Moveable Feasts

Favorites close, but quality dining lives on

By Greg Sabin
June 2023

When Bandera closed five years ago, it was a gut punch to the Arden Arcade dining scene. But here we are, and local restaurateurs Brian and Susan Bennett filled the void at Howe Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard.

Their restaurant, Bennett’s American Cooking, stepped into the Bandera location with steaks and seafood, wine and cocktails, and an upscale, casual vibe.

Decades ago, I enjoyed the garish atmosphere of Chinois at the same site. Mirrored walls, a dimly lit room, and 1980s hues of salmon and gray suggested a Euro disco could erupt at any moment. The scene spoke to a place and time. It was contemporary fun compared to its rival across the street, Ming Tree.

Then came the ’90s and Bandera, a signature brand of the Hillstone Restaurant Group (Rutherford Grill, Houston’s Steakhouse, Los Altos Grill), gave University Village shopping center a dining anchor. Bandera rivaled Mace’s at Pavilions down the street. These were heady days of suburban dining.

Alas, those signature rooms are no more. But Bennett’s American Cooking carries on the legacy and makes a fine show. Lights are dim, portions large, pours heavy. The crowd is into it.

Brian Bennett knows about restaurants. With more than 40 years of experience, another eponymous restaurant in Roseville thrives and a Rocklin edition beckons. Bennett’s feels like a marriage of the prior tenant and Paul Martin’s American Bistro, a Roseville project Brian helped launch.

Borrowing from Bandera (and making good use of the inherited layout and tools) Bennett’s focuses on flame grilling and substantial meats. Steaks and chops share the menu with lasagna, chile relleno and one of the best meatloafs I’ve ever had (sorry Mom).

This meatloaf is a star, Paul Newman-level. Smokey and dense, thick-cut and savory, it sits in a glistening au jus topped with crispy onions. Do not miss the meatloaf.

And do not overlook the seafood. A prawn linguine with spinach, tomatoes, parmesan and garlic is a sizable serving of good taste. Salmon and halibut both pull their weight as well.

The standout is the blackened Pacific redfish. Blindfold me and I swear this dish came from a New Orleans kitchen. Two hefty filets, liberally spiced and served with a pile of butter-wilted spinach, make for quite a plate. It’s worth the trip.

Two warnings: Don’t think you can walk in on an “off night.” If you drop by on Monday, you’ll be lucky to get a table.

Bennett’s Monday night “2 for $65” deal includes two entrees, two salads and a bottle of wine for $65. It’s a deal that packs the place. Also, happy hour, Monday through Friday 2–6 p.m., delivers a host of solid noshes and a “country club” pour for less than market rate.

And bring a sweater. I assume the air conditioner at Bennett’s was designed to cool an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Oman. It keeps the dining room at near freezing temperatures day and night. It can overwhelm for much of the year, but provides a perfect retreat on a 100-degree summer day.

It’s sad to see favorite old restaurants close and neighborhoods change. But with stewards such as Brian and Susan Bennett, the current state of local cooking is encouraging.

Bennett’s American Cooking is at 2232 Fair Oaks Blvd. on University Village; (916) 515-9680;

Greg Sabin can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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