Neighborhood hangout thrives with new approach
By Greg Sabin
In June 2022, when Jen and Gary Sleppy announced they were closing The Shack, their beloved East Sacramento restaurant, it was a blow. The neighborhood hangout was a refuge for beer and burger lovers who considered the 90-year-old spot a home away from home.
Thankfully, an experienced restaurant and brewing group took over and continued the traditions of The Shack.
The view from Folsom Boulevard has always been humble. Holding down the corner at Folsom Boulevard and 52nd Street, the building began as a hot dog and root beer stand in 1932 and never changed much. The Sleppys took over in 2005. Combining their experience in hospitality and love of beer, they created one of the first specialty beer bars in town.
The commodious outdoor patio grew and now feels like a tropical getaway.
Through 17 years, the couple created an environment, casual and clever, that brought in a crew of delightfully odd regulars (me included). Those regulars will never forget the spectacular burgers and gumbo dished out by chef Antwyne Bates, the hospitality of manager Christopher Fairman or the subversive trivia nights hosted by Sacramento Beer Week founder Dan Scott.
It was, therefore, a gut punch when Jen and Gary’s stewardship ended. But it wasn’t long before the successful team at Urban Roots Brewery & Smokehouse took over and put a new spin on the old place.
Within a few months, Urban Roots founders Rob Archie and Peter Hoey and team reopened the space as Cerveceria at The Shack. “Cerveceria” is Spanish for brewery or alehouse, and nods to the venue’s departure from burgers and American comfort food to a new Mexican menu.
Given the range of Archie and Hoey enterprises, it wasn’t surprising that they took a new approach. Their barbecue and brewery Urban Roots, their fried chicken joint Bawk and their speakeasy The Roost each have their own personality.
The new menu features Mexican favorites made with care and skill. Tacos dominate the options and range from vegetarian fare such as fried mushrooms and chile relleno to carnivore delights of smoked brisket and carne asada. These are not small tacos. Served on house-made corn tortillas, these are full-sized taco expressions.
For me the standout is the quesabirria. The heavyweight offering comes with melted cheese inside the tortilla and a fried cheese skirt outside. Stuffed with braised beef and a heaping pile of cilantro and onions, these delights are dipped in a side of rich beef consommé. The taco-meets-French-dip enterprise is undeniable. If you don’t take at least two naps after consuming, then you’re doing something wrong.
Posole, a traditional hominy and pork stew, is punchy and intense, marrying velvety hominy and braised pork with a pungent chile broth. Other soups and stews are equally excellent.
The beer list features mostly Urban Roots brews with some guest taps. Luna de Miel (imagine a sophisticated version of Negra Modelo) is the flagship. It should be. It’s one of the best beers made in the West.
Additionally, a full bar with margaritas, micheladas and agua frescas brighten the otherwise beer-focused drink menu.
One food item gives a wink and nod to the old Shack, a double cheeseburger. Not fancy, just good. Two all-beef patties, special sauce and all the toppings pay homage to the Sleppys and everything they created.
Carrying on a tradition isn’t easy. Putting your own spin on it is even harder. Cerveceria at The Shack puts together good food, excellent beers and professional hospitality, while feeling a bit like the old place. I’m not sure we could ask for more.
Cerveceria at The Shack is at 5201 Folsom Blvd.; cerveceria916.com; (916) 346-4677.
Greg Sabin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.