Chef Rich was just starting out on his first solo venture, seeking to further develop his cooking style when Sage Restaurant was planted in the quaint corner of the Eastbluff Shopping Center back in 1997. The food was comforting and modest back then, slanted toward the fresh and lean—less butter and cream, more homemade stocks and vinegar.
Over the next few years, what started off as “Creative American Cuisine”, grew from more than just a catchy tag line into more of a culinary genre when Chef Rich discovered fingerling potatoes, purple cauliflower, di Cicco broccolini, and baby artichokes at the farmers’ market. It was the emergence of something truly remarkable.
As the flavor profile of everything on the menu took off, there were suddenly dinners with farmers and winemakers (together!), weekly original farm-to-table tasting menus, an expanded, late-evening happy hour menu, monthly Saturday wine and small plate tastings, and afternoon teas. We’ve seen the risk-averse won over by an oxtail soup, a garnish of crispy parsnips, a puree of roasted sunchokes, a two-dollar taco stuffed with a fennel root and radish slaw briskly chopped seconds before. But the real payoff has been seeing diners fork-fondling something delicious they cannot place, having possibly never had kabocha squash or baby turnips, or witnessing others transported to a long-lost happy place by perfectly cooked Brussels sprouts.
In that time, guests became regulars and famers became friends. Today all are, in many regards, considered family. These days it is virtually impossible to set foot inside Sage without seeing a familiar face and a name to go with it. And as many of our regulars will attest, it’s a cuisine that has truly transformed a community.