Sights on Sac: Confessions of a Professional People Watcher

I love/hate everything

Young professionals! Yes, you.

You with your under-eye circles and your TPS reports and your deadlines. With your Twitter and your blogging! Your meager income and your growing professionalism. That is young.


How’s that for an introduction?

You = hooked, right?

So, once you’ve recovered from that wave of awesomeness, allow me to introduce myself.

[Swivels around in chair, chin resting gently on right knuckles.]

Oh, hi! My name is Jon Schuller. I am, among any number of monikers, a founding member of Metro EDGE, the Business Coordinator (and sometimes writer!) for Sactown magazine, a local blogger (less than sometimes!) and—wait for it—a Professional People Watcher.

It’s true! Well, at least in my own head it is. And that’s all that really matters. In fact, we’re all PPWs (pronounced: pee-pee-dubs) in one way or another.

And for good reason.

People-watching is humanity’s sport (no offense, soccer). We all do it. It’s part of our social identity. It binds us to one another, creates a sense of community, helps us navigate and validate our own complicated social definitions and norms—plus a whole slew of other sociological terms I’m probably forgetting/confusing from Sociology 101 at UC Davis, circa 2003.

Also: It’s fun! And cheap. Cheap and fun. And for struggling young professionals (and newbies) who may be looking for something to do in Sacramento but don’t necessarily have the funds or energy to go big, people-watching can be the perfect way to get out, soak up some local flavor, and really get to know your community.

To wit:

One of the great things about Sacramento is the region’s wonderful diversity. In 2002, Time named us the most diverse city in America. With 2.2 million residents, Sacramento is also California’s fourth largest metropolitan area and the country’s 20th largest Designated Market Area (second largest in the state).

Geography lesson! We’re also the capital of the most populous state in the nation. It’s kind of a big deal. Factor in our amazing proximity to mountains, lakes, rivers, oceans, parallel dimensions, and some of the planet’s premiere wine regions, and it’s not hard to see why Sacramento has become a veritable melting pot for people of different backgrounds, socioeconomic brackets, age groups and religions.

Blah, blah… We are the world, right? The sleepy, homogenous cow-town of yesteryear is no more. We are a vibrant, budding region all our own, boasting a cornucopia of interesting denizens and groups.

Translation for me? This town is fast becoming a Mecca for PPWs.

And so, I encourage you to place your tongue firmly in your cheek as I throw down three local hotspots that I think are worth checking out. Grab a drink. Grab a friend. Make some friends! (Maybe some enemies.)

All you really need is an open mind and, well, eyeballs.

Because herewith, we set our sights on midtown. Why? Because I don’t really leave the grid and this is my blog post.


Lounge on 20: Ali Mackani’s Miami-esque lounge-restaurant is located on K and 20th streets—one of the hottest corners in town. The space boasts an impressive selection of bubbly, too. But the real draw is that patio. Well, I guess it’s more like an elevated deck. Which, for our anthropological observations, is the equivalent of a tree house on the African savanna. And you are a wildlife photographer—or watcher?—safely floating above the action on your little cloud of judgment. Mixed metaphors aside, Lounge on 20’s patio offers the perfect vantage point to keep tabs on the comings and goings of the joint’s well-heeled crowd (an early-30s mix). It’s also located on the northwest corner of Sacramento’s flourishing LGBT district, commonly referred to as Lavender Heights. Basically, a PPW’s holy grail on any bustling Saturday night. Prepare for well-coiffed, tank top-sporting club kids; teetering drag queens in sequins, tiaras and bouffants as big as their hearts; plus the MARRS Building’s usual mix of patrons—anything from wheatgrassy yoga moms to wide-eyed suburbanites braving this sceniest of midtown scenes. The sitch: Snag an outdoor table near the railing no later than 9 p.m. Things don’t usually get messy until about 11, so stick around for a PPW’s fever dream of delights. On Second Saturdays, take everything I’ve said, multiply it by two, and light it on fire. And bring a coat for the winter months.

R Street Corridor: OK, I realize this is less a specific location and more of, you know, a street. But hear me out. R Street between 14th and 15th streets has staked its claim as one of the best hubs in Sacramento for people-watching. For one thing, the drag is bookended by the bars R15 and The Shady Lady. In between, you’ll find everything from a life-changing duck risotto (Magpie Caterers) to fro-yo (Top This) to Brazilian blowouts (Space 07 Salon). Seriously, night or day, this cultural watering hole is a smorgasbord of personalities, fauxhemians, sports fans, even iPhone-wielding tweens. There’s the various subsets of bescarfed hipsters sauntering through (my fav), cobbled together with hip, young Land Park families and sometimes a French bulldog on a leash. One time, while noshing on the patio at Burgers and Brew on a hot day, my dining companions and I were suddenly drenched in a cascade of water from an above-ground water main (thanks, drunk guy). Needless to say, R Street can sometimes feel like the Wild West, but rest assured there’s PPW gold in them thar hills (sidewalks?). The stich: Patio seating. It’s a must. Late mornings, early afternoons are tamer, but nevertheless diverse in the flotsam and jetsam of patrons who come ambling along this industro-chic runway. At night this becomes one of the more happening landscapes in Sacramento. Especially if there’s a concert underway at Venue. Two words: The. Outfits. Also,, a local singles dating site, is hosting a Halloween party on Oct. 30. Need I say more? Yes. Attendees are to come dressed as what they wanted to be when they were a kid. (Divulgence: I would be an Egyptologist, because that’s just the kind of cool kid I was back in the day. Jealous?)

Farmers Market: Oh, me. I don’t just drink and judge. I also have to eat! And because Sacramento is located in one of the most agriculturally abundant regions in the world, this means I frequent the farmers market. Specifically, the see-and-be-seen scene beneath the Hwy 50 near Southside Park. “X” marks the spot (literally, it’s off X Street. Buh-zing!) every Sunday for farm-fresh veggies, fruit, free-range eggs, fresh-baked bread, butter, flowers—even live fish! The market is also a great place to grab coffee and stroll among a bustling and down-to-earth crowd of locals. This is a much more family-friendly affair—local foodies and bearded twentysomethings meet nuclear families in church clothes—which sets the perfect tone for a Sunday morning. Sharp-eyed shoppers can spot great deals on produce but also local chefs like David English of The Press building their mouth-watering menus for the day. So really, less judging and more observing, but nonetheless a swelling arena for the PPW to soak in a colorful cross section of Sacramento and maybe pick up some butternut squash along the way. The sitch: Try and get there around 8:30 or 9 with your reusable grocery bag for the best produce. Skip Starbucks and score fresh coffee and croissants from the Sacramento Bread Company. Don’t worry too much about makeup or bed head. You’ll fit right in here. (But maybe leave the UGGs at home?)


So there you have it! My three, furiously thrown-together locales for staring at people.


Take these as a rough outline for ways to get out and enjoy the people and businesses that comprise midtown Sacramento and beyond. We’re quirky! We’re ridiculous. We’re fun. But we’re also a strong community that is growing and changing each year.

I’m proud to be a part of this city’s next generation of leaders and I’m excited to be a part of that change, too.

But for now, I’ve got my eye on things. On everything.

And I like what I see.


Jon Schuller is a staffer at Sactown magazine, a member of Metro EDGE and the author of the oft-neglected I Love and Hate Everything. He currently resides in Land Park.