Let the kiddos go off their rockers
Wicked West Pizza & BBQ
West Sacramento, CA
I once made the mistake of going to Chuck E. Cheese’s house of cacophony for a birthday party. As if the noise wasn’t reason enough to flee, the food and beer served there were subpar at best.
At the time, I thought a place with good food and higher-end alcohol would make parents more likely to chill out while the kiddos were off their rockers on video games.
Fortunately, the owners of Wicked West Pizza & BBQ thought the same. Wicked West, which opened three years ago in West Sacramento, satisfies the wee gamblers in training by offering a wealth of arcade-styled games. But the restaurant’s owners are also savvy enough to ply adults with better-than-expected food and drink. Even more impressive is that the food here is made primarily with organic and locally sourced ingredients, including whole-wheat crusts and pastas.
Wicked West is a popular destination for sports teams and birthday parties, but it also caters to adult diners with live music inside or on the patio. Most importantly, the food is good. We were pleasantly surprised to see healthier choices, such as organic whole-wheat crusts as the default option for the pizzas. Gluten-free and vegan options are also available. Be careful about the size of the pizza you choose: The “Wicked” is a 20-inch behemoth, and single-serving slices are cut from these giants. With a texture closer to Chicago style than New York style, the pizzas are tasty but quite filling.
The dough, pleasantly reminiscent of soft pretzels, is braided over a bit of cheese and sauce at the edges. You can choose from house-made sauces and fresh toppings, or pick from one of the inventively named presets.
The Old Lady is especially good, with pesto, potatoes, spinach, lots of veggies and a zingy balsamic drizzle. The much meatier Rib Feast sports tomato and barbecue sauces, beef and pork rib meat, caramelized onions, and cilantro. Another choice, The Campbell River, has a lighter, brunch-inspired combination of garlic-Parmesan sauce, smoked salmon, red onions, tomatoes and capers.
The biggest secret here, though, is the barbecue. While “BBQ” is in the joint’s name, you might not expect such an array of slow-smoked meats and well-executed sides, but that’s what you get. Wicked West delivers with shredded, tender meat that’s lightly smoky and tossed with a vinegar-based sauce. While the sourdough bun isn’t classic (that would be Wonder Bread), it holds up well to the juicy meat.
The pork ribs are dry-rubbed and toothsome, while the tri-tip is well cooked but leans toward a dry texture. A bit of sauce on the side would fix that right up. The chicken is rubbed with olive oil and herbs and rotisserie-smoked to produce a moist and juicy result. The best deal is the 3 Meat Sampler, which can be served with two sides.
Make sure that one of those sides includes the sweet corn fritters. These are nuggets of panko-crusted creamy corn that we couldn’t stop eating. The requisite mac and cheese is a nice version with whole-wheat elbows and sharp cheddar, baked with crumbs on top. It’s not an uber-creamy style, but offers plenty of cheesy goodness and homemade cred.
Rounding out your happy meal is a choice of mainstream beers and microbrews, plus California wines by the glass. Kids can get organic milk or juice boxes or bottomless fountain drinks.
For dessert, Wicked West serves organic gelatos and sorbettos made from scratch. The fat-free dark-chocolate sorbetto is amazingly rich and creamy, while the salted-caramel gelato is clearly made with a well-crafted amber caramel that renders it not just sweet but nuanced.