January 25, 2011
The Coral Reef restaurant was an icon, so share your memories

By Allen Pierleoni

We Sacramentans love to dine out, and our restaurant scene has never been bigger, better or more diverse. A newer generation of first-rate restaurants has helped put us on the California culinary map.

But long before there were Ella, Lemon Grass and Waterboy, to name just three of dozens, there was a previous generation of go-to restaurants whose names are largely lost in time. Iconic places in the day, such as Capitol Tamale, Stroh's Neptune Table, the Ram, Golden Tee, Ken's Red Barn, the Oaks, Robert's Seafood Grotto, Aldo's, Zombie Hut, Bedell's and the Palomino Room.

Among that lost generation, the restaurant that seems to resonate most in our readers' memories is the Coral Reef, formerly at 2795 Fulton Ave., a thoroughfare that for a time was Sacramento's "restaurant row" after World War II.

"By far the biggest demand from readers is for recipes from the Coral Reef, and of those the No. 1 request is for the salad dressing recipe," said Teri Watson. For 15 years she has compiled "The Mailbox" recipe-hunter column for The Bee's Food & Wine section.

From its opening in 1949 until its closing in 1994, the Coral Reef served "Cantonese and American dishes," though the decor leaned toward Polynesia, with an outrigger canoe, taxidermied fish, netting, ceramic tiki-statue masks, rattan chairs, bamboo trim, fish tanks and tropical plants.

On the back cover of the menu was a "mission statement" from Jack and Elwood Maleville, who founded the restaurant. In part, it read, "The Coral Reef interior is the product of several years of collecting to give you the most authentic atmosphere posible of a beachcomber's shack in Tahiti or Pago Pago."

There are many stories and fond memories surrounding the Coral Reef, and we invite you to share your favorites with other readers. How often did you dine there? Did you go with your family? Who was your favorite server? What was your favorite dish? The pineapple spareribs? The paper-wrapped chicken?

Please keep your Coral Reef memory to a maximum of 150 words.
If you email: Type "Coral Reef" into the subject field and send it to If you snail-mail: Coral Reef, c/o Food & Wine, Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA, 95852

In either case, please include your name, city of residence and daytime phone number. We'll publish your responses in an upcoming Food & Wine section.

Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni at (916) 321-1128.

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