Just a few months old, Woodlake Tavern is luring serious barbecue aficionados to Del Paso Boulevard, where executive chef Matthew Stauss is showing a mastery of smoking meat.
With the help of a massive smoker installed by crane between the patio and the kitchen, Stauss has committed himself to producing quality beef brisket that doesn’t take shortcuts. The Cook Shack carousel smoker allows the meat to cook slowly over time, imparting just the right amount of smoke flavor while cooking the meat into an incredibly tender cut, Yes, the meat falls apart when merely poked with a fork.
If you plan to visit, take note of the bark. That’s what barbecue folks call the dark crust created over many hours. If you’re really into it, make a special request for burnt ends. They’re crispy, crunchy and loaded with flavor.
Recently, we tagged along as Stauss oversaw the smoking of several large slabs of brisket.
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To create the accompanying video, we visited three times — at 10:30 p.m., when Stauss loaded the brisket into the smoker after using a custom spice rub; at noon the following day when he removed the brisket and wrapped it in parchment; and at 7 p.m. that night to see how it served and get the reaction from diners.
On this night, we happened to find two sisters who grew up in the Texas Panhandle. They know their brisket and they gave the Woodlake Tavern version a strong endorsement. The brisket is served in several ways, including atop french fries. The 12-ounce brisket platter is $17. The combo platter with house-smoked sausage, ribs, chicken and brisket is $24.
1431 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 4-9 p.m., Friday 4-10 p.m., Saturday 5:30-10 p.m.