Apparently I live in the most diverse city in the United States.
August 29, 2002 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Apparently I live in the most diverse city in the United States. Synagogue arsons, propane-tank-bomb-plotting and suburban hate crime aside, Sacramento is a pretty neat place, especially since my wife (Korean-American) and I (Jewish) can afford to own a house on our meager incomes and still go out to eat Pho (Vietnamese), Kitfo (Ethiopian), Som Tum (Thai), Kalbi (Korean) all within a short drive. It's not San Francisco, but neither is the cost of living. Do you notice the tension caused by resistance to diversity in your town, or are you too busy eating the sushi to notice?
posted by luriete (36 comments total)
Sounds good. Can I visit and stay for two weeks and you can show me all around town? Thanks. Give dates good for you and your wife...I am flexible.
posted by Postroad at 10:57 AM on August 29, 2002

Well, actually, there's not a lot to do here except eat. But come on by any time, we've got a spare room.
posted by luriete at 11:04 AM on August 29, 2002

Yea, I've been trying to move to China Town in D.C. for years. But I'm not Chinese and they're not real happy about it. Dunno why.
posted by Witty at 11:06 AM on August 29, 2002

there's not a lot to do here except eat

Hmmm, no offense, but maybe we should look into staying with Rob Cockerham. He seems like more fun.
posted by machaus at 11:07 AM on August 29, 2002

Rob Cockerham lives a few blocks from me - he has the best parties in the neighborhood (the fireworks on remote control car parties are the best!). My friend Leif used to live in his attic - and yes, he is much more fun than me, and you can stay with him if you want, Machaus, my feelings won't be hurt.
posted by luriete at 11:10 AM on August 29, 2002

"Within a short drive?" I'm in Queens, and we have Japanese, Greek, Thai, Egyptian, Mexican, Italian, Dominican, Middle-Eastern, Czech, and Indian restaurants, cafes, movies, bakers, and grocers all within two or three blocks -- and an Irish bar at every corner. I'd be very surprised if any American town beat NYC for diversity. (In fact, the article claims it's the most "integrated.") I'm German, my wife's Jewish, and the neighbors crank the salsa. Yay melting pot!
posted by muckster at 11:16 AM on August 29, 2002

Sacramento *is* a great place to live (I've lived here for 4 years). Out-of-town friends of mine comment on the overall "niceness" of the people here. . . Except for on the roads, that is. :-) As for stuff to do, Arco Arena anyone? Short drives to every "hot spot" in No. Cal. are a bonus too.
posted by BrandonAbell at 11:19 AM on August 29, 2002

Well, last spring while visiting SF, my partner made me drive him to Sacramento to see this.

I was okay with it, though, because having grown up going to Ocean City Maryland, I'd always wanted to see the sign on the other side of the country, which I assumed simply had to exist. Happily, it does.

I was rather impressed with the musuem; the only other such place I'd been was the B&O Musueum in Baltimore. But while my partner enjoyed it, he said it paled in comparison to one he'd seen in the UK.

On our way back to San Francisco, I was made even happier when we got to take the tour at the Goelitz factory.
posted by jburka at 11:24 AM on August 29, 2002

luriete - interesting mix of racial tensions and food. I just experienced something relevant to those topics. My boyfriend (Chinese-Am) and I (Indian-Am) were at a friend's Chinese wedding banquet in northern California. We were the only "brown" people at our table of educated people with catholic tastes. We were appalled at the "ew, that's disgusting" responses the others had when the food arrived. Apparently it's easy for everyone to be "racially sensitive" as long as things don't get too ethnic.

Admittedly, most Americans aren't used to getting their lobster or quail dinner with the head still attatched, but we thought it was really rude that instead of eating it, they took pictures like tourists.

I suppose there was an upside - we got to eat all the "weird gross" food that everyone left behind. Mmmmm, abalone.
posted by synapse at 11:24 AM on August 29, 2002 [1 favorite]

Somehow Sac restaurants make the front page without mention of the Kitchen?
posted by G_Ask at 11:36 AM on August 29, 2002

Because The Kitchen is the one place that regular folks here in Sacramento can't actually afford to eat at. I'm sure there are some suburban whites, or a few Fabulous 40s folks who can afford it, but the rest of us real people have to make do with Pho Viet and Korea House.
posted by luriete at 11:40 AM on August 29, 2002

It's a matter of priorities not price, Luriete. Speaking of whites, Sac is the only major city in the greater bay/central area whose majority remains so, I believe.
posted by G_Ask at 11:46 AM on August 29, 2002

thanks for the tip, luriete. the food sounds great! i live in boulder/colorado, a town that is almost all white (i'm not and neither is my partner) and so sacramento sounds pretty cool. especially the food! hey, i could move there! fyi bolder's homogeneous whiteness means that everybody just gets bugged off with each other instead. as it's also a middle class town, the classic topics include doggy doo, weeds in your neighbour's yards, and putting couches on your porch..d
posted by carter at 11:47 AM on August 29, 2002 [1 favorite]

The country's real melting pot is 2,800 miles from New York. So what's life like in Sacramento — a place where everyone's a minority — and why is there still racial tension?

