It bears repeating: I love brunch. I've spent the better part of two years in Sacramento sampling the brunch fare and drinks at restaurants all over town.
So, at the suggestion of friends and coworkers, I’ve begun sharing my experiences with you, dear reader, in order to direct you to the finest establishments around town to spend your weekend mornings. Last week, we were thrilled by Pizza Rock. This time around, we trekked over to Ink Eats and Drinks. Were we just as impressed and well imbibed as last time? Well…
I’ve been to Ink before, more than once, and have had a decent time. I’ve had acceptable food, decent drinks, and overall, a good time. However, I am going to give you the option to read no further and just get it out of the way now: our brunch at Ink last Sunday (April 26th, 2015) was lousy. It somehow found its way to the top of my list of least-favorite brunch experiences ever. That’s no exaggeration – for me personally, there were no redeeming qualities to the morning. If you want more details, as well as the opinions of the others in our party, read on.
The crowd? I mean, I suppose it was fine. The restaurant wasn’t overly busy or loud, and I’m sure it was enjoyable for most patrons. However, our party didn’t get to experience the crowd as we were herded into the tiny back room, which was dark and full of terrors… or possibly spiders. If you have a party of more than four, which we did, the odds are that you’re going to get shoved into the back on Sunday morning, and it’s not a great place to enjoy your meal. They do have a couple larger tables in the main dining area, but they were taken already. We were huddled in a cave, grasping our precious champagne like it was the last thing we had in life to remind us of the outside world.
But, it’s not fair to judge the crowd on our poor location – everyone else in the restaurant seemed like they were having a good time. And I’ve eaten at the bar before and found it enjoyable for the most part.
The service was fine. It was just fine. Our server, who didn’t share her name, took our orders (she didn’t write them down, but still got them right) and was friendly enough, but we only saw her maybe 4 times in our 1.5-2 hours there. She was friendly enough, but obviously had many people in the other parts of the restaurant to attend to. I am assuming that we were visited less frequently because it was easy to forget the people in the broom closet. But, for our server personally, no gripes.
It is telling, however, that our table only finished two bottles of champagne during our entire time at Ink. That might have set an all-time record low for us.
One thing that intrigued me about brunch at Ink was the world-renowned Bloody Mary bar. I was under the impression that they had a do-it-yourself unlimited Bloody Mary brunch, which obviously sounded awesome. I only got it half-right. You do make the bloody mary yourself, but it’s quite limited. You get one shot of vodka for $8, and you can receive an extra shot for $5. I was rather disappointed, as I am not used to limiting my liquor intake during brunch, but I took one for the team and went with the bloody mary. The others were smarter and did the bottomless mimosas.
I made my bloody mary by, basically, putting a little bit of everything on the bar into my glass. I was very, very scared as I have approximately zero experience with making tomato-based beverages, but it turned out pretty well!
The food, however, was a very different story. If I had one word to describe the food, it would be really-really-not-good-at-all. Having spent about 10 years living in the South, where things like biscuits and gravy were the norm, I ordered the country-fried steak, hoping to experience a little nostalgia. However, the nostalgia I experienced as soon as I tasted the gravy was more reminiscent of the allergen-free formula I had to drink as a baby. That was waaaaaay too far back for me to travel.
If you look at the picture above, the white stuff that is supposed to be country gravy was more like a mixture of flour and milk… in fact, that’s probably exactly what it was – raw, not cooked. And yes, that’s a slice of strawberry and an “over-easy” egg on the side. I couldn’t finish half of the meal. Another person in our party ordered the enchiladas, and it was so dry, she decided to order the “bottomless water” to compensate. Needless to say, the food just was not enjoyable in the least. If you read down, I think that others had better experiences, but for me to not finish a brunch meal is a feat that only Ink has achieved to date.
Ink wasn’t a pleasant experience.
I’ve been to Ink before for an early dinner with a pile of appetizers to share around the table, and the food, service, and drinks at that time were fine. For brunch this past Sunday, though, it was a very different experience.
The main seating areas inside and outside were full, so an unethusiastic greeter with less emotion than the Argonath statues on the Riven Anduin ushered us into a small back room with two tables and no windows. The room was cramped, dark, and had two small fans to give the illusion of airflow. Gollum would have felt at home.
