Downtown Sacramento had its first major stress test of the Golden 1 Center era on March 17, when thousands of people descended on K Street Mall for St. Patrick’s Day and the UCLA game at the new arena. By all accounts, it was a wild scene: March Madness in every sense of the phrase.
Sauced BBQ & Spirits served 3,000 people that day, setting a record for the Livermore-based barbecue chain. If Sauced’s owners had any doubts about locating their new restaurant just yards away from the arena, they were wiped away that Friday in March.
Burnt ends and brisket with grits and mac ‘n cheese.
Sauced opened in January in Downtown Commons, aka DOCO, the arena-adjacent development still under construction that will eventually include a boutique hotel, a steakhouse, a burger lounge and other restaurants. Sauced ticks all the boxes for sports fans heading to or from the arena: fun food, loud music, craft beer, wall-mounted TVs everywhere you look.
In 2012, East Bay native Barrett Gomes opened the original Sauced in Livermore with his Atlanta cousin, Brenden Scanlan, a veteran of the barbecue-competition circuit down South. (They have two other Sauceds, one in Walnut Creek, the other in Petaluma.) Instead of a single regional style of barbecue such as Carolina, Georgia or Memphis, they serve “Southern-inspired” barbecue that borrows from multiple traditions. Meats are smoked for 12 to 16 hours on white oak, giving them a subtle smoke flavor that doesn’t overpower. The protein lineup includes pork ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, sausage links, half chickens, chicken wings and burnt ends, which are chopped-up bits of fatty, well-done brisket. You sauce the meat yourself, choosing from four sauces—sweet, spicy, mustard and tomato based—sitting in a caddy on each table.
Barbecue with coleslaw, baked beans and a whiskey flight
Side dishes are riffs on classic Southern comfort food: creamy jalapeno cheese grits, mac ’n’ cheese, smoky baked beans, a dessertlike sweet potato casserole topped with vanilla brown sugar walnut crumble, and honey cornbread studded with freshly roasted corn. Desserts also have Southern DNA. There’s banana pudding made with vanilla wafers, and fried Oreos in a beignetlike batter, a nod to carnival fare.
At Sauced, size matters. A lot of the food is BIG. The Cousin Eddie cheeseburger, topped with coleslaw, a smoked sausage link and a full portion of pulled pork, stands 12 inches tall. The barbecue-sauced Rednexican Nachos can feed a family, and the Loaded Sweet Potater, accessorized with melted cheese, bacon, beans and an order of meat, is the size of a small football.
Sauced takes its beer and whiskey seriously. The 32 tap handles change constantly, serving fresh beer from local and Northern California breweries such as Track 7, Bike Dog, Knee Deep and Fieldwork. A digital scoreboard lists all the brews, and beer hunters can download an app to see what beers are on tap and what’s on deck. Sauced also has an impressive selection of whiskeys, including rare, highly allocated items like Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 13-year-old rye ($125 for a pour).
The restaurant’s vibe is cleaned-up country. The owners call it “hillbilly chic”: reclaimed barn wood on the walls, Mason jar pendant lights, wood tables and metal stools, country music blasting away in the background. So pull up a chair and settle in, because there’s more fun yet to come: Now that they’ve passed their initial stress test, they’re making plans to hold trivia and bingo nights during the week and live country music on Fridays and Saturdays.
Bar Manager John Biller