Things change fast in the craft beer world. The industry trends from five years ago are already outdated, which is evident with the new East Sacramento eatery The Other Side by Track 7 Brewing Company. The classic industrial vibe of the first two Track 7 locations has been replaced by bright, warm colors and a sprawling layout. Instead of food trucks outside, a massive rotisserie oven dominates the interior. Rather than fermented grains, that’s roasted chicken that you smell. Children aren’t just tolerated, they’re accommodated.
The Other Side, which opened in July, marks a serious step forward in the maturity of the Capital Region beer scene.
“We feel like the beer drinkers in our area, they are expecting more,” says Jeanna Graham, co-owner of Track 7, which opened its original Curtis Park brewery and tasting room on New Year’s Eve in 2011 and debuted a larger production space in Natomas in 2015. “People are looking for something more than just food trucks at this point.”
With The Other Side, Track 7 becomes the first craft brewery in the area to open three separate outlets, although Device plans to open a third tasting room in the Pocket neighborhood of Sacramento later this year. With Track 7 already established as one of the top craft breweries in the area, there was pressure for its newest enterprise to be worthy of the brand. “We knew we had to come out of the gate swinging,” Jeanna says.
Of course, Track 7 is hardly alone in trying to combine fresh beer with upscale but approachable cuisine. Loomis Basin opened LBB Gastropub & Smokehouse in August 2016, and since then we have seen new brewery/restaurant hybrids from Bike Dog (in conjunction with Selland’s), Urban Roots, Out of Bounds, Burgers and Brewhouse and Alaro, while a Placer County-based eatery from New Glory is in the works. Local breweries are reviving and updating a brewpub business model that was considered musty and old-fashioned only a few years back.
While new California craft breweries spent the last decade embracing the low overhead of industrial park tasting rooms with no kitchen, the brewpub never went away in the nearby craft beer haven of Oregon. “I find it very odd that for a long time, Sacramento was against the restaurant aspect but in Oregon, the brewpub model was always preferable,” says Ben Rice, host of the beer-centric Barley and Me podcast. Rice believes this rapid expansion shows the strength of the local beer market. “People feel confident that they can expand and not go out of business.”
For The Other Side, former Grange Restaurant and Bar executive chef Oliver Ridgeway sketched out the basic concept along with Track 7 co-owner and brewmaster Ryan Graham. Ridgeway recruited Noah Mansfield, who previously worked at Mother, Empress Tavern and Hook & Ladder, to take over as the head chef once the restaurant opened, and together they developed the recipes and created the opening day menu.
“Oliver is one of the most knowledgeable individuals I’ve ever met in the industry, and it was a completely open collaboration,” Mansfield says. “It’s not always easy to execute simple comfort food that pairs well with beer, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job in capturing that vibe.” For his part, Ridgeway is already working on his next project, a spit-roasted meat-centered establishment on Capitol Mall called Camden Spit & Larder.
The buzz for The Other Side started well before its soft open this summer, peaking when the fledgling gastropub created a macaroni and cheese dish that bested six other brewery and restaurant teams to win the opening night event of Sacramento Beer Week in May. Made with Hatch chilies, garlic crumbs and Panic IPA beer cheese, the outrageously decadent and delicious dish has already made it onto the menu. “Some days it’s spicier than others, depending on the Hatch chilies,” Jeanna says. Other appetizers include a sausage plate sourced from nearby butcher shop V. Miller Meats.
But no matter how tasty the sides and desserts, the gargantuan rotisserie oven is the centerpiece of the restaurant. Mansfield worked with a rotisserie oven during his stint at Empress Tavern, and he loves the juicy and flavorful results that it achieves. “It’s something that really transforms a basic roast chicken,” he says. “I’m excited to continue that with other items and specials — duck, lamb, different cuts of beef, tuna — the possibilities are endless.”
Beyond the food and beer, The Other Side sports a soft and warm interior design somewhat at odds with the brewery’s original railroad-inspired theme. “We have the industrial feel at both locations, and it’s definitely a masculine environment, and I wanted something that was a little warmer and more inviting to families,” Jeanna says. The restaurant feels bright, clean and spacious, while a prominently placed stack of booster seats sends a welcoming message to people with children.
East Sacramentans like Andy Galloway-Long, a local craft beer supporter since moving to the area in 2009 (not to mention a former Comstock’s employee), have readily embraced the upscale comfort food, excellent beer and family-friendly atmosphere at The Other Side. Galloway-Long frequented The Other Side around a dozen times in its first month-and-a-half of business, usually stopping by for a beer and a pickle plate on the way home from his Light Rail stop.
“I don’t know that there’s a saturation point for this kind of thing in Sacramento, I think there’s a lot of room for models like this going forward,” he says. “I think that making it somewhat family-friendly without necessarily having Legos spilled all over the floor is important.”
After coming out of the gate strong, The Other Side has continued to evolve. A restaurant-only Pilsner meant to pair well with food was introduced in late August, and brunch service began in the first week of September, with a sweet-and-savory menu that included house-made cinnamon rolls and a breakfast burger. Mansfield plans to update the menu with the seasons and continue to add vegetarian options like the rotisserie-roasted cauliflower and the new vegan burger.
“I have a warm place in my heart for vegetarian cooking,” Mansfield says. “Sacramento has some of the best produce in the country, and I want to do my best to highlight that as the seasons change.”
As any craft beer-lover will tell you, the seasons change a lot faster than you think.