I found this question really dumb. Just because people aren't white doesn't mean they don't have racial prejudices, and yes, they often have racial prejudices against other ethnic minorities.
posted by ligeia at 11:53 AM on August 29, 2002

I like Fairfax County, VA, right across the river from DC. The best shopping and dining in the metro area, in my (strongly held) opinion. My daughter goes to (public) school there, and her classroom is a beautiful mix of kids from all parts of the world. She was the only non-brown kid in the class last year, and everybody seemed to get along just fine.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:02 PM on August 29, 2002 [1 favorite]

wow. lots of sacramento metafilterians. for the record (or not -- don't take note, really), that's my hometown.

things i liked about sac: SNFC, Thursday Night Markets (well, those of 94-95 ), fairy-tale town by the zoo (the crooked mile rocked), seeing akira at the crest theatre, seeing jesus lizard at the cattle club (did i see *that* show? no.), drinking beer in the park on warm summer nights, the tiny tiny rave scene that used to occur there (now much larger, and uh, neon-er, from what i've seen) and the tiny little parties that we threw, the pig races at the state fair,

things i don't like: the effing heat in the summer (ok, maybe not as bad as you east-coasters, but i can't take heat) and the terrible terrible crimes against architecture they've commited in the few years since i've left (the money store, the tv tower-- it's in the upper left corner, the fucking hard rock cafe -- no, that's not photoshopped -- that's a 30 foot tall NEON guitar. that rotates). also the fact that it's pretty much a suburb, or at least seems that way, when you're a young adult.

the kitchen? uh. can't say i've heard of it. couldja fill me in?
posted by fishfucker at 12:07 PM on August 29, 2002

That's really cool, jburka. I used to live in Sacramento and saw the "Ocean City, MD" sign quite a few times. I always wondered where Ocean City was and thought it would be a neat adventure to drive across and see the "Sacramento, CA" sign at the other end. (50 through Nevada is a classic road trip if you ever get a chance to take it.)

Anyway, Sacramento - I'm glad there are some good restaurants there now. I spent close to ten years in that sprawled-out frying pan of a suburban hell and there was nothing to do but go to Old Sacramento, swim in the river, and sit in front of my computer writing code. Which I therefore did, at great length. The railroad museum is indeed cool but it loses its charm after the half dozenth time through. You'd bankrupt yourself trying to pay me to live in Sacramento again, diversity and good restaurants or no.

Related to the original poster's question: there are four sushi bars within two blocks of my apartment. This is not an accident.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:13 PM on August 29, 2002

G & Fishfucker: The Kitchen - sure, a great restaurant. Fantastic cooks. But speaking as someone for whom food is a priority - I've waited 2 hrs in the cold to get a table at the bar at Nobu when Morimoto was serving, got reservations 2 months in advance for a 10-course omakase at Tojo's, and went all the way to Thailand just for the Peakgai - I just have trouble getting excited about the menus I've seen for The Kitchen, given that it looks like it's turned into a factory in the last year or two. Basically, the restaurant is a little stadium: wander around the garden and enjoy the hors d'oevres, sit and watch in awe as the chefs try to make their scripted cooking show look not so scripted. I guess my priorities are finding and enjoying great food - even when the restaurant is not full of Maloofs.
posted by luriete at 12:21 PM on August 29, 2002

I live in a medium sized midwestern college town. (Madison WI) The University has a rather large and diverse foriegn student population. Most of whom, it sometimes seems, stay in town after they graduate and open a resturant.
When I go out I can choose anything from baba ganouj to paella and anything in between.
Unlike the New Yorker, we do have to drive a bit, but we do so love our cars out here in the wide open spaces...
posted by TCMITS at 12:37 PM on August 29, 2002

Here in L.A., there is technically plenty of racial diversity, but geographically it's fairly homogenous from neighborhood to neighborhood. West of Western St., people are white, east of Western, people are black, brown, or yellow. Of course, there are lots of exceptions (I'm one, as a white guy living on the east side, in an area called Koreatown that is mostly occupied by latinos), but as a rule it holds. The subway, which most people on the west side don't know exists, is clearly designed to ferret the poor, non-white people from one poor part of town to the other. You look at a map of L.A. on the subway and it makes it look like Beverly Hills and Santa Monica are in the ocean.

