E is for Eastern Empire
460 Howe Ave
There is a magical land of mystery secretly tucked away right next to the Safeway on Howe.
It is a place that time has forgotten where fire, alcohol and top notch customer service combine to create a big fuzzy spot in your afternoon.
Of course, I’m talking about the Eastern Empire – the “E” stop on the “ABCs of Drinking in Sacramento” tour. On the surface, the Eastern Empire appears to be a nice, respectable Chinese restaurant. The only hint that an outsider has as to the treasures within is the small, neon cocktail glass which glows almost unnoticed out front.
Upon noticing the sign, I demanded that my good friend Mike drive me there immediately.
We entered the restaurant at about 4:30pm on what would soon be known as the Greatest Day of My Life.
Hardly batting an eye at the dozens of dining tables, we made a beeline for the bar…which seats about 5 people at most.
It was there that I was greeted by the world’s greatest drink menu. Straight from a 1960’s tiki party, the menu was full of exotic frozen concoctions with clever names and humorous comic characters acting them out.
Again, the photos are less than ideal, but here is the top item on the menu: the Zombie.I know it’s a bit blurry so let me walk you through it. Firstly, that’s a picture of of a dead guy – a zombie, if you will – in a coffin drinking a cocktail. (For the record, this is exactly how I picture the afterlife – just lounging around, half out of your coffin, sippin’ a fruity drink.) Below that is the name and price ($6.25 and worth every penny). And below that is the best drink description I’ve ever read. It reads:
Our version of Don the beach comber’s original lethal libation …. A real dirty.
Sure, to the uninitiated “A real dirty” seems to be a poorly constructed sentence that makes no sense. However, after one sip, it all becomes perfectly clear.
Of course, I didn’t go with the Zombie. I went a little number called the “Suffering Bastard” which had the description/warning “Drinkers beware!” I accepted both the name and the description as a personal challenge. Even though it wasn’t the Zombie, trust me, it was a real dirty in its own right.
(NOTE: More observant readers will notice that this is a similar photo to the one in “D is for Distillery” only I look slightly more awake here. You got me. It’s the same day and I visited the bars in non-alphabetical order. So sue me.)
Mike went with a yet another dirty; a coconut flavored drink known as the Chi-Chi.
There we sat, the only two people in an otherwise empty Chinese restaurant bar and just about the two happiest guys in the world. Downing Bastards and Chi-Chis in the late afternoon just the way it’s supposed to be. The drinks were amazing.
The bartender/artist who made our gorgeous and heavily boozified tiki creations also happened to be the owner and he was the most gracious of hosts.
He either didn’t tell me his name or I forgot it when my mind was completely erased after ordering a second round. For me, a Fog Cutter. For Mike, a Mai-Tai. These cocktails were chosen only after we seriously contemplated the “Flaming Volcano” which is basically a Polynesian themed punch bowl with a cone in the center made for holding rum which is then lit on fire.
It’s a cocktail for two which proudly declares itself “A spectacular display of your flaming passion.” Even though it was pretty much the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, “displaying our flaming passion” was pretty much the exact opposite of what Mike and I wanted to do.
We did, however, order an appetizer tray which, much to our delight, was also on fire.
Picking up on all the clues, the bartender correctly assumed that he needed to clarify “The chicken is already cooked. The fire is just for fun.”
And, man, was it ever!
In short, the Eastern Empire is pretty much the greatest place ever.
* Amazing tiki-themed cocktails
* Cool bartender/owner
* Tasty appetizers
* A real dirty
*$6.25 for a Suffering Bastard? Sign me up!
*The luckiest people in the world. Join them.
Added Bonus Music Suggestion
* The Eastern Empire reminded me of all the short-lived Lounge/Cocktail music revival of the mid to late 90s. I can’t recommend Combustible Edison enough.