Come for the tranquil surroundings, stay for the delicious food
Just an hour or so outside of Sacramento, a sleepy, rural little town is beginning to wake up, and a historic hotel at the heart of the city is the reason. Imperial Hotel, a small but mighty six-room property on Old Highway 49 — which is pretty much the street in Amador City, population 200 — has been standing since 1879. But it’s never looked quite as bright as it does since the newest owners, Kevin Carter and Cassie Davisa, completely overhauled and renovated it.
In its 144 year history, the property has changed hands many times, but its current stewards have added not just strong AC, which is necessary for the powerfully hot summer days in the Sierra foothills, but also a craft cocktail program and restaurant. These cocktails are some of the only ones to be had for miles around, and the chef-driven dinner menu includes a $75 tasting option, likely the only one the county has ever seen. But this former mining town makes for a great weekend trip or midweek getaway for Bay Area visitors craving a dose of the bucolic. Here’s everything that makes checking into the Imperial an ideal stay.
Amador Is California’s Smallest Incorporated City
When night falls in Amador City, it’s so quiet that you could hear a pin drop — literally. With no stoplight and very few streetlights, the hum of an occasional car on the old country highway is pretty much the only sound after the sun goes down. Tucked away in one of the second floor suites, the quiet is welcome as the AC purrs on and large windows let it night air or the sunlight in the morning. Please be prepared for how sleepy this town is if you come, and consider embracing the quiet while you’re here —leave screens and email behind and take a walk on one of the trails just down the road from the hotel, or sit in the shared living areas on the ground floor and soak in the ambience.
Large, Transportive Suites Are Oasis-Like
Don’t let the countryside feel fool you — the linens are by Quince, CBD products are included in the amenities for sale and a vintage-styled Marshall speaker sits on the night table. Other modern luxuries include an electric gooseneck kettle for heating up hot water for the coffee-before-being-in-public-coffee and Salt & Stone body wash in the beautifully redesigned minimalist bathroom. In the Victoria Suite, a built-in vintage cabinet works to house skincare products and tooth brushes above the sink, and a velvet chaise lounge steals the show. Luckily, the mattress is decidedly not vintage, and a semi-private shared balcony is outfitted with simple table and chairs. I used it to catch up on some golden hour-inspired writing, but it would work just as easily for a glass of wine or snack.
Imperial Hotel Is Committed to Building Local Culture in and Around Amador City
There’s also great craft beer in Amador City, coming out of a brewery across the street, Break Even Beermakers. Carter is a co-owner of Break Even, along with brewmaster Aaron Wittman. The brewery uses local hops grown on the hotel owner’s nearby Banded Family Ranch, and brewery waste is used to make compost that goes back to the hops and into soil used in a small greenhouse area where fresh produce is grown for use at The Imperial restaurant. If you get a chance to visit the ranch while you’re in town, ask the caretaker, James, for a chance to say hell to the goats in their pen down the hill. You might even spot a couple of newly-born kids (the goat kind) depending on the time of year.
Imperial’s Food and Beverage Program Is on Par With Any Big City Restaurant
Clearly, the hoteliers are committed to raising the profile of Amador City as a whole, and one of the best ways to do that is to provide world-class food and beverage, not just for guests, but for the community, too. While dining on the chef’s multi course tasting menu — which featured highlights like tomato and scallop salad with lemon zest and a lamb chop with foamed polenta — fellow diners included Suzy and Jim Gullett, owners of local vSangiovese vineyard Vino Noceto, whose tasting room makes for a great day trip if you’re in the area.
On Saturdays and Sundays, the brunch menu is a highlight. Start with cold brew soda, lightly sweetened with housemade cinnamon cardamom syrup, and move to a fresh salad with carrots, beets and radishes. Top it off with a short stack of bacon and scallion pancakes, dressed with a fried egg. Keep in mind the restaurant is only open for dinner Thursday to Saturday, so if you do make a weekday trip, work around those hours if you can.
Stop by the Town’s Eclectic Natural Wine Bar
One other must-visit place in town is The End Of Nowhere wine bar, where winemaker Chris Walsh uses native yeasts and 100% sustainably farmed grapes to make beautifully balanced, surprisingly elevated natural wines. He also cooks up a mean, medium-rare burger on the grill out front if all that tasting leaves you wanting some sustenance. Or you could buy a bottle, take it up to your balcony and toast to the night air.
Book a room at the Imperial Hotel here.
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