June's Cafe. Sacramento. Home style Japanese American Comfort Food
Saw this article in the Sacramento Bee and it caught the fancy of a friend so off we went. It's located in the Southside Park neighborhood. I think there used to be a Japanese neighborhood here in the old days. June's still attracts a lot of Japanese ( especially older ) - many of the customers seem to know each other and June and her husband who waits on tables while June cooks every dish. The macaroni salad is quite good: not too laden with mayo, a nice texture - not mushy, lots of pepper and little bits of vegetable for crunch and visuals. A bowl of miso soup with tofu follows before your order arrives. We shared a few different dishes ...... the Weenie Royale, Pork Katsu and Chicken Curry. You get your money's worth here and the food is very comforting. My Katsu was very crisp and not greasy at all .... love all the carmelized onions that came with it. Don't forget to add some of the Tonkatsu Sauce - adds a nice spicy dimension. The Weenie Royale was a nod to Internment Camp memories ..... but made with real ( not powdered ) eggs and slices of hot dog along with carmelized onion slices - this was served over a large portion of rice. The Chicken Curry was a big, almost overflowing plate of rice topped with chicken katsu and lots of curry sauce - think it had lots of onions and some vegetables cooked into it. The curry had a good flavor with a hint of spice to it. I think our dishes were in the 8-9 dollar range - a good value for a lot of homecooked food.
June's Cafe. 921 - V Street Sacramento,CA 95818 916. 447-2264 Cash only
M - Thurs or Fri ? 9:30am - 2pm
June's is smack-dab in the old Japanese-American neighborhood in Sacramento; around the corner there is a sweets place where you can get several kinds of mochi, and near that was the Wakano Ura sukiyaki place, now closed. This is totally a mom-and-pop style home-cooking restaurant, and the old Japanese-American guys who are there after opening time speak mostly English with some Japanese expressions mixed in. Quite and interesting and colorful place. Big portions at low prices, and it is certainly not a chain. Thanks for the mention, Gordon, for this recommended place.
Gordon, thanks for the rec. I moved heaven and earth yesterday to get there in time for lunch from the Bay Area, and slid in at 1:37pm to a counter seat. I told the husband (who takes orders and clears then washes dishes) that it was my first time. He reminded me that it was cash only and motioned to the menu posted on the wall. They've operated this spot for 22 years and said there was a similar restaurant here before them.
I asked whether the pork in the curry rice, $9, was katsu style or stewed. When he said it was the pork katsu with curry sauce, that's what I had to order. I watched the wife, June, take out what looked like a well-trimmed piece of loin from the fridge to slice off a slab to order. Then she breaded it and fried it on the flat top, flipping it several times.
Meanwhile, I took in the ambiance of the whole spot, including this tub of very fresh bean curd from Sacramento Tofu Company, resting on the counter momentarily.
I was happy to have a chance to try the tofu, a few cubes included in the miso soup that comes with a lunch order. Very smooth and velvety in texture and fresh flavor, not bland at all. Here's the miso soup and mac salad,
Serving size of these two dishes would be lunch aplenty for a light eater. As Gordon describes, this has just a light film of mayo. Elbow macaroni is chewy, not mushy, and flecked with crunchy bits of bell pepper, onion and carrot. I liked it very much.
I watched June assemble the pork curry plate. First, a bed of steamed rice, then she spread a layer of the curry gravy. On top of this, she arranged the sliced pork katsu, and the final touch was more of the curry gravy with stewed potatoes and carrots. The dinner plate's heapingly filled to the brim.
Here's a closer look at the cross-cut pork katsu,
The curry is mild and comforting. I noted that the people on both sides of me at the counter bisected their lunch plates, eating one half, then having the remaining half packed up to go. I did the same, as I was not about to leave any of this goodness behind.
Open Monday-Thursday for breakfast and lunch.
How did I miss this? I love June's. This is the kind of home-style Japanese food that my grandmother used to make, but better (sorry, Bachan!). My current favorite menu item (I change favorites fairly often) is the butter beef, which comes with a small bowl of mustard that June whips up from powdered mustard to order. Pour a little (or a lot) of shoyu into it, and dip each bite of beef into it.
Dennis (the husband) told me a while ago that they'd gotten a call from some producers for "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives", wanting to feature them, but June and Dennis turned them down, because they were afraid they wouldn't be able to handle the surge in popularity.
(Melanie, thanks for bumping this and bring it to my attention!)
The surprising thing about June's is that this kind of mom/pop place doing Japanese-American food is still in business. While the neighborhood has lost a lot of J-A residents in the past 40 years or so, having June's and Osakaya still going works to maintain the old identity. Check it out while you can.