2968 Freeport Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95818, (916) 443-3237

Last Sunday was the perfect picturesque, sunny Sacramento day. I was excited to check out Dad's newest venture--Dad's Kitchen and engage in some springtime patio dining.

Upon walking in, I encountered a small, clean waiting area complete with hostess stand however sans hostess. I stood waiting for about 5 minutes at the counter, then sat down on a barstool for another 5. A few other patrons walked in, stood around looking puzzled then wandered towards the back. Finally a curly haired waitress came to the front but instead of a greeting, I got a dirty look and an abrasive, "Are you waiting for a take out order?" Obviously this person was never taught the Golden Rule of, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," when she was in elementary school. I responded politely that I wasn't and stated that even though my party wasn't here I would like to go ahead and be seated if possible. What I got in response was a flippant remark and a gesture which I loosely translated to mean "follow me." As I entered the dining room, I happened upon one of the people in my party I was waiting for; looking around the waitress had flat disappeared, so we took the initiative to seat ourselves outside. Luckily, once we were outside the service improved vastly. The waitress that was assigned to our table was cheerful, sweet and helpful. (Thank god!) She apologized for not knowing some things as the restaurant was new but was quick to get answers for us. She even asked Allie, another waitress, about the BFD crawfish for us (thank you!). Our drink orders were brought out promptly and my friend and I never felt rushed as we waited for our other two dining companions.

Please note that Dad's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Breakfast is available before 11am on weekdays and before 2pm on weekends (great, if you like to sleep in like me). The breakfast menu consists of various breakfast sandwiches and the standard breakfast fare (omelets, steak & eggs, and eggs with sausage/ham/or bacon). There are also biscuits and gravy and corned beef & hash for the more adventurous. On weekends only there are additional dishes available: a scrumptious French Toast covered with a spiced rum banana fosters sauce, as well as Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine. I opted for the Eggs Benedict and it was divine. Served on a huge open-faced flaky homemade biscuit and topped with two poached eggs and the most delicious thinly-sliced black forest ham. It comes with Hollandaise sauce which I asked for on the side and was used up by one of my dining companions who ordered the same dish. The portion was so huge that I had to actually take half home. My friends ordered the corned beef and hash and the Eggs Florentine and from the happy sounds emanating from their direction I think they were quite pleased with their choices as well. We were curious about the Dad's Breakfast Tater and requested a side order to share. The taters are quite large and reminiscent in taste of a Japanese croquette. It comes with a spicy dipping sauce which didn't do much for my palate, I liked it plain better. We all decided to forgo our caffeine fixes and indulge in some freshly squeezed OJ, which I thought was quite tasty but a bit pricey at $4 a pop. There are numerous other beverage choices ranging from mimosas, strawberry bellinis, wine, beer (MKF!) and cider. Whoever chose the drink menu did a nice job, there's a little of something for everyone.

Overall, I thought my meal at Dad's was one of the best breakfasts I've had in a long time. Our waitress was friendly, the backyard patio setting was relaxing and the prices fair (ranging from $5- $15 for the breakfast plates). I would definitely return. I am docking it one star however for the extremely rude waitress that I encountered when I first arrived. After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

3260 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95816. (916) 448-5699
Moving to new location end of May 2011- 3839 J Street

While contemplating how to articulate my first experience at Formoli's, a saying of Julia Child's repeatedly popped into my head, "You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces-just good food from fresh ingredients." Formoli's did exactly that and surpassed my expectations for a restaurant that had been open a mere ten days. Now take note, Formoli's is inconspicuously tucked away in the same strip mall as the Raven. The restaurant itself is small and narrow- more conducive for an intimate dinner than a large gathering. Despite the limited amount of room to work with, the owners have thoughtfully taken the time to make sure each painstakingly small detail from floor to ceiling is perfect and lends itself to the overall ambiance. Above you, the fluorescent lighting is masked by billowy swags of fabric and in it's place to illuminate are tasteful sconces. The warm walls are accented with various interesting works of art. Each table is outfitted with a small Moroccanesque candle and a single delicate, green cymbidium orchid floating in the water.

Upon entering, we were greeted quickly and ushered to a nearby open table. I found the staff to be both welcoming and attentive. Our server was quite knowledgeable and eager to ensure a pleasant dining experience. To start with, she recommended an excellent Tempranillo wine. I appreciated that she took the care to listen to what types of qualities I actually like in wines before selecting two that might be of interest to me, as opposed to automatically recommending the most expensive one on the list. She even brought over a sampling to make sure that I liked it before I finalized my decision, a nice touch which was appreciated- in fact, it made my dining companion decide to order a glass of the same.

