(Last UPDATED 1/23/2023) Empress Tavern 2.0 recently reopened under new ownership after closing due to the lack of business in Downtown Sacramento due to the COVID-19 pandemic. NEW: See Update below.
Description and review of dinner at the Empress Tavern during Sacramento Dine Downtown Week. Empress Tavern is located on K Street underneath the Crest Theater.
A friend invited me to join her and another friend to celebrate her birthday at the Empress Tavern during the annual 10-day Sacramento Dine Downtown Week. It was her first visit to the Empress Tavern and she was excited to try it out after reading my previous blog post and seeing pictures of the interior of the restaurant.
We had reservations, and upon entering the restaurant we were seated immediately in a roomy booth. All three of us decided to take advantage of the Empress Tavern Dine Downtown menu. We also ordered a bottle of wine to share. After asking a few questions of our server he helpfully recommended a French red blend (Domaine Juliette Avril) ($65). We followed his recommendation, and were happy we did despite the cost.
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Dine Downtown Menu
The Empress Tavern Dine Downtown fixed menu this year consisted of:
- 1st Course – Butter Lettuce Salad (radish, cucumber, beet, Green Goddess dressing)
- 2nd Course – Grilled Pork Porterhouse (butternut squash, mustard jus, black olive tapenade) or Meyer Lemon and Herbed Ricotta Ravioli (squash puree, kale, walnut pesto)
- 3rd Course – Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich
Two of us ordered the Grilled Pork Porterhouse and the birthday girl ordered the Meyer Lemon and Herbed Ricotta Ravioli.
After we had ordered we were served three warm Parker house rolls topped with sea salt – an unexpected added bonus!
The Butter Lettuce Salad was tasty and it whetted our appetites. I like beets so I noticed that there were none in the salad, but it was not a big deal.
The Grilled Pork Porterhouse was very tender and tasty, with the black olive tapenade adding a lot to the flavor profile of the dish. The dish included a puree of butternut squash and mixed greens. Note: The Empress Tavern Grilled Pork Porterhouse appears on the regular menu for $31.
The Meyer Lemon and Herbed Ricotta Ravioli looked great, but when my friend dug in she was disappointed to find that the dish was cold and the ravioli half-cooked. After we encouraged her to do so, she reluctantly brought the matter to the attention of our server. After expressing his regret, our server returned the dish to the kitchen and it was not long before he reappeared and served her with a dish of freshly cooked ravioli which she enjoyed.
The Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich was the highlight of the meal. The fresh homemade cookies were delicious as was the ice cream – and the combination of the two was a real taste treat.
We had finished the bottle of wine and decided to order an additional glass to finish the evening as none of us were driving.
End of the Evening Disappointment
When we asked about the wine served by the glass our server rapidly recited a list of the various wines served by the glass and made a specific recommendation. I had a hard time hearing what he was saying so I asked to see the wine list – a request that was apparently taken as an insult.
The service went noticeably downhill from there. Among other things, we had to wave down another employee to request a container for our leftovers, and our server pointedly did not acknowledge us as we departed.
We left a very good tip as the service was excellent for the majority of the evening, but the unprofessional behavior of our server did put a bit of a damper on our enjoyment of the evening.
I am in no hurry to return to the Empress Tavern anytime soon – no reason to given the large number of excellent restaurants in Sacramento to choose from.
(1/23/2023) A reinvented Empress Tavern has reopened under new ownership. New ownership, new menu, more casual. For additional details click on the “Empress Tavern” blog post above.
(UPDATED 8/17/2020) Empress Tavern has indefinitely closed due to the lack of business in Downtown Sacramento as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Sacramento Bee the restaurant plans to reopen when conditions improve.
(UPDATED 1/9/2020) Empress Tavern has started to serve lunch again (effective 1/8/2020) due to the closure of its sister restaurant, Mother. According to a “Dear Sacramento” letter on the Mother website, Express Tavern will also start serving some of the favorite menu items from Mother i.e. the mushroom po boy and the farro salad.
Comments on the Empress Tavern?
What has been your experience at the Empress Tavern?
Empress Tavern Snapshot (as of 1/23/2023):
- 1013 K Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
- (916) 476-3356
- Days/Hours: Thursday – Saturday (4:00 – 10:00 p.m.) plus on nights when the Crest Theatre has a show.
- Parking: Limited street parking and nearby public garages
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