HOME > Chowhound > California >


SC Hound needs dinner in Sacramento

Hi! This will be my first trip to CA. I'm landing in Sacramento at 9 pm on a Wednesday night. I'll want to eat right away!! Although I want really great food (of course) I also don't want to have to find my way around a brand new city when I'm bleary-eyed from travel. I'll be headed toward Lake Tahoe. What can you recommend that's an easy drive from the airport, and going in the right direction?

We are Italian restaurant deprived here at home, so that would be our first choice in cuisine. Otherwise, anything goes except sushi (we love it, but we eat it all the time at home.)

On Saturday, I'm catching the midnight flight home. I'll be driving back from Tahoe, so I have a lot more luxury of time to chase after the best thing going. We don't mind spending some cash, but we don't really care for formal,white-table cloth,"special-occasion" type places. Something funky but fabulous would be great. Something with a seasonal/local "I've never been to Napa" vibe would also be good. I don't think I can talk my husband into driving all the way to Yountville....but if there's something spectacular if we go West of the airport a bit, please tell me about it.

Many thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. North or South Shore of Tahoe (I 80 or Highway 50)?

    1. 9:00 PM is too late for sit down restaurants, but I have an excellent suggestion for an East-Coast hound. There is an In-N-Out in Sacramento right off the freeway on the way to Lake Tahoe that is perfect. It is open late and is extremely good.

      In-N-Out Burger
      3501 Truxel Rd, Sacramento, CA 95834

      9 Replies
      1. re: Sacto_Damkier

        Hmmm...not what I had in mind, but a good possibility. We are also burger-deprived here in SC, thanks to run-away-government-regulations which forbid rare burgers. I've heard a lot about how tasty In-n-Out is... I assume I can order my burger the way I want?

        North or South Shore? I'm not sure yet. Probably North.

        1. re: danna

          hard to answer your question without the answer to North or South. coming from the airport it makes a big difference, since most of the restaurants are after you have to commit to either 880 (north) or 50 (south). (the airport is not in town).

          If it is open that late, and I were going to north shore, I'd stop at Tuk Tuk Thai....off of 880. (bu tthen I am not Italian deprived)

          and by the time you get out of airport if you are landing at nine, yes, most places will be closed. You might need to lower your expectations for the outbound journey.

            1. re: susancinsf

              Also Tuk Tuk is off I-5, not off I-80.

              1. re: PeterL

                You can get there easily via Northgate Blvd or Truxel off of 80 (yes you are right that it is 80 not 880) , but yes, coming from the airport 5 is quicker (as indicated in your post below). However, for others who might read this and are heading to North Shore Tahoe or Reno, it is good to know you don't need to head off track to 5 to get there...unfortunately, for OP it isn't clear that she will make it by the time she gets rental car and baggage, or if plane is late....

              2. re: susancinsf

                My first thought was Tuk Tuk, but the OP will not be in Sacramento until at least 10:00 PM, which is a very difficult time. An earlier flight opens up many more opportunities, but In-N-Out is an excellent and convienent stop.

              3. re: danna

                Eventhough In N'Out uses fresh ground beef, I am afraid that corporate risk management has gotten to them. No rare burgers.

                1. re: danna

                  In-N-Out uses thin burgers which may be difficult to cook rare, however I have always found the normal cooked burgers at the Truxel Blvd location to be nice and juicy - especially the Double Double. There are reports of being able to cook them to order, but they are not the thick ones that benefit from being rare.

                  Unfortunately, I am not as familiar with restaurants in Lake Tahoe - especially the North Shore. Hopefully others can help out.

                2. re: Sacto_Damkier

                  This is on the to North Tahoe route, just to clarify, and yes, I'd say that might be your best bet

                3. Tuk Tuk Restaurant, 4630 Natomas Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95835
                  (916) 575-7957 tuktuksac.com

                  It's a Thai restaurant. They are open till 10:00 on wednesday. It's close to the airport. If your flight comes in on time you may just make it. Give them a call first.

                  Otherwise places close down pretty early here in Sac.

                  On your way back, it depends on whether you are driving from north Tahoe (I-80) or south Tahoe (Hwy 50). There are many possibilities.

                  1. here is the in and out down low menu:

                    In-N-Out Burger has a secret unpublished menu for insiders who are In-The-Know. Next time you're at In-N-Out (i.e. tomorrow . . . or maybe tonight), order a bag of these off-the-menu specials:

                    "3-by-3" = three meat patties and three slices of cheese.

                    "4-by-4" = four meat patties and four slices of cheese.

                    "2-by-4" = two meat patties and four slices of cheese.

