The 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 CafÃ©, 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.
The 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 entrÃ©e 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.
On 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 CafÃ©? Share your experiences in the comments field below. And check out our recent reviews of Gold Rush Grille, Side Bar CafÃ©, 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 email@example.com and check back every Friday for a weekly write up.