Do you like kickass margaritas and scrumptious food? What am I talking about, of course you do! Then I implore you, my friend, to read on...
Hey all! So here I am posting almost exactly more than THREE weeks after my last blog post (yes I procrastinated even more after writing this…so much more). Thing is, I knew exactly what I wanted to post about almost exactly more than three weeks ago, but then the weather got stupid gorgeous, I got stupid lazy, and the Libra in me came out, with Lazy Monkey and Productive Monkey battling it out, the scales swinging between “I’m gonna write that post tonight” and “It’s so nice out, let’s ride to the art store and do something crafty for the bathroom wall” (Lazy Monkey 1 | Productive Monkey 0).
And after that first big art store win, Lazy Monkey became mad with power and somehow convinced Productive Monkey that she needed to conduct some additional “research” before making with the pretty words, which led to several forays to the place in question, causing considerable damage to my pocket book, as well as my liver, I’m sure.
But enough complainin’ and ‘splainin’, let’s get down to the business at hand:
“My name is Midtown Monkey, and I’m a Tres Hermanas-aholic.”
Many Sacramento locals are now solemnly nodding their heads, their understanding immediate, their empathy real. “Oh God, Tres. Yes, perfectly understandable. Of course your post was late. You can’t fight it.” Nod nod nod. Some of the locals are like “Meh,” and that’s okay, but I beg to differ.
For you non-locals, let me put it this way: in a rapidly gentrifying city, Tres Hermanas is real. No trendy corrugated tin walls hung with Edison-bulb light strings, no hip rusted iron window boxes overflowing with carefully curated succulents, no polished concrete floors or faux-aged brick. None of that hipster crap. Tres occupies the downstairs floor of an old clapboard house, is painted an offensive orangey-gold, has no AC, contains the world’s tiniest bar…and is my favorite place in this city. (Well, they are tied for top billing, but more about that later.)
Google has it labeled a “laid-back Mexican joint with a patio,” which is spot on. It’s super chill, kinda crusty…and always packed. My boyfriend said, “You can’t write about Tres, you’ll ruin it.” But two things: One, no one reads my blog yet (except for you, my treasured friend, thank you) and two, the word is out, pal. It’s super likely that any time you want to get your Tres on, 100 other Sac locals have the exact same idea and are packing the tiny restaurant and spilling out onto K Street. And it’s not just locals. One gentleman I chatted with (the cozy bar elicits camaraderie and friendly conversations with strangers) was from out of state, heading from the Sacramento Airport to Auburn, and said he always makes it a point to stop at Tres on his way into and out of Auburn. He also said he mentioned to Sonia (Tres’s affable owner) that the green sauce was hella hot, and she replied, “It’s made for real men,” a burn hotter than anything served in the restaurant, to be sure.
And it is, the green sauce, it’s hot as hell. The fresh, garlicky salsa is hot as hell. Bartender Joel’s chili-spiked margarita, dubbed “Race with the Devil,” is hot as hell. But it’s not just a burn fest. The food is fresh and flavorful and just freakin’ delicious (pro tip: get grilled chicken in your enchiladas and thank me later). What’s more, the drinks are strong and reasonably priced, a great find in trendy Midtown. Cadillac is my jam, but in the summer the fresh watermelon margaritas are summer in your mouth. BTW, bartenders Joel and Jared wanted me to be sure and mention how much Brian looooves making them! *wink* Speaking of those dudes, though I’ve eaten in the main restaurant many times, 99.9% of the time I’m begging my boyfriend to wait in line with me for a bar seat, because Tres’s bartenders rock.
Personable, talented, and always seemingly mid-party, the Tres bartenders make every visit more fun. There are stories. There are jokes. There are shots. There are high fives and handshakes. And there are gestures that make you feel like you’re part of the Tres family. Like bartender Mark, who always has our drinks ready a minute after we walk in the door. Makes me feel a little bit like an alcoholic, but mostly like I’m Norm from Cheers. And avoiding eye contact doesn’t work, because we tried it one time when the bar was just too jam-packed for us. We moonwalked backwards out the front door, thinking we had escaped notice, but when we came back an hour later Mark was all, “Where did you guys go? I had your drinks all ready for you.” Now THAT, my friends, is a quality bartender.
And there’s Jared, the bar manager, who likes to say “See you tomorrow” if we go in on Saturday, and then we inevitably end up there for Sunday brunch, even if we were not even remotely planning to show up. I think he might be a warlock. We call it Jared’s Sunday Curse, and we love it. And there’s Joel, who always has something interesting to talk about, and who was nice enough to share a drink recipe idea for a Thai-themed dinner party I threw recently, and who kindly makes me sugar-free margaritas (Monkeyritas?) when I’m trying to cut down on the sweet stuff. FYI the recipe idea was black pepper-infused gin, Thai basil, and strawberry simple syrup, finished with a dash of club soda and a lime. Yummo!
As if that wasn’t enough, the bartenders are also a gold mine of menu hacks, for the Tres Hermanas-aholic who has had everything on the menu and is looking to branch out. Some winners:
- Jared’s hack: put al pastor ON THE NACHOS! Revelatory.
- Put al pastor on a chile relleno and switch out ranchero for green sauce (a.k.a. the Dirty Mark).
- Add carnitas to brunch chilaquiles and sub green sauce for the red (another Mark special).
- Sonia’s shrimp taco jack: add grilled onions and mushrooms. (The shrimp taco is the bomb, BTW, and comes with a smoky chipotle sauce; though I recommend you specify no lettuce because hot lettuce is the devil.)
- My hack: order the veggie quesadilla and add shrimp. Though I think next time I will see if I can add shrimp Diablo. OMG that sounds good.
- Possibly the ultimate hack (though I haven’t tried it yet): cheese enchiladas topped with al pastor, sauced with a mixture of the chipotle and Diablo sauces. Oh my my, oh hell yes.
On one of my latest “research” trips I saw bartender Brian, who rides with the Chopaderos Outlaw Bicycle Club, and who possibly makes the strongest drinks. After a scrumptious shrimp taco (NO LETTUCE) and two of his Cadillacs, I was feeling mighty monktastic as I slid off the barstool to head home. The beauty (and danger) of living in Midtown Sacramento is that I’m walking distance from Tres (and a million other delights). And walking in Midtown is always so entertaining, there’s always something interesting happening, and the people are always so friendly. On the way home that night I saw a woman wearing a magnificent, shimmering, full-length-down-to-the-toes, quilted purple coat. I complimented it earnestly and she said her pooch used to have a matching one but it fell apart. Instead he was sporting a still-dapper but definitely-non-exceptional quilted dog coat.
Closer to home I saw my neighbor on his bicycle teaching a woman to ride one of his vintage mopeds. She jolted down the road in herky jerky fits and starts, trailing two-stroke exhaust, while he rode alongside and shouted encouragement and riding tips. She almost crashed into a couple of cars.
When I got home, powered by Brian’s Cadillacs, I decided to watch every episode of MST3K in order from S1E1. I am obsessed with that show and am excited to check out every episode, since I didn’t start watching originally until after Joel bleached his hair and changed his name to Mike Nelson hehe.
But I digress. My advice to you is this: walk, don’t run, to Tres and give it a try. If you sit at the bar, tell ’em Monkey sent you. Cheers!