Bright New Light
Selland’s opens on the emerging Broadway district
By Greg Sabin
Broadway used to be more of a “Broadway” than it is today. It used to be the highfalutin, strutting thoroughfare of town. The movie house, the bars, the restaurants, even the ballpark used to be on Broadway.
Riding one of the many streetcars rolling up and down its length, the Sacramentans of the early 20th century could get their shopping done, see a show or ballgame and take a stroll in the elegant cemetery (a popular distraction at the time), all without leaving the Broadway stretch.
That Broadway is no more, of course. The ballpark burned down, and in its place is now a Target. The restaurants and clubs slipped down a rung in their grandeur. The cemetery fell into a bit of disrepair. One of Sacramento’s greatest brands, Tower Records, came and went.
Now, however, as large and midsized cities all around the country start to rediscover their neglected urban cores, Broadway emerges as a great boulevard of opportunity.
Some of the old bones are still there. The Tower Theatre still stands, its beautifully garish neon prominence jutting out into the sky. The Old City Cemetery remains a beautiful city landmark, well maintained by a cadre of dedicated volunteers. Smart and dedicated restaurateurs like Jim Seyman, owner of Tower Cafe, and recently passed and sorely missed Jamie Bunnell of Jamie’s Broadway Grill kept the flame alive with some of the most popular restaurants in town.
A host of top-notch international restaurants moved in over the decades as well. While some less familiar with the neighborhood might drive right on by, the locals (I include myself in that description, having lived just a few blocks from Broadway for many years) knew that they could find some of the city’s best Indian cuisine (Kathmandu Kitchen), Ethiopian food (Queen Sheba) and Vietnamese fare (Viet Ha Noodles & Grill) all on the same street.
Well, it appears that Broadway is the place to be once again. Drive along its length and you’ll see construction, upgrades and redevelopment on nearly every block. One of the first to get in on the revitalization is Randall Selland with his new Selland’s Market-Cafe.
While most Sacramento residents might know the Selland group by the fine-dining standouts Ella and The Kitchen, it’s probably Selland’s Market-Cafe that actually turns the most tickets. It, it’s affordable, convenient, quick and, for the most part, delicious.
What makes Selland’s work is its casual, order-at-the-counter system and seemingly endless list of special events, deals and offers.
The menu, a combo of soups, sandwiches, pizza and prepared hot dishes, hasn’t changed much in the 17 years since the first Selland’s Market-Cafe opened in East Sacramento. But seasonal specials and weekly offers keep curious diners coming through the front door without nudging out the favorite dishes that keep the neighbors coming in week after week.
This new Broadway outlet is a large, spacious hall with a high, noise-bouncing roof and a flood of light coming through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Like each of the other locations, the kitchen is wide-open and on full display. Where the original East Sac location is cozy and the El Dorado Hills outlet is quaint, this new Broadway space is modern and industrial.
The hot and cold cases overflow with offerings not unfamiliar to the frequenter of Randall Selland’s other fast-casual spots. The menu is synonymous with those of the restaurant’s other locations.
Of the classics, it’s hard to choose a favorite. Selland’s busy kitchen has figured out a range of simple, hearty dishes that hit the spot every time. The chicken breasts smothered in mushroom gravy ($8.75) rarely disappoint, offering a slightly more muscled-up American version of the classic chicken marsala. Paired with a side of hand-mashed potatoes ($3.25) or potatoes au gratin ($3.75), it’s a hearty way to go. Meatloaf, teriyaki chicken thighs and salmon fillets also hit the spot with rigid dependability. Standout sandwiches include the crab cake po’ boy ($13.75) and the citrus-curry turkey dip ($10.75).
The pizza oven turns out sturdily delicious pies of high quality and up-front flavor. The simple Margherita ($15) and the very American combo ($17.25) are both totally solid and without flaw.
The dessert case is a thing of beauty. Don’t miss what might be the best carrot cake in town or the delightfully light and playful seasonal strawberry cupcake. Well-made cookies and perfect lemon squares are also available.
Selland’s weekly and rotating special of two entrees and a bottle of wine for $25 is well worth the trip in itself. Make sure to check the website to see the offerings for this terrific Sacramento restaurant each week. Odds are, even if you’re not a local, you’ll become one pretty soon.