Late night fried food and a taqueria next door is a potent combo.
Comfort can be found in a dive bar so beloved by neighbors that it has both an official name and then the name everyone actually uses. Q Street Bar & Grill just southeast of downtown Sacramento is one such dive bar, Q Street according to Google and Benny’s according to those in the know. Granted, “Benny’s” inscribed on a green awning above the door tips the bit, but the dual life of Q Street and Benny’s is interesting all the same.
Because Sacramento features a modest-sized downtown core that quickly transitions into residential-heavy neighborhoods, dive bars can be both centrally located and satisfyingly embedded into their unique part of town. Midtown Sacramento packs a little more density a few blocks north, leaving Q Street Bar & Grill to hang a bit on the fringe without feeling far from anything. In fact one of the dive bar’s best qualities is its proximity to local Mexican spot Chita’s Taqueria, as good a one-two dive bar & taco punch as can be found in Sacramento with a walking distance of about 20 feet.
Outside, the long, low exterior gives off a different look than a typical shotgun-style dive bar wedged between businesses. Benny’s is instead a shotgun layout turned on its side, red cinder blocks stretching across three neon-filled front windows. While it does say Benny’s on the awning above the front door, framed, weather-protected, street level neon reads Q Street Bar & Grill. In a nice twist, string lights exist here not just inside but outside as well, a red strand playing against the red neon and red cinder blocks to create a pretty uniform face.
The space inside is bright by dive bar standards, wood slat walls painted two shades of brown (light and dark, of course). A long narrow room stretches the length of the space indicated by the windows outside, bar stools complemented by a thin row of chairs along a beer-friendly ledge along the opposite wall. Immediately noticeable are the stapled and taped dollar bills that aren’t so much densely packed as they are loosely strewn about the space. These dollar bills can be found in pockets behind the bar and more prominently around the windows on the opposite wall, but they also pop up sporadically around the bar’s TVs, along side walls and elsewhere.
Q Street Bar & Grill is a cash-only dive bar, meaning an ATM takes up prominent residence in this front room in addition to a chalk drink board listing out available tap beers and daily specials (the Tequila Mockingbird is a delicious-sounding pun). A small window just to the left of the bar opens up to the kitchen in back where bar standard options like burgers and wings can be procured. Potato taquitos and an assortment of other pleasantly fried foods can be had here as late as midnight.
Standing inside it would be easy to miss the fact that there is a patio at all, or even a secondary room attached to the main space. On the way to the patio, a side room with its own padded red bench seating offers a bit of interior seclusion before opening up into a spacious patio area that typically sees a decent chunk of Q Street’s activity given the cooperative California weather. Black metal furniture can be found scattered here in the shadow of a large mural painted on the cinder block that encloses the space.
Benny’s, Q Street Bar & Grill, whatever the name, this is a classic neighborhood dive bar with a massive back patio, late night food and a taqueria-adjacent location. As far as Sacramento dive bars go, that combination is a difficult one to beat for a quick stop and a chance to use the name known by locals despite what Google Maps told you on the way.