AM15: Tank House BBQ & Bar

Back to Midtown so soon?  Had to try for Tank House again, and tonight was a success.  Mondays are much less busy than 2nd Saturday’s for sure!  They are located on J Street and 20th, right next to the train tracks.  This place is pretty straight forward.  There’s a full bar which runs most of the length of the place on the right, and tables flank it to the left.  There is a patio around the side of the building, and this is where they have the smoker, which smelled amazing every time the front door opened.

The wall along the side of, and continuing around back of, the bar is a giant chalk board detailing the menu items, draught beer, wine, cocktails, etc.  I was early so I got a Anderson Valley Summer Solstice, which I had up near the windows while enjoying a nice long freight train roll by.  Dan & Kathy arrived at about 6 and after looking over the menu we placed our order up at the bar/register.

TankHouseTrain

I’m not sure if their selection varies over time, but tonight the meat options consisted of brisket, baby back ribs, chicken and hot links.  We ordered a couple of the Meat Treat platters [$26], which come with your choice of 2 meats (1/2lb each) and 2 sides.  Sides consist of mac & cheese, tater tots, greens, coleslaw or cornbread.  They also have a couple special sides (both of which I upgraded to) which are the Dirty Tots (Tater Tots covered in Cheese Sauce topped with Chopped Pork Butt)[$6] and Dirty Mac (Mac & Cheese with Smoked Chicken)[$6].

For my platter (they serve two, so I have a nice sized lunch for tomorrow), I went with the brisket and ribs.  The brisket has 3 options – lean, juicy or chef’s choice (somewhere in-between the two).  I chose juicy for maximum flavor.  Dan & Kathy went with all chef’s choice brisket.  For their sides they got mac & cheese and the greens.

Our platters didn’t take too long to come out, less than 10 minutes I’d say.  It was a nice spread.  The brisket slices were neatly stacked on the paper-covered tray.  My ribs sat next to it and the sides had their own dishes.

The ribs were partially sliced, just needed a slight bit of cutting to separate.  I normally would not order ribs but wanted to try as much as I could.  At first glance they didn’t seem to have a lot of meat on them, but once I got them apart and started working on them I realized they actually were fairly substantial.  They had an excellent smokey flavor to them, but were a bit dry.  I had to use a little bit of sauce to moisten them up.  There was a tangy and a sweet sauce at the table.  The tangy did have a little zip to it and it was good, but I really enjoyed the sweet a lot more.  It was thick like syrup and not overly sweet, nor did it cover up the smokey pork.

The brisket was excellent.  It was definitely juicy and a good amount of fat in some areas.  Those pieces fell apart with my fork and nearly melted in your mouth.  The edges were more lean, yet still packed a lot of wonderful seasoned, smokey flavor.  No sauce was needed on this at all.  My main, most recent comparison for this would be brisket I had in Lockhart, TX, on a recent trip, at Black’s BBQ, a relatively famous BBQ spot.  Their juicy brisket edged this one out only slightly, both in tenderness and flavor.  I’d say that’s pretty damn good for a little spot in Sacramento!

My sides were both awesome.  The Dirty Mac was very rich and creamy, and the smoked chicken bits added a savory component that worked really well.  I’m sure the plain mac & cheese was great also.  The Dirty Tots were equally fantastic.  The tots were perfectly golden brown and crisp.  They were topped with a very thick and rich cheese sauce and a huge pile of shredded pork butt.  I could have eaten both sides and the brisket until I exploded.

The ribs and the greens were really the only things that weren’t amazing.  The greens came with little bits of pork, which unfortunately didn’t add much flavor.  This dish was just kinda boring.

Overall I was very happy with Tank House.  Prices felt about right, not cheap but not expensive for what you got either.  The staff was all very friendly and the place was immaculate and well-kept.  While the ribs and greens didn’t do it for me, there is plenty that did.  I haven’t explored the BBQ options in the area very much yet, but I am glad to know this is here for when I get that craving.  Let me know in the comments if you have any favorites nearby (Dobson’s is on my radar already, so I’ll get there soonish).

AM14: Cafe Marika

Tonight I ventured further south than ever before for the blog, into Midtown Sacramento!  I’ve had BBQ on the brain now for a few weeks.  Incredible brisket that I had in Texas last month coupled with my friends that live there sending me more photos of BBQ in their neighborhood has had me drooling.  When I overheard a coworker taking about a BBQ place in Sac called Tank House, I knew I had to go.  Unfortunately, that’s not what this post is about.  When I met my friends Dan & Kathy in front of Tank House tonight, the place was packed solid.  I failed to consider 2nd Saturday, a monthly night of music, art and other random festivities spread throughout the area.  We’ve already made arrangements to try Tank House again later this week on a less busy night.  Backup plan, a place just down the street a block or so that they have wanted to try out for some time.

This was Cafe Marika, a tiny little hole in the wall serving Hungarian cuisine.  When I say tiny, I mean tiny.  Unfortunately it was a little busy so I didn’t want to stick my camera is everyone’s faces, but I found this image via Google’s street view where you can see, count them, all 5 tables and 5 counter seats.  We walked in and were…kind of greeted.  A woman behind the counter sort of gestured to the tables and went about her business.  We shrugged it off and joked that this was part of the experience.  Throughout the rest of the visit, however, the woman was relatively friendly and a good server, clearing plates quickly and tending to us frequently.

The menu is sized to fit the space, with just 5 items on it for dinner (on the way out we noticed a board with some specials, so I guess they serve slightly more than 5 things at dinner.  We also joked that not telling customers about the specials was part of the experience).  Just inside the menu was a little piece of paper slid into the beverage half that said “Sorry Cash Only.”  My friend Dan was awesome and ran around the corner to an ATM since none of us had any on us at the time.

