To borrow a phrase from the 19th century English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in summer this girl’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of—wait for it—meat. Barbecued meat, to be precise. Yes, I have a decidedly unladylike taste for the stuff. Give me a whole rack of St. Louis-style ribs or a hefty slab of smoked brisket capped with a thick ribbon of fat and I’m in hog heaven.
So where do I go when I’m in the mood for a carnivorous chow-down? One of my favorite spots is Urban Roots Brewery & Smokehouse (1322 V St.). Owned by Pangaea’s Rob Archie and brewer Peter Hoey, this casual craft brewery in Sacramento’s Southside Park neighborhood has a massive indoor smoker that pumps out all sorts of goodies, including brisket, ribs, pulled pork, turkey, hot links and salmon. The pulled pork sandwich is garnished with crispy fried onions strings (delish), and the sides (including fries, rustic slaw and cheddar-jalapeño grits) are uniformly good. One of my favorite dishes on the menu: brisket tacos, made with burnt onion salsa, Fresno chili crema and cotija cheese. These small street tacos allow me to get my brisket fix while feeling practically virtuous because I’m not consuming a pound of meat.
Another go-to is midtown’s Tank House BBQ & Bar (1925 J St.). Early during the pandemic, owner Tyler Williams took advantage of the city’s Farm to Fork Al Fresco program to expand his outdoor seating to the sidewalk, and Tank House has been a reliable source of excellent ’cue and craft cocktails throughout COVID-19. Smoked meats come out of a busy outdoor smoker on the side patio. Tank House is known for, among other things, its dirty tots: tater tots topped with pulled pork and two sauces (cheese and barbecue). And when you order brisket, they give you a choice: lean, fatty or half and half. Now that’s my kind of barbecue joint.
Then there’s MoMo’s Meat Market (5780 Broadway) in Tahoe Park, a true mom-and-pop operation. Owners Sharon and Glenn Miller do it all, from smoking ribs, chicken and tri-tip in large drum grills out in the parking lot to making authentic Southern fare such as mac and cheese, braised greens and red beans and rice. And they’re awfully friendly while they do it. The ribs are particularly tasty, with the nice, firm chew that true barbecue lovers crave—none of that so-tender-it-falls-off-the-bones nonsense.
Sauced BBQ & Spirits (1028 Seventh St.) is part of a Livermore-based chain of barbecue restaurants, but don’t hold that against them. This busy DOCO eatery prepares first-rate St. Louis ribs, Carolina pulled pork and burnt ends—both brisket and pork belly. You get your choice of four sauces: Kansas City, sweet and tangy, hot and mustard. COVID-inspired family meals include a whole smoked chicken, a rack of ribs, a pound of pulled pork, four sides and a six-pack for $80.
Finally, there’s Lefty’s Taproom (5610 Elvas Ave.) in my own East Sac neighborhood. It’s about as casual a place as you can imagine, but there’s plenty of seating at outdoor picnic tables and a massive awning to keep the sun off. The food is just what I’m looking for when I order barbecue: nothing fancy, just good, solid, tasty fare. The brisket and ribs both have a nice smoke ring, and the burnt ends are slathered in a tasty barbecue sauce. Both the oniony potato salad and the coleslaw are fine accompaniments to all that meat. I already know I’ll be spending a lot of time at Lefty’s this summer.