921 V Street, Sacramento, CA 95818. (916) 447-2264
Upon entering one’s own home in Japan, the standard greeting to announce his or her return is an enthusiastic, “Tadaima!” This translates loosely to, “Hi, I’m home!” Passing through the doorway of June’s Cafe, I had to fight the inclination to call this out because it felt a bit like home. A quick glance at the paper menu stapled to the wall, had me both nostalgic and salivating simultaneously. For most, if asked what their favorite childhood meals are, the answers would range from mac ‘n cheese to spaghetti and meatballs to bacon and eggs. Growing up in a Japanese-American household, my comfort foods would be curry rice, miso soup and pork katsu…exactly what June’s menu was promising me.
June’s Café is nestled in a non-descript building in the vicinity of 9th and V streets, in what used to be Sacramento’s Japantown. A small, inconspicuous wooden sign quietly announces its existence and the pungent aroma of fried onions welcomes you. The interior offers an old school Formica counter complemented by barstools and few small tables for its patrons. The décor somehow alternates between the starkness of a government office and the clutter of a tchotchke shop. Sporting a standard obachan apron and a few bobby pins askew in her bun, June herself is both grillmaster and cashier while her husband mans the front. Under the watchful eye of a dozen waving maneki-nekos, dishes are washed by hand and coffee is promptly refilled, in true diner fashion. Like a Hindu deity, June whips about—pouring, flipping and plating each order in a blur of arms, all the while nodding a greeting to her numerous regulars. Despite the whirlwind of activity, she doesn’t miss a beat nor disappoint her audience at the counter.
The menu itself is a mishmash of Japanese, American and Hawaiian dishes. You won’t find a spicy tuna roll or kahlua pork here; however, what you will find are several good, hearty dishes. Please note there’s no rabbit food or heart-healthy meals here, June’s is all about the grease factor. Try a loco moco (a Hawaiian favorite consisting of white rice topped with a hamburger patty and a fried egg drenched with gravy) or an oyako donburi (egg, chicken, mushrooms and onions simmered together and served over white rice with a splash of soy sauce). Trust me you’ll be waddling away from the counter. On my two visits, I tried the chicken curry rice and the famous wienie royal. The curry rice was spot on…just like mom’s. A nice breaded chicken cutlet smothered with a thick helping of sweet Japanese curry atop of…you guessed it…white rice. Man, the first bite brought back a flood of memories. On my second visit, I decided to throw caution to the wind and opt for the much talked about wienie royal. The wienie royal is a dish that is best known as a carryover from the Japanese-American internment days. This odd but tasty concoction consists of a hefty serving of sliced hot dogs, eggs, onions and soy sauce fried up and served with rice. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed. For the leery, June’s also offers burgers, various teriyaki dishes and a smattering of sandwich choices. There are a few vegetarian friendly dishes but be advised all orders are cooked on the same grill so if you have any qualms about your tofu touching meat, I’d advise skipping June’s. Finally, just to make sure you don’t go away hungry, all “American” dishes come with a generous helping of homemade macaroni salad and the Japanese and Hawaiian dishes come with both macaroni salad and a bowl of piping hot miso soup.
June’s is open for breakfast and lunch. You’ll find it closed on state holidays,weekends and whenever June and the Mr. want to get away for a vacation. On average, the lunch plates run a reasonable six to seven dollars; however, plastic is not accepted so be sure to hit up the ATM before dropping by. Also, be sure to wear your stretchy pants--your gut will thank you.