Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 27, 2011
The Dish: Plaza Cafe at CalPERS

By Jon Ortiz
jortiz@sacbee.com

While there's no shortage of coffee and lunch locales around the Capitol, many state buildings are home to additional dining options. This post is part of a weekly series of mini-reviews of some of those spots for downtown denizens looking to try something new.

Thumbnail image for patio.jpgThe spot: The Plaza Café, located on the ground floor of CalPERS' Lincoln Plaza North at Q and 3rd streets, is about a half-mile walk from the Capitol. It features patio seating with a waterfall (left) and a large, multi-level indoor eating area (below at right). Come at peak breakfast or lunch hours, and be prepared to wait in line for the grill. My gastric brothers-in-arms for my recent visit, CalPERS board member J.J. Jelincic and Jim Zamora, SEIU Local 1000 spokesman, both mentioned that Plaza Café draws customers from several buildings nearbycafeteria.jpg including the Board of Equalization HQ, the Crocker Art Museum and the state Department of Social Services. The business is open for breakfast (6:45 a.m. to 10: a.m.), lunch (11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) and snacks (1 to 3 p.m.). Street parking can be a hassle, especially during the three days in the middle of the month that the fund's board meets in an auditorium just a few steps from the cafeteria. Nearby meters charge 25 cents per 12 minutes. The parking garage across the street runs $2.50 per hour, according to CalPERS' website.

The grub: There must a reason that Plaza Café is taking business from other state cafeterias. Maybe it's the locally harvested and organic produce touted on a blackboard at the cafeteria's entrance. Could it be the $5.99 artisan sandwiches? The regularly rotated "global flavors" like the Japanese teriyaki rice bowl ($6.59)? Maybe it's the Bayou wraps with jerk chicken or pork tenderloin with mashed sweet potatoes, red beans, rice, slaw and pineapple salsa ($6.99)? Or it could be the made-to-order pasta, tacos and salads that all run between $6.59 and $6.99. And I haven't even mentioned the grill that was serving a veggie banh mi -- a Vietnamese sandwich -- plus the usual burger-and-fries fare. Safe to say that this is easily the most diverse menu offered by any state cafeteria reviewed by The Dish.

plum.jpgOn our plates: I ordered a veggie calzone. Jim sampled the goat cheese with roasted plums and herbs on crostoni (right). J.J. went for the grilled cheese and short ribs sandwich with curly fries (left).sandwich.jpg

The bill: The food and two soft drinks (Jim didn't buy a coke) plus tax came to $22.45. Note to the Fair Political Practices Commission: J.J. paid for his meal.

The good: This isn't your dad's old state government chow line. Plaza Café's atmosphere is open and bright, and the food's degree of sophistication is surprising. I heard that the soups are terrific, especially the butternut, corn and coconut chowder. Regulars also raved about the blueberry pancakes with ricotta cheese often offered for breakfast. Our lunches received high marks, too, for the most part. J.J. said the meat in his sandwich was "awesome," tender and tasty. His fries were done to his liking, with a nice exterior crunch and a warm, chewy center. Jim said the plum crostoni had a nice blend of the sweet fruit and the garlicky cheese. My calzone was enormous, nearly covering my 9-inch paper plate.

The bad: J.J. wished the bread on his grilled sandwich had been a little crispier. Jim wanted some crunch on his crostoni, too. He suspected that even though the bread bore panini grill marks from its preparation, that it was softened by the cheese and refrigeration. My calzone was an unadventurous mountain of crust packed with ricotta, asparagus and spinach and an unsatisfying smudge of bland tomato sauce.

Grade: 4.5 sporks out of 5.

Have you been to CalPERS Plaza Café? Share your experiences in the comments field below. Share your experiences in the comments field below. And check out our recent reviews of Griselda's World Café, Gold Rush Grille, Side Bar Café, Cafe 744, Capitol Coffee and Dave's Deli (closing at the end of this month, we hear).

December 16, 2011
The Dish: Griselda's World Café in the California Capitol building

IMG_1058.jpgThe spot: The Bee's Capitol Alert blogger Torey Van Oot and I took the stairs down to the statehouse basement for a trip through the buffet line at Griselda's World Café, across from the building's gift shop and a few steps from Capitol Coffee. The operation is owned by Sacramento Tex-Mex maven Griselda Barajas, who also caters out of that location. There's plenty of comfortable seating just a few steps away in a large common area popular with legislators and staff who frequent Griselda's. The restaurant, open weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., takes cash and plastic.

