Considering the size of the city of Sacramento, there are a lot of really great restaurants to visit - must be that lobbyist/politician thing. There's a Morton's Steakhouse, Joe's Crab Shack down by the river, the Firehouse in Old Town and the Old Spaghetti Factory by the Convention Center. But for the past 8 years or so, our Region has made a tradition (habit) of having a Thursday night dinner at Sacramento's oldest restaurant, Frank Fat's.
Frank Fat was one of Sacramento's early pioneers, an immigrant from Canton, China. Starting as a dishwasher but rising rapidly in the areas social and business structure, Frank established a small eatery in 1939 just a couple blocks from the state capitol. It soon became known as California's 'Third House', where Senators, lobbyists, governors and the rich and powerful gathered to draft legislation and work out deals. It is rumored that a good many state bills were originally authored on Frank Fat's napkins and even today your dinner companions are likely to be a who's who of our state hoody-hoos.
Because there's usually 40+ of us, we claim the upstairs banquet. That frosted round window you see up there offers a peek at the large screen TV over the bar so aficionados can keep up with the game (last week it was the Lakers/Celtics first game that distracted us). The food is fabulous - from Honey-Walnut Prawns, to Frank's NY Steak, Ginger Chicken and Peking Duck. Here's the topper. Frank's is famous for their desert and no meal is complete without a slice of their heavenly....Banana Cream Pie! I know - what kind of Chinese food is that? First time diners always think we're pulling their leg when we talk about the pie but man is it good. Chunky with bananas, flaky crust, a meringue that melts in your breath. Fortunately a couple of our ladies are light eaters so I generally end up with a couple slices and even though I can barely make it back home, it's worth every calorie.
Over the years one of the Fat family has always been a fixture at the restaurant. First it was the indomitable Frank himself, then his son Wing and later son Weyland. Even today, when they own and operate 1/2 dozen restaurants in the area, you are likely to be greeted by grandson Kevin and served by a great grandson or nephew. While there's much to see and do in Sacramento, don't leave without rubbing elbows with the pols at Frank Fat's and enjoy a slice of banana cream pie for me.
Another family owned treasure in Sacramento is Sandra Dee's Bar-B-Que & Seafood Restaurant. Also just a short walk from the capitol down 15th, you start to smell the hickory smoke wafting from Sandra Dee's when you're still a couple blocks away. Sandra will tell you she comes from a cooking family and learned the art from her grandma at an early age, contributing to the family food festivals and learning how to put a little love in every meal. Today the restaurant is owned by Sandra and her husband Jeff, their two sons and two daughters and usually a niece or nephew and the cousin in the corner playing the piano non-stop. You just know you've come to BBQ heaven when you set foot inside here.
So next time you're in Sacramento, there's a lot of fine places to eat but make sure you make a little time for the classics - the original Frank Fat's and a little down-home country eatin' at Sandra Dee's. Tell 'em Gino sent ya. It won't do you any good but next time I stop by it might get me a little sumpin' sumpin'.