That said, in terms of cuisine, there's plenty of ethnic foods spread all over, even in the wealthy areas. Of course, the farther west you go, the more you find people who are health-conscious in the American sense, so the more Californized the food becomes. For example, on the west side, any asian restaurant with a tofu dish is going to offer it steamed or grilled on the menu; on the east side, tofu is almost always fried de rigeur.
posted by bingo at 12:38 PM on August 29, 2002

Do you notice the tension caused by resistance to diversity in your town

I live only several minutes away from Queens Village in NY in a mostly white, Italian neighborhood and I can tell you that some do speak in hushed tones of the neighborhood becoming "dark like Queens". A family member looking for a house instantly rejects places with "too many blacks or spanish" out of hand (also because many minority areas are also high crime areas in the segregated parts of Long Island).

Apparently, it also does a number on property values in a horribly overinflated housing market. Diversity certainly isn't welcomed anywhere, even in NY.
posted by dr_dank at 12:48 PM on August 29, 2002

Sacramento's not all bad. It has been called "The Paris of the Central Valley" (or was that Davis?), after all.

Now if only Sac could trade those whiners on the Kings for some basketball talent to seriously challenge the Lakers...we'd be talking world class. Oh, and the last time I went to the ballet...canned music? And the drivers...the worst, bar none.

The River Cats minor league baseball team ain't too shabby, though. Did I mention the lousy basketball team? Restaurants? San Francisco is only 2 hours away.


Seriously, though, diversity is a Good Thing. Nice to see Sac acknowledged for all the fine people of many cultures who've settled in that area.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 12:48 PM on August 29, 2002

I've been in Sacramento for 13 years, been to the Kitchen half a dozen times (we took the whole place over for a party once) Don't go there anymore since it got so expensive and they started charging for corkage.
A great place to go is the Squeeze Inn. It sits 12 and has a bacon cheese burger that will take you to heaven.
posted by jeffbellamy at 1:01 PM on August 29, 2002

I like the fact that Sac is supposedly the place with the most inter-racial marriages. I'm from there and it describes my entire family to a T. Of course I don't really plan to go back, living now in Seattle. (But who knows?)

Sacramento is a driving sort of town. Not LA, but it has it's own suburban charm. People drive faster on most surface streets than I do on I-5 up here in Seattle. And that's reasonable, because they've got places to go. Admittedly I moved out to the boonies before I went to high school, but we used to routinely drive 30-50 minutes to go see a movie. Of course, I'd rather go to the Tower theater than our super-high-tech Cinerama.

Oh yeah, among it's other mixed blessings, it's 2 hours from SF and two hours from the Sierras. If you lived in either of those nice places you'd be 4 hours from the other. And you'd damn well better go to one if you want to enjoy a weekend day without 100-100 degree temperatures. We'd come back from a hiking trip at Point Reyes (e.g.) and people'd have this horrid glazed look on their faces at 9 pm having endured the heat. Granted it doesn't have humidity and it's not as hot as Phoenix, but it would get too damn hot.
posted by Wood at 1:24 PM on August 29, 2002

I also live in Queens, and it has got to be the most diverse place on the planet. We've got everybody. When the World Cup was going on, it didn't matter if Qatar was playing Kiribati, after the game there'd be cars, draped in the victorious flag, honking their way through the neighborhood.

One thing about it that's not much different than other places I've seen is that blacks (especially 'American' blacks) seem to be just as segregated as everywhere else. I'm not sure if it's true, but it sure seems that way.
posted by dyaseen at 1:26 PM on August 29, 2002

My heart is warmed to see so many former-townies and visitors say such nice things about our town. We hear enough crummy stuff about our little corner of the valley from those who insist on their $1500/mo 1-bedrooms in the City.

Where did you read that Sacramento had a large percentage of mixed marriages, Wood? I'd be interested in seeing that in print - it's true in my own personal experience, but I didn't realize it was quantified fact.

Squeeze In is just about the best burger north of the Bay Area, and the hottest Habanero chili I've ever had. Every bit of the single-tiny-room restaurant is coated in an iridescent sheen of grease. It's just beautiful.

So, I guess everyone on MeFi is either from Sacramento or Queens, huh!
posted by luriete at 1:32 PM on August 29, 2002

Luriete, I don't remember where I saw that. The Time article alluded to it in the last section where it said that Sac had about 10x more inter-race children than the average. (I like to make up borderline-offensive-sounding names for us mutts. We say intersex after all, not intersexual.)
posted by Wood at 2:00 PM on August 29, 2002

Boston is one of the most geographically segregated US cities, and I find it a shame, as many of the neighborhoods perceived as "bad" places have areas of gorgeous old homes, beautiful parks, great stores selling ethnic specialties, etc. that many long-time residents aren't aware of, and that I'm only familiar with through some connections in the non-profit community arena.