IMG_1063.jpgThe grub: When the Legislature is in session, Griselda's boasts a wide-ranging menu that includes the Texas-style Mexican food that made the owner famous. Customers also can choose from pizza, a salad bar, soups, sandwiches, wraps and various desserts and grab-and-go snacks. But we visited midday in early December when lawmakers were on recess, so the menu was pared back, a restaurant employee said. The main features that day were Griselda's staple Mexican specialties and the salad bar, which included tuna for the protein-conscious but no tomatoes. Breakfast, served until 10:30 a.m., includes made-to-order eggs (75 cents each), bacon slices and sausage links (same prices as the eggs). Higher-end fare when the full menu is available includes $4.95 for pizza. The eatery's website promotes carved sandwich combos ($7.95 with two sides) and $6.95 daily entrée specials that weren't available during our visit. The usual self-serve beverage options are all there: coffee, tea, fountain sodas, bottled water, juices and milk started at $1.

IMG_1066.jpgOn our plates: Torey had the carnitas tacos (priced from $1.75 each a la carte to $5.25 as a combo plate) with beans and rice and bottled water. I had the carnitas burrito a la carte ($4.95) with a soda ($1.49 for a small, $1.59 for a medium, $1.69 for a large).

The bill: The taco combo, a la carte burrito and drinks set us back $13.36.

The good: Griselda's has successfully taken Tex-Mex to the state buffet line. A frequent customer at Griselda's told me that the pozole (a type of Mexican stew offered only on Mondays) is terrific. Ditto for the great greasy-spoon breakfast burritos. Torey was pleased with the amount of food on her plate: "Good portions but not monster size." The carnitas was tender, moist and "very spicy," she said. My burrito was about as big as my two fists, and the carnitas virtually melted in my mouth. Spicy? You betcha, but not the sweat-inducing spicy that can make you wish you could disconnect your tongue.

The bad: Torey's rice was dry and the beans, she said, "weren't great ... but I'm not a bean fan." The food service can bog down, since the buffet line is in a fairly narrow space that can't accommodate more than a handful of customers before it clogs. And during the legislative off-season, the place looks barren, with empty service counters and display cases creating a stark feel.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 sporks.

Have you been to Griselda's World Café? Share your experiences in the comments field below. And check out our recent reviews of Gold Rush Grille, Side Bar Café, Cafe 744, Capitol Coffee and Dave's Deli (closing soon).

Jon Ortiz and Torey Van Oot are taking suggestions for state building restaurants to try. Send your picks to capitolalertcontests@gmail.com and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.

December 9, 2011
The Dish: Capitol Coffee in the California Capitol building

IMG_1050.jpg While there's no shortage of coffee and lunch locales around the Capitol, many state buildings are home to additional dining options. This post is part of a new weekly series of mini-reviews of some of those spots for downtown denizens looking to try something new.

The spot: Bee bloggers Torey Van Oot and Jon Ortiz joined Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton (pictured at right) at Capitol Coffee, a tiny eats-and-drinks spot tucked into a corner of the statehouse basement. The walls are festooned with photos of luminaries and lawmakers enjoying the fare, proof that owner Gary Haller's place is a good spot to catch up on Capitol gossip. Comfortable seating is just a few steps away in the large, brick-walled common eating area Capitol Coffee shares with its Capitol basement neighbor, Griselda's World Café. Bring money or plan to use the ATM outside the shop, since Capitol Coffee is a cash-only establishment. The Capitol Coffee Club card gives you a free beverage after nine drink purchases. Haller draws one completed card per month from a fish bowl behind the counter for a week's worth of free coffee.

(Bias alert: Capitol Coffee is a favorite spot of the senator's. He invited The Dish to meet him there.)

IMG_1057.jpgThe grub: Haller, pictured left, has been serving up hot dogs and the senator's favorite Polish sausages since opening in 1991. He also serves coffee (hence the name of the business), espresso, Italian sodas and smoothies that run from $1.10 to $4.75 depending on size and beverage. The shop even offers caffeine-starved customers several Starbuck's-style holiday season mochas, frappes and lattes spiced with peppermint, pumpkin and ginger. The shop also sells granola bars and microwaveable cups of noodles and oatmeal among its cheap grab-and-go options.