The food was lackluster. I ordered a plate of French toast (do they just call it “toast” in France? But I digress…) and a side of bacon. The French toast itself was light and fluffy, but didn’t have a lot of flavor. The bacon was a bit thin and greasy. The fruit topping on the toast was tasty, though. Samwise Gamgee would have served up better fare while trekking through Mordor.
Ink has a Bloody Mary bar that Josh wrote about, but I decided to stick with mimosas (sorry, hot sauce and asparagus do not belong in a beverage!) to see what their offerings were. The champagne was brought out to the table in a bottle, and we were given a small jar of juice so that we could mix to our individual preferences. For me, that’s a full flute of champagne with a dash of juice for color. We made it through only two bottles between the three of us actively partaking of mimosas. Ink offered a selection of juices to mix (orange, pineapple, apple, and others), but the atmosphere, food, and service turned us off so that we didn’t really explore the options.
Overall, Ink was a brunch bummer – a brummer. I had a decent experience with my other visit, so I was expecting something at least as good, but was left disappointed. After we exhaust the rest of the brunch sites in Sacramento, I would like to give Ink one more try to give them a best-two-out-of-three shot, hopefully snagging a table that sees a bit more sunlight than the Mines of Moria.
I hate to say it, but brunch at Ink was fairly colorless. I think my opinion is about the same as everyone else’s in our little group—a big, resounding MEH. It wasn’t so terrible that I feel like I need to bust out my Red Pen of Doom® that we teachers have permanently welded to our writing hands. But neither do I feel compelled to gush.
First I’ll start with the good. There were two things that stood out to me: (1) The pancakes were really tasty. Much like bottomless mimosas are for Josh, good pancakes are one of my fundamental criteria for a solid brunch. Waffles are an acceptable substitute, but don’t try to feed me French toast and convince me it’s the same thing. It’s not. Anyway, I had the blueberry pancakes, and they were definitely above average. I’d give them a 4 on Kari’s 1-5 Pancake Scale:
(2) The noise level in the restaurant was such that we could converse without having to yell to be heard. Since the point of brunch is to be able to relax with friends and consume tasty food and imbibe tasty libations, they score high on this scale.
So now the bad… It actually really wasn’t bad. It was just meh. The reason that the noise level was decent was because they crammed us into a tiny, cave-like back room that was literally large enough only for two booths. Josh made a Mines of Moria reference that stuck because it was fairly accurate. It didn’t help that the room was painted black, which yeah, may be trendy, but contributed to the incipient claustrophobia that drummed in the back of my brain the entire time we were there. The service was decent (although I firmly believe if you’re going to be one of those waitstaff who doesn’t write things down, then you probably should make sure you can remember everyone’s drink order), and overall we had an okay time. It wasn’t horrible. But it’s not someplace I’d choose to go back to unless I had a really good reason to do so, nor would I recommend it to someone else. I wouldn’t NOT recommend it, but we have so many strong local brunch offerings that Ink, for now, just isn’t on my list.
Once upon a brunch-time dreary, while I pondered, bleak and bleary,
Over many a feint and spurious claim of tasty morsels and more
While I blah-ded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a clapping
As of some one crapp’ly rapping, rapping near me as I swore.
“Tis some idiots,” I muttered, “singing Happy Birthday at table four—
Only this and nothing more.”
Yes, the highlight of the day: An incredibly off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Everything else about our trip to brunch was sadly mediocre. My food was okay. The mimosas were okay. The table was… okay, well the table was no bueno—it felt like we were seated in a cave. I spent quite a while contemplating what the heart of the problem was. The conclusion I came to was that there was no heart in the affair. The food, the environment, the servers, the drinks… it was all joyless. It’s ironic that there’s not much to write about a restaurant named Ink.
I was really, really disappointed with this brunch. As I said, I’ve been to Ink before and have had decent experiences in the past. I am not sure what changed so much this time – being huddled in the back, possibly a new chef (I mean, it was that much of a downgrade from before) and the lack of attention from the server all added up to a poor experience. It stinks, but I probably won’t be going back.
So, in conclusion, Ink Eats and Drinks earns a rating of 2 out of 5 regertful tattoos. Maybe you’ll have a different experience, but I’d recommend skipping Ink for brunch.