First Look: Woodlake Tavern

It doesn't take much beyond saying "$1 rib night" to get me in the door! Pork is my favorite meat and I love good ribs! That's what you get on Thursdays at the new Woodlake Tavern on Del Paso Blvd.

Once upon a time this corner of Arden and Del Paso was known as the home of fine dining Enotria. It was the place for Valentine's Day, anniversaries, and special occasions. Alas, all things come to an end and after a stint as Cask & Barrel, the building has now been divided into two different establishments by the same owners. Today we take a look at the barbecue based Woodlake Tavern. It occupies the true corner of the building in what used to be Enotria's bar area. 

Inside you will find the space has been redone to a casual atmosphere befitting the food. There's one long bench  that has tables that can be split or combined for a large party. Scattered along the windows are the smaller two and four top tables. There are also a couple of round tables for moderate sized parties.

Deneb Williams is the chef/owner and spent many years helming the kitchen at the iconic Firehouse restaurant in Old Sac. It's nice to see him out roaming the dining room floor now, talking to guests. 

Barbecue is fine any night, but they are currently running two special nights. Sunday nights is Sunday Supper at $18 for adults and $12 for children. It features family style servings of brisket, ribs, chicken, and sides. Thursdays is Bourbon and Ribs with the $1 per rib price and bourbon drink specials.

I was with two friends and we each ordered a half dozen ribs and a side, therefore being able to share three sides between us. I chose the mac n cheese which we all admitted to being a fine, creamy example. Loved it. One friend ordered the sauteed spinach because we needed a vegetable and something to cut the fat. 

It was the other friend's choice that impressed the most. I would never have chosen the warm potato salad and yet it was the star. I'm not a big mustard fan, but there was a tangy kick that was both amplified yet supplemented by the vinegar, pickled onions, and wilted arugula. I don't see it on the website menu, so it may not be a regular item. I highly recommend it if it's available.

As to the ribs, they were how I liked them. If I have a choice, I prefer dry rubbed ribs with sauce on the side. But if you are going to serve them sauce, I like a light hand. These ribs were brushed with a coating of a Kansas City style sauce, then cooked a bit longer to get them nice and sticky. I hate sopping, messy ribs and so I was happy. Sauce was not offered on the side and we didn't need it. They were also cooked well - tender and easy to pull off, but not overcooked so they fell off the bone.

We were so full from our selections, making us laugh again at the idea that one of us had initially ordered ten ribs for herself until I went with the half dozen. Definitely a case of appetite overtaking common sense. Barbecue and traditional sides are, after all, pretty heavy and filling fare.

Even so, we peeked at the dessert menu and were torn between the Meyer lemon cheesecake and the strawberry shortcake. You can see our choice. Our only disappointment was the biscuits being hard and dry. We therefore had cheesecake envy after seeing it at another table.

After such a satisfying dinner I am looking forward to not only returning, but trying Uptown Pizza next door where they are using some of the smoked meats from Woodlake Tavern.  

1431 Del Paso Blvd, Sacramento, California, United States