Interview: Creators of Dinner at Tiger dish on Sacramento cuisine

For the better part of the last decade, HOF Is Better has been at the forefront of entertainment for millennials in Sacramento.

On K Street in downtown, their parties at Tiger Restaurant & Lounge near the Golden 1 Center have helped bring life to a once-booming but recently sedated nightlife scene.

Now, they’ve got a new venture: a new culinary project called Dinner at Tiger. It’s billed as a love letter to the city, celebrating food and the diversity that makes Sacramento unique and special.

They’ve teamed up with Last Supper Society, a Black-ownerd culinary collective led by chefs Byron Hughes and Ryan Royster. Hughes and Royster have become known for hosting communal dinner experiences in and around Sacramento.

Tony Christian of HOF and Tiger Restaurant & Bar and Chef Royster joined CapRadio’s Insight to talk about how their latest collaboration showcases an incredible culinary experience in Sacramento.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

On HOF’s beginnings

Tony Christian: It’s really funny because there was a place called Cobblestone — it was like a hookah lounge, and it was the place that we were frequenting a lot, and that’s where we put on our first event. But then the housing crisis happened. That was 2008. There were a lot of open homes, so we started producing events at houses first. That didn’t last very long until we had to start using warehouses and outdoor spaces and things like that and kind of stepped into that more micro-festival space. Now, we have an Instagram page, which is @HOFIsBetter, where we really showcase everything Sacramento. We’ve partnered with a few other venues that we help promote events they have going on, as well as just collaborating on events outside of Tiger.

On how the HOF and Last Supper Society collaboration happened

Ryan Royster: Last Supper Society was producing these events at the intersection of food and culture. Even virtually throughout the deepest times of the pandemic. Once the world eased on those restrictions, and it was more safe to connect and break bread together, we were doing these huge events. We were having these long table dinners on a bluff overlooking Half Moon Bay and things like that. My business partner, Chef Byron, and myself always had the idea of ​​a brick and mortar in the back of our minds. And seeing what Tony and [HOF co-founder Robbie Metcalf] and HOF was doing at Tiger, creating a social space in Sacramento that was really becoming Sacramento’s premier social space, we thought that we can bring food — which is the most powerful social artifact — into that space and make it even more special and connect with people in the city on a more robust level.

On what Dinner at Tiger’s menu offers

Royster: We have a full restaurant where we are serving what we call “Sacramento cuisine.” That’s a term coined by a Chef Byron, who was trying to enunciate the diversity that we have in our city and his specific upbringing as a young Black chef living in a predominantly Asian neighborhood and then growing up in downtown. Just trying to show people that not only Black food, but Sacramento food and kind of this farm-to-fork idea that we have here, is not a monolith. It takes on many shapes and forms that are always grower-producer friendly, like the farm-to-fork movement that we have here, but it’s also rich in ethnic diversity. Like our short rib right now, which is plated with oxtail, dirty rice and okra and summer squash and plantain chips. So we’re taking kind of a Caribbean flavor route and approach to that, but it’s still super Sacramento. It’s still California. And it’s something that we want to share with people.

On how they curated the menu for Dinner at Tiger

Royster: It’s so seasonal. We have so much access to everything. When you talk about tomatoes — we have our southern tomato salad which is our seasonal salad right now for the late summer. But I think the point of what we’re doing with this menu, and what we’re doing at Dinner at Tiger from a food standpoint, is to show that all of these things are Sacramento cuisine. We’re going to take this fresh produce and all of these things that we have right here in the valley and at our fingertips, but use all of this diverse ethnic inspiration to make it really feel like us and make it more approachable and accessible to everybody’s palace.

On using Tiger to showcase various winemakers

Royster: ​​It’s what we’re committed to and it’s our ethos in creating this social space at Tiger restaurant and lounge while we’re trying to bring people together. We kind of ditched the traditional wine menu in exchange for a diverse wine residency series. So each month we bring in a new winemaker from underrepresented groups, and we feature them for the entire month each month. The first Saturday of each month, we kick it off and launch that residency with a dinner where we bring in the winemaker or an ambassador from the brand and they’re pouring wine on site. We pair their wines with our menu, we do flight tastings, and we just have this beautiful experience where we celebrate the diversity and underrepresented groups in the city.

Dinner at Tiger with Last Supper Society is every Friday and Saturday at Tiger Restaurant and Lounge on K Street in downtown Sacramento. To reserve a table, click here

Their next winemakers dinner is Sept. 3 with Wade Cellars. Join National Ambassador & Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 Tastemaker George WC Walker III for dinner, tasting, and wine education. To reserve a table, click here

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