New Sacramento happy hour spot aims for a ‘flirty’ vibe near Capitol. See inside

·4 min read

David English, the onetime chef/owner of The Press Bistro and opening chef of Ella Dining Room & Bar, is returning to Sacramento’s restaurant scene with a new concept centered around cocktails and small bites.

English will open Juju Kitchen & Cocktails on June 1 at 1501 L St., he confirmed to The Sacramento Bee. It’ll be open from 4-10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, replacing The Hotel Bar at the Residence Inn by Marriott Sacramento Downtown’s ground level.

Juju will be much more simple than The Press Bistro, an understated French- and Spanish-inspired fine dining bistro that drew rave reviews from 2010 to 2019 and helped make midtown Sacramento’s Handle District the destination it is today.

English wants to keep bistro’s limited staff free to focus on present customers, so he’s not planning on taking reservation or even having a phone line. All plates will be $7, with a weekly rotation based on what English finds at the Sunday Fresh Market in Arden Fair mall’s parking lot.

One can order enough of those dishes to make a full meal, but English and chef Ramon Medina (his right-hand culinary man for 13 years) expect more people to stop in for happy hour, as Juju is kitty-corner from Capitol Park. It’s also two blocks from the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center and Memorial Auditorium, and the small plates can be prepared quickly for a bite before a show.

“We wanted a beautiful space, but we also wanted it to feel comfortable and not stuffy,” English said. “We want it to be sophisticated, but at the same time a little fun and a little flirty.”

Sacramento favorites

Anticipated opening dishes include harissa-coated grilled chicken with tzatziki, crunchy asparagus salad with bacon and caramelized onions, corn-Parmesan arancini and beef barbacoa tacos, the last being made from Medina’s family recipe.

A few Press Bistro favorites made the jump, including fennel-full meatballs in marinara sauce and patatas bravas. English’s youngest son was diagnosed with celiac disease a year ago, so nearly all of Juju’s items are gluten-free and are prepared to prevent cross-contamination. Even the fudgy brownie uses almond flour, though the dairy-free might want to skip the scoop of Vic’s Ice Cream on top.

Bartender Alex Walker makes a Rose Rouge cocktail made with gin, pomegranate and bubbles at Juju Kitchen & Cocktails in Sacramento on Thursday. Juju Kitchen & Cocktails is David English’s new small plates and drinks spot in downtown Sacramento.
Bartender Alex Walker makes a Rose Rouge cocktail made with gin, pomegranate and bubbles at Juju Kitchen & Cocktails in Sacramento on Thursday. Juju Kitchen & Cocktails is David English’s new small plates and drinks spot in downtown Sacramento.

Bartender Alex Walker, formerly of Kitchen 747 and 105 Noshery in Roseville, will craft cocktails such as the Rose Rouge (a gin fizz adaptation involving pomegranate juice, sparkling wine and egg whites) around the two-sided octagonal bar. The house Old Fashioned included jujubee syrup, a play on the cocktail bar’s name.

A wine fridge stocked by general manager Jon Russo runs along Juju’s back wall. Locally produced craft beer will also be available.

Inside new happy hour lounge

English’s wife and co-owner Kelly English designed Juju’s interior of olive green and pink hues, cushy leather stools and sconces in the shape of hands with lights dangling from their fingertips.

Greenery from midtown Sacramento’s Propagate Plants & Gathering brightens the space, as does coral botanical wallpaper from Placerville’s PhD Wallpapering. An outdoor patio seats 28 people in addition to the 60 inside, and sizable windows can be opened to bring the two settings together.

“(It’s) inviting, but unfussy. (We) definitely wanted it to feel comfortable,” Kelly English said. “Come as you are, stop in for a drink, stay for longer, meet friends. A place where you’d want to come with others.”

David and Kelly English sit inside their new establishment, Juju Kitchen & Cocktails, at 15th and L streets in downtown Sacramento on Thursday. David is the former owner and chef at The Press Bistro which closed in 2019.
David and Kelly English sit inside their new establishment, Juju Kitchen & Cocktails, at 15th and L streets in downtown Sacramento on Thursday. David is the former owner and chef at The Press Bistro which closed in 2019.

A Davis native, David English cooked in Spain, France, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Maine, Wisconsin, Florida and the Bay Area before moving to New Orleans, where he and Kelly met. New Orleans Magazine named the city’s best new chef in January 2006. Then came Hurricane Katrina, and the Englishes moved back to David’s home region.

English will source ingredients, develop the menu and handle some prep work earlier in the day, after the Marriott’s cooks finish making hotel guests’ breakfasts in the joint kitchen. During service, it’ll be Medina and Russo (a veteran of The Press Bistro, Roxy Restaurant & Bar and Scott’s Seafood on the River) running the show.

A gluten free brownie with ice cream is photographed at Juju Kitchen & Cocktails in Sacramento.
A gluten free brownie with ice cream is photographed at Juju Kitchen & Cocktails in Sacramento.
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