Smoke ’em if you've got ’em

Good Eats

Good Eats

5820 South Land Park Dr.
Sacramento, CA 95816

(916) 422-3287

You know how there are pickles and artisan hand-cured baby dills? Or beer and locally sourced, custom-hopped microbrews? Well, “Bar-B-Q” and barbecue are two different things, and Good Eats is Bar-B-Q.

Bar-B-Q is deeply Southern, with a long history of African-American cooks making the most of tough cuts of meat and long-cooked vegetables.

Barbecue, on the other hand, is a newer concept. It draws from Southern foodways, but adds in high-end ingredients and cooking methods to make a more picturesque product.

Fahrenheit 250 was highly praised in this space (see “Barbecue euphoria,” by Ann Martin Rolke, SN&R Dish, July 10, 2014), and rightly so. They’re elevating barbecue to almost fine dining status.

But Southerners will tell you that Bar-B-Q is traditionally more like fast food and family dining. Good Eats is authentically that.

Chef Eric McFadden has been heading the kitchen at the Zebra Club for 11 years, serving breakfast and bar food. He also runs hot dog carts downtown and caters large and small events. Add to that now his Good Eats restaurant hidden in a corner of Vic’s IGA Market in South Land Park.

Don’t expect ambiance, because Good Eats is all about the food. There are tables with silverware, and a big-screen TV, but it’s dark and almost literally a hole in the wall. Ten months ago, McFadden carved out a dimly lit space behind a hastily erected wall, just off a big commissary kitchen.

Open seven days a week, McFadden offers a huge menu of choices. There are at least 13 sandwiches, including a shrimp po’ boy and a giant smoked-meat burrito.

The po’ boy comes on a hoagie (heartier than you’d find in New Orleans), with six big fried shrimp, lettuce, tomatoes and remoulade. A squeeze of lemon adds the perfect zing. The creamy potato salad with pickle chunks is a classic old-school version.

All the fried items are cooked to order and show off McFadden’s skill. The fried chicken dinner arrives with three big pieces that are thickly battered and darkly fried. The meat bursts with juice under the slightly peppery crust.

McFadden parks his smoker outside the store and uses a mix of mesquite and white oak plus a dry rub on the meats. A 3-Way Combo offers a choice of pork ribs, pork slices, tri-tip, chicken quarter or hot link. The ribs are cross-cut and somewhat fatty, but not too heavily smoked. Thick slices of pork are a bit dry but come with lots of vinegar-based sauce. The hot link is a good choice, with lots of flavor under the gentle smoking.

The homemade meatloaf, which is also smoked, is an unusual dish. Two huge slabs of vegetable-studded meat are served with a rich brown gravy. There’s no sweet sauce on this loaf; it’s pure savory comfort food.

All the dinners come with a choice of two sides. The old favorites are included, like slightly spicy red beans and rice, creamy macaroni and cheese, long-cooked green beans and stewed greens. They’re not ready for Instagram, but they’re freshly made. As McFadden says, “They are no frozen ingredients, just hard work.”

On two occasions, they were out of cornbread, and didn’t offer any other bread sides, which is unheard of for Southern food. Homemade desserts are also unreliably available. On another occasion, they were out of all the chicken menu items.

This is where such a big menu can cause problems. It might be better to have fewer things to prep so they’re consistently on hand.

McFadden will really have to streamline his menu come January, when he intends to open for breakfast on the weekends. Expect French toast, eggs, and chicken and waffles. Given his skill with fried chicken, we’ll be eager to try his breakfast version.