2014 has seen the birth of several stellar new cocktail bars. The opening of these new bars is yet more proof that we take our cocktails seriously in this town. Places come and places go but it’s great to see places hit the ground running. When it comes to operating successful restaurants and bars, people often say you either get it or you don’t and the following owners get it, without question. As a community, we can never have too many quality establishments to frequent on a regular basis. It only makes things more exciting when these new bars are opened up by folks who own and operate other local favorites. The perfect examples can be found on this list below being represented by the owners of Lowbrau, Ket Mo Ree, Powerhouse Pub and The Shady Lady Saloon. In addition, you’ll find a new kid on the block that oozes hospitality.
Block Butcher Bar
1050 20th St.
Sacramento, CA 95840
Block Butcher Bar added a touch of class to the grid in February of 2014: a full bar and upscale sandwich eatery with an amazing charcuterie. Finally a there’s a place specializing in craft cocktails and cured and smoked meats along with fine artisan cheeses. Also worth mentioning is an impressive list of single malt scotches and whiskies at Block. A modest wine list and nice handful of ports and sherries round things off well. There is also a cocktail list comprised of libations containing some amazing premium alcohols. Stop in to Block and grab a seat, a one-of-a-kind cocktail, chat with a knowledgeable server or bartender and relax with some of your neighbors. Block brings an upscale feel minus the pretentious attitude to the area which is always going to be a hit. Much like the other bar in the family (Lowbrau), the environment is very welcoming.
Field House American Sports Pub
1310 Fulton Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95825
In March of 2014, the fine gents at Shady Lady hit another home run with Field House American Sports Pub. This bar has taken pub fare up a notch with items like Vietnamese wings and the pepperoni chicken sandwich. Field House also has a carefully selected 14 taps which seemingly cover the most desired craft beer stylings. The bar offers everything the public has come to expect from a sports pub with the added sincere respect for its guests. The craft cocktail list leaves little to be desired using fresh, creative ingredients to bring vibrant and delicious adult beverages to life. Locals could not be happier to welcome this place to the neighborhood.
University of Beer
1510 16th St., Suite 300
Sacramento, CA 95814
So, UOB doesn’t serve alcohol, therefore technically it is not a cocktail bar. But in all sincerity, it really deserves a spot on this list. Here’s what this spot brings to the table, in no particular order. UOB has 100 taps of assorted beers and ciders. Not only is the beer list extensive, but it’s anything but pedestrian. You won’t find Stella Artois or Sierra Nevada on tap here, these guys are a tad more adventurous than that. Next, happy hour goes from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and offers specials almost every day of the week. Add to all of this the fact it has NFL Sunday Ticket and we have the ingredients for the perfect love story. These guys opened their doors in August of 2014, joining the Davis location which opened in 2013.
Aji Japanese Bistro
4361 Town Center Blvd.
El Dorado Hills, CA 95672
It’s a fact that life goes beyond the downtown grid. As a matter of fact, if you get in your car and drive just over 20 minutes, you’ll find Aji Japanese Bistro in the suburbs of El Dorado Hills. It is so rare these days to find a place run by someone who breathes hospitality and tries their best to build relationships with their guests. Careful thought has been put every aspect at Aji. With one of the best raw bars to be had for miles and a scratch cocktail philosophy, the people of El Dorado Hills have been hiding a gem that some of us are only now getting familiar with. Happy hour is every day from 3 to 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. to close which includes all of Aji’s “street food” and ramen. In the words of owner/operator Nick Dedier, “We really are just trying to feature a minimalist bar. Showing you can do really amazing things with a selection of four or five vodkas, gins, rums and tequilas as long as you have quality booze, fresh ingredients and great people. Our whiskey selection revolves around affordability and creativity. We aren’t seeking out the great single batches that cost $20-$40 a shot… anyone can do that. Instead we focus on the 10 different whiskeys that make a killer old fashioned for $8.” This place is truly a gift to the dining community and if you’ve ever tried to find a place of any quality to eat past 8 p.m. in the burbs, you likely had little luck before Aji came into the picture. Although opening late in 2013, this place really shined in 2014 and deserves mention on this list.
As a hospitality professional Andy Soto has worked every facet of the industry. He currently leads the team at Spectrum Restaurant Consulting. He started writing a hospitality blog in 2009 and restaurant writing for Sacramento Press in 2010. In 2011 Andy became a Sacramento Restaurant Examiner for Examiner.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.