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(Note from the author- I found a lot to like this weekend, instead of doing 5 different "stuff I like pieces", I did 1 "Discovering Sacramento" piece. Among the places/things discussed here in- The Torch Club, Final Final Band, Michaelangelo's, Walmart bikes, Los Gallos, and The Old Spaghetti Factory. I hope you enjoy)
So, how was your weekend? Good? Got out and enjoyed the spring weather? Oh, you didn't get to? You were stuck in the office, finishing those TPS reports? I'm really sorry to hear that. Man, that is rough. Hey, let me just stop you there. To be honest with you, I was really just hoping to segue into a conversation about my weekend.
I had a fantastic weekend. It all started Friday afternoon with my discovery of the Clarion Hotel happy hour, although the joy of this discovery was later tempered by the fact that management is closing the restaurant and bar this week due to a lack of bookings at the hotel.
Now, I'm no economist, but this seems counterproductive to me. I’m pretty sure that closing the restaurant and bar isn't going to encourage new visitors to come, nor current visitors to return.
Oh well, I hope they return next week, healthy and happy, and ready to reap the benefits of my glowing review, or at the very least, my regular patronage.
After I left the Clarion, I met up with my girlfriend Jess for a surprisingly good meal at The Old Spaghetti Factory. It was nothing fancy, but we split a large, hearty platter of spaghetti and meat balls along with broccoli, salad, soup and a scoop of ice cream, an iced tea and a large hefeweisen for 25 bucks.
We were home by 10, she was sated, and I was pleasantly buzzed. In the immortal words of Frank the Tank, we had a big Saturday planned.
Have I mentioned that Jess's mom spent the weekend with us? ’Cause she did, and actually played an integral role in the weekends awesomeness.
I know this must come as a shock to those of you dread your in-laws, but I get along famously with Kim (at times, better than with her daughter). Besides, if she hadn't brought home leftover rack of lamb from her Friday-night dinner, I wouldn't have been able to make turkey bacon, spinach and rack of lamb hash the next morning, and then what would I have served with my three-cheese scrambled eggs and fresh avocado slices? Breakfast was amazing.
The ladies went off for some retail therapy and left me to watch some college basketball (I won a 3 team teaser!) and put together our dining table. Kim had brought up our nearly four-foot-tall "bar table," which we'd had to disassemble to get out of our old apartment.
Unfortunately, and totally predictably, the screws and bolts needed to reassemble said table did not make the trip up from the Bay. This is what I explained to the good people at Ace Hardware, to which I walked carrying a 40-inch-long solid wood table leg over my shoulder.
A young couple that saw me walking towards them in all my mohawked and bearded glory wielding this behemoth table leg suddenly remembered they wanted to be on the other side of the street. But I was able to get the correct screws, and we now have a dining table. Winner.
Maybe the highlight of my big Saturday was a trip to Wal-Mart. (We wanted to go to Bed, Bath and Beyond, but we didn't have time). Now, I admit to kind of liking Wal-Mart. It may be due to my redneck roots in southern Ohio, or possibly a highly acute sense of irony, I don't know. But this wasn't just any old trip to Wal-Mart.
We were on a mission – a mission from God. No, not really, but don't you just love the Blues Brothers?
We were on a mission to get new bikes. I haven't bought a bike in 15 years, and I was pretty excited (I used to *ahem* "borrow" bikes in college, but the last bike I bought was in high school).
As soon as I arrived in Sac, I knew it was time to end my personal bike drought. Midtown specifically, and Sacramento in general, seem to be very bike-friendly and, lord knows, I can use the exercise.
We headed to the bike section where there is a broad selection of bikes in the $100 range. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not going to invest the equivalent of 20 meals at the taco truck on a bike without first taking it for a spin.
So, this is how it came to pass that Jess, Kim and I were all biking around the aisles of Wal-Mart.
At one point we were chastised by an older lady who seemed to think this was dangerous behavior. And lets be honest – she was probably right. But until they put a test track in the bike section, I don't really see how this problem can be avoided.
There were several bikes I considered: I had to see how they handled in real-life biking conditions. I finally chose a sweet orange cruiser, and Jess took a blue one complete with basket. We brought them home and took a Saturday afternoon ride all the way to Taylor's in Land Park. I'm seriously considering buying a pack of baseball cards to put in the spokes, and you know I'm getting a bell.
Following the epic bike ride, we prepared for the evening’s festivities: dinner at Michelangelo’s and Final Final Band at The Torch Club. This was to be my second meal at the little bistro just a block from our apartment, and it was another rousing success.
It has one of the best Caesar salads I've ever had. Fresh and flavorful, heavy on the garlic and citrus with big sardine saltiness, it's fantastic. I also recommend the small plates. I like trying lots of different things, so this is perfect. Try the gnocci. It doesn't hurt that both times there, Sarah Jean waited on us.
Sarah Jean is a terrific server: friendly and attentive. She seems to enjoy her job, and it really shows. They're lucky to have her. We had been joined for dinner by Jess's aunt and uncle, Marika and Scott, and their friends Don and Wendy.
The seven of us finished dinner around 7:30 and walked the three blocks to the Torch Club. Final Final Band is an up-and-coming rock and roll band with all seven members living in Land Park."
They don't look like an up-and-coming band (imagine five high-school gym teachers joined by two lovely female singers), but they sound pretty darn good.
They play a broad range of covers (Ben Harper, complete with Ryan on beatbox, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Young M.C., with a guest rapper from the audience, Stevie Ray Vaughn, a great Otis Redding, an unfortunate Stone Temple Pilots, and more). They also had at least one original song.
They are a party band, and as such, an unmitigated success. The line was already starting to form when we arrived before 8 p.m., and by 10 p.m. the club was full to capacity with another 40 or so people waiting in line to get let in. I saw 4 girls get lifted in through an open window – this was a hot ticket!
And this was about as eclectic a crowd as I have ever seen at a show. The audience looked like a Benetton ad, if they had old people in their ads. The dance floor was packed and raucous, full of all different ages, races and sorts. I saw a few couples who looked to be in their 70s dancing right next a bunch of 20-somethings, intermingling with a bunch of middle-aged professional types, next to a couple of boozefighters and the motorcycle gang from "The Wild One." Can't we all just get along? If Final Final Band is playing, apparently so.
I left the club around 12:30, thoroughly enjoying my first Final Final Band experience, and the Torch Club as well. I gather that there is music almost nightly, the sound is good, the owner is friendly and the Pabst cans are $2.50. The booze is $7 for undersized tumblers and martini glasses, so if you're looking for value, stick to the beer.
Sunday was fairly uneventful, although I did bike all the way to Northgate in the hopes of getting some taco truck, only to find out that the trucks aren't out on Sundays. Most troubling, I was reminded once again how much I don't want to live in a world with no taco trucks. Thankfully, Los Gallos was open, and they will more than do in a pinch.
A very good pollo asado super burrito and a Jarritos mandarin later, I was feeling a lot better about things. I spent the evening in quiet reflection of the weekend that was, nursing what turned into a pretty solid hangover.
I suppose I could have done without those last couple cans of Pabst. If you are interested in joining the lovefest that is the audience at a Final Final Band show, the next one is at the Riverside Clubhouse April 24. Come one, come all – you'll fit in fine.