Naked BBQ: No sauce needed
Post Oak Barbecue
Sacramento, CA 95821
When genuinely excellent barbecue comes along, it can be like seeing the world for the first time—a beautiful, flavorful world, where you don’t have to settle for bland, ketchup-infused vinegar or dried hunks of meat so over-seasoned, the cooks must be compensating for something. My eyes were opened by Post Oak Barbeque, a popular food truck that now has a permanent spot in the Country Club Estates area.
Post Oak pays homage to the slow smoke traditions of Central Texas barbecue, using California white oak to cook cuts of meat procured from Niman Ranch for as long as 16 hours. This style of barbecue harkens back to the days when Texas butchers sold their cooked meats by weight and wrapped them in red butcher’s paper. It’s a tradition alive in many Texas towns today. Meats are cooked with indirect heat and typically only rubbed with salt and pepper. The result is naked barbecue where emphasis is on the cut, quality and flavor of meat rather than spices or sauces.
People love to squabble about barbecue sauces, but one taste of Post Oak’s tender, thick-sliced brisket ($23) proves no sauce is needed here. The power of meat slowly marinated in its fatty juices is on full display. Endless hours of exposure to smoke creates a salty and bitter dark coffee ring of fat and meat that crumbles apart at the touch of a plastic knife. It’s delicious and hard to stop eating.
The Pulled Pork ($9) proves just as alluring. The mound of shredded decadence looks like it’s begging for vinegar or mustard. But resist! Unadorned, the juicy-rich flavors shine crystal clear.
I happened to visit when Post Oak finished smoking some of the most tantalizing Prime Rib ($30) I’ve encountered. An enormously thick-cut rib, bulbous with fat and char and blushing the perfect shade of pinkish-red, was served to me on a cafeteria-style tray. Can one ogle a prime rib? Why, yes, they can.
After tasting the tender and fatty, falling-off-the-bone, Flintstone-sized beef rib ($30, Saturdays only), I realized what Post Oak was showing me with its audacious naked barbecue: Love the fat. People want to trim the fat and slop on the sauces. But everything a good piece of meat needs to be great is already there—in the fat. The salt, the pepper, even the oak-scented smoke are simply aides to facilitate meat’s full realization.
Meats at Post Oak are sold individually by the half-pound, or as assortment platters (starting at $35). They offer delicious sides, including buttery mac-and-cheese and robust potato salad, but as Anthony Bourdain once warned, it’s better to get to the barbecue rather than waste space on sides, no matter how enticing.
I feel better about the world now that I’ve tasted exceptional barbecue. Will I still find myself going with the barbecue closest to home most of the time? Yes. But Post Oak is first on my list for when I want the best. Plus, they have a food truck and deliver.