When Capital Public Radio reporter Elaine Corn visited Kathmandu Kitchen in 2009, she spoke to two servers—Paritosh and Rosy—who explained the nuances of their native Nepalese cuisine. A small yet diverse country, Nepal draws from distinct culinary influences: Tibet and China to the north and India along the south. As such, diners viewing Kathmandu Kitchen’s menu for the first time are greeted with a cross section of its varied cuisine, which includes Tibetan-style pan-fried noodles, tandoor-cooked chicken tikka masala, and fiery curries seasoned with cumin and garlic. The uninitiated are the lucky ones; Rosy explains that having first-time visitors to the restaurant is one of her favorite things. “If I find a person coming for the first time in this restaurant, I’ll be the happiest person at that moment. Because we feel it’s really important that people from America are valuing us, too, through our food.” Tables clad in white linens and a mural of the Himalayas surround Nepal’s beloved regional dishes, which coalesce perfectly in the form of thali, a tray filled with a harmonious blend of dumplings, flatbread, and lentils crowned with a main course.
Kathmandu Kitchen’s wide spectrum of aromatic and authentic vegetarian, chicken, lamb, and seafood entrees pleases just about every palate. The eatery has earned recognition from a host of local sources, including spots on the Top Five Best Indian restaurants list by CityVoter and the Top 100 list by Local Eats.
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.
What started as a hobby for Biba Caggiano became a culinary career when she relocated to Sacramento with her family in 1969. During the move, she brought along a practiced knowledge of Old World cuisine, which she gleaned from her mother while growing up in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. After teaching a handful of classes at a local cooking school, she began fully dedicating herself to gastronomic pursuits, publishing cookbooks of her signature recipes, studying culinary traditions throughout Italy, and hosting an internationally syndicated cooking show, Biba's Italian Kitchen.
She opened Biba Restaurant in 1986, devising a menu of authentic Italian cuisine that changes seasonally, much like a snowman’s ability to survive. Her chefs blanch homemade pastas, pan-roast sea bass, and braise veal shanks for an osso buco alla milanese that Frommer's proclaimed as "excellent." With a commitment to freshness, Biba sources her ingredients from local farmers and producers, including Del Rio Botanical and Ports Seafood.
The menus brim with refined dishes, and the décor to "make [diners] feel instantly at home." In addition to its yellow walls, the recently renovated main dining room, according to the Sacramento Press, features hand-painted Italian silk sconces and crema marfil marble.
Choosing a seat is the first step at 3 Fires Lounge. The jet-black bar stools give patrons the best views of the room's 52-inch, high-definition televisions. The high-top tables line a window that gazes directly out onto Capitol Park. Additionally, the space features oversized couches that invite guests to sink into their helium-filled cushions. All three of these options are available within the trendy, lounge, which was recently remodeled to have a more colorful atmosphere with more seating, beers on draught, and comfortable new patio furniture. CBS Sacramento praised the space's casual vibe and low-key ambiance, placing 3 Fires Lounge on its list of the Best Hotel Bars in Sacramento.
Although glasses of wine, pints of beer, and rounds of cocktails are all readily available for patrons hoping to relax with a drink in hand, 3 Fires Lounge also tempts diners with a menu of hearty international cooking. While the chefs incorporate recipes from across the globe, their main source of inspiration is the bounty of seasonal, locally sourced produce that is so readily available. Using these Californian ingredients, the team creates hummus with vegetables and baked pita chips, crab cake sandwiches served on sourdough bread with melted white cheddar, and grilled flatbreads topped with everything from caramelized onions, mushrooms, and goat cheese to pulled pork and honey-chipotle barbecue sauce.
For the most part, Gatsby's Diner looks nothing like the Japanese restaurant it replaced. Jazz Age art now covers the walls, and tunes by Cab Calloway and Tommy Dorsey complete a laid-back mood. But founders Chuck Caplener and Jared Nuttall kept one detail from the building's past: the teppanyaki grills in the middle of the dining room. That's where Gatsby's cooks sear the burgers that Sactown Magazine praised as "perfect." What draws out such admiration? Seasoned beef and seasonal fixings such as fire-roasted jalapenos and house-made barbecue sauce.
Back in the kitchen, the culinary team crafts more complex dishes—dishes that hooked the attention of Guy Fieri on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. The bone-in pork chops, for instance, take flavor from a vanilla-bean brine before soaking up coffee-bean smoke. And this complexity runs throughout the diner's signature dishes: house-made meatloaf smothered in red-wine mushroom gravy, par-boiled beets sandwiched into sliders. To accompany these riffs on American comfort food, cooks hand-spin three milkshake flavors one at a time in order to keep their embarrassing third arms hidden.
Ben Chen has experienced his share of success in his nearly 30-year photography career?his work has been published in such publications as Cosmopolitan, The Los Angeles Times, and ESPN Magazine, and he has lent his expertise to some of the nation's largest corporations, including Procter & Gamble and The American Red Cross. In 2006, the photographer began to notice that more and more novices were purchasing complex DSLR cameras, and that gave him an idea. Chen decided to share his wealth of knowledge with aspiring photographers by creating the 4-Hour Newbie Photography Boot Camp, which teaches students how to shoot manually with their DSLRs and create artistic, professional-quality photos. Since then, more than 5,000 students in 20 cities throughout the country have benefited from these classes. In 2013, he acquiesced to student demand and created Part II of the class, which goes beyond photography basics by diving into post-production techniques. Nowadays, students can take both Part I and Part II in the same day, helping them go from student to master in less time than most action-movie montages.