New street food vendors at Midtown Sacramento Farmers Market

People shop at the Midtown Farmer’s Market on Saturday, April 30, 2022. It’s ​is a free and ​family-friendly year-round market that offers locally-grown fresh produce, prepared foods, artisian crafters and more. It’s open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays on 20th Street between J and L streets and K Street between 19th and 21st streets.

People shop at the Midtown Farmer’s Market on Saturday, April 30, 2022. It’s ​is a free and ​family-friendly year-round market that offers locally-grown fresh produce, prepared foods, artisian crafters and more. It’s open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays on 20th Street between J and L streets and K Street between 19th and 21st streets.

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The Midtown Farmers Market is one of Sacramento’s premier places to see and be seen, in my humble opinion. A friend once told me that his Saturday morning routine consisted of taking an edible, grabbing a coffee and sitting out at the Peet’s patio overlooking the hullabaloo at 20th and J Streets — no shopping, just people-watching.

While fresh fruits and veggies are always for sale, the Midtown Farmers Market tends to lean a little more on crafts and prepared food than, say, the Sunday market now in Arden Fair Mall’s parking lot. In the last month, a trio of compelling food stands have joined that cohort thanks to some outside funding.

One is Chido Restaurant & Bar, Fernando Ponce’s Mexican seafood spot that already has a brick-and-mortar location in Northgate Plaza Shopping Center on El Camino Avenue. Mak & Grille specializes in Iu Mien cuisine, an Asian ethnic group that melds Chinese and Vietnamese flavors, as seen in the trademark sauces the Mak family has produced for years. Steady Smokin’ BBQ pitmaster Geronimo Escobar makes classics such as pulled pork and brisket as well as Mexican American barbecue, such as smoked beef cheek tacos.

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

Each received a “Street Food Sacramento” grant worth about $11,250 from the Midtown Association, organizers of the farmers market. The grant covers tables and tents at the farmers market for the next year as well as startup funds and marketing, event insurance and social media support. They’ll also receive technical assistance, be paired with a mentor and attend workshops through the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce’s MetroBusiness Center for the final half of the yearlong program.

The Midtown Association hopes the money and mentorship will help grant recipients expand to food trucks, brick-and-mortar restaurants and grocery store aisles.

It’s refreshing to see the Midtown Association help mobile vendors along after witnessing Sacramento drag its feed on the food truck boom. A 2008 city ordinance banned them from staying in one place for more than 30 minutes, and was only lifted in 2014 after the craze had turned 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 broth made from cows’ feet and tendon? And, OK, mariscos are available in North and South Sacramento, but I dare you to find some place in midtown besides Chido that serves campechana or tacos gobernador.

Street Food Sacramento was designed to bring new options to the grid, Midtown Association executive director Emily Baime Michaels said. That means amplifying underrepresented cuisine, and eliminating barriers to entry.

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

What I’m Eating

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Solid Ground Brewing’s ugly nugz come with a choice of buffalo, bleu cheese or sweet chipotle dipping sauces. Benjy Egel

Morel mushrooms are sprouting across Northern California right now, but my last foraging excursion came up dry. I quenched my sorrows instead at Solid Ground Brewing (552 Pleasant Valley Road) in the El Dorado County town of Diamond Springs.

KC Sare and Scott Johnson, both Sierra Nevada foothills natives, founded Solid Ground in June 2017 as a 30-barrel brewpub that goes above-and-beyond the typical options. While Sare oversees an excellent brewing program, Johnson makes wine in house. He’s also the winemaker for Element 79 Vineyards in Somerset, and both co-owners contribute to Solid Ground’s cidermaking program as well.

Five-glass, $14 flights allow customers to try a little bit of everything, including the deliciously refreshing Kyburz kolsch (5.4% ABV). I can see more people ordering the easy-drinking, sessionable beer as temperatures continue to rise, especially with Solid Ground’s house burger ($15).

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

Ugly nugz ($12), as Solid Ground’s fried chicken bites are known, sure tasted pretty. Cut into rough cubes and dredged in buttermilk, they came with a choice of seasoning: salt and pepper, buffalo sauce, bleu cheese or a smoky/sweet chipotle dip that tasted a bit like a guajillo chili-based barbecue sauce.

Openings & Closings

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

This story was originally published May 20, 2022 5:00 AM.

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

Trisha Anderson

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