On our plates: Actually, the steamed Polish sausages and hot dogs were wrapped in paper. Jon and Torey shared a foot-long hot dog ($3 or $4.75 with chips and a soda) with ketchup. Our esteemed guest ordered his usual Polish sausage ($3.25 or 5 bucks for the combo) with mustard and an Italian soda ($1.60 for 16 ounces or $2 for 24 ounces). Jon had a peppermint mocha frappe ($3.75 for a small, $4.75 for a large).

The bill: Total for the hot dog, the Polish sausage, the 16 ounce soda and the frappe: $11.60. Our esteemed guest picked up his $4.85 portion of the tab.

The good: You can sum Capitol Coffee up in a word: value. We hear that the coffees are killer but without the killer prices normally endured with designer drinks. The size of the hot dog was a surprise: "A foot-long that's actually 12 inches long," Jon said, making it a good value. The senator is a big fan of the Polish sausage. Here's his video review:

The bad: The hot dog was big and tasty, but Jon would have liked it better with onions. The shop's condiment selection is limited to packaged ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and relish. The frappe had great flavor, but it wasn't thoroughly blended. When the drink was drained, two large ice cubes were stranded in the bottom of the cup.

Grade: 3 out of 5 sporks.

Have you been to Capitol Coffee? Share your experiences in the comments field below. And check out our recent reviews of Gold Rush Grille, Side Bar Café, Cafe 744 and Dave's Deli (closing soon).

Jon Ortiz and Torey Van Oot are taking suggestions for state building restaurants to try. Send your picks to capitolalertcontests@gmail.com and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.

December 2, 2011
The Dish: LOB Cafe in the Legislative Office Building

LOB.JPG While there's no shortage of coffee and lunch locales around the Capitol, many state buildings are home to additional dining options. This post is part of a new weekly series of mini-reviews of some of those spots for downtown denizens looking to try something new.

The spot: For this week's review, Bee higher education/lobbying reporter Laurel Rosenhall and I took a trip to another era, hitting up the LOB Cafe. This eatery on the sixth floor of the Legislative Office Building doesn't look like it's changed much since the 1960s. Luckily, the food they serve isn't as old as the decor... for the most part. The grill/Asian buffet atop 1020 N Street is open from 7 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. We recommend bringing cash -- the only option for diners with only plastic on hand is to take out $40 from the cash register "ATM," which comes with a $1.50 charge.

chinese.JPGThe grub: LOB Cafe is perhaps best known among Capitol dwellers and diners for its Asian fusion buffet. On Friday's visit there were nearly a dozen MSG-free options, including several vegetarian dishes (tofu, vegetables tempura). The salad bar features an assortment of toppings, and at $4.99 a pound, the portions are up to you. The menu at the grill is more limited than the offerings at some of the other state building restaurants we've reviewed, think grilled cheese and burgers (fries are extra). We hear the BLT and the breakfast burritos are both big hits.

garden.JPGOn our plates: Torey had a sampling of items from the buffet (Korean sweet and spicy and tangy pineapple chicken, sweet and sour meatballs, chow mien and a pork pot sticker) and a side salad with spinach, peas and beets. ($6.44 total). Laurel chowed down on a garden burger with a side of fries ($3.65; $1.35) and loaded up a full plate of greens and veggies from the salad bar ($3.24).
Cheese on the burger set us back an extra 35 cents.

The bill: We paid $18.99 for food and two drinks. Our portions were admittedly large (Laurel is eating for two, with a baby on the way early next month. Torey had no excuse.).

toreyplate.JPGThe good: The buffet items, mostly fried and drenched in sauce, weren't the healthiest of lunch choices, but they did hit the spot for Torey's Panda Express-loving palate. The salad bar was one of the better we've seen in our reviews so far. In addition to a choice of greens (spinach or romaine) and standard fare vegetables, pick and choose from toppings and sides like mixed fruit, cottage cheese and potato salad. Some tables toward the back of the upper seating level offer a nice view of the Capitol dome. Those shouldn't be hard to snag, considering just four seats were taken in a dining area that has a posted maximum occupancy of 328.

The bad: As noted above, the ambiance is, well, drab at best ketchup.JPG
(mental ward and hospital cafeteria are some descriptions we heard), and the gruff staffer working the register didn't do much to brighten the mood. We did get a kick of some of the relics from earlier days, including the ketchup bottle pictured to the right. The fries could have used more salt, though Laurel admits they're probably healthier that way. The half hard-boiled egg she added to her salad appeared a bit gray on closer inspection. Perhaps it too was an artifact from lunches past?

