Rivers Edge Cafe aims to put a spin on the traditional, Americana-steeped diner by creating a casual neighborhood eatery that serves slightly more imaginative versions of otherwise familiar comfort foods. Tempting diners with the opportunity to enjoy three meals a day, the chefs begin each morning by cooking a number of breakfast staples. Buttermilk pancakes and country fried steak are classics, but they also cook omelets using three farm-fresh eggs and everything from artichoke hearts and kalamata olives to smoked salmon and capers. They even update the traditional side of hash browns by creating a version stuffed with bacon, sour cream, and cheddar cheese. As the sun begins to set, the cafe serves its selection of hearty, home-style dinner entrees, including housemade meatloaf flavored with garlic, onions, and green bell peppers, and penne pasta tossed with crisp vegetables, shrimp, and a balsamic glaze.
Much like its menu, Rivers Edge Cafe's dining room exudes a decidedly casual vibe that is more reminiscent of a bistro than a diner. Gleaming wooden tables and low-backed booths fill the dark floors, which still manage to catch the light streaming through the walls of floor-to-ceiling windows. Tulip-shaped pendant lamps hang above a few of the tables, but, as night falls, the ceiling fans' lights help keep the space illuminated as they lazily spin above patrons' heads and keep guests cool as they sip on one of the available craft beers or wines imported from the future.
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.