Edible Sacramento — Spring 2012
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Back Of the House: Juno's Kitchen
Ryan Donahue

A word about our editorial process here at Edible. First, we don't do reviews. With the culinary wealth of the valley, the talented practitioners cooking, and being a seasonal publication we can only try to document the vast gastronomical excellence. Secondly, I rarely see a cleaner division between advertising and editorial than in this beautiful publication. I'm granted ultimate editorial freedom, as are my peers.

I spent my first Thursday in 2012 shooting Juno's Kitchen and Ruhstaller beer and chatting with Juno's owner Mark Helms and Ruhstaller's proprietor J-E Paino. Both men are committed to the highest quality local ingredients in their respective products, not the wink-wink-nudge-nudge o-soprecious tokenism distilled absolutely everywhere in food writing. These guys drive to farms, smell the dirt, and absolutely hang their hats on their products. (More on Ruhstaller on page 37.) They're not alone. I dare say that now in Sacramento a diner has more choices of top-notch food for the fairest prices than in anytime in its history. Ever. Period.

The economic sea change has forever altered how restaurants do business. The days of interior designers and angel investors has changed to a credit card and cheap commercial real estate. It's this new guerrilla approach that is churning out cheap food at a high quality. At Juno's, Chef Helms has focused his (extensive) talents on simple things. Mark makes bread. Anyone can take the handful of ingredients and make this ubiquitous foodstuff, but consider the fact that nearly all fine Sacramento restaurants import their bread from Acme Bread in Berkeley. Mark did too until recently. As simple a bread is, it's the quality of the ingredients and (in bread case) the zip code in which it's made. Mark has honed his talent, selected his favorite flour mill, and has cared for his bubbling bucket of hungry yeast starter like a proud father for years. The results are remarkable and easily on par with Acme with a taste that is unique to Sacramento. Every ingredient is approached with the same diligence and the food really sings. (The $8.50 Bahn Mi Vietnamese Sandwich is exceptional).

Juno's Kitchen is a casual eatery and at a first glance doesn't fit the normal Back of the House formula (cloth napkins, wine list and the like). I chose Juno's in an attempt to highlight the variability of food choices in Sacramento and encourage Sacramentans to visit as many local independent eateries as possible. Instead of picking up pizza (unless its from One Speed or Hot Italian) avoid the chains and go to one of our many independently owned eateries (like Juno's Kitchen) and revel in the quality and the low prices.