The grade: 3 out of 5 Sporks

table.JPG

Have you been to LOB Cafe? Share your experiences in the comments field below.

You can also check out our earlier reviews of the Side Bar Cafe, Gold Rush Grille, Cafe 744 and the soon-to-be-shuttered Dave's Deli at this link.

Jon Ortiz and Torey Van Oot are taking suggestions for state building restaurants to try.Send your picks to capitolalertcontests@gmail.com and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.

November 28, 2011
The Dish: Department of Justice's Side Bar Cafe

DOJ.JPG While there's no shortage of coffee and lunch locales around the Capitol, many state buildings are home to additional dining options. This post is part of a new weekly series of mini-reviews of some of those spots for downtown denizens looking to try something new.

The Spot: For this week's review, dining diva Torey Van Oot and Bee budget guru Kevin Yamamura took a stroll to the Department of Justice to meet Lynda Gledhill, spokeswoman for state Attorney General Kamala Harris at her building's in-house haunt: The Side Bar Cafe (1300 I street). New diners take note: the ordering process at the Side Bar is "backwards" compared to many of the other restaurants we've reviewed. Head to the cash register first to place your order, then go pick up your food and drink at the grill counter.

The grub: The centerpiece of the Side Bar is the grill, which serves up made-to-order hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches and specials. Twists on the standard fare include a grilled cheese and pastrami sandwich and a Western bacon BBQ cheeseburger (diners with a big appetite order a "double" for about a dollar extra). There were several specials, including two soups, advertised on a white board, though the "sweetish meatballs" had apparently already sold out by the time we arrived at noon (specials for the week are posted online). Other options included pizza warming in a box reminiscent of the high school cafeteria and a modest salad bar. The breakfast menu (served until from 6:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.) included a special egg and steak burrito. Food is served until 4 p.m. on weekdays.

cheeseburger.JPG On our plates: Torey had the daily special's chicken focaccia sandwich with a side of fries ($6.69). Kevin picked the Beef Burgundy lunch special ($6.19), which came with egg noodles, broccoli and a "freshly toasted" dinner roll, and a side of chicken and rice soup. Lynda stuck with the cheeseburger ($3.99), which also came with fries.

The bill: The total for the three meals and drinks was $22.62. While the cheeseburger was cheap, the other plates cost more than $6 a piece. Kevin noted that drinks no longer come with the lunch special -- perhaps a victim of budget cuts?

chicken.JPG The good: The focaccia sandwich had a good amount of flavor, thanks in part to the sauce and buttery, toasted bread. The cheeseburger was nothing special (and could have used a toasted bun), but was pretty good for the price. "Better than McDonald's," since it actually tasted fresh. There was no line and the service was quick, with all three plates coming up within a matter of minutes. We'll have to head back sometime for the Mexican food, which is apparently Side Bar's specialty.

beef.JPG The bad: Kevin's plate of beef and noodles "wasn't particularly palatable." In fact, he said the best part of his meal was the fries he ate off his dining companions' plates. While the fries were well seasoned, they would have benefited from some extra crunch. We didn't need an afternoon caffeine fix just yet, but word is the coffee leaves much to be desired among morning customers.

The grade: 2.5 out of 5 sporks.

Have you been to Side Bar Cafe? Share your experiences in the comments field below.

You can also check out our earlier reviews of the Gold Rush Grille, Cafe 744 and the soon-to-be-shuttered Dave's Deli.

Jon Ortiz and Torey Van Oot are taking suggestions for state building restaurants to try.Send your picks to capitolalertcontests@gmail.com and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.

PHOTOS: From top to bottom: Side Bar cafe's dining area; cheeseburger with fries; chicken sandwich; Beef Burgundy. Torey Van Oot, Sacramento Bee.


November 11, 2011
The Dish: Dave's Deli at the EDD building

salisbury.JPGWhile there's no shortage of coffee and lunch locales around the Capitol, many state buildings are home to additional dining options. This post is part of a new weekly series of mini-reviews of some of those spots for downtown denizens looking to try something new.

By Dan Smith

The spot: We took the challenge from a SacBee.com commenter and headed to Dave's Deli, AKA the Employment Development Department Cafeteria on the fourth floor of the building at 800 Capitol Mall, just a three-minute walk from the Capitol steps. Entry is a little more difficult than some state buildings -- you have to show ID, sign in with the guard in the lobby and be willing to wear a green "cafe/credit union" sticker during your visit. My lunch partners, loyal state employees and more-than-respectable cooks Fred and Guido, nonetheless pushed on. They were fascinated by the series of Montgomery Wards-era skinny escalators that carried us upward. Turned out the journey back in time was only beginning.

