SACRAMENTO: Gatsby's Diner

Editor's note: Gatsby's closed its doors as of March 16, 2014.

As a fan of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, I have long wanted to visit Gatsby’s Diner in Sacramento. This Christmas visit, I played the “Dad” card and insisted the family gather there for dinner. No one was disappointed.

We descended on Gatsby’s, which is fairly close to our kids’ homes, with three of our adult children and one grandchild in tow, and staff could not have been more welcoming. We’d made a reservation – which they recommend because of the popularity the show has brought the place – so they had a table and high chair ready.

My wife and I had been particularly fascinated by a couple of items prepared on the show: the beet sliders and the beef rouladen.

We ordered a side of sliders for the table and, although the others were initially wary of tasting what looked like “beet sandwiches,” everyone immediately understood why they are one of Gatsby’s signature dishes.

Beet sliders
Three ½-inch thick beet medallions are par-boiled in Gatsby's own pastrami seasoning, which gives the beets a flavor reminiscent of pastrami while preserving their vegetarian qualities. The slices are then grilled on flattops that used to be teppan yaki grills when the place was a Japanese steakhouse in a previous life, then served with shaved red onion and house-made Green Goddess dressing on toasted slider buns.

The restaurant’s web page says, “We love beets but those who don’t probably wouldn’t even know what they were eating if they ate with their mouths closed.” While I'm sure they meant "ate with their eyes closed," I could hardly have said it better myself.

After the appetizer, it was on to our main courses.

I had the German beef rouladen, which are rolls of thinly sliced beef, Dijon mustard, bacon, dill pickle and onion, served with savory gravy, German red cabbage and parsley potatoes. Being partly of German heritage, I’ve enjoyed rouladen since my childhood.

Beef rouladen
While Gatsby’s rouladen were very tasty, they should probably have been cooked a little longer, as they were still a bit tough. Rouladen originally evolved as a way to make cheaper cuts of meat edible by pounding them thin, then cooking for a long time to ensure tenderness. The potatoes could also have used some additional cooking time, as my wife and I agreed they were a bit underdone.

My wife, also of German heritage, opted for the pork schnitzel: a pork loin filet, breaded and fried, served with red cabbage and German potato salad, which is made without mayonnaise. While the schnitzel and cabbage were quite flavorful, the option of a warm potato side dish would have been welcome on a cold pre-Christmas evening.

One of the kids tucked into a huge burger, which he immediately pronounced delicious. Burgers, according to many of the reviews I've read elsewhere, are what Gatsby's is known for.

After dinner, we enjoyed a luscious, light crème brûlée flamed tableside, and a chocolate-peanut butter milkshake. The latter sounds heavy, even for chocolate and/or peanut butter lovers, but surprisingly, it wasn’t. It was very light and tasty.

Despite Gatsby’s decidedly casual “diner” atmosphere, service was helpful and attentive. As an extra, added attraction, the place had a good selection of beer and a pretty decent wine list, too. Coupled with its excellent selection of comfort food, Gatsby’s has everything you'll need for a successful evening out.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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