How Sacramento’s hottest pop-up leans on the city’s classic Japanese sandwiches

Mecha Mucho is Ryan Ota’s homage to his and Sacramento’s roots, an exploration of his Japanese and Mexican heritage that, for now, leans on the former. And it’s the hottest pop-up in town.

Opened on Nov. 8 out of Osaka-Ya’s shave ice window at 2215 10th St. in Southside Park, Mecha Mucho is one of Sacramento’s few spots for Japanese egg salad sandwiches, a convenience store snack that’s become popular in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

People lined up during Mecha Mucho’s opening week, eager for loaded egg salad sandwiches on fluffy Japanese milk bread. Ota’s pop-up, which will stay in Osaka-Ya’s window until March 2024, sold out within two hours on opening day, and demand has barely slowed in the weeks since.

Osaka-Ya has been serving mochi and snow cones since 1963, and Ota has been a customer since he was 5 or 6. Another longtime favorite, Mahoroba Japanese Bakery in Land Park, now makes all the milk bread for Mecha Mucho’s three egg salad sandwiches.

That includes the “Spam musu mi,” a banh mi variation with candied grilled Spam, kewpie mayonnaise and pickled vegetables. There’s also the “cluckin’ katsu,” featuring sunomono pickles, Napa cabbage, sweet tonkatsu sauce and chicken that Ota fries in a stovetop pot.

Cluckin’ Katsu, left, Egg Salad, middle, and Spam Musubi, right, are the three main sandos that make up Mecha Mucho’s menu on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023.
Cluckin’ Katsu, left, Egg Salad, middle, and Spam Musubi, right, are the three main sandos that make up Mecha Mucho’s menu on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023.

Both are $14; a simpler sandwich with egg salad, kewpie mayo and crunchy furikake runs $8. Don’t miss the gooey, $3 miso chocolate chip cookie speckled with black sesame seeds.

“I really like simplicity. I don’t think people need a ton of options,” Ota said. “With that being said, I think we’re going to expand the menu to include one or two more options.”

One likely addition: a grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with shiitake mushrooms, served alongside a Japanese curry buoyed by kabocha squash and Fuji apples. Ota also wants to incorporate more Mexican flavors; that line of his background is currently only represented at Mecha Mucho in bottles of Jarritos, offered alongside Japanese sodas.

Ota introduced some Japanese-inspired dishes at Solomon’s Vinyl Diner, then known as Solomon’s Delicatessen, during his stint as the downtown restaurant’s chef. He previously cooked at Hot Italian in midtown and The Other Side in East Sacramento (both now closed).

Mecha Mucho is currently open from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until sold out, Tuesday through Thursday on non-holiday weeks. Ota hopes to open Friday and Saturday as well starting next week, eventually serve food until 6 p.m. and possible expand into a brick-and-mortar restaurant after his lease with Osaka-Ya ends in March.

Andrew Calisterio picks up his order from the Mecha Mucho pop-up which operates out of Osaka-Ya’s window in Southside Park on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023.
Andrew Calisterio picks up his order from the Mecha Mucho pop-up which operates out of Osaka-Ya’s window in Southside Park on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023.

What I’m Eating

Fish Face Poke Bar is Billy Ngo’s least-heralded concept, an island-inspired oasis in the R Street Corridor’s WAL Public Market that doesn’t carry nearly the same clout as Kru Contemporary Japanese Cuisine or Kodaiko Ramen & Bar. Yet it’s probably the best poke in Sacramento, both for quality and the sheer volume of options.

What other poke joints sell sturgeon, Sacramento County’s flagship fish, along with scallops and albacore? When it comes to sauces, customers get a choice of kimchi ponzu, wasabi-inflected soy, coconut cream with lime juice or five other gluten-free options.

You can use that bevy of options to build a bowl from scratch, but I opted for the pre-curated standard Hawaiian (all poke bowls are $12/small, $17/medium and $21.50/large). Simple and straightforward, it merely featured mouthwatering tuna enhanced by flavorful seasonings — chile and sesame oils, housemade soy sauce and togarashi.

Do rain and cold not put you in the mood for poke? Try the tan tan miso udon ($14), a relatively spicy soup filled with thick slippery noodles, the funk of kimchi and crunchy fried garlic, topped by a delicious pork belly chashu.

There are semi-assembled hand rolls ($3.50-$5.75 apiece) and intriguing specials, such as the super musubi ($6). With a cheddar cheese skirt, grilled Spam and an orange aioli, it felt closer to a cheeseburger than a breakfast item.

Fish Face Poke Bar

Address: 1104 R St., Suite 100, Sacramento.

Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m., seven days a week.

Phone number: (916) 706-0605.


Drinks: Beer, wine, sake, cider and craft sodas. The refreshing Fish Face pilsner ($6) from Solid Ground Brewing is obvious choice for imbibers.

Vegetarian options: You can sub a tofu-cucumber mixture for your fish, but that’s about it.

Noise level: Most seating is outdoors, but the R Street Corridor isn’t at its busiest during Fish Face’s open hours.

Openings & Closings

Z-Town Asian Gastro Bar is Elk Grove’s newest dinner and nightlife spot, a neon-lit party destination at 8409 Elk Grove Florin Road. Some come for hot pot or Korean fried chicken lathered in yangnyeom sauce, but soju towers and carved-out watermelon fishbowls steal the show.

DNA Wine Lounge opened Nov. 16 at 9719 Village Center Drive, Suite 100, in Granite Bay. Owned by Doug and Audra Owens (that’s the “D” and “A” in the name), it offers bites such as tinned fish, prosciutto-fig flatbreads and a family Caesar salad recipe along with pours of wine and Champagne.

Maneki Sushi has closed after a year at 1902 Taylor Road in Roseville. The restaurant offshoot of Tracy-based Bay Boys Brewing, it had reasonably-priced à la carte options along with $500, 24-carat-gold-encrusted sashimi topped with wagyu beef and caviar.

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