Long story short, everything from this point on was pretty smooth.  I ordered a Moosehead beer [$3.75] (had no clue what it was at the time, just liked the name).  This came quickly with a giant frosty mug.  Turned out it was just a basic lager; very drinkable with just about anything.

We placed our orders and were each served two slices of bread with a packet of butter.  This bread was great, super soft and tasty.  Not much butter to go on both slices, but the 2nd came into play to soak up some soup that came with all of our entrees.  That soup was interesting (in a good way).  It had a very thin and watery consistency, yet still quite rich in flavor and it kind of coated your mouth with an oily texture.  A little kick of spice snuck up on you after several sips.  Settled at the bottom of the cup were bits of veggies, potatoes and meat (pork?).

Dan ordered the Pork Roll-Ups in Brown Gravy (tender pork fillets stuffed with egg, pickle, bacon, sausage, onion and spiced cooked in it’s own sauce, served with your choice of rice or spetzels [home make pasta]) [$15.75].  This looked really neat and the bite I tried was pretty good.

Kathy ordered the Stuffed Cabbage (ground pork tenderloin mixed with rice and spiced, rolled in cabbage leaves and cooked in sauerkraut.  Topped with sour cream) [$15.75].  This was excellent.

Finally, my order was the Pan Fried Porkschnitzel (delicately seasoned, breaded pork fillets, pan fried, served with bohemian potato salad or spetzels [home made pasta]) [$15.75].  The potato salad was great and I inhaled it quickly.  The two enormous pork fillets were thin (good thing because this plate looked insane when it was first set in front of me).  They were also incredibly tender and easily sliced up with just a butter knife or even my fork.  The perfect golden-brown breading added a wonderful crunch.  I loved this dish.

We were surprised at the end with what seemed to be complimentary Apple Strudels [$2.95 according to the menu] (my photo of this does not do justice, the lighting was terribly unflattering on this particular item for some reason).  As far as apple desserts go I’m kind of take it or leave it (leaning leave it), but this was very tasty.  The strudel was flakey and topped generously with powdered sugar and the apple filling almost melted in your mouth.

Overall, very, very solid backup plan!  Can’t say I’ve ever had Hungarian food before, but I’m totally down for more in the future now!

Website: None

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here

AM13: Moo Moo’s Burger Barn

Following our beer flights at Boneshaker Public House yesterday, Justin and I headed just a couple blocks down the street to have lunch at Moo Moo’s Burger Barn.  This is located at Sunset and Stanford Ranch.  They have only a few other locations including two in Stockton and one in Lodi.  As the name implies it’s a burger restaurant.

The name makes it hard not to think of one of my favorite burger places nearby, MooYah Burgers.  The name is about all they have in common though.  Rather than the fast-food ambiance in MooYah, this is a table-service style restaurant.  It was rather busy at 1pm, so I only have one little photo to share of the inside which shows some counter seating from the main entrance.  It’s mostly booths and a handful of tables/chairs.  The booth walls are relatively high so you don’t feel like you’re right next to people.

Our server, Calvin, was pretty great.  He realized we had never been here before and laid out some of his favorites, as well as the more popular burgers, and described the Moo sauce to be “like 1000 Island dressing, but better.”  He had a good energy level and a sense of humor, nodding and saying “extra lettuce and tomatoes” as he wrote down Justin’s order of a Double Moo with cheese and no lettuce or tomatoes.  (Double Moo: Double the Beef, on a Sesame Seed Bun with Moo Sauce, Lettuce, Tomato and Red Onions)[$10.05].

I ordered the Flamin’ Moo (On a Kaiser Bun with Pepper Jack Cheese, Bacon, Grilled Onions, Ranch Dressing and Topped with Regular and Battered Sliced Jalapeños)[$10.25] and added avocado for $1.25.  On Calvin’s suggestion I substituted Moo sauce for the ranch.  Both Justin and I opted for the beer-battered fries as our sides.  Ordering went very smoothly.  The wait was a bit long though, about 20-25 minutes.  When our burgers came we were ready to eat.  Justin’s burger was long gone within a couple minutes, as is tradition.

The fries were very good.  They brought out some ranch in little containers for us early on, and I assume this was for the fries, but they really didn’t need anything at all..  They were piping hot and nice and crisp on the outside.  They were basically steak-cut-sized fries, so on the inside they were still soft.  I plowed through all of these before I even touched my Flamin’ Moo.  The burger itself was piled high with jalapeños.  I squeezed the bun down and went to work.

The beef patty was cooked well done.  Justin commented we weren’t asked, so he wondered if you could get it cooked differently or if they just do well.  The beef was fine, nothing particularly noteworthy.  The toppings are what made this burger.  I am glad I added the avocado, because it definitely helped tame the jalapeños heat a bit.  As I just mentioned above, they were plentiful here, both deep fried and grilled varieties.  They were exceptionally flavorful and hot, which makes me think they probably have them soaked in a spicy brine to maintain consistency.  I doubt it would be so hot if they were fresh.  Indeed, my mouth was burning pretty good while eating this, and even for a short time afterwards.  The other toppings, while masked somewhat by the peppers, were still very good.  The avocado was soft, ripe and bright green and the bacon crispsy.  The grilled red onions must have only been grilled very lightly because they still had some snap to them.  I only got a taste of the Moo sauce early on before my mouth caught fire.  It seemed pretty much like typical 1000 Island though.  Perhaps I would be able to notice more of a difference on a simpler burger.

Overall I definitely enjoyed Moo Moo’s.  I do hope that the long wait is not typical of them.  Aside from that, the food and service was quite enjoyable and I could see myself returning.