The City of Trees seems to be having a moment.
With new restaurants, breweries, and coffee shops opening every day and a passionate farm-to-fork culture, a new Kings arena rising in downtown, bike lanes criss-crossing public roads and trails to parkways all over the city, fantastic museums and a thriving music scene, a historic old town, and easy access to the Sierras and the foothills, and… I could go on… there’s a lot about Sacramento to love. And residents do love their city—you’ll find a strong sense of pride among those who have been here for years. But it seems to be having a particular renaissance of sorts these days.
Midtown is just a 20-minute drive outside of Davis, but there’s still so much I’ve yet to explore. I wanted to see it from a visitor’s perspective, and meet some of the creative change makers who are setting the tone for Sacramento, a city with grit and passion, and a vibrant collection of entrepreneurs.
Just over a year ago, I took City Scout on a tour of some of my favorite places in Davis, so I turned back to the experts to see if they’d do the same for me: Nicolette Skidmore of City Scout Magazine—a local, culture-focused, online magazine that I often turn to for finding the best of what the city has to offer—served up one possible itinerary for the perfect day in Sacramento. I’d recommend it for anyone coming to check out the city for a day!
I did my best Jerry Seinfeld (à la “Comedians in Cars…”) and picked Nicolette up in an iconic California automobile. In fact, I’d teamed up with Toyota to use their new Prius for the ride: their newly redesigned model fit with the theme of the day, as we hit the road finding some of the city’s finest up and coming small business owners, talking about some of the risks they took to keep their dream alive and build to success. Once quirky, Prius was persistent, and now, it is the best selling hybrid in the world and embraced more than any other car, especially in California. Perfect for a day in the Capitol.
And like Mr. Seinfeld, we started with coffee.
“Temple Coffee is religion in Sacramento,” Nicolette explained, so we started at their newest location, in midtown. “They rise above the rest in every area: design, hip marketing skills and, of course, coffee.”
I’m happy to say we have a Temple in Davis, but my eyes widened at the new space. 500,000 copper pennies line the floors, stretching from corner to corner of the new flagship.
Cole Cuchna, a lifetime Sacramentan and the Director of Education at Temple Coffee, pointed to bicycle installations and handmade furniture from local makers, and talked with us about how far the brand has come in its ten years. In fact, a vintage motorcycle sits in the middle of the cafe as a symbol of the Temple’s history: Founder Sean Kohmescher sold his own bike to open the first Temple location on 10th Street ten years ago. When the recession hit, he had to open a second location or close up shop.
His double-down paid off, and with five Sacramento locations, a roasterie and clients across the nation, Temple sits at the forefront of the urban renaissance that Sacramento is currently experiencing.
We could have lingered longer—over cappuccinos and Kyoto-style brew or nitrogen-infused cascara tea—but we had a busy day planned!
2200 K St Sacramento CA 95816 | 916-662-7625
On our way over to to the R Street Corridor, we stopped to check out one of Sofia Lacin’s and Hennessy Christophel’s colorful city art projects. “We’re All In It Together” is just one of the duo’s installations around the city, their most noteworthy and large-scale being the new “Bright Underbelly,” which covers nearly 70,000 square feet under the W/X Freeway, where the Sunday farmer’s market is held. In an interview with the Sacramento Bee, Lacin and Christophel talked about being artists in Sacramento: “This has been a great place for us to get our start because there’s such a hunger for art,” Christophel said. “And we can be part of shaping the city. We’re maturing as artists as Sacramento is maturing.”
One of the most exciting new spaces to come about in this recent maturation are the Warehouse Artist Lofts and the attached public market. A vibrant mixed-use neighborhood, the Warehouse Art Lofts development is housed in the historic Lawrence Warehouse building in the R Street Corridor connecting 116 housing spaces for area artists and ground floor retail and exhibition space.
“Who would have thought that a modern-day cobbler would play such an integral part of the new identity of a booming city?” Nicolette remarked, “Benjamin Schwartz is just that. His simple custom slip-on loafers are meant to hit the streets with style and sneaker-like comfort. After 6 years of making shoes in his East Sacramento home and working at the State Treasurer’s office, Benjamin Shoes moved to the back corner of the industrial Warehouse Artist Lofts Public Market.”
