A longtime Sacramento area restaurant chain is taking its first shot at a downtown location in a spot – and it’s taking a shot at a location that has seen several businesses fail recently.
Strings Restaurant Group is focusing on quick, affordable meals at its new restaurant – Strings Express – at 431 I St. near the Amtrak station, which will open the first week of February, according to Al DeCaprio, president of the organization.
The space has not seen its doors open for business since May, 2010. It was most recently home to the 5th and H Cafe, which was open for less than a year.
After 5th and H Cafe closed, there were plans to open a Depot Bikes & Cafe, but that business never opened.
“It’s off the beaten path,” Managing Partner Michael Gelber said. “But with a big name and some advertising, it will be successful.”
Gelber said he anticipates the restaurant drawing heavily on the downtown workforce and Amtrak passengers.
“It will not be full-service, but counter service, similar to Chipotle,” DeCaprio said. “It’s made-to-order from scratch, and the menu items with the longest cook times will be getting out in five minutes.”
“We want to get the lunch crowd, and we will have a lot of take-out options for people who want to grab something and get on the train or take it home to their families,” Gelber said.
Most menu items will be priced at less than $7, and the salad, soup and bread that traditionally come with the meals in a full-service Strings restaurant will now be á la carte.
“You can do a combo where you get a soda and salad or cheesy garlic bread for $2, or you can get the trifecta and get all three for $3,” Gelber said.
Menu items will include salads, cold sandwiches, grilled panini sandwiches and baked pasta dishes, DeCaprio said.
The first Strings restaurant opened near the intersection of Sunrise Boulevard and Coloma Road in Rancho Cordova in 1986. It was followed by another in Loehmann’s Plaza in Sacramento, DeCaprio said.
The restaurant now has 27 locations in northern California, and DeCaprio said he hopes to expand the smaller, faster idea at the corporate level, then look into franchising it if it proves successful.
Similar small-scale restaurants Strings dabbled in in shopping malls were too expensive to operate, but DeCaprio said locations like the upcoming one at Fifth and I streets will work.
“The challenge will be getting the public to buy into a quick-service Italian concept,” he said. “They’re used to burgers and Mexican food, and we believe they will buy into it once they see it is all fresh products.”
Gelber said the curb parking will be changed to a short-term loading zone so customers can park up front, place their orders and go.
Seating will be available both inside and outside on the patio, and Gelber said that at some point down the line, live music might be offered.
For now, however, the focus is on lunch and take-out, as well as catering.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Lesla Lehtonen, who commutes via Amtrak to Sacramento from Berkeley three times a week. She added that she can see herself stopping at the restaurant.
Hours for the new restaurant will be 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. It will not be open on weekends. For more information, visit the restaurant's Facebook page, where more information will come as it gets closer to opening.
Image one: Strings Express location at 431 I St. Image two: Al DeCaprio. Image three: Spinach and pepperoni baked pasta dish – one of the items to be offered at the restaurant.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.