Oh dear. I so wanted a good BBQ joint in my zip code. I was thrilled to see the grand re-opening (under new owners) of CJ’s BBQ on W. Sahara and with some smokey, juicy brisket on my mind I didn’t waste any time stopping in. My first visit was a bust; they had sold out of just about every meat they offer during their lunch service. Seeing this as a positive thing I returned on the following Friday night (before 6:00PM) to find the same thing…again, out of everything on the menu (except burgers and turkey this time) and not a customer in sight. Hmmm.
The third time was a charm. Or was it? Another Friday night (5:30PM) only two weeks later and it was looking good. The rustic restaurant with picnic tables was fragrant with pecan wood smoke that made my mouth water. Stepping up to the counter to order, the friendly, helpful lady confirmed they did indeed have everything available…including their brisket. YAY!
We placed a death row last meal order: a three meat combo that included smoked brisket, pork ribs and pulled pork ($15.99), BBQ brisket quesadilla ($8.99) and a BBQ bacon cheeseburger with the house smoked bacon ($8.99). We added nearly all of their sides: mac & cheese, cole slaw, and BBQ beans. The combo came with a jalapeno corn muffin.
For the most part, the food was a major disappointment. The cold brisket was so dry and tough copious amounts of BBQ sauce in a clogged squirt bottle on the table was needed to lubricate it enough to swallow it. The pulled pork wasn’t exactly “pulled”. It was a generous pile of large, hard pork chunks with no seasoning with the exception of barely discernable smoke. The pork rib quarter-slab looked gorgeous and appeared to have started out with a dry rub but was a dry, hard, jerky-like slab that was nearly impossible to chew. The ribs couldn’t even be sawed apart, they were so tough, dry and hard. Missing in all three were the luscious, lip smacking, melty meat juices expected with world class (or even Las Vegas class) BBQ. The house BBQ sauces were good, but not good enough to redeem the miserable meat we were served.
The sides were even more worrisome. The mac & cheese was just plain bad; light yellow elbow macaroni swimming in warm-ish water with barely a sign of cheese, or even salt. Yes, it was seriously that bad. The cole slaw was just OK. To be fair, portions are large. The BBQ beans, jalapeno muffin and strange dill pickle spears were very good as was the sweet tea. The BBQ cheeseburger was also fine due to the in-house smoked bacon on top.
Having worked in the biz and having had a few off nights in the kitchen myself, I really hate writing this kind of review. Maybe it was a bad night. Maybe they are trying to cut too many corners. CJ’s is still new enough to have time to redeem itself before it’s too late. Based on this dining experience, this eater won’t be returning any time soon but would love to give them a second chance if they can pull it together.
7865 W. Sahara Ave
Las Vegas, NV 89117