1217 21st Street – Sacramento, Calif.
Words & Photos by Adam Saake
Kupro is Esperantan for copper. If you’re like me, you’re asking yourself, “What the hell is Esperanto?” Esperanto, a language all its own, was developed in the late 1800s as a way to create a middle ground for the people of planet Earth to speak with one another. But it never caught on, and now only a small percentage of people in the world care enough to learn it. Kupros Bistro, a wonderful new gastro-pub located in Midtown, will hopefully not suffer the same fate. If we could draw a comparison, although, it would be that Esperanto is apparently very easy to learn as Kupros’s menu is very easy to love.
What was once a popular costume shop by the name of Cheap Thrills is now a completely remodeled two-story destination for food and libations. Playing off the traditional English pub, Kupros offers a comfort food menu with a touch of finesse. Move over, fish and chips; step aside, bangers and mash–ciao, linguine and clams, bon jour duck confit Rueben.
On my late afternoon visit, the lunch crowd had dispersed and I had the second-story patio all to myself. Inside, a multitude of tables all set and ready to go loomed like a ghost soiree waiting to be possessed. “Banquets,” said my server. Hopefully, because the amount of seating available seemed a little ambitious for what is essentially a pub. Outside, the patio overlooked the busy motorcade that is 21st Street, and umbrellas lined the banister, shading diners from the lingering summer rays and the wind-disturbed pollen and tree debris. Downstairs had booth seating and the U-shaped bar looked very inviting if you like getting friendly with the bartenders. Their draft beer selection had some keepers, including a Belgian-style saison from Lost Abbey and an English-style cider from Fox Barrel. And intentional or not, there was a humorous coupling of Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale and Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch.
For the appetizer, I tried the fried pickles ($5) with a house tartar sauce. It’s of note to mention that all Kupros sauces are house-made, all the way down to the ketchup. Four lightly battered and fried wedges of tangy dill pickles are served modestly in a cocktail glass with a napkin back to absorb the excess oil. The tartar is pretty standard, but this dish doesn’t need to reach for the stars; it’s meant as a salty treat to go smashingly with a frosty pint. This isn’t a dish you grow tired of quickly and this is in part to the batter. It isn’t layered on so thick that you have a hard time finding the pickle.
It’s important to order the burger from time to time, because so many places do it differently. You never know when you’re going to stumble upon a truly great rendition of an American classic. As far as Sacramento goes, Kupros’s natural Angus burger with beer cheese, house relish and “drive-thru” dressing ($13) ranks up there in my top three. Aside from a great patty of beef cooked right and a fresh bun, the beer cheese turns this burger from good to great. This fondue-like concoction is a combination of cheddar cheese, lager beer and shallots, which is then smothered over the patty to make for coagulated goodness. Add some grilled onions and you’re dynamite.
I’m a salty and sweet kind of guy, and although dessert at lunch is a little overkill, I just couldn‘t resist. Amongst other interesting treats, Kupros does a vanilla bean panna cotta with chocolate cookies ($8) that have a frosting center (essentially a beefed-up Oreo) made by one of the Kupros pastry chefs, Jodie Chavious. Panna cotta is a traditional Italian custard usually made with cream, milk, sugar and gelatin and the flavors vary from caramel to blackberry. Chef John Gurnee throws a little buttermilk in there to give it a nice tang. This desert is uncomplicated, rich and fun to look at too. Indulge.
The dinner menu has some items not available during the day, including a delicious potted rabbit that I tried on a previous visit that was literally served in a latch-top pot. The kitchen stops serving at 10 p.m., so get your orders in before the night sneaks up on you. Also, Kupros is closed on Mondays and the kitchen takes a little break from 2—3 p.m. so plan accordingly.