New street vendors at the farmers market in Midtown Sacramento

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People shop at the Midtown Farmer’s Market on Saturday, April 30, 2022. It’s a free and family-friendly year-round market offering fresh local produce, ready meals, crafts and more. It is open on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on 20th Street between J and L Streets and on K Street between 19th and 21st Streets.

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The Midtown Farmers Market is, in my humble opinion, one of the best places to see and be seen in Sacramento. A friend once told me that his Saturday morning routine was to grab an edible, get a coffee and sit outside on the Peet’s patio overlooking the action at 20th and J Streets – no shopping, just people watching.

While fresh fruit and vegetables are always for sale, Midtown Farmers Market tends to lean a little more toward crafts and prepared foods than, say, the Sunday market in the Arden Fair Mall parking lot. In the last month, thanks to some outside funding, a trio of compelling food vendors have joined this cohort.

One of these is Chido Restaurant & Bar, Fernando Ponce’s Mexican seafood eatery, which already has a brick-and-mortar location in the Northgate Plaza mall on El Camino Avenue. Mak & Grille specializes in Iu Mien cuisine, an Asian ethnic group that blends Chinese and Vietnamese flavors, as evidenced by the branded sauces the Mak family have been making for years. Steady Smokin’ BBQ Pitmaster Geronimo Escobar makes classics like pulled pork and brisket, as well as Mexican-American barbecue like smoked beef cheek tacos.

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Mak & Grille has evolved from a line of sauces into a street food stand at Midtown Farmers Market. Courtesy of the Midtown Association

Each received a Street Food Sacramento grant worth approximately $11,250 from the Midtown Association, the farmers’ market organizers. The grant includes tables and tents at the farmers’ market for next year, as well as seed capital and marketing, event insurance, and social media support. During the final half of the year-long program, they also receive technical assistance, mentorship, and workshops at the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce’s MetroBusiness Center.

The Midtown Association hopes the money and mentorship will help grantees expand into food trucks, brick-and-mortar restaurants, and grocery stores.

It’s refreshing to see the Midtown Association helping mobile vendors after seeing Sacramento drag its fodder on the food truck boom. A 2008 city ordinance banned them from being in one place for more than 30 minutes and was only lifted in 2014 after the craze spread nationwide

It’s also good to see new options. Where else in the Sacramento region can you find Iu Mien dishes or smoked brisket ramen with cow’s foot and tendon broth? And, OK, Mariscos are available in North and South Sacramento, but I dare you to find a place in Midtown besides Chido that serves Campechana or Tacos Gobernador.

Street food Sacramento was designed to bring new options online, said Emily Baime Michaels, executive director of the Midtown Association. That means bolstering underrepresented cuisine and removing barriers to entry.

“The entire region wins when diverse new food offerings are introduced into our shared food culture,” said Baime Michaels in a media release. “We look forward to watching our three new winners bring their grocery products to market and the delicious new offerings that await.”

What I eat

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Solid Ground Brewing’s ugly nugz are served with your choice of buffalo, bleu cheese or sweet chipotle dipping sauces. Benj Egel

Morels are springing up all over northern California right now, but my last foraging trip was dry. I quenched my worries at instead Brewing on solid ground (552 Pleasant Valley Road) in the town of Diamond Springs in El Dorado County.

KC Sare and Scott Johnson, both from the Sierra Nevada foothills, founded Solid Ground in June 2017 as a 30-keg brewery that pushes beyond the typical options. While Sare oversees an excellent brewing program, Johnson makes the wine in-house. He is also the winemaker for Element 79 Vineyards in Somerset and both co-owners also contribute to Solid Ground’s cider making program.

Five-glass flights for $14 allow customers to sample a little of everything, including the delicious refreshment Kyburz Kolsch (5.4% vol.). I can see more people ordering the easy-drinking, sedentary beer as temperatures continue to rise, especially at Solid Ground House burger ($15).

Made with beef from Kings Meats, a butcher shop less than a mile down Pleasant Valley Road, the 6-ounce hamburger patty is grilled with mustard before being sandwiched between a soft brioche bun alongside sliced ​​red onions, oven-roasted tomato sauce, iceberg lettuce and Cheese of customer’s choice. Hand-cut fries were decent if a bit inconsistent; that’s what you get without automation I guess.

Ugly Nugz ($12), as Solid Ground’s fried chicken bites are known, tasted really pretty. Roughly diced and dredged in buttermilk, they came with your choice of condiments: salt and pepper, buffalo sauce, blue cheese, or a smoky-sweet chipotle dip that tasted a bit like a guajillo-chilli-based barbecue sauce.

Openings & Closings

  • The area’s newest hot chicken concept is called Flame-N-Chickz and opened last week at 4006 Foothills Blvd. in Rosenville. Spicy sliders and chicken tenders are staples, but you’ll also find kale-based salads and coleslaw.
  • Citrus Heights restaurant Mizuki Sushi is adding a location in Elk Grove, the Sacramento Business Journal reported. Owner Ella Ly will be opening her newest restaurant at 7440 Laguna Blvd., Suite 98 at the Laguna Pavilion Shopping Center next month.
  • Russian restaurant Firebird dropped the word “Russian” from its name after the invasion of Ukraine began in March. That caught the attention of East Coast chain Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, which threatened the Carmichael restaurant with a trademark infringement lawsuit. So… the Eastern European restaurant formerly known as Firebird Restaurant has temporarily closed but plans to reopen with a changed menu under the name ‘Noroc’, Romanian for ‘good luck’ and ‘cheers!’

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Benjy Egel reports on local restaurants and bars for The Sacramento Bee, as well as general breaking news and investigative projects. A native of Sacramento, he previously covered business for the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas.

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