Gourmet seafood restaurant coming to downtown Sacramento

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Two historical downtown buildings are being refurbished, and they will soon house Blackbird Kitchen & Bar, a seafood restaurant that owner Carina Lampkin said will serve “gourmet food at hipster prices” and is expected to open in December.

The approximately 3,500-square-foot building was formerly two separate buildings, 1013 and 1015 Ninth St., and both date back to the 1930s.

“Blackbird is a compilation of all of my experience so far,” said the 30-year-old Lampkin. “I grew up on the East Coast and spent every summer in Maine. In 2003, I moved to San Francisco and went to culinary school.”

After spending almost a decade cooking at restaurants in San Francisco, Lampkin made the move to Sacramento and partnered with Rachel Kelley, a 27-year-old pastry chef who spent the past four years working at Ella, and Shayne “7evin” Iles, a graphic designer, marketer and DJ who will be the general manager.

While Lampkin isn’t sharing too many details of what the menu will hold, she said the restaurant will feature a variety of fish, including salmon, cod, halibut and mahi-mahi. She said she also loves working with dungeness crab and lobster.

Both Lampkin and Kelley will work in the kitchen, along with other local talent they have recruited.

Oysters – both raw and cooked – will also be on the menu, and non-seafood items such as steak, chicken and pork will be available.

“Our kitchen is basically the same size as our dining room,” Lampkin said. “We have a lot of space to make a lot of different types of food.”

Before Blackbird, the space housed a Thai restaurant.

When it comes to dessert creations, Kelley said she will be using fresh, seasonal ingredients, and her double-chocolate ice cream is one of her favorite dishes.

Prices have not been set, but Lampkin said she wants to provide excellent, affordable food.

“None of us is looking to get rich off of this,” she said. “We know times are hard, and if we break even on our high-cost items like fish, I’ll be happy.”

The owners said they are happy to be in historical buildings.

“The building on the left was Skagg’s Cash Store, the predecessor to Safeway,” 7evin said. “The other one, at 1015 (Ninth St.), was built by the Dean brothers in 1933, the same people who built Memorial Auditorium.”

Setting up in historical buildings at first seemed challenging, as the restaurateurs realized there were restrictions on what they could and could not demolish inside, but in the end, it turned out for the better, Lampkin said.

“When we’re done with the interior, it’s going to be amazing,” she said. “And we’re not three kids coming from the Bay Area with money – we’re doing a lot of the work ourselves. I never expected to be scraping paint, but that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Work on the interior is still under way, and the three partners said they are enjoying designing it but look forward to its completion.

“The great thing about (Lampkin, Kelley and 7evin) is that they have a vision, and yet even with their vision and artistic abilities, they are still willing to listen to the preservation department, and they have truly partnered to make that space pop,” said Valerie Mamone-Werder, business recruitment manager for the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.

She added that that section of the city is an important area for economic development, with nearby K Street readying to open to vehicular traffic.

“I think we’ve seen a lot of success from 12th (Street) to 10th Street, and this feels like a natural progression down the street and around the corner, and that’s very exciting,” she said.

For those looking for a preview of the food to come at Blackbird, the restaurant will be participating in a celebration for bringing cars back to K Street scheduled for 4 p.m. Nov. 12 at 12th and K streets.

“We’ll be out there with our fish tacos and a few other things,” Lampkin said.

Looking to do more with the space than simply serve food, Lampkin said a large cocktail selection will be available as well, and art will feature prominently in the space.

“I feel like Sacramento is a true artists’ community,” Lampkin said. “In San Francisco, rent is too expensive to really foster that community, but Sacramento’s arts community is amazing.”

7evin, who works in graphic design and marketing but is also a DJ, said the restaurant will not have any dance space, but DJs will be brought in to perform for the diners.

“It’s not going to just be people with two turntables and a mixer,” he said. “It’s people who are really performers, who are mixing live and really creating art.”

The most noticeable artwork displayed by the restaurant won’t actually be inside. The exterior space will feature a wall painting of 7evin’s graphic rendition of Lampkin’s idea to showcase a flock of blackbirds taking flight from a tree.

Lampkin said that when she woke up after being in a car accident in 2005, she heard the Beatles’ song “Blackbird,” and it stuck with her. Sadly, her close friend did not survive the collision, and Lampkin said she has since learned that many cultures believe the dead communicate with the living through blackbirds.

“I didn’t even know that until after I named the restaurant, but it’s really fitting,” she said.

