Fumbled ’cue

Double Nickel Smokehouse

Double Nickel Smokehouse

3443 Laguna Blvd., Ste. 150
Elk Grove, CA 95758

(916) 226-2900

I suppose the first warning sign was the fact that the restaurant is connected to a kids’ arcade (think Chuck E. Cheese’s) and bowling alley. Then again, I’ve been surprised before and sports bars do have the occasional reputation for excellent bar food and barbeque.

Double Nickel Smokehouse, however, would not be one of those sports bars.

Located deep in the bowels in a part of Elk Grove off of Laguna Boulevard and attached to the Pins N Strikes Bowling Alley, Double Nickel Smokehouse occupies a huge space and it’s owned by Lance Briggs, who is also a linebacker for the Chicago Bears (No. 55, hence, Double Nickel). An Elk Grove native, Briggs is one more in a line of professional athletes opening restaurants. Some may recall a slight brouhaha in September when Briggs missed training right before the start of the season to attend Double Nickel’s opening.

It seems a shame he had to rush back for the start of the season as perhaps the owner should have stuck around a bit longer. For such a grand space and such high expectations of a local hero, the food simply doesn’t meet pro standards and certainly won’t be going to the playoffs.

Service is spotty and dreadful to say the least. On a Tuesday night two servers were working six tables, but getting either one of them to stop at our table was nigh impossible. It was all terribly Parisian, and that’s never a good thing in table service.

Briggs once said in an interview with another local publication that customers should bring their appetite. Take this to heart, as this is soul food barbecue and portions are huge. An appetizer alone could function as a meal in and of itself. Deep-fried pickles tasted delightful. The batter was a bit spongy, but a crispy exterior and a balanced remoulade made for an addicting snack.

Deep-fried nuggets of catfish, however, were served a mess—devoid of any seasoning, the unnaturally squishy fish molted their greasy batter jackets at the merest touch.

The mac and cheese was, frankly, awful. Bland and lacking quality cheese, I’m sure it will have its fans but I’m not one of them.

The corn cake arrived dry and turned to powder when picked up—perhaps serving it with butter or honey might have helped but none was provided.

The collard greens were light on the vinegar, but overall successful and quite flavorful.

The dry rub on the ribs made for something mind-boggling: caked on to the point that it coated the mouth, yet it didn’t offer even a fading spirit of flavor. The ribs themselves were scant of meat. As for the pulled pork, ours was so dry campers could have mistaken it for kindling.

Some touchdowns: The brisket was well-marbled and fatty with a pleasant hickory smokiness. And the biggest play of the night proved to be the hot link: snappy skin, excellent char and fantastic, spicy flavor.

There are a variety of house-made barbecue sauces. The mustard is a dead ringer for French’s Yellow and the diabetes-inducing sweetness of the root beer sauce would best be served on peach pie and not a hot link. The spicy sauce is fine enough, but it’s nothing that’ll impress.

Barbecue is rarely cheap, but Double Nickel feels like an overcharge of the highest order. Two combo plates and two appetizers run just under $75, so either be prepared to share or come on payday.

In the end, we left hungry, irritated and disappointed—a real fumble for Double Nickel Smokehouse.