The grub: For lunch, Dave's features two daily specials and a relatively limited list of burgers, hot dogs, deli sandwiches, soups and melts. Salads and some sandwiches are pre-packaged. A tuna melt can be had for $4.59 and the daily special this Wednesday -- Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, corn and a roll -- was $5.29. Deli sandwiches are available for less than 5 bucks. Dave's is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., for breakfast and lunch.

hamandcheese.JPGOn our plates: Guido went with the cheeseburger-fries-drink special ($4.69), I tried a grilled ham and cheese ($3.25) and a small lentil soup ($1.99). Fred, the adventurous one, went all in on the Salisbury steak special.

The bill: The tab for three lunches and drinks came to $17.79. One of many handmade signs along the food line said that drinks were no longer included with the daily special.

The good: Fred noted that the mashed potatoes actually included some potato chunks, the Salisbury sauce had "an OK amount of mushrooms (and) it's not overly salty, which is good." There are plenty of seats at long rectangular tables, in case you wanted to go with a big group. The dining area includes an outdoor balcony on two sides.

The bad: The ham and cheese was salty. We each had two spoonfuls of the lentil soup and declared it inedible mush. Though Fred had the most positive assessment, in the end he rated the Salisbury steak special as "nothing special." Guido said his cheeseburger was "pretty damn bland" and the fries crispy through and through, with no flavorful innards. "I had better food in my high school cafeteria," he muttered. It was a fitting close to our visit. Everything about Dave's Deli is old school -- old building, old dank cafeteria facility, old menu.

The grade: 1 out of 5 sporks.fredguido.JPG

Have you been to Dave's Deli? Share your experiences in the comments field below.

You can also check out our earlier reviews of the Gold Rush Grille and Cafe 744.

Jon Ortiz and Torey Van Oot are taking suggestions for state building restaurants to try.

Send your picks to capitolalertcontests@gmail.com and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.

PHOTO CREDITS: From top to bottom at Dave's Deli at the EDD building:
• The Salisbury steak special.
• The ham and cheese and lentil soup.
• Guido, left, explains to Fred what makes an acceptable french fry.
Photos by Dan Smith, Bee Capitol Bureau.

November 4, 2011
The Dish: Gold Rush Grille at the Secretary of State building

IMG_0837.jpg While there's no shortage of coffee and lunch locales around the Capitol, many state buildings are home to additional dining options. This post is part of a new weekly series of mini-reviews of some of those spots for downtown denizens looking to try something new.

By Torey Van Oot and Jon Ortiz

The spot: Stop two on our mission to dine our way through Sacramento's state buildings was Gold Rush Grille on the second floor of the Secretary of State Building. Situated at the corner of 11th and O streets, this one is a quick jaunt from the Capitol. Don't be deterred by the security guard manning the first floor entrance -- all you need to do is show an ID and hit the staircase to the left to get to the grille.

The grub: Gold Rush Grille is a good spot for grilled sandwiches, wraps and other hot plates. Sample fare includes the grilled ham and cheese ($5.49) or a crispy Buffalo chicken wrap with a "blue cheese drizzle" ($6.29). Specials at the grill follow a daily theme, such as "In the Mood Mondays" and "Comfort Food Wednesdays." Lunch is dished up from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Like Cafe 744, the Gold Rush Grille also serves breakfast from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. The full menu is posted here.

IMG_0838.jpgOn our plates: Jon had a made-to-order BBQ beef sandwich with cheese and a "mountain" of fries. Torey grabbed a pre-made turkey wrap with bacon, avocado, onion, lettuce and cream cheese and a mixed greens salad. Our lunch guest chowed down on the tortellini pasta special with meatballs and a side of garlic bread.

The bill: The total tab for all three diners came to $15.30, not bad for the amount of food on our plates.

The good: French fries don't get much better than this. Crunch on the outside, tender on the inside. Makes our mouths water just thinking about it.... The grilled sourdough bread for Jon's sandwich was buttery and browned to perfection. The combination of made-to-order grill items and daily specials presents plenty of options for diners looking for something besides your typical turkey sandwich. The location is super convenient. We ate at one of several tables on an outside balcony overlooking the building's courtyard, but the large, wrap-around windows inside let in lots of natural light, giving the dining area an atrium-like feel.

