Nine years ago, Kimio Bazett and UC Davis classmate Jon Modrow opened The Golden Bear, an American restaurant and bar at 24th and K streets in Sacramento. The location came with a beer and wine license, so the two took what they had and ran with it. The partnership obtained a full liquor license and spent a whole bunch of money installing a commercial kitchen and turning the former music venue into a midtown favorite.
“We learned a lot with that startup, says Bazett. “It took awhile for us to recover from our up-front investment, but we did. And so we were looking for something else to make money at, hopefully without a huge amount of upfront expenses.”
The opportunity presented itself in the form of Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co., their new endeavor located in the erstwhile Hangar 17 eatery, which, unlike Golden Bear, offered an almost turnkey opening.
“We wanted to find an opportunity that was easier to make money at quickly. At Golden Bear we went through an extensive remodel. The money we had to borrow to comply and open the place really made our monthly overhead a monster to deal with for several years.
“With this place,” he continues, “it was just the opposite. A commercial-grade kitchen was in place. We dealt with a wonderful broker (Daniel Mueller, Turton Commercial Real Estate), and our landlord (Brad Jenkins) has been more than accommodating.
And this time around, the two arent strapped with an overbearing overhead. Still, Bazett says the place had been vacant for about five months and was more or less in shambles.
“While there was an incredible kitchen in place, work needed to be done. We wanted to brand the place as ours in the front of the house, change the look and feel,” Bazett says.
To accomplish this rebranding, they hired interior design duo Tina Ross and Whitney Jensen. The twosome ran with the idea of Sacramentos historic Mutual Hook and Ladder Co., Californias first fire company. Formed in 1850, the organization played a vital role in fighting the Sacramento fire of 1852, when nearly 85 percent of the city burned to the ground. A lesson learned, most of the burg was then rebuilt with brick and mortar rather than the previously preferred wood.
“We’re trying to capture a little bit of the city’s history, and specifically the Mutual Hook and Ladder Co., with our decor,” Bazett says. “But at the same time, we want to present the best of the regions bountiful harvest today.
Executive Chef Brian Mizner describes the menu as leaning toward California-Mediterranean. Although born in New Orleans, Mizner has spent most of his formative years in the Capital Region. He started his epicurean career as a dishwasher at a Sizzlers franchise and was shortly thereafter taken in by a strong Italian family at Papa Giannis Ristorante in Cameron Park. There, he learned to make fresh pasta and hearty, family-style Italian food. His cooking experience was broadened with stints at Masque in El Dorado Hills, Hot Italian and the former L Wine Lounge & Urban Kitchen.
“Today, Sacramento cuisine is all about fresh vegetables, fruits, seafood, poultry and meats,” Mizner says. “It’s a great time to be a chef here. It’s a great time to be a diner.”
He says much of what is seasonally served at Hook & Ladder is picked within hours of being served. Seafood arrives daily from San Francisco.
“While I have a heavy Italian influence, we offer a hodge podge of everything from the valley. The produce dictates the menu much more than my background,” he says.
The regional offerings blend well with the semi-casual, upscale environment Bazett and his interior design team were striving for.
“It’s an industrial feel that is a little smooth around the edges,” Bazett says.
And while the old Hangar 17 room-length, curved bar is still in place, don’t think of Hook & Ladder as your go-to sports bar. “We don’t want to be known as a sports bar,” Bazett says. “If it’s something special, like the Giants in the World Series or the 49ers on Sunday or Monday night, we’ll put it on, otherwise we want to be known as a nice, comfortable, neighborhood destination.”
Six months ago, Kevin O’Connor hit a wall. He had a good job in a good kitchen, but his body was exhausted and his passion was gone. So, at 24, he decided to step down as the chef of the now-shuttered Blackbird Kitchen & Bar and dig for a new plan.
The past two years have been remarkably unpredictable for long-time Sacramento chef Jacob Carriker.