You can’t get more farm-to-fork than dining at the best restaurants in Sacramento. Much of the country’s produce comes from Central California, and Sacramento is the region’s crowning city. Stop by a Sacrameto farmers market and you’ll likely see chefs in white coats shopping the nation’s freshest produce, which then gets transformed into a wide variety of ethnic cuisines once the chefs are back in the kitchen. So if you’re looking for things to do in Sacramento, don’t forget about the vibrant restaurant scene. From Mexican to Vietnamese, our favorite restaurants in Sacramento offer fresh and funky food you won’t soon forget.
Best Restaurants In Sacramento
1. Kabab Hut
Head to Placer County for Pakistani and Indian food at this restaurant known for its over deliciousness — and, especially, for its impeccably tender tandoori fish. Overseen by Zulfiqar “Guddu” Haider, who previously ran the acclaimed San Francisco restaurants Lahore Karahi and Guddu de Karahi, this strip mall eatery also produces exceptionally creamy chicken tikka masala, irresistible garlic naan, and housemade pudding for dessert — all available for takeout only.
2. Shige Sushi
For sushi purists, it doesn’t get much better than this humble shop on Madison Ave. Leave the sauce-drenched rolls with wacky names for another time. Chef-owner Shige Tokita specializes in impeccably prepared nigiri, sashimi, and small plates that are high in freshness and flavor, and low on flash. Pro tip: Go with any of the “daily specials” posted inside the restaurant, such as the juicy hamachi kama. Takeout only.
3. The Waterboy
Long before the city’s great marketing takeover designated Sacramento as “America’s Farm-To-Fork Capital,” chef Rick Mahan and crew were putting this ethos in action. Seasonally driven menus with an emphasis on local ingredients set the stage for such dishes housemade strozzaapreti with lamb raised in nearby Dixon, and mixed grills of Llano Seco pork loin. The sauteed sweetbreads with bacon, mushrooms, and capers remains one of Sacramento’s definitive dishes. The restaurant is currently doing takeout on weekends only, Friday through Sunday, 4–6:30 p.m.
In this age of takeout boxes, sometimes diners still crave some Instagram-worthy food. Localis has transformed its chef’s tasting menu for a multi-course home dining experience, with amuse bouche, optional wine pairings and all. The takeout prix fixe and its themes change regularly, with homages to favorite local dishes and courses inspired by chef Chris Barnum-Dann’s travels. One recent menu was a Puerto Rican-inspired prix fixe with nods to ceviche, pernil pork, and grilled pineapple sorbet with a shot of Don Q single barrel rum.
In the stripmall centric Little Saigon, Quan Nem Ninh Hoa stands above the rest of the Vietnamese restaurants with its nem nuong cuon spring rolls. The house special has you dip rice paper wraps into a thin bucket of water and load it with charbroiled ground pork, mint, pickled carrots and crispy rolls. It’s a choose-your-own-spring-roll adventure.
The Selland family owns a number of restaurants throughout Sacramento that have come to define the scene, including the upscale and hard-to-reserve Kitchen. For a more accessible outing, their restaurant Ella offers white-tablecloth charm and thoughtful menus with entrees centered on the meat as much as the farmer’s market vegetables. Order the flagship cocktail with gin and house-made rainforest quinine tonic.
Put your name on the list and grab a drink at Fieldwork Brewing Co. next door, then prepare to take notes—Pushkin’s Kitchen shows us all how a healthful breakfast should be done. Rounding out the brunch menu are shakshuka, a cured salmon and quinoa bowl, gluten-free breads and pastries, vegan scrambles and an avocado-and-poached egg toast worthy of the millennial angels.
8. Journey to the Dumpling
Appropriately, there is a journey required for these dumplings; it’s 15 miles from downtown Sacramento south to the suburb of Elk Grove. Sacramento has many excellent dim sum options but it’s fair to say this newcomer, started by a trio of self-described “foodie” friends, is possibly the best when you’re in the mood for homemade snow crab–and-pork xiao long bao or pork and cabbage potstickers. It’s not all dumplings on this trip, though. Don’t miss the roujiamo, stewed pork “burgers” in lightly fried buns, or “journey noodle soup” with pork belly in a spicy and sour broth.