His self-taught story is an inspiration. Wanting to create something of beauty, Schwartz went to the books to learn about handmade shoes. He felt strongly about sourcing fine textiles—like treated cashmere and heritage wools—and still makes each pair by hand, in extremely limited runs.
I find watching the video of him making a pair kind of mesmerizing. They’re so special!
City Scout asked him about choosing Sacramento as the base for his business: “I feel like it’s a really good time to be in Sacramento in general,” Schwartz remarks. “The place we’re in as a city–we’re growing a lot. There’s a lot of really enthusiastic people who have a lot of energy, who are trying to do new things.”
I think we’re incredibly lucky to have Benjamin as one of those people. (And I think I need to put my name on the list for a pair.)
1104 R St, Suite 130 Sacramento CA 95811 | Closed Mondays
We were getting hungry at this point, and crossed back over toward Fremont Park for lunch at Magpie.
Two hours from Lake Tahoe or the Bay Area, Sacramento sits among 1.5 million acres of farms and ranches and is home to more than 40 farmer’s markets. The region has been an agricultural center for centuries and has an ideal year-round growing season for tons of crops. Today, chances are, if you’re enjoying a meal in the Sacramento region, it came from a local farm.
But only relatively recently has this been celebrated on menus, as Sacramento tries to claim its right to the name “farm-to-fork” capitol. And it’s an ethos that owes a lot to Magpie.
Life in Hawaii taught Ed Roehr and his wife, Janel Inouye, to eat locally and seasonally—a concept that Sacramento fully embraces today, but hasn’t always. “People want to know where their food comes from, and they want to trust us as chefs to know, too.”
When they returned to Sacramento, after working in restaurants in New York and Italy, Ed and Janel thought a fresh and seasonal catering business seemed to be the natural next step. That catering business transformed into Magpie, one of the trailblazers of the Farm-to-Fork movement in Sacramento.
And the spread Ed layed out for us was incredible. We talked about his commitment to and the challenges of sourcing locally and seasonally, and delicious dish after delicious dish Ed would point to the ingredients and tell us about the farmers and growers in the central valley who supplied him.
I knew Aron was going to be sorry he missed this one!
Over lunch, we also talked about the risks one takes opening a business. Like other entrepreneurs I’ve spoken with, he compared a new business to a new baby, but not simply in the way you often hear. Sure, there are the parallels of needs and helplessness, but his analogy to raising his son stretched further: “if you want to grow something, you have to nurture it without any expectation of it providing for you right away.”
10 years later, Magpie still serves up some of the freshest eats in town, no matter the obstacle, and even has a second location on R Street, Nido.
1601 16th Street Sacramento CA 95814 | 916-452-7594
Finally, for a sweet finish to the day, we’d end up at Andy’s Candy Apothecary.
As Nicolette explained, “In 2013, as part of a plan to develop and foster growth on the grid, Downtown Sacramento Partnership launched a ‘Calling All Dreamers’ competition for locals who are looking to start a business. Andy Paul and his wife, Camille, each with their own careers, dropped everything and leaped into the unknown world of business plans, branding and making Andy’s dream of being a real-life candy man a reality. The Pauls won first place in the competition and, only six months later, Andy’s Candy Apothecary opened its doors on 9th Street—around the corner from the much anticipated Golden 1 Center and steps from the Capitol lawn!”
The space they’ve created is completely charming (and a candy lover’s paradise). Andy likes to think of the shop as his personal collection that he gets to share with the world. And that’s exactly what shopping in the perfectly curated shop feels like.
In fact, when you stop in, be sure to ask him about his collection as you’re bound to leave with some fun candy trivia—and perhaps some puckered lips!
Andy’s Candy Apothecary
1012 9th Street Sacramento CA 95814 | 916-905-4115
Obviously this is just one day on the grid. You could pick a different neighborhood every day of the week and get a completely different take on Sacramento. Like I said, there’s a lot to love.
Locals, where would you take a visitor on a day to the city?
Thank you to Nicolette Skidmore of City Scout Magazine for the tour!
Photos by Susan Yee of En Pointe Photography for Hither & Thither
This post is brought to you by the fully redesigned Toyota Prius.