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Jun 26, 2001 10:20 PM

KC's Bar-B-Que, Berkeley

  • m

Cruising down the East Bay's bbq row of San Pablo Avenue late this morning, I noticed that KC's (2613 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-1140) was still around. This was my favorite ages ago when I still lived in Berkeley and for some reason, I'd stayed away all this time.

I ordered a take-out lunch of the 2-way beef brisket and rib combo which comes with bbq beans, potato salad, and bread for $10.50. Checking out the antique washstands, victorolas, and family memorabilia that decorate the dining room while I waited for my order almost made me sorry that I didn't have more time to linger. Especially interesting was the case of now politically-incorrect "little black sambo" type tsotchkes.

They definitely get extra points for care in packaging take-out orders. The meats topped with sauce and potato salad are carefully arranged on the bottom of the cardboard carton. Then a layer of wax paper to separate the bread and small cup of beans. Using the kind that closes at the top, nothing spills out the sides. And, I liked the heavy napkins, lots of them too.

KC's had been my choice in the past because the sauce was lighter and fruitier and not as jammy and stewed-tasting as E&J's. Today I still feel the same way. But tasting the brisket also reminded me that E&J's meats are better. The ribs were just fine, but skip the brisket. Beans tasted burnt, and the potato salad had too much pickling spice for my taste. That's almost enough to hold me for the next 20 years...

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  1. sometimes, you can't go home.

    3 Replies
    1. re: gordon wing

      I had the sweet potato pie this morning for breakfast. Made by Cassandra's Wedding Cakes, $2.50, for a small individual pie. Very good buttery crust, satisfying. Small consolation.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I've heard mixed things about KC's, plus Flints, and the Everett & Jones on San Pablo. But Doug's Barbecue down on San Pablo is really good. You can even get a deep fried turkey! there. I got a slab of pork ribs, with their excellent tangy potato salad. Make sure you get a lot of Wonder Bread to stretch out the meal. Nothing like the sticky feel of barbecue sauce on your fingers and greasy chops. What I like about their ribs is they leave some fat on the ribs, keeps it moist and it's just delicious when you much right into a nice area of pork fat near the rib tips. Oh man oh man.

        Doug's Barbecue: 3600 San Pablo Ave, Emeryville (510) 655-9048


        1. re: ryan gan

          This neighborhood is definitely the epicenter of the Bay Area's bbq. You'll find many fans of Doug's on this board. I haven't been there yet, nor to Chef Edwards.

    2. After a wonderful 5 day, 4 night backpacking trip in the Eastern Sierras, 3 very hungry guys descended back into the Bay Area craving a non-freeze-dried food experience. After alighting onto 101 from the San Mateo Bridge we spotted the sign that would change our concept of what was possible in the world of Bay Area BBQ. The sign read Ma Pinkie's but to us it might of well said SALVATION IN GLITTERING GOLD. Situated just north of Highway 92 on the frontage road paralelling 101,(Ma Pinkie's Bbq & Soulfood - 207 N Amphlett Blvd - San Mateo ), this down home place is mainly a take out business with a few tables scatted around for the occasional eat-in customer. After a quick tour of the giant wood burning stove and the warmest treatment by the wonderful women owners, we ordered the biggest meal on the menu the 3 meat combo with pork and beef ribs and almost a half a chicken. The ribs were the perfect balance of smoky sweet with a chewey mildly resistant texture that setmy masseters into a spasm of
      involuntary motion. The chicken was beautifully blackened with moist white and dark meat lingering under the crisp skin covering. Even thesides were fabulous--particularly the beans...The place close early --I think 730 so be warned rather than disappointed.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Ken Hoffman

        Salvation, Hallelujah!!!

        That's a super find, Ken. There used to be a really good soul food place with some bbq items called something like Miss Pearl's around that area that went out of business about 7 years ago. It was the best bbq on the Peninsula at the time and even had the concession at Candlestick. However the quality of the food was inversely proportional to their customer service. I tried to give them some of my company's corporate lunch catering business, but after messing up a couple orders and another time being two hours late, I gave up. Same hours, I'm wondering whether Ma Pinkie might be connected to Miss Pearl?

        Any homemade pies?

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          We had no room for dessert, Melanie so we didn't even ask. We rolled out of there like a trio of pufferfish after a venom blowout. A quick phone call should sort that out.

          I hope that you find Ma's as inviting as we did. As far as a relationship with the former Miss Pearl, I am not sure. I did hear that Ma Pinkie's is an incarnation of a place that burned down in Palo Alto some years ago but I do not know the name of that place.

          Also Sam's BBQ on Bascom Ave. in San Jose is a fine fine BBQ place. Locally famous and very busy it is known for great ribs and a model train that runs around the periphery of the joint at ceiling level.

        2. re: Ken Hoffman
          Andrew Raskin

          I have also seen the SALVATION IN GLITTERING GOLD sign -- I used to catch glimpes of it driving South on 101, its brilliance shimmering through the fatigue of a long day windsurfing at Coyote Point. Ma Pinkie's was a bright spot in what I generally consider a dark age of my life known as "the San Mateo months." Loved that place.

          1. re: Ken Hoffman

            Well, I live nearby, and I'm from Memphis - so by nature a serious BBQ fan - so I had to try it immediately.

            We got the pork ribs, the chicken, sides of cabbage, baked beans, mac and cheese, corn bread muffins, and peach cobbler. Overall, this is excellent stuff for the Bay Area, but would be way down my list in Memphis (sorry, I can't help but compare). Of course, I don't live in Memphis anymore, so this will become a frequent treat for me.

            The ribs were indeed good, but they didn't have the smoky flavor I look for in good BBQ (I didn't inquire into their cooking technique or what type, if any, wood they use). The meat was nicely tender and came off the bone easily, but the skin wasn't quite crisp enough to provide that contrast of crisp on the outside, tender inside that I look for. The sauce, especially the hot sauce, is very good. Not too thick, not too thin, definitely not the NC vinegar style (thank goodness, I'm not a fan of NC BBