Meat Lover’s Paradise
LowBrau and Block Butcher Bar continue to put meats on a pedestal
By Greg Sabin
At the intersection of 20th and K streets in Midtown, there are more bars than there are corners. You can’t walk, or in some cases stumble, in any direction and not run smack into a convivial watering hole.
In some ways, this boisterous corner is the hub of the new Midtown. It’s the site of the weekly Saturday Midtown Farmers Market, of Second Saturday dance parties all summer long and of the biggest gay clubs in the city. There’s stand-up, sketch and improv comedy at Sacramento Comedy Spot and live cabaret at Mango’s. Every weekend, you can watch a mass of humanity party like there’s no tomorrow.
All that partying, drinking, dancing and cavorting doesn’t happen on an empty stomach. Which is why LowBrau and Block Butcher Bar, two of the city’s finest meateries, continue to thrive years after moving in.
LowBrau opened its doors more than five years ago and still manages to be a popular Midtown spot. Its bright interior, friendly staff and simple menu make anyone feel welcome at any time of day. The vibe is updated-German-pub with long wooden tables, large beer steins and cuckoo clocks on the reclaimed-wood-paneled walls. It’s old-world village meets industrial in a Sacramento restaurant.
The menu has expanded over the years. At first opening, LowBrau served mostly sausages supplied by Morant’s Old Fashioned Sausage Kitchen on Franklin Boulevard. That was about it, other than a few salads.
Now, the menu is filled with sandwiches, clever appetizers and house-made sausages that do not disappoint. The hot fried chicken sandwich is a nice example of the type: buttermilk fried chicken thigh, hot sauce, slaw and pickles on a sweet bun. For an appetizer, deviled egg toast is a scrumptious, indulgent treat.
But it’s the sausages that bring you here—bratwurst, Polish, spicy andouille—and the sausages that keep you coming back. There are a few special sausages, like the Action Bronson, made with chicken, feta and herbs, and the merguez, a lamb/harissa/cumin offering that packs a punch.
Of course, what’s sausage without beer? LowBrau has a fine collection of taps and bottles spanning the globe and especially focused on California brews. At Block Butcher Bar, LowBrau’s next-door neighbor and sister restaurant, the food is simple yet feels complex and sophisticated.
When friends come to visit from Los Angeles, the Bay Area or New York, I take them to Block because the place has exceptional food, doesn’t try too hard and is relaxed enough that anyone can feel comfortable there. I don’t tell my friends this, but the low lighting is great for hiding the bags under the eyes of the tired traveler.
Block specializes in meats, cheeses and whiskey. It’s a simple expression of mostly American culinary sensibilities with touches of Spanish meats and French cheeses, and maybe a Japanese whisky or two.
The standard meal at Block may consist of an expertly made cocktail (try a Guy on a Buffalo, made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, ginger, lemon, apricot-cardamom preserves and bitters) and a charcuterie board featuring a trio of cheeses and three meats. (Many of the meats are cured or smoked in-house.) The butcher bar in the back of this Sacramento restaurant is on display behind glass. The butchers don’t do any dismembering while you’re dining, but the glass room allows you to see, literally, where the sausage is made.
If the party scene isn’t your scene, check out LowBrau for brunch on the weekend or lunch any day of the week. Similarly, a quiet dinner at Block on a Tuesday or Wednesday night will make you feel like you’ve found a special little hall of culinary delights designed for you alone. If, however, you want to join the party, bring a meaty appetite.