                    *Note: You can get a burger with as many meat patties or cheese slices as you want. Just tell the In-N-Out Burger cashier how many meat patties and how much cheese you want and that is what you'll get! For instance, if you want 6 pieces of meat and 10 pieces of cheese tell them you want a "6-by-10."

                    "Double Meat" = like a Double Double without cheese.

                    "3 by Meat" = three meat patties and no cheese.

                    "Animal Style" = the meat is cooked and fried with mustard and then pickles are added, extra spread and grilled onions are added.

                    "Animal Style Fries" = fries with cheese, spread, grilled onions and pickles (if you ask for them).

                    "Protein Style" = for all you low-carbohydrate dieters, this is a burger with no bun (wrapped in lettuce).

                    "Flying Dutchman" = two meat patties, two slices of melted cheese and nothing else - not even a bun!

                    Fries "Well-Done" = extra crispy fries . . . even better than the regular!

                    Fries "Light" = opposite of fries well-done, more raw than most people like 'em

                    "Grilled Cheese" = no meat, just melted cheese, tomato, lettuce and spread on a bun.

                    "Veggie Burger" = burger without the patty or cheese. Sometimes we call this the "Wish Burger."

                    "Neapolitan" Shake = strawberry, vanilla and chocolate blended together.

                    The friendly employees of In-N-Out Burger will take your special order without question, if you use the right terminology. The printed receipt will have your special request typed on it just as we said it.

                    Try it!

                    1. i love paragary's -- family owned, excellent italian food. however, if you want to pay less and eat GREAT food in a more casual environment go to cafe bernado arounf the corner.

                      also check out the tower cafe. there's nothing like it anywhere else. it's international foods with a unique twist.

                      1. OK. We're sold on In N Out.

                        Let's move on to Saturday. I don't really care if it's on the way to the airport. Tell me about the great places to eat. Italian or Seafood oriented or using lots of local CA ingredients. Or all three would be good!

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: danna

                          Biba in midtown Sacramento probably fits the bill for Italian, Seafood, and local, but it is a pretty fancy and expensive place. Spataro is probably more of the "funky, but fabulous" type of place in downtown with good local Italian and may fit your needs perfectly. If you have never had good Mexican food, I would HIGHLY suggest eating at Tres Hermanas in Sacramento since I know good Mexican food is not found in NC from personal experience.

                          Biba Restaurant
                          2801 Capitol Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95816

                          1415 L Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

                          Tres Hermanas
                          2416 K St, Sacramento, CA 95816

                          1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                            I laughed when I read "if you have never had good Mexican food" I've certainly not had any at home, that's for sure. (ok, one hole in the wall here is pretty good) I've been to Frontera Grill in Chicago, but that's about it. What would you order at Tres Hermanas?

                            I've searched older posts, and came up with, in addition to Biba and Spataro, Enotria, Granitas, and Waterboy. Thoughts? Thanks, Sacto, you've been very helpful.

                            1. re: danna

                              Personally, I think Tres Hermanas is ok, but not great by any means (I eat there on occaison because it is convenient to some of the places I regularly have business meetings in Sacramento); it wouldn't be my only meal if in from an area without good italian or Mexican: far from it! If you are interested in Mexican as opposed to Italian I'd check through this thread:


                              If you like seafood, the Las Islas/Las Islitas choice seems a good bet (I assume the two different names in the thread refer to the same place). I personally think the food is better at Zocalo than Tres Hermanas, though neither would be my first choice....

                              1. re: susancinsf

                                It really depends on the style of Mexican. I think Zocalo is very overrated for what you get, but danna can check the previous post. We are fortunate to have many different styles, and TH is more heavy-Mexican (red meat & dark sauces) than the lighter fare preferred by many. Now that Tres has a full bar, I highly recommend a margarita, albondigas, chile verde & chicken enchilada with mole, and dessert next door at Rick's Dessert Diner - if there is room.

                                1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                  hmm...albondigas! Now you are talking my language! I don't recall having them there: could I have missed them or are they new? Thanks for mentioning that, I will try them soon.

                                  I don't know enough about Zocalo's ratings to know if it is overrated. I do think it is overpriced; which is a reason it wouldn't be my first choice either (I'd steer OP to Biba over either for what I think she is looking for)....for that meal, I am not sure TH is special enough...certainly there is nothing seasonal, local or fabulous about it...Zocalo at least has more of an emphasis on fresh ingredients and vegetables, not just sauces and cheese and meat....

                                  but the albondigas at Tres Hermanas I will have to check out!

