Neighborhood market and restaurant persists through pandemic
By Tessa Marguerite Outland
Taylor’s Market—that charming neighborhood landmark on Freeport Boulevard between Land Park and Curtis Park—has been offering the community its essential services for almost 60 years.
In the window, a red neon sign from another era touts “Old Fashion Butcher Shop.” Beside the door, a portable handwashing station stands with a paper sign reminding patrons to wear a face mask.
Taylor’s reputation of service and care persists even during the pandemic.
Roy Taylor and Ed Schell opened Taylor’s Market in 1962. When the time came to turn the keys over to the next generation of owners, Danny Johnson and Schell’s son Kevin Schell accepted the responsibility. Kevin Schell began his career helping in the meat department in 1969. Johnson started as a butcher in 1983 at the age of 19. In 2007, the Schells retired and ownership was transferred to Johnson and his wife Kathy.
To protect customers and comply with COVID-19 safety measures, the market is open 8 to 9 a.m. for those 65 years and older. According to general manager Dave Hunter, Taylor’s was the first store in Sacramento to implement the senior hour. “I’ve been wanting to do this for a while anyway,” Hunter says. “That first hour, that’s the cleanest the store will ever be.”
Hunter started working at Taylor’s in 1990 at the age of 17. Some of the most vulnerable shoppers are those who have been patrons for the past 30 years or more. “I’ve been here a long time and these customers are like family,” Hunter says.
The early hours of the morning are also when the market receives daily deliveries of fresh produce, breads and meats. Ripe tomatoes from Capay Farms, oven-fresh dinner rolls and sliced loaves from Grateful Bread Company, and 7- to 14-pound birds from Mary’s Free-Range Turkeys.
One door down from Taylor’s Market is Taylor’s Kitchen. Before the pandemic, Taylor’s Kitchen operated as an intimate fine-dining restaurant with a seasonal menu updated almost every week by executive chef Scott Macumber. Like so many other small restaurants and businesses, Taylor’s Kitchen had to make some immediate changes after the governor’s mandate in March to cease indoor dining.
Macumber quickly set about tweaking the menu. “It had to be more of something that could travel 15 minutes or more until they get home,” Macumber muses. “Something that tastes just as good as when we were packaging it.”
Macumber gathered some local ingredients—such as toy box squash from Comanche Creek Farms, organic leeks from Full Belly Farm and baby beets from Coke Farm—to create a fine-dining takeout menu, a first for Taylor’s Kitchen.
The menu includes a selection of quality dishes like braised pork or vegetarian tacos ($16) topped with house salsa and cilantro crema, and black beans and rice on the side. Another appetizing concoction is the ramen noodle salad ($13) made with heaps of celery, carrots, cucumber, pickled mushrooms and cabbage. There are also family-style dinner options, such as the grilled 24-ounce ribeye ($75) with roasted corn polenta, blistered gypsy peppers, grilled vegetables, chimichurri sauce, baby lettuce salad and cookies for dessert, for a family of four.
The menu is available at taylorskitchen.com between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Growler fill-ups ($20) of rotating taps are available to go, as well as wines selected by restaurant manager Keith Fergel, a master sommelier candidate who has been with Taylor’s since 2011. He selects the wine list with decadent choices like Chappellet Mountain Cuvee, Napa Valley ($28), or Benton-Lane pinot noir, Willamette Valley ($18), to enjoy at home. “Keith has a wine list that would rival almost anyone else in town,” Macumber boasts.
Burger Madness Monday is another first for Taylor’s. It’s a classic backyard barbecue meal. The deal includes a one-third-pound smash burger topped with a slice of American cheese, house-made pickles, red onion and special sauce with shoestring fries ($10.99) or a family four pack ($35.99). On Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the chef takes the kitchen outside to bring a hot lunch to passersby, grab-n-go style. The one-item menu changes weekly.
As for the future of Taylor’s Kitchen, Macumber says that is the biggest question right now. The restaurant will most likely be closed for in-house dining through the winter holiday season and hopefully reopen in April 2021. “We will always have that fine-dining, farm-to-fork kind of menu,” Macumber assures, “but with a new set up.”
Tessa Marguerite Outland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.