Initially, the restaurant will be able to seat 50 people, and Lampkin said that after six months of being open, she plans to add another 25 seats.

Sean Kohmescher, owner of Temple Coffee, which has a location across the street, said he is happy to see Blackbird opening.

“I’ve met them quite a few times, and they seem like great people,” he said. “I’ve had their food, and the food was amazing. There’s been so many changes going on downtown, mostly in the last few years with places closing, it’s good to see places opening up.”

Blackbird Kitchen & Bar is located at 1015 Ninth St.

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.

  • The buildings aren’t historical, they’re historic. There’s a difference.

    • Brandon Darnell

      Thanks for the comment. However, “historical” is correct in this sense. Here is a link to the explanation from a free site, but the gist of it is that “historic” usually refers to an important event or occasion, and “historical” is a general adjective meaning something is from history.


    • William Burg

      Buildings are considered “historic” because of their association with important events or individuals, not just because they existed in the past. And that link even specifically mentions “historic houses” in its list of what should be “historic” rather than “historical”:

      ‘You’ve probably heard TV announcers refer to “historic treaties” or perhaps you’ve visited some “historic houses” or “historic battlefields.” All of these were important or famous things in history.’

    • bye bye Sacpress

      klenox just got pwned with a grammar challenge fail.

    • Brandon Darnell

      William, I was always taught that “historic” buildings are those historical buildings with special significance, such as the Great Pyramid, the Eiffel Tower, or locally Sutter’s Fort.

      In the section you quoted, that is how I read it. She mentions a treaty being historic, while later on, she mentions documents being historical. So I see it as Sutter’s Fort = historic, and my house (built in 1920) = historical. It seems more natural to say historic, so I did check it out before publishing, and the State Parks Department has a “Historical Building Code” (http://ohp.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=21410).

      Now, I might be placing less historical significance to those buildings, in which case I would defer to your better knowledge of the subject. And of course, it is entirely possible that I was taught wrong and am reading too much into something simple.

    • William Burg

      Brandon: “Historic” vs. “historical” is not a quantitative measure. A historical document is one that contains information about history–a manuscript or an article, for example. A historic document is one that is important due to its association with an event–the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence. So you could say that a building is historic because of historical documentation explaining its significance, but not the other way around (unless perhaps the document was written on the building–such as on a historical marker.)

      For various reasons, California regulations used the term “historical” to describe historic sites and buildings, and maintains that nomenclature primarily for consistency–perhaps because some California properties are listed for events that took place on a site rather than buildings or objects that remain on the site, and the program serves to document the history of the event rather than preserve a building.

      Historic buildings don’t need to be of the magnitude of Sutter’s Fort or the Eiffel Tower to be eligible; they can be significant to the local community and be just as eligible for historic building registers. The building discussed in the article is listed on the Sacramento Register of Historic and Cultural Resources, as an individual landmark building and as part of the Cesar Chavez Plaza Park Historic District, so the term “historic” definitely applies here.


      Your house might be historic too: have you checked the Sacramento Register above to see if it is a contributor to a local historic district? And if it’s not, it might be eligible for listing!

    • P W


  • Can’t we just wish them luck!!?? I’m incredibly proud of their effort and passion. Remember this. Right now when times are hard, pricing your menu to be affordable , while promising great food, is going to be an extreme help to your restaurant getting packed. I promise you this! I can’t wAit!!

    • William Burg

      I’ll reserve my judgment about the food and the prices until I try it…but I will try them out. And it’s nice to see the historic building tenanted and fixed up!

  • Blackbrids Resturant & Bar

    Im so glad to here that about this new up coming event for you and the downtown area for Sacreamento area I myself love seafood and did you say fish taco’s yessssss. Yum-Yum I cant wait to be either eatting there for Lunch or Dinner .
    Thank You
    Ms. Hope Angel Yepez-Silva

  • Who cares about the grammar? Good luck to anyone with the courage to open a business in this economy. Blackbird Restaurant & Bar is already proving itself in the Sacramento community. They were at Concert in the Park, Chalk It Up, and couple of Second Saturdays. The food and service has been consistently amazing. Good luck Blackbird Restaurant!!

  • “For those looking for a preview of the food to come at Blackbird, the restaurant will be participating in a celebration for bringing cars back to K Street scheduled for 4 p.m. Nov. 12 at 12th and K streets.”

    “We’ll be out there with our fish tacos and a few other things,” Lampkin said.

    I’ll make it a point to be there. Thanks for the heads up!


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