KingMidget's Ramblings

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One of Those Meals


After work today, I stopped by a relatively new brewery in town.  Saying “relatively new brewery” about Sacramento really means this — I picked one out of the twenty or so that seem to have opened in the last year or two.  Seriously, they are cropping up everywhere around town.  You can’t walk a block or two without running into a new brewery.  I’m not complaining, but it’s somewhat amazing.

Most of these new breweries just brew beer.  They don’t serve food of their own, but many of them have developed a relationship with food trucks so that there are always food trucks parked outside to feed hungry beer drinkers.

I went to one of the few that serves its own food.  The Oak Park Brewery.  So, a little bit about this place for those not familiar with Sacramento.  Oak Park is a neighborhood that about 60 or 70 years ago was one of the prime new suburbs of Sacramento.  A desirable place to live.  Then, it regressed a bit and became one of the worst neighborhoods around.  Which, of course, explains why I went to both high school and law school in Oak Park.  OK.  It doesn’t explain it, but still, I marvel at my connection this neighborhood that has been scuffing along for so many years.

There have been efforts over the last 10-20 years to improve the area.  Kevin Johnson, formerly of the NBA and formerly of the high school I went to, returned to town towards the end of his NBA career and undertook efforts to improve Oak Park, where he grew up.  One of those efforts involved revitalizing a short strip of Broadway, as it runs through Oak Park.  He renovated a couple of buildings and a book store and a barber shop and a coffee shop and another business or two moved in and, for the most part, they have remained and thrived there.  Those businesses have helped bring others in.

Which leads us to Oak Park Brewery … about a block down the street from Johnson’s first real Oak Park development, it’s a thriving little establishment.  At least on a Friday evening in July.  Inside and outside seating.  Packed the entire time I was there.  A huge beer selection.  And a fascinating menu … not the usual pub grub.

When I go out for dinner I’m torn between having something that is safe, that I am comfortable with, and breaking out of that comfort zone and trying something new.  OPB offered me choices in both categories.  A piece of me wanted to just have a salad with chicken and be done with it.  Or the burger.  And be done with it.  I was this close to the southwest caesar with chicken when I saw the dish I ordered.  Cajun Shrimp and Grits.

So, let me back up and tell you something.  As far as I know, I have never had grits, but it’s one of those things I see on cooking shows every once in awhile that I think I need to try.  And this dish was advertised as including a spicy tomato sauce.  So, yeah, cajun shrimp, spice tomato sauce, and grits.  I’m there.

I started with the OPB brewed Pale Ale.  Then, I moved on to the OPB brewed Porter.  Then I had a sample of their Grapefruit double IPA — sad to say that the high alcohol content overpowered any hint of grapefruit.  And I finished the evening with the OPB brewed ESB.  And for a few minutes I worked on a story.  And I had a house salad.

And then the cajun shrimp and grits arrived.  I dove in.  No, seriously, I did, you could bathe me in this stuff and I don’t think I would mind.  After a few minutes, one of the bartenders asked me how I was doing.  I just looked at her, gave her a thumbs up and said, “this is incredible.”  The spice was of the kind that brings sweat to your forehead.  The grits were creamy and soothing.  The shrimp … well, they were good, but there needed to be a few more of them.  But, let me go back to the spice of this dish.  Far too many restaurants describe dishes as spicy and they simply aren’t, but OPB’s cajun shrimp and grits were the real deal.  I told the bartender that I may come back every night just for that dish.  It was just … so … incredible.

Time for me to teach myself the art of making grits, top them with a layer of onions, peppers and tomato sauce, and just enjoy.

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20 responses to “One of Those Meals

  1. atkokosplace July 17, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    Oh my! Now I want to create this dish. Sounds amazing! Never would have thought to pair it with grits but hey, why not? I don’t drink, however I’d go to this place just to try that shrimp and grits! Have a great weekend! 🙂

  2. Ike Jakson July 18, 2015 at 4:40 am

    Kingmidget

    I didn’t know that you would find grits so far out West and north, but it may be from Cajun influence.

    Southeast [GA way,KY,TN and quite a few more] you won’t have any meal without grits and gravy. Nobody would serve you grits without gravy.

    I ate my first travel meals at the Unilocal 76 Truck Stop restaurants and gradually upgraded to Cracker-Barrel for breakfasts. They have all the right smells in a CB.

    IkeJ

    • kingmidget July 18, 2015 at 6:51 am

      Grits are one of those trendy things in cooking these days. I see them on quite a few menus around town. I’ve just never ordered them before. It was delectable — the grits and the spice of the sauce.

  3. Trent Lewin July 18, 2015 at 4:55 am

    I’ll have to look this up, but I don’t actually know what grits are. The dish sounds wonderful, though, and even though it’s breakfast time around here, I’d totally go for that.

    I have an accountant in the family, he works for one of the big ones and did a merger with a brewery a while ago, a relatively small one. He says none of them ever make any money unless they get really big. But I can see why people would want to open such places anyway.

    • Ike Jakson July 18, 2015 at 6:44 am

      Trent,

      In Dixie they serve grits with breakfast, lunch and evening dinner. In parts of Georgia and Tennessee they add boiled okra to it and you cover that with the gravy too.

      IkeJ

      • Trent Lewin July 18, 2015 at 6:48 am

        I just looked up grits… looks like oatmeal made out of corn. Very very strange but I totally want to try it. I love okra by the way, so that only makes it sound more delicious.

      • kingmidget July 18, 2015 at 6:56 am

        I think you describe it accurately, but as with most things it is likely all about the preparation. The grits I had last night were much smoother than oatmeal — almost like a very creamy polenta, which, by the way, polenta and grits are very similar.

      • Trent Lewin July 18, 2015 at 11:02 am

        We don’t really have grits up here at all. I like polenta though, but it’s also not common.

      • Ike Jakson July 18, 2015 at 6:55 am

        Trent,

        True Dixie grits are taters [potatoes] served a thousand different ways except not as mashed potatoes. It’s often chopped up, sometimes grated, then baked or fried, AND THEN THE GRAVY.

        IkeJ

      • kingmidget July 18, 2015 at 6:55 am

        I’ll skip the boiled okra. 😉

    • kingmidget July 18, 2015 at 6:55 am

      They must be making enough money to survive. These breweries have become a big thing in the Sacramento area. It feels like a new one opens up every month and the beer scene has become the trendiest thing in town now. I think the key is that they all have their breweries where they serve beer but every single one of them also have a beer or two on tap at quite a few of the local restaurants. So, they don’t need to get huge but they need distribution that goes beyond their own site. Maybe about 20 years ago, there was an initial craft beer “explosion” in Sacramento — but it was all brewpubs — restaurants that made their own beer. Most of those have gone away. The new ones are almost all focused on just making beer.

  4. Carrie Rubin July 18, 2015 at 6:29 am

    I’ve never had grits either, but now I’ll be on the lookout for them. But I’ll go easy on the spices. I’m not much for food that makes me sweat. Such a wimp I am.

  5. sknicholls July 18, 2015 at 6:56 am

    I was raised on grits. Let me say this right now. Make them yourself. Quick boil grits are desirable, but never ever eat those little packaged instant grits. You will swear off grits forever. They are grainy, not soft and creamy like grits should be.

    Boil the water first, add salt. SLOWLY add the grits while stirring vigorously. Stir constantly. They will lump if not well stirred.

  6. Kevin Brennan July 18, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Just looked up OPB on Street View. Very cool-looking old building!

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