Several years ago, Sacramento branded itself “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital.” And no wonder: virtually every independently-owned restaurant in town prides itself on fresh ingredients sourced from Central Valley farms within just a few miles of town. With 2014 passage of a statewide law giving formal permission for dogs to join their people at outdoor bar and restaurant tables, it’s hard to find an eatery that doesn’t welcome DogTrekkers. During this unusual time, please call ahead to be sure your favorite dining spot is open, hours, safety precautions and more.
If you’re the type who likes to be spontaneous in your culinary adventures, we suggest strolling one of these lively dining and entertainment districts and dropping in at whichever establishment appeals. A tip from the locals: Sacramento is known for a very competitive happy-hour scene, so visit early to enjoy small bites at small prices.
R Street: The R Street corridor between 10th and 13th streets is an urban-renewal success story that radiates energy at lunchtime and in the evenings. The revitalized industrial district just south of downtown boasts wide, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, public art and a growing gauntlet of restaurants, taverns, nightclubs, urban-loft apartments and start-up businesses.
Among the half-dozen or so establishments with outdoor tables where you can park yourself with your dog are Shady Lady Saloon, known for its Prohibition motif, creative cocktails and Southern-themed menu; Burgers and Brew, packed with folks enjoying a huge selection of craft beers with their custom-built burgers; and Shoki Ramen House, known for its made-from-scratch broths and super-fresh ingredients.
Old Sacramento: Sacramento’s historic heart and tourism showcase is always fun to stroll with your dog. There’s a lot to engage your attention, from Gold Rush-era storefronts to boat traffic on the Sacramento River to the iconic Tower Bridge. Eateries come and go, but three stalwarts that will welcome you and your pooch are the riverfront Rio City Café (call first to reserve a table on the deck; a server will escort you to a back entry gate when you arrive); and the casual Steamers Bakery & Café, popular for breakfast or a light lunch.
J Street: If Sacramento has a “restaurant row,” J Street is it. This hopping Midtown corridor covers many blocks and offers tons of variety in the restaurant department, so your best bet might be to park on a side street and start exploring. The casual Tapa the World, on 21st Street, is the place to enjoy Spanish tapas, paella and sangria to the sensuous strains of flamenco music.
Moving uptown, Café Bernardo and Centro Cocina Mexicana, both in the 2700 block of J, are other great bets for DogTrekkers. K Street, just one parallel block over, holds many of other choices, including Capitol Garage, Golden Bear, Der Biergarten, LowBrau (on 20th between J and K) and Pizza Rock, a very popular family and date-night venue.