By Steph Rodriguez
A single ear of corn can contain up to 400 kernels, so it’s no wonder this versatile and seasonally delicious food is used in a variety of tasty dishes that run the gamut of flavor profiles from savory, spicy and sometimes even sweet. In the farm-to-fork capital, corn is celebrated in many local restaurants and pop-up food vendors in myriad forms, especially during the vegetable’s peak harvest month in October. In this Sacramento guide to the best corn dishes in the region corn takes on many forms like a delicious tamale made from corn-based masa, it’s stuffed in quesadillas, it’s enjoyed on the cob, and also eaten by the bowl in hearty corn chowders found just across the street from the state capital. Choose from one of five different restaurants and eateries to enjoy this seasonal and star vegetable during its peak season.
Chicory Coffee & Tea
1131 11th St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Known as the go-to lunch spot near the city’s capital building, Chicory Coffee & Tea serves fresh, roast-to-order coffee drinks and also has a reputation for the best soups in town. During the work week, Chicory’s regular customers consume anywhere from 18 to 20 gallons of soup per day. The cozy coffee shop lists six to eight soup choices daily ready to serve by 11 a.m. and known to sell out by 1 p.m. Soup varieties include the savory Southwestern roasted corn chowder with blackened peppers and beans, a corn and lobster bisque, a corn a roasted red bell pepper chowder, and a corn and pablano pepper queso soup. There’s also fresh-cut green salads topped with black beans, roasted corn, plump shrimp and ripe avocado slices, and the sandwiches are served on soft-baked bread. During the cooler temperatures of the upcoming fall and winter seasons, order a bowl of corn chowder from Chicory to stay and take a seat in the eatery’s comfy lounge area complete with crackling fireplace and large, cushioned chairs.
Midtown’s Cantina Alley
2320 Jazz Alley
Sacramento, CA 95816
This was the summer of elote, Mexican-style street corn on the cob, in Sacramento. From street vendors slinging the savory, spicy and sweet food on Sundays near Southside Park to the new Mexican restaurants that opened in Midtown that offer the popular street food, elote is a trend that’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Midtown’s Cantina Alley had its grand opening during Cinco de Mayo and one of the restaurant’s top-selling items is its elote, which is roasted corn on the cob, rolled in mayonnaise, sprinkled with cotija cheese, and Mexican spices for $4. It’s typically served with fresh lime wedges and its custom to squeeze some lime juice over the entire elote to add some acidity and depth of flavor in eat bite. Midtown’s Cantina Alley also makes hundreds of fresh corn tortillas from scratch used as the perfect vessel for the variety of tacos the cantina serves that includes its Baja fish taco, al pastor taco and crispy potato taco.
Purple Pig Eats
1107 Firehouse Alley
Sacramento, CA 95814
Purple Pig Eats is a pop-up food vendor that serves up what co-owners Aaron and Allison Anderson coin as “California soul food.” The husband and wife culinary team usually lure customers to their booth with the scents of smoked and barbecued meats billowing from their purple booth located at the Oak Park Farmers’ Markets on select Saturdays during the summer to fall seasons. Some popular menu items include the char-roasted tri-tip tostadas and tacos. Both choices are stuffed with nice portions of meat, topped with Pig Pen Secret Sauce, house-made California slaw, Purple Jar BBQ Sauce and homemade pickles. Purple Pig Eats also makes delicious cornbread pudding and if you catch the Andersons in the morning, they just might have their corn and pine nut flap jacks on the menu served with . and also if they’re at an event during the morning hours, the Anderson’s are bound to have their fresh corn and pine nut flapjacks topped with seasonal berries and drizzled with a vanilla-corncob nage syrup. Keep up on all the upcoming Purple Pig Eats’ pop-up opportunities by following them on Facebook.
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Follow on Instagram at @Yotamles
Yolanda Yanez is the founder of Yolanda’s Tamales, a pop-up tamale booth that participates in just about every farmers’ market, specialty event and even made its morning television debut recently on FOX 40 to promote its Mexican cuisine. Tamales are made with corn-based dough called masa that is spread onto a corn husk then stuffed with marinated chicken, pork, or cheese and veggies, then rolled and folded before it’s steamed until the dough is thoroughly cooked. The Mesoamerican dish is made during special occasions as it is labor intensive, but tamales are made among family members during birthdays, Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays by the dozens. Tamales are either enjoyed plain, or, better yet, topped with a variety of red or green salsas, sour cream and guacamole.
5063 24th St.
Sacramento, CA 95822
Lalo’s Restaurant is a quaint, family style eatery located in the Hollywood Park neighborhood. Lalo’s is known to have a packed house in the morning during the breakfast rush hour, but the wait is well worth it to taste an assortment of authentic Mexican dishes. Besides piping hot enchiladas served with rice and beans, tamales, nachos, and taco platters, Lalo’s is also known for a variety of dishes that feature savory corn. One popular menu item in particular is the quesadilla de huitlacoche, a flour tortilla stuffed with black beans, roasted corn, plenty of cheese and topped with shredded lettuce, sour cream and cotija cheese.
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