Joséphine Restaurant – Sacramento Magazine
Is there anything more intoxicating than the smell of food roasted over a wood fire? This seductive aroma is one of the first things you notice when you walk into the Joséphine restaurant. This is just one of the many ways that Joséphine, a French bistro-style restaurant that opened earlier this year in Auburn, awakens your senses.
The owners of the restaurant are Courtney McDonald and Eric Alexander, two talented chefs who ran the kitchen at the nearby Carpe Vino wine bar. They met 20 years ago when they were students at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and have worked together ever since. Now married and parents to a 10 year old daughter named Joséphine, they have created a restaurant that is a very personal expression of themselves and the things that matter to them.
With bench seats covered in forest green velvet, gold-framed mirrors, black and white hexagonal tile flooring and art deco wallpaper, Joséphine seems to have existed since the 1920s. It’s a clever illusion: the space of Originally was a photo studio before the couple’s business partner, general contractor Britton Reed, redeveloped it to look like a French box, with a zinc bar and framed chalkboard menu promoting the oyster selection fresh of the day. McDonald and Alexander decorated the walls with family photos, vintage coasters and other items they have collected over the years. “You can always tell when the owners of a restaurant designed it themselves,” says Alexander, “because it’s personal, not a concept. “
Located in downtown Auburn, a picturesque part of town that could be the backdrop for a Hallmark holiday movie, the restaurant was originally slated to open in early 2020. But the pandemic had others ideas. McDonald and Alexander therefore took care of organizing private events and picking up sidewalk meals like crispy iron chicken and put together at home dishes like shelled oysters and onion soup kits. . They finally opened the restaurant for real last June when the governor lifted restrictions on dining inside. By then, Auburn’s diners had already discovered the newcomer, and the restaurant has since become wildly successful. Reservations are necessary and disappear quickly; the walk-ins are housed at the bar.
The menu has a bistro side, with French dishes such as steak frites and its seafood cousin, mussels and fries, onion soup, duck liver mousse and escargots and mushrooms “en casserole”. . A nod to Alexander’s Lithuanian great-grandmother (also known as Josephine), many dishes use Eastern European ingredients or techniques. Vareniki, similar to pierogi, are Russian dumplings that change with the seasons: in winter they are filled with potatoes and leeks. A delicious appetizer of mushroom toast pairs homemade tvorog (a Russian farmhouse cheese) with creamy, sherry-flavored local mushrooms and Russian-marinated chanterelles. The “iron” chicken pulls its crispy skin from the weight on the wood-burning grill with a vintage iron – an old Eastern European trick, according to Alexander. He and McDonald bought the primitive cast iron home appliances at thrift stores and on eBay. (They acquired the restaurant’s unparalleled porcelain in a similar fashion.)
Is it a restaurant for a special occasion or an everyday restaurant? In fact, it is both. You can splurge with a champagne and caviar service ($ 80-100 for 30 grams) or grab a beer and a burger, even if it’s a really good $ 19 burger, with gruyere. and candied onion on a potato bun, served with addicting crispy fries. Alexandre supervises the kitchen; A trained pastry chef, McDonald oversees the front of the house and prepares desserts, including chocolate mousse and lemon pie, made with Meyer lemon, fennel pollen and spoonfuls of toasted meringue.
The restaurant has a lively, bustling and festive vibe, with music a bit loud and friendly waiters who don’t hesitate to invite you to order something they think you’ll like. (Our server practically ordered us to top the roasted pumpkin soup with a swirl of sweet brown butter. He was right, it was wonderful.) Alexander and McDonald’s daughter, Josephine, hangs out at the restaurant, sometimes to help. . “This unpretentiousness is a big part of what drives us,” says Alexander. “That’s what makes people happy and that’s why we wanted to do our own thing. “
1226 Lincoln Way, Auburn