Wednesday, July 8, 2009

the Tower Cafe

Tower Café:

1518 Broadway


Sun-Thurs: 8am - 11pm

(desserts and drinks from 10pm-11pm)

Fri- Sat 8am - 12am

(desserts and drinks from 11pm-12am)

The Tower Café is a local treasure, something to keep in ones pocket when friends ask what to do in the city. Between the consistently tasty food to the titillating décor to the rare and head turning garden, the Tower café has no equal within one hundred miles. As soon as we get close Roberta starts to make note of the garden, like an emerald mirage floating in heat waves and concrete. There is always something to have piqued her attention anew – a particularly full Acer, yet another gigantic cerulean pot, more topiary junipers… We marvel at the lushness of this little oasis and the genius that has gone into it.

The Tower Café, opened in 1990, is named after the Tower Drugs store that once occupied the space that the cafe took over. The Tower franchise of the Solomon family: Tower Books, Tower Records, etc., was born from this same Tower Drugs store. The Tower café and the adjacent theater are both memorial to and singular survivors of the Tower legacy. The theater was built during a moment of the uninhibited and curvaceous lines of Art Deco - making it the oldest theater still functioning in Sacramento, né 1938. Today the Tower theater plays independent flicks and it was there that I first saw and fell in love with Amélie. At ten o’clock pm when the movie finished, the café was still open for coffee and dessert - the décor of the café offering an appropriate follow up to the fantasy of a movie.

There is not a corner of the Tower Cafe that is not host to a gaggle of competing sculptures. the devotees of innumerable creeds, cast in concrete and wood, pray and genuflect amid ficus trees, orchids and busts of Frida Kahlo. The ceiling is hung with lanterns and streamers, wall hangings, tapestries and vases with four foot sprays of gladiolas - a cavern of chlorophyl stalagmites and woven stalactites. The motif is undeniably South American with a twist of the indiscriminate antiquarian. There is an air of the English study brimming with stolen goods and appropriated culture – it’s rich, decadent. The idea is for the cafe to be “Sacramento’s own little global village”. The cuisine is also a mélange of tender appropriation and imagination: Mexican hot chocolate in a four-inch saucer, “Eggs Tower” - a version of the classic Benedict, the “Greek” breakfast, Chile Relleno, Chinese chicken or Brazilian Chicken salads.

Naturally Roberta and I sit outside whenever possible, even if it means asking for a heat lamp to be turned on in the early morning. The patio, or garden area, is brick. The tables totter in the middle of this patio, surrounded by a dense planting that shields the patrons from the road. A fence of Italian Cypress towering thirty feet high, Acers (Japanese Maples), Thujas, Elephant Ear, Yucca, tree ferns and a giant Cedar comprise the verdant wall, all of which is belted by a delicate metal fence covered in Morning Glories. Sitting amid this hand forged jungle it is easy to forget that one is practically swimming upstream a Sacramento thoroughfare at the corner of Broadway and sixteenth street. The Tower café is a magical urban grotto of lush indulgence, local history and sumptuous food. Take comfort in their ambience that transcends, as if by magic, the harsh seasons.

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