When I sit down at Juno’s for one of the best burgers of my life, Chef Helms starts by telling me he doesn’t want to be a namedropper. The fact that he mentored under legendary French Chef Jean Luc Chassereau of The Cookery and Reda Bellarbi Saleha of Aioli Bodga Espanola is not the point.
Today, it’s all about Juno’s, the restaurant named for the terrier-pit bull mix Helms and his wife love. Besides the sandwich shop’s namesake, it’s mostly about the bread.
Before opening Juno’s just a couple blocks from his home, Helms and his staff operated the highly successful Ravenous Cafe in the Pocket area of South Sacramento. But the urge to work closer to home and pursue his love for homemade bread drove him to a hole-in-the-wall space on J Street in East Sac. He set up an oven to bake in “turn-of-the-century” style; we’re talking late 1800s.
“It’s all about natural fermentation, with flour, water and salt. There is no commercial yeast,” Helms says. “And while it’s consistently good, every loaf every day is different, depending on the day’s temperature.”
The shop is open six days a week, however Helms bakes everyday because it takes 26 hours to make the 22,000 grams of bread Juno’s presents to customers during working hours. This effort is not going unnoticed. The Friday afternoon I was there, several couples were waiting out front for the establishment to reopen later that evening. (Shop hours are weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.).
“I like to think of us as a sandwich shop with four-star restaurant standards,” Helms says. “In addition to the best homemade bread this side of San Francisco, we also feature all as-close-to-local-as-possible sustainable produce and meats.”
A final recommendation: In addition to the burger, Helms creates a Bahn Mi grilled pork loin sandwich that’s to die for.