October 15, 2007
Second Saturday's Culinary Arts

IMGP1886_edited.jpg Sacramento's Second Saturday art walk is a great way to get introduced to the city's robust visual and performing arts community, or it would be if only the culinary arts wouldn't keep butting in. As we strolled on and about J Street this weekend we got diverted from one gallery after another by...

- The crowd at the new Chicago Fire Pizza, 2416 J St., between 24th and 25th streets. Unfortunately, all we could do is stand on the sidewalk out front and peer through the windows at the celebrants having fun inside. It was a private party to mark the completion of the restaurant on the eve of its opening to the public. That's to be tomorrow, according to a cardboard sign taped to the front door. That sign looked to be the only cheap thing about the place. The structure has been so handsomely and affectionately restored it's bound to be in line to win some design awards, to judge by what we could see from the outside.

We also liked the looks of the menu and the wine list posted inside a cherrywood box on the brick front of the building. The food runs mostly to thin-crust, deep-dish and stuffed pizzas, but there's also several salads and appetizers, including "Greek fries" prepared with garlic, oregano, olive oil and Parmesan. Desserts include a chocolate-chip pizza, while the wine list runs to high-value regional releases such as the Bogle Winery petite sirah, Oakstone Winery's Slug Gulch Red, and Boeger Winery's barbera.

The overall feel early on was that Eric and Tami Schnetz are going to have another hit on their hands, following up on their original and popular Chicago Fire Pizza in Folsom. The Sacramento branch will be open daily starting at 4 p.m., continuing to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; (916) 443-0440.

- The cute black-and-white cat on the counter of Miss Kitty's, a new coffeehouse on the north end of what has been the restaurant Head Hunters Video Lounge & Grill, 20th and K. The rest of the place still is Head Hunters, but owner Terry Sidie has turned over operation of the restaurant - he's still running the bar - to Frank Smith and Bill Waters, who also have added Miss Kitty's, says general manager Melody Allmond. Head Hunters has a new menu and new hours, the former still contemporary American fare in tone but featuring more fresh dishes. The new hours include lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and a brunch buffet 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays.

Miss Kitty's, meanwhile, features a bracing cup of Fogcutter coffee, hefty muffins baked on the premises, and Miss Kitty. She's not a real cat, but curled on the counter she sure fools visitors as her sides expand and contract and her fur ripples, thanks to battery-powered lungs. Miss Kitty 2.0 no doubt also will purr.

- The fabulous stonework of the large dining room at Azukar Cocina & Lounge, 1616 J St., the former site of Twisted 88s, a dueling piano bar that went away earlier this year. Azukar has been taking shape as restaurant and nightclub ever since, and now is drawing huge dance crowds late at night, a scattering of diners earlier in the evening. The theme is Latin, so I wasn't stunned that Christian the bartender could mix a fine paloma with a fine tequila (Espolon) without first having to be told how to make the drink, the usual custom hereabouts. Azukar is known more now for its mariachi music and salsa dancing, but that could change if its chiles rellenos, arrachera and carnitas are prepared with the same care and substance that went into the nachos with which we savored our drinks.

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