An Evening at Empress Tavern
by The SacFoodies
Beneath the historic Crest Theater in downtown Sacramento’s K Street district lies a haven for carnivores, wine connoisseurs and cocktail geeks with some of the best atmosphere in the area. We’re talking, of course, about Empress Tavern.
Empress Tavern opened its doors in September 2015 and has been catering to those looking for a stellar beverage program, along with high quality and excellently prepared meats and local produce. Ironically, this meat-centric eatery comes courtesy of Chef Michael Thiemann, who also owns Mother, a local favorite known for meatless takes on classic southern comfort food. But where Mother lacks in the meat department, Empress delivers with dishes like Cote de Beouf, rotisserie chicken, prime rib and French onion bone marrow. Chef Thiemann’s appreciation for seasonal produce also makes a strong impression on the menu.
We were given a surprise tour of Empress Tavern when we last took in K Street and have been dying to sink our teeth into the menu ever since.
The evening began with cocktails, wine and some incredibly soft and buttery dinner rolls. We ordered a number of items from the menu to get as wide a variety of offerings as possible.
Here’s what we ate.
Pimento Cheese Crudité
This was the prefect snack to start the meal. You can’t go wrong with fresh, seasonal veggies in a pimento cheese dipping sauce. The beet pistachio soil added a lot of flavor and color to this take on crudité.
Smoked Salmon Dip
This was the perfect combo of the classic smoked salmon flavor and cheesy goodness. Take it from our author Harrison who’s “not the biggest fan of salmon” and was “a little bit skeptical of this dish.” He agreed his skepticism was unwarranted because this dip was seriously good!
Living Butter Lettuce Salad
This salad was so fresh and colorful – a great reminder that we have some fabulous produce in season during the fall! This salad is a do-not-miss item on the menu that highlights all the flavor and textures you could want – crunchy, tangy, sweet, creamy and salty. It’s a feast for the eyes and the palate.
Smoked Trout Fritters
These smoked trout fitters were perfectly cooked to a crisp golden brown. The tender smoky trout played well with the lemon aioli and bed of slightly bitter frisee. If you’re a fan of smoked fish, you’re going to want to order two servings. Trust us.
Baltimore Crab Cake
We loved the crab cakes. They were rich and delicious, but not at all greasy as some can be. And served with butter, garlic and lemon! What else could you want?
These aren’t your average potato wedges! Dressed with chives and drizzled with a smoked cheddar aioli, Empress Tavern’s potato wedges put fast food French Fries to shame.
The fritter itself was delicious, with an absolute perfect texture. But what took it over the top was the saffron aioli. The garlic of the sauce was the perfect complement to the fritters.
These latkes had such a great mixtures of flavors and textures. Definitely worth fighting for when divvying up leftovers. And trust us, there were plenty of leftovers.
If you are a scallop lover, you must try this. The chef sears the scallops to perfection and finishes the dish with a silky celery root puree, making this dish a great choice to warm your belly on a crisp fall evening. A+!
A few of us had never had delicata before, but after trying this colorful holiday dish, we just had to know what it was. Our waitress was quick to teach us all we needed to know about this squash and even brought out a whole one to show the table.
We know what you’re thinking – carrots aren’t exactly an exciting item to order at a nice restaurant. But don’t be fooled – these baby carrots had over-the-top flavor, dressed with a mustard seed crème fraiche and accompanied by caraway bread crumbs.
Honey Hot Fried Chicken
Empress Tavern’s signature dish did not disappoint, the massive family-style plate of chicken was one of the highlights of the evening. The sweet honey was a nice twist on traditional fried chicken, but it wasn’t without a strong spicy kick. We were happy to take a few pieces home with us.
Who doesn’t love desert?! The pumpkin cake had layer after layer of moist cake and a salted caramel sauce that gave it the ultimate sweet and salty combo!
Lemon Meringue Pie
What a treat — both in flavor and experience. This lemon meringue pie is topped with meringue dollops and torched to perfection right at your table!
After what seemed like hours of perfectly designed plates adorning our table, we were quite satisfied as a group. It was an evening filled with great conversation, laughter and, as you can see, incredible food.
Empress Tavern has gone above and beyond in creating a chic, modern atmosphere to welcome their guests. We hope that you can experience Empress Tavern soon…let us know what you think!