                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                    Yes, you can either have soup or salad with the meal. I usually get the soup which is usually albondigas or other soups. The albondigas soup is amazing with lots of heat and tasty ingredients.

                          2. re: danna

                            Again the important question, how are you coming back? I-80 or Hwy 50. If you are coming back on Hwy 50 you may want to try Masque in El Dorado Hills. It's high end Italian.

                            Otherwise you may want to look into downtown areas. Biba is also high end Italian, generally considered to be one of the top restaurants in Sac.

                            Need to make a reservation for saturday.

                            1. re: PeterL

                              Hi, if you're coming back on Hwy 50 and in the mood for lobster, I would definitely recommend "Rudy's Hideaway". This restaurant has been around for about 40-50 yrs and is very old fashioned. They have other seafood, nothing too fancy, but right now they're having their "lobster fest" - 1 lb Maine. It's on Folsom Blvd. off of Hazel Ave. (before you head back into Sacramento). If you want good, authentic Mexican, Caballo Blanco on Franklin Blvd. @ Fruitridge Blvd. (off Hwy 99) is very good. They even serve flour tortilla chips instead of corn. And then you could take Fruitridge down to I-5 (it connects both freeways). There's also several casual seafood restaurants on the way back to the airport, off I-5. You can take the Garden Hwy exit and go aways and there's the Virgin Sturgeon and further down, there's Alamar. They're both right on the river and so you'll get to see our beautiful delta! Off of Richards Blvd, there's The Rusty Duck. The fish is average but the view (also on the river) is wonderful!

                          3. Personally, if it was me and I wanted to try some fresh, great California food that I might not be able to get someplace else, I'd go to Waterboy or Lemongrass. Waterboy is the best in Sac, comparable to SF dining I think. And Lemongrass is Vietnamese, but more California syle, with lots of lovely fresh vegies- I've found it to be better if I go when it's not crowded- early or maybe late. Both are higher end, but not stuffy. These are the places I take out-of-towners. We don't go out to eat that often, but when we do, I want something I can't make at home and is unique or surprising. I don't like to be disappointed or pay good money for passable food.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: kris m

                              Waterboy definitely, although I wouldn't say it's something I can't get somewhere elst.

                              Lemongrass, on the other hand, is pf chang for Thai/Viet food, it's for people who are not comfortable in real Vietnamese restaurants. They dumb down the cuisine.

                              1. re: PeterL

                                I dislike PF Chang (cloying sauces- everything seems sticky) and have eaten comfortably in lots of Vietnamese places in SF, Orlando, West Sac. I like them all, but I love Lemon Grass.

                            2. I agree with the suggestion of Waterboy if you want to eat downtown in a cute neighborhood.

                              If you end up taking Hwy 80 towards North Shore you could easily stop off at Crush29 in Roseville. It has good food, is open late, and might give you the Napa vibe you are looking for. It's in a strip mall though which can be off-putting to some.


                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Bcakes

                                I think I have now settled on Waterboy. The menu is online and it looks great. I have also checked out crush29, discovered they are open until 11 and only 1/2 mile off the interstate. I'm going to let my husband choose between In N Out and crush for the Wed night late dinner. (I have to make it look like he had some say in where we eat ;-)

                                You guys have been fantastic. Thank you so much.

                                1. re: danna

                                  Crush 29 beats In N'Out by a mile. Unless you like to dine with loads of teenagers out on a school night.

                                  1. re: PeterL

                                    Ah, but that is part of the fun at In-N-Out... It looks like Crush 29 is only open until 11 on weeknights. Add 30 min for baggage and rental car, and 30 min drive time to Roseville, and a 9 PM flight is cutting it close. Additionally, if it is a slow night, they may close the kitchen early.

                                    In-N-Out is drive thru which could allow danna to eat while en route to Tahoe instead, and close to the airport, and open until 1 AM. Crush 29 may be a gamble if there is a flight or airport delay; I would save the gambling for the Tahoe casinos!

                                    1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                      Well, danna doesn't "do" baggage ;-) I would hope to be in Roseville by 10p.m. I think we will just make the final decision when we get there...apparently IN n Out and Crush are less than 1/2 mile apart. I'd like to try the burger since it's an icon (and save the cash...all the restaurants in Tahoe look pricey) but we do have to ride the next day, and typically we don't do burger/fries on a pre-ride meal.

                                      1. re: danna

                                        Good luck and have a wonderful time in our backyard!

                              2. If you want a casual dine with a great slice of chocolate cake,
                                try Bella Bru in Natomas

                                Bella Bru Cafe
                                4680 Natomas Blvd Ste 100, Sacramento, CA 95835