A smartly dressed Randy Paragary mills about his namesake restaurant for its swanky, buzzing preview party. Platters of hors d’oeuvre circle: beef tartare, crab beignets, chicken liver mousse, chocolate macarons.
The crowd? Young businesspeople, trendy socialites and the occasional industry player paying respect to the godfather. After all, Paragary had been the one and only food emperor of Sacramento for years. He owns and operates 13 restaurants and bars—including his eponymous Midtown restaurant—and is a behind-the-scenes partner in several other Sacramento spots.
That’s no easy feat—the restaurant business is notoriously risky and expensive. Urban legend goes that 90 percent of restaurants close in their first year. Despite that hyperbolic-but-still-frightening figure, a group of young entrepreneurs has emerged in the past few years—and they’re transforming the city’s dining landscape. It’s earning Sacramento shoutouts in national publications—it’s made the central city’s restaurant scene one to seriously watch.
And it’s all happened so quickly. Just look at Broderick Roadhouse’s Chris Jarosz. In less than four years, he went from owning one food truck to four restaurants—soon to be six—with a licensing deal in the works. He says he works 14 hours a day, seven days a week.
“There’s always a million things going on, but I feel like I can never get enough of it,” Jarosz said.
Another prime example: the owners of perennial favorite cocktail haunt Shady Lady Saloon—Jason Boggs, Alex Origoni and Garrett Van Vleck—are gearing up to transform what was once a one-restaurant operation in 2009 into a seven-part empire by the end of the year. Then there’s Kimio Bazett and Jon Modrow, of the Golden Bear and Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co., with two hotly anticipated launches later this year.
These guys—and yes, these downtown empire-builders are all men right now—are taking big financial risks to make their mark on Sacramento. But as their empires grow, will Sacramento lose the culinary diversity that makes going out so fun?