When: Mon–Fri 3pm–1:30am; Sat 6pm–1:30am; Sun 8pm–1:30am
In the shadow of the Sacramento Bee offices lies a rather inconspicuous neighborhood bar. On the outside, it seems like just another hole in the wall dive bar. Behind its doors lies the heart and soul of Midtown. The bar’s official name is the Q Street Bar and Grill, but everyone in this city knows it as Benny’s.
To know Benny’s is to understand all that is fun about living on the Sacramento Grid. Not even a block away from Benny’s is a spacious gray house. When I first moved here a dozen years ago, I would see all sorts of people hanging out there, playing music, reading, talking, socializing, just living. Today, it is exactly the same. New people have come to replace those who have moved on. Another twenty years from now, there will still be hipsters, artists, or whatever label will exist then, just enjoying life wherever it finds them at that present time. I believe this cycle will never truly be broken. Which leads me to why Benny’s is the best place on the Downtown grid…
Benny’s is a place where it is almost impossible to have a bad time. Anytime I have ever showed up there, it has never failed me. Many times I show up with just one other person, and we just drink and talk. Invariably, random interesting people will always join in the conversation for a while. Once the sky goes completely dark, and all the working stiffs mosey in for mixed drinks and drafts, small clusters of conversation start on the patio. Sometimes on the weeknight, these clusters stay small and isolated, but still close to one another. Most nights, these clusters condense naturally, like water droplets on a window pane. Like I told you, Benny’s never lets me down.
Weekdays are usually slower and more laid-back; the bar gets packed on Saturdays with non-regulars. On the busy nights, the inner bar gets pretty packed; this is fine, so long as no one plays crappy music on the jukebox (you’ve been forewarned!). Most of the time, we opt for the patio so that someone can smoke, or we might even grab one of the two-seat bar tables in the hallway in between. The bathrooms are small, but I’ve never had to really wait in line.
Perhaps the most patron-friendly features is the bar staff themselves. There is no real happy hour, because it simply isn’t necessary. The drinks are stiff , inexpensive, and tasty. Your expense to drunkenness ratio will always be low. Many times there will be a nightly special, as the liquor artists experiment with something new. The bartenders are courteous and quick; the atmosphere is never, ever pretentious. These factors alone put Q Street in small company. But it̻s more than the sum of the parts; it’s the consistency of the vibe over time. The point is, people don’t come here to start static, they come here to chill.
Benny’s is a reliable stand-by, a place you can always go if all the other bars aren’t happening that evening. It’s a place where people tend to know each other; an oasis of alcohol and friends even if you only start by knowing one or two people there. It’s the kind of place that doesn’t bug if you bring in food from the Mexican place next door. Benny’s is a place that I have some good memories from, and I hope to savor many more. Sacramento is a better town for having it here.