We were then given the perfect amount of time to peruse the menu; which is broken up into- small plates, salad, burgers/sandwiches and entrees. The entrees section is a bit limited (I think it only listed a duck dish and two specials) but I think that worked out for the better as the small dishes are what really stand out here. Being a typical Libra, choosing what to order has always been a dilemma for me. Luckily my dining companion, Amanda, was game for ordering several small dishes and sharing. Although the stuffed dates and seared scallop dishes both sounded enticing and there was a tasty gazpacho that caught my eye, we opted to go with the calamari, yam frites, the Portabello mushroom and the ahi.

The calamari was sauteed perfectly and served tentacles and all upon a bed of greens and accented with endive leaves. The bite-sized pieces were tender, unbreaded (yum!) and not overly chewy. The yam frites were hands down my favorite dish of the evening. Cut in long thin stalks, the sweet yams were lightly sprinkled with sea salt and ground pepper and accompanied by a scrumptious paprika aioli. The paprika aioli balanced out the sweetness of the yams well and gave it a nice subtle kick of spiciness, only noticeable in the aftertaste. In fact, I contemplated stabbing Amanda with my fork to nab the last few bites of yam frites...luckily, I was able to restrain myself. The Portabello mushroom dish was okay. The Portabello was stacked pancake style and layered with (asiago?) cheese and thinly sliced domestic mushrooms, similar in fashion to a pastry. As for the seared ahi, it was the only dish that didn't wow me. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't awful and we did eat it but it was oversalted and the ahi was very tender. Additionally, the paired sauce resembled guacamole both in color and in taste and did little to enhance anything about the ahi. I ended up scraping off what I could of the seasoning and dipping the ahi in the paprika aioli that came with the yam frites. Yes, paprika aioli makes everything taste's like the ketchup of the Mediterranean.

Anyhow, any regrets in ordering the ahi were soon forgotten with my first bite of dessert- a crema catalana. Our server described it as a Spanish creme brulee and the description was quite accurate, although I found it not to be as rich or as heavy as regular creme brulee and the caramelized sugar topping was slightly softer and not quite as crisp. The crema catalana satiated my sugar craving and I found the slight ginger taste to be refreshing - an excellent after dinner palate cleanser.

As we were finishing up, the chef came by to introduce himself and to check on our dining experience which was a nice touch. In reflection, I feel- the ahi aside, Formoli's definitely has it's flavors dialed in. In addition, I found their service, to be equally friendly and efficient. I'm looking forward to more enjoyable dinners at Formoli's and am curious to see what it evolves into. Hopefully, they'll find their niche in Sacramento and perhaps even push the envelope with some regional dishes that are unfamiliar to the Sac food scene or offer up some innovative creations of their own.

- 2/2011

It's almost 3 years later and I'm still religiously dining at Formoli's. The food they put out continues to wow me and the service never fails to be friendly. The menu has expanded and changes regularly but every dish I've ordered since that first visit has been wonderful. If you can, order the scallops...the accompaniment may vary from a carrot puree to greens depending on the season, but the scallops are always cooked perfectly with a nice seared top. Also, give the whiskey burger a whirl- it's hands down the best burger in Sacramento, without a doubt. The whiskey demi-glace and habanero aioli will have you licking your fingers in an unladylike fashion.

(interior of new location)

920 8th St, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 492-9506
(May 2011- CLOSED. Same name but new ownership)

There's an old song called, "I love Paris," written by Cole Porter and most notably sung by Old Blue Eyes himself- Sinatra. The chorus of the song is a bit sing-songy and goes something like this, "I love Paris in the spring time. I love Paris in the fall. I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles. I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles." Well, after visiting La Bonne today, I can see why one would adore the Frenchies.

