After spending most of the morning down the street at the California Train Museum, we’ve decided we’re going to grab lunch and hang out in the famous old town area of Sacramento people now refer to simply as, “Old Sac”. It’s like stepping back in time to an old frontier town of the 1800’s.
Long before Sacramento became the State capital of California, this was just a small trade settlement a few miles south. In 1839, it started off as an agricultural and trade colony, created from an old 48,000 acre Spanish land grant, known as Rancho Neuvo Helvetia, deeded to John Sutter. His son, John Sutter, Jr., later went on to establish the city of Sacramento, which took it’s name from the mighty Sacramento River.
The Sutters were Swiss immigrants and so the colony’s original name, Nuevo (new) Helvetia, literally means New Switzerland. Subsequently, Sutter helped to finance the construction of Sutter’s Fort to better protect the fledgling community. We suspect the options for restaurants were nowhere near as good as they are today.
Between all the shops and restaurants lining both sides of the street, we would normally have been hard pressed to make a decision. But we were told by my father-in-law, that when in Old Sac we had to get a burger and fries in Fanny Ann’s Saloon. We always do what we’re told when it comes to recommended dining!
The history of Fanny’s is an unexpected surprise. It seems the saloon was salvaged from the remnants of a riverboat by the same name, which sank after a devastating fire. Now Fanny’s Saloon, they’ve tried to recreate the flavor and fun of their more rollicking days on the river.
Squeezed between La Terraza Cantina and Capital Inks, a tattoo parlor, the multi-storied saloon looks inviting and even has an old cannon mounted above the portico, suggesting their popularity may have required them to defend themselves from the hoards of famished frontiersmen and prospector charging them from the street.
Inside you immediately see the tourist draw of the place. It’s fun, smells like an old saloon and has more memorabilia hanging from the ceiling than most antique dealers can claim in their entire shop.
And there is no subtlety implied here about the quality of their food. As advertised, their hamburger and fries are indeed big, juicy and delicious! Just be prepared to wait 45 minutes or so to get your order because you’re not the only one waiting to sample their “great eats!”.
After fortifying ourselves with a late lunch, we wander across the street to the waterfront, looking for the equally famous Delta King Riverboat, a beautifully restored 285-foot-long paddle wheel steamboat. The Delta King is the sister ship to the Delta Queen, both christened in 1927, used for ferrying passengers on 10-hour long trips along the Sacramento River between Sacramento and San Francisco California.
At the time, they were the most lavishly appointed and expensive stern-wheel passenger boats ever commissioned. They are richly appointed in hardwoods and leather upholstery everywhere.
You can stay aboard, eat in their two restaurants, or at the their bar and if you didn’t look out the window, you would hardly realize you were aboard a riverboat.
It’s beautiful along the river here, even in December. You should plan on wearing a sweater, or coat, as evening falls however. The night air has quite a nip to it – but we can hardly complain. The temperature won’t fall much below 50 degrees and during the day it’s been in the low 70’s.
Still, it is December and the Christmas decorations are still up until after New Years. We’ll be returning here for dinner at the elegant Esquire Grill in a couple days and to watch the fireworks on New Year’s Eve. That should be spectacular!