Nibble Your Way Around Sacramento: Start at the Waterboy By Ashlee Cuneo, General Manager & Sommelier of Miraflores Winery
There is a small neighborhood restaurant on Capitol Avenue in the heart of Midtown, Sacramento. It has been operating for 21 years and beloved by locals and visitors alike. The restaurant is named The Waterboy and it is a culinary landmark of California’s Capitol City.
Chef Rick Mahan, owner and executive chef of the restaurant which opened in November of 1996, had a vision since first starting in the restaurant industry at age 16. He wanted a heavy focus on a local, “farm to fork” menu, which Sacramento is now widely known for. He has obtained this by having an approachable, casual, yet upscale atmosphere and only the finest, local seasonal ingredients on hand.
Chef Adam Schulze is the Chef de Cuisine of this iconic establishment and has been there since 2003. He was part of the Paragary’s group in Sacramento and wanted to head in a more intimate, family-oriented direction; the Waterboy was the perfect fit. I had the absolute pleasure of dining at the restaurant on a Wednesday in September and Adam and Rick made it such a wonderful experience. The atmosphere is airy with huge windows allowing light to spill into the space. The feeling is vibrant and casual upscale rolled into one.
My best friend and I started off with a couple of cocktails. He ordered a gin and soda and I ordered the 76 Linens, one of their specialty cocktails made with cucumber vodka and Prosecco. We started off with the Ceviche and the Tomato Salad for appetizers. Incredible. The Ceviche was made with a combination of scallops and gulf shrimp lightly cured in fresh, zesty lime juice and tossed with cilantro, tomato, and avocado. The Tomato Salad was not only pleasing to the eye but loaded with flavor. It had tanginess from the pickled onion, saltiness from the house made breadcrumbs, richness from the layer of Tonnato (Italian tuna mayonnaise) sauce on the bottom of the plate, all mingling with the fresh flavors of the beautiful late summer tomatoes and cucumbers.
In between appetizers and dinner, Chef Adam sent out a Rabbit Ravioli for each of us to try, which was a special that evening. Earthy and rich, swimming in a savory broth topped with crispy slices of prosciutto, it was nothing short of scrumptious.
Almost too full for dinner by this point, we took a break and enjoyed another drink. I had ordered a Kir Royale and my friend ordered another gin and soda. Then our dinners came out: Seared Scallops over house made Rosemary pasta for me and Sonoma Liberty Duck for my friend. I asked the server if they could use the Prosecco Butter Sauce from another fish special they were having that evening to put over my scallops. The dishes came out and the scallops were perfectly seared on the outside and tender on the inside. The sauce lightly coated the dish beautifully. The highlight, however, was the pasta. Oh, the pasta! So fresh and so full of flavor from the rosemary, it was unbelievable. My friend’s duck was also cooked perfectly.
For dessert, Chef Adam chose three of his favorite desserts for us to share: the Cheesecake with Roasted Figs, Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut Meringue, and the Affogato (warm espresso poured over house made vanilla ice cream). The chocolate cake was very European in style, not too sweet, with crispy layers of hazelnut meringue in between layers. The cheesecake was rich with luscious thick figs, and the affogato was my personal favorite with deep espresso flavors accompanied by a just-soft-enough biscotti.
Wonderful food. Wonderful chefs. Wonderful experience. Do yourself a favor and head over to the Waterboy for your next special occasion, or even just to celebrate a Wednesday night.