Back in Business
Cafe Bernardo thrives in new Fort Sutter Hotel
By Greg Sabin
Midtown is a special place. Ask anyone who’s lived, visited or worked there. It’s a fun, funky, homey, bustling village. It’s got abundant history and a bright future. But ask a handful of long-time Sacramentans what that history is, or what the future looks like, and you’re likely to get several different answers.
Local historian William Burg can talk about colorful characters, crime and architecture. Brian Crall, founder of Sacramento Comedy Spot, has run a successful arts organization in the heart of Midtown for a decade. He can describe the joys and challenges of trying to succeed in the part of town that many outsiders treat as a “party house.”
This is all to say anything new in Midtown is regarded with equal parts interest and skepticism. And no project has been as interesting in the past year as Fort Sutter Hotel.
Built on the corner of Capitol Avenue and 28th Street, the new hotel belongs to longtime Sacramento restaurateur Randy Paragary. Its proximity to Sutter Medical Center makes it useful for friends, families and even patients who visit the hospital from distant points. Sharing the block with The Sofia B Street Theatre venue, the hotel is convenient for theatergoers.
Anchoring the corner of the hotel is a new Cafe Bernardo. It’s the fourth Cafe Bernardo in the region, and stands more or less on the footprint of the original Bernardo.
This new Cafe Bernardo shares many hallmarks with its siblings: casual, order-at-the-counter service, approachable sandwich and entree menu, unfussy aesthetic with simple colors and comfortable design. What sets this location apart is its Sutter District location and guests from Fort Sutter Hotel.
Sure, every restaurant and hotel today is somewhat aspirational, with pandemic shutdowns having created a brutal economic environment. But as we look forward, Cafe Bernardo and Fort Sutter Hotel seem destined for a bright future.
I popped my head into the new location the second week of operation and found the service and food already on point. Of course, I’d expect nothing less from a Paragary establishment, but it’s still impressive.
Beef stroganoff with hand-cut noodles is a perfect winter meal. Savory, well-seasoned sauce, tender mushrooms and beautiful bites of beef make this version as good as my mother-in-law’s (please don’t tell her).
A solid Cubano sandwich with tender roast pork, ham, Jarlsberg and traditional fixings does not disappoint. The addition of chipotle mayo, not common in Miami but a fixture of California causal fare, tops the dish with flair.
The well-loved Bernardo salads—think Thai noodle, kale Caesar or the legendary mushroom and Jarlsberg—are fixtures of the Sacramento dining scene. The Paragary Bakery bread is an added pleasure.
It’s too soon to say whether the evening crowd will enjoy a robust selection of wine and beers at the cozy booths and communal tables at Cafe Bernardo, or adjourn to the Four Palms bar down the hall. But as social normality resumes, guests will be well served.
At press time, outdoor dining had barely returned to the city. The virus and winter weather handcuffed most restaurants. But if you squint and peer into the future, this new Cafe Bernardo, reborn from fond memories of the original Bernardo, looks to be filled with happy diners from morning to night. I can hear the laughter and chatter mixed with clinking glasses and silverware.
Let’s all hope this vision is just beyond the horizon.
Cafe Bernardo is at 2730 Capitol Ave.; (916) 603-2304; cafebernardo.com.
Greg Sabin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.