Waking up to a dreary, wet Sacramento morning the last thing I wanted to do leave the confines of my nice warm Midtown apartment to navigate the rain-slicked streets to downtown. However, once I scored a prime parking spot I got into the swing of things. Armed with an umbrella and heels, I felt a bit Parisian as I ducked under the awning and stepped inside the bistro. After all the hype, I was a bit surprised- there was no line! In fact I was the only patron in the establishment. Immediately, I was greeted with a friendly "Hello, Mademoiselle," by Chef Daniel Pont. Since I was waiting for my two lunch companions to arrive, I plunked myself down at the nearest table and enagaged in a conversation with the charming Mr. Pont. We politely chatted about the weather, discussed the crazy drivers that were out and about and then focused on the food. When I asked for his recommendation, Mr. Pont didn't leap into an one man presentation about the various dishes; instead he told me to whittle my choices to two that I liked and he'd be happy to discuss them further in detail. After perusing the menu for a bit, I settled on the smoked duck with homemade herbed mayonnaise and the baked salmon with a sorrel (?) sauce. Mr. Pont diplomatically advised that when a customer has gotten it down to two choices he usually advises them which item would be healthier. I went with the baked salmon and was pleased with my choice. The salmon perfectly cooked and moist was accompanied by fresh asparagus and nestled comfortably in a lettuce bed within the crispy baguette. I also opted to try the much acclaimed French onion soup, which lived up to all of its Yelp raves. Slivered onions, a soaked baguette and a dollop of delectable cheese intermingled together in this savory potage. I seriously could eat this saporous concoction everyday! To top off the triad of gluttony, I purchased a "French" brownie to go. Having indulged in the treat a few minutes ago I have to say, "That's one damn good brownie!" It was dense, not overly sweet and seemed to impart a slight liqueur aftertaste.

Don't go to La Bonne expecting a snobby French eatery or speedy-service, Pont's place is simple, small and somewhat slow. Each sandwich is individually (and carefully) put together by him. He acts simultaneously as the cook, the front line and the cashier. As he works, he chats with the customers about the various selections (today there was a broccoflower soup that he explained was a nutritious hybrid), daily goings-ons and I even caught a few exchanges between him and a few customers in his native French. Also, get there early as there is limited seating (BTW- this is not a good place to go to with a big group) and the lunch selections do run out. Sandwiches run about $6-7 and soups about $5.

I most definitely will be back to sample some of his other sublime offerings. If I play my karma cards right, I'm hoping I'll luck out and drop in on a day that he has his infamous creme brulee. As it stood, I had to control myself from grabbing the courteous Frenchman in an embrace of gratitude and cooing, "Merci, mon petit chou!" upon my departure. Instead I smiled, nodded a thank you and rubbed my content belly as I headed back out into the rain.

(*mon petit chou = a French term of endearment meaning my "little cabbage or brussel sprout")
3651 J St, Sacramento, CA 95816, (916) 455-7155

I may not know owner Dave Boyet personally, but sometimes I feel like his pub, the Bonn Lair, is an extension of my own home. Since I stumbled upon it about eight years ago, it's been the go to place for me to relax with friends, grab an after dinner drink with a date and even throw an unofficial Yelp event or two.

The BL is located next to the La Trattoria in East Sac but within stumbling distance of the grid for Midtowners. It's a cozy, traditional British-style pub that's graced Sac with it's presence since roughly the mid-90's and quickly developed into a favorite neighborhood watering hole. The bar itself exudes a masculine feel- long wooden booths, an assortment of sport memorabilia and a backroom outfitted with darts. In addition, the front end is equipped with a small patio for the overflow and the back end with an open gazebo-like area for the smokers to chill and chat. The atmosphere is relaxed with various locals congregated here and there sucking down their brews, decompressing and BSing about whatever comes to mind. Occasionally the steady hum of conversation is pierced by a loud cheer for some slick rugby move on the telly. I've always found the patrons to be friendly and have come away most nights with a new friend or two. The bartenders Joe, John and (my fav) Mike are quick with the pour and always willing to chat up both the old-timers and the newcomers.

And most importantly, let's not forget the beer...oh the wonderful beer! Bonn Lair carries my favorite- Chimay (aka the nectar of the gods), as well as my trusty standby- Guinness on tap but it also showcases a multitude of great draughts, ales, bottled beers and ciders for every palate (for example Old Speckled Hen, Maredsous, and lambics...quit salivating now...). Most recently I discovered that they also offer a "beer by the bucket" special, how cool is that?

Too much beer and need some grub? The BL is one step ahead of you and has taken the liberty of offering some pub fare to the likes of some fish-n-chips, bangers and the infamous Scotch egg. The staff also doesn't raise an eyebrow or grouse if you prefer more standard eats and wish to bring in some Chinese takeout from next door or a pizza from Pizza Guys just a few doors down. Oh and don't forget on Sundays once you've placated your tastebuds and destroyed your liver with beer at the BL, you can always match wits and engage in a friendly game of Pub Trivia. You gotta love a place that allows a group of girls to christen their trivia team, "The Yoni's." :)

My only gripe about the Bonn Lair...and it's a teeny-tiny gripe, is- what genius decided to install the paper towel pull on the opposite wall from the sink and a mere two inches above the toilet paper dispenser? When one is three sheets to the wind and has a bladder the size of a peanut, the last thing they want to do is mistakenly dry their yoni with a rough industrial grade paper towel. Ouch! Well, my yoni may not love you BL but I sure do! See you soon!