupcakes a spot on both CBS Sacramento’s and News Review’s lists of the city’s best cupcake shops.
Each day at dawn, piping-hot circles made from fresh ingredients appear on the horizon, enchanting eyes and noses before popping into mouths. Unlike the sun, these rounds teem with sugar, spice, and in some cases, chocolate. Bakers craft each batch from scratch, using original recipes but not a pinch of preservatives. Their cookie roster beckons sweet teeth with everyday flavors such as M&M chocolate chip and day-of-the-week varieties such as Wednesday's almond joy and Friday's mint-chocolate fantasy fudge. Customers may also opt for custom wedding treats and personalized photo cookies, which serve as memories tastier than crepes rolled from diary pages. In addition to building cookie cakes for parties, the bakers construct cookies for celebrants to embellish with frosting.
“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.
The bakers at Cookies and Milk are out to make sweet dreams a little sweeter with their delivery service. Starting at 8 p.m. each Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, fresh batches of warm chocolate-chip, peanut-butter, sugar, or chocolate-crinkle cookies are deployed to ease cravings across the city, and the tasteful deliveries don't cease until the wee hours of the morning. To encourage dessert-time dunking, each batch of cookies can be paired with cold milk, and the staff can even include a handwritten note in the order, making cookie delivery a great way to tell someone you care or remind your landlord that your oven is broken.