Thumbnail image for IMG_0840.jpgThe bad: Besides the fries and sandwich bread, Gold Rush didn't exactly strike gold with the rest of our food. Jon's beef was rubbery and the BBQ sauce was bland. The wrap was also lacking in flavor and a bit mushy thanks to the cream cheese. Our guest reported that his pasta dish was just like his mom used to make. He wouldn't say whether that was good or bad. We'll take it as leaning towards the latter.

The grade: 2.5 out of 5 sporks.

Have you been to Gold Rush Grille? Share your experiences in the comments field below. You can also check out our earlier review of Cafe 744 at this link.

Jon Ortiz and Torey Van Oot are taking suggestions for state building restaurants to try. Send your picks to capitolalertcontests@gmail.com and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.

PHOTO CREDITS: From top to bottom: Pasta special, turkey wrap and BBQ beef sandwich from Gold Rush Grille. Photos by Torey Van Oot, Bee Capitol Bureau.

October 28, 2011
The Dish: Café 744 at California Department of Social Services

IMG_0743.jpgWhile there's no shortage of coffee and lunch locales around the Capitol, many state buildings are home to additional dining options. This post launches a new weekly series of mini-reviews of some of those spots for downtown denizens looking to try something new.

First up in our new Capitol Alert/State Worker blog series of state building restaurant reviews is Café 744, located on the first floor of the Department of Social Services building.

The spot: As the name suggests, the exact address of this venue is 744 P St., a brisk, nine-minute walk from the intersection of 10th and L streets. While it's a bit off the beaten path for those used to sticking close to the Capitol for lunch, the selection and outdoor seating were worth the trek. It's open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., except on state and federal holidays.

The grub: Cafe 744 is a good spot to go for an array of sandwich and grilled panini options. The panini selection includes several Capitol-themed options, like the "Assembly" (fillet of chicken breast, Cajun sauce and pepper jack cheese) and the "Senate" (turkey, Swiss cheese, tomato and grilled onions). The grill also features daily specials, like fish and chips for $5.49 ("served with cole slaw and a smile" on the day we dined). Picky eaters can opt for build-your-own burgers and sandwiches, which start at $3.79 and $4.49 respectively. Pre-made sandwiches and salads are available for those in a rush, and there's a salad bar for diners seeking healthier fare (though some of the options, such as bacon crumbles, could torpedo a diet-friendly lunch rather quickly). The breakfast menu includes pancakes, omelets, breakfast burritos and other morning eats, all under $5.

IMG_0744.jpg On our plates: My guest and I split two sandwiches and a cup of chili. My pick was the "Capitol" panini, a generous stack of grilled roast beef oozing with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, Monterey Jack cheese, tomatoes and onions on sourdough. My dining companion had the "Turkeycado," featuring turkey, avocado, lettuce, onion and tomatoes on a French roll.

The bill: The total for two sandwiches, a cup of chili and drinks came to $15.18. You can grab a grilled cheese for as low as $2.99 (fries are $1 extra for all sandwiches and burgers). The most expensive item on the menu is $4.99.

The good: In the mood for dining al fresco without Ambrosia's crowds? Cafe 744 features a spacious patio for diners looking to spend their lunch break getting some fresh air. The prices are hard to beat, especially compared to forking over $8 or more for a sandwich at any number of nearby restaurants. Bacon makes a cameo in several of the sandwich and burger combos and can be added to the build-your-own sandwiches at no cost (always a plus in our book).

The bad: The wait for our sandwiches seemed long, even though there wasn't much of a line the day we visited. The walk can be tough if you're in a rush, so we suggest heading here on a day you have time to enjoy a stroll and some sun.

The grade: 4 out of 5 Sporks

Have you been to Café 744? Share your experiences in the comments field below. Jon Ortiz and Torey Van Oot are taking suggestions for state-run restaurants to try. Send your picks to capitolalertcontests@gmail.com and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.

PHOTO CREDITS: The outdoor seating at Café 744 (top right) and cross-sections of the sandwiches ordered by Torey Van Oot and her dining companion. Photos by Torey Van Oot, Bee Capitol Bureau.



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Capitol Alert Staff


Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. achance@sacbee.com. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. ccadelago@sacbee.com. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. lrosenhall@sacbee.com. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. dwalters@sacbee.com. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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