A (mostly) happy exception is Allston/Brighton, an area that's near the schools and is the official "my first apartment in Boston" stop for 18 - 24yr olds. I remember sharing the sidewalk with Brazilians, Koreans, Portuguese, Preppies, Punks, Cape Verdeans, Haitians, etc. And I don't ever recall much tension between groups. And man, what a street party when Brazil wins the World Cup. Of course, I'm looking at it through the fuzzy lens of 7 years, $250 rents, and an embrace of poverty chic I've gotten far too soft (and gainfully employed) to ever enjoy again, so perhaps things are different now, as they are across the city, as the South End continues it's inexorable march south and west, turning apartments into condos and chasing out even high-end, popular restaurants with sky-high rents.

Today I live in Brookline, which is neither Sacramento nor Queens, but is pretty damn white, though the angry Russian grandmothers that storm up and down my street, ready to knock aside the unwary with their stocky, solid 4'2" frames, at least point to the cultural diversity within the grouping of "white" (compared to me, anyway). And we do have something like 13 sushi restaurants in the immediate area...
posted by jalexei at 2:00 PM on August 29, 2002

What color is America? If you took all the diffrent colors, white, red, yellow, black, etc.. and mixed them in proportionate amounts it would be interesting to see the shades change along a yearly time scale.
posted by stbalbach at 4:38 PM on August 29, 2002

My parents just moved to Sacramento (I live in Manhattan) and the place seemed much more segregated and homogenous than I'm used to. Geographically very pretty, but the few trips I've made must not've reflected the story you all are telling. I'll have to take another look when I'm there in a few weeks.
posted by anildash at 4:59 PM on August 29, 2002

I have to agree with jalexei, living in slumerville (north of cambridge) area's are incredibly segregated and either they're getting yuppified or there not places you really want to live in. I can get any type of food (thank god for anna's Taqueria ) anywhere, but the small communities really aren't very well mixed.

However, with that said it's still a major step up from living in indianapolis for the first half of my life. There's much more cultural, social, and religious variety then i've ever seen in the midwest. Then again i think of Haymarket as a little bit of paradise (or at least a great example of a true melting pot).
posted by NGnerd at 5:40 PM on August 29, 2002

oops! haymarket (darn cut and paste cognitive lag)
posted by NGnerd at 5:41 PM on August 29, 2002

What color is America? If you took all the diffrent colors, white, red, yellow, black, etc.. and mixed them in proportionate amounts it would be interesting to see the shades change along a yearly time scale.

Something like this, perhaps?
posted by rushmc at 6:37 PM on August 29, 2002

One of the worst things about living in Korea is that it is a monoculture. Relentlessly. Other than the (ghastly) Korean take on pizzas, hamburgers, spaghetti, or crapfactories like McDonalds and Pizza Hut, and the two or three dishes that constitute 'chinese food', I cannot eat anything other than Korean food in any restaurants closer than a couple of hours away. It was a 90-minute trainride I took a few days ago to get to the nearest Vietnamese restaurant, where the Pho was abominably bad, since it is effectively impossible to find either coriander (cilantro) or limes in this country, so they just left out the one and substituted orange wedges (yes, I know) for the other.

Not that Korean food doesn't rock, but it gets to be a bit much day in day out, over and over again.

Not only that, but it's almost impossible to find ingredients in even 'international' big-ass supermarkets to make non-Korean stuff at home.

That said, the lack of victual variety is the least distressing of the manifestations of the monoculture.

Bitch, moan, complain. The moral : count yourselves lucky, folks, if you can enjoy any of the benefits of living somewhere multicultural.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:39 PM on August 29, 2002

In Minneapolis we have many wonderful restaurants serving food native to Afghanistan, China (dozens with regional variations), Ethiopia (a dozen), Germany (three or four), Greece, Iraq (my kids' favorite), Jamaica, Japan (half a dozen--sushi just down the block!), Korea (a dozen), Lebanon (a half dozen), Mongolia, Somalia (several), Thailand (a dozen), Vietnam (dozens with vast regional variants)--I'll stop here but the list goes on and on. It's great to have so many choices in the middle of America.

Ya shure yew betcha! us Mee-ne-so-dans don't just eat lefsa and lutefiske, ya know!
posted by mooncrow at 8:07 AM on August 30, 2002

stavros: thanks for the reality check. After living in fabulously diverse (but rude and polluted) Toronto, white-yuppie Boston feels like a restaurant wasteland; but the variety is there if you look hard enough, and it certainly beats somewhere like Korea. Even in small-town Ithaca I had it better than you get in Korea, from the sound of it. It's good to be reminded from time to time that the glass is actually half full.

Now, Thailand was about as monocultural as Korea, and I never got tired of the food there -- but real Thai food is soooooo good that I hardly needed anything else. I don't think I'd feel the same way about Korean
posted by ramakrishna at 12:19 PM on August 30, 2002

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