A pinch of salt

Tank House BBQ and Bar

Tank House BBQ and Bar

1925 J St.
Sacramento, CA

(916) 431-7199

I’ve lived a privileged life when it comes to barbeque and grilling. My dad’s side of the family has deep roots in Kansas City, Mo., where relations barbequed briskets low and slow. My husband is the son of a grill- and chili-competition champ and has inherited the skills passed down to him. Suffice it to say, I hold high standards.

Tank House BBQ and Bar recently opened in the former Hads Steak & Seafood location in Midtown across from the MARRS building. For husband-and-wife team Tyler and Melissa Williams, the move to launch a barbeque joint that was open late and stocked with a fine selection of beer and whiskey was a clever one.

Along with talented chef and pit master Brian “Chachi” Maydahl (a stalwart chef with stripes earned via The Kitchen, Tuli Bistro and Shady Lady Saloon), they’re aiming to fill a void that so far only Sandra Dee’s BBQ & Seafood and Texas West BBQ have dared step into.

The décor here is “suspenders and suede oxfords”—both homey and eclectic with old wood, new wood and wallpaper that is to die for. A large patio is welcoming and allows diners to bathe in the haze from the drum smoker. You’ll leave perfumed in white oak and almond-wood smoke; a good thing if your date digs the smell of meat and wood, bad if you have a meeting after lunch.

The coleslaw here is served as a mix of finely shredded cabbage and carrots that still have plenty of crunch, but while the body is strong, the soul is absent. A simple addition of celery seed, caraway, cider vinegar or lemon would enliven it. Greens are packed with vinegar, bacon and yesiwantsecondsplease.

The hot links are from Silva Sausage Company in the Bay Area and are the only item not made in-house. If you haven’t had this brand of hot link before, well, it’s hot as sex in July on a tin roof. They’re cut in half lengthwise before cooking and charred quickly, which tends to dry them out, but a slathering of the sauces fixes that fine enough.

The ribs are astounding in texture: The meat falls off the bone with confidence that your mouth will catch it. A lack of salt or spice on the ribs, however, robs them of the chance of being truly astonishing. (An easy fix.)

The brisket—that’s the crux of any barbeque joint. If a barbeque joint’s brisket is bad, it should close down to save face. You barbeque diehards out there know it’s the truth. So, how is it at Tank House?

It’s fantastic—as tender as the first time you held hands with a high-school crush, with a sweet, smoky flavor that’s just as memorable. Loaded onto the sandwich and served with white American cheese, it makes for an epic meal.

Sadly, the sauces, however, need help. The sweet sauce seems like a saccharine riff of a Kansas City-style sauce, i.e., it’s tomato-based. It’s also a bit polarizing: Some of my dining companions thought it was delightful, others thought it tasted like ketchup and sugar. However, we all agreed that some layering of spice—garlic, onion, Worcestershire sauce, something—was needed.

The vinegar-based sauce (think a less sour Carolinian-style sauce) is tangy, as it’s billed to be. I prefer tangy barbecue sauces to be sour enough to slap you in the mouth, and spicy enough to make you gasp for air.

Then again, as a chef I worked for once told me, “Sauce is subjective.”

The mac and cheese also needs improvement. The Mornay sauce is expertly made, both soft and smooth. Unfortunately, Tank House once again underseasons—the mac lacks an intrigue that a pinch of salt or mustard could muster. As it stands, it’s very bland.

Tank House is still young, but the passion and potential are there. In addition, finely cooked brisket and ribs, a stocked bar, swank interior, and late hours will ensure its endearment with the Midtown crowd (and this eater, as well). Seasoning is an issue, though, and mars what could be groundbreaking food. I’m giving three stars, with the hope that on the next visit, a good pinch of salt will bring it to four.