East Sacramento Caribbean Restaurant Closing as Owners Retire
Patrick and Phoebe Célestin are ready to hang up their ladles of okra — for good this time.
The couple will be closing the Celestin restaurant at the end of 2022, Phoebe Celestin confirmed to The Sacramento Bee on Friday, ending a nearly 40-year run.
“It’s truly a love story for our community,” said Phoebe Célestin. “We’ve been to three different places in our city, and they’ve all served us well. People found us wherever we were, and they were always happy to know where we were.
The full range of Southern dishes were not appreciated as they are today when the couple opened Celestin’s restaurant in 1983. Even today, few restaurants in the Sacramento area serve the Creole, Cajun and Caribbean dishes from Célestin, such as jambalaya or Haitian griot (chunks of pork marinated in citrus fruits, braised and fried).
Celestin’s restaurant first opened at 25 and J streets in downtown Sacramento, where it remained for 18 years until it moved to 1815 K St. (now home to The Porch Restaurant & Bar) and adopted the name “Célestin’s Island Eats and Cajun Cuisine” in 2002. .
Patrick and Phoebe closed their business and retired in 2011, but reopened it in 2017 at 3610 McKinley Blvd. The COVID-19 pandemic has tested their 1,500 square foot restaurant with limited indoor seating. Community support and an indoor parking lot helped them manage some of the financial difficulties of those years.
The Celestines had planned not to retire long enough to show their business partners Rafer Chambers and Rijindar Bains the ropes before letting them take over. The partnership did not work out, however, and the Célestins bought out Chambers and Bains from their holdings in the early years.
Les Célestins are now looking for a buyer for the restaurant, listed with almost all assets at $160,000, who will make it a staple in the community. The recipes and the business name could be available for a bit more money, but the couple aren’t exactly looking for a successor.
“They’re basically looking for the right person,” said broker Matt Axford of Turton Commercial Real Estate, which is selling the business. “It’s been their pride and joy for a long time, and they’re looking for someone else who will make it their pride and joy as well. They’re not exactly looking for someone who will serve chicken nuggets.
There has been no shortage of applicants so far, Axford and partner Kimio Bazett said. Makes sense: this is as clean a turnkey operation as longtime restaurant industry veterans say they’ve ever seen.
“We basically prepared the location for the next business owner because we drove a lot more traffic to this site than there was before,” said Phoebe Celestin.
Celestin’s was named one of The Sacramento Bee’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2021. A refreshing white wine cocktail called “margajito,” part margarita and part mojito, stood out in a June review, along with the Brazilian-style Pacific snapper and flagship gumbo.
The Célestin’s restaurant is currently open from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and from 2:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
This story was originally published September 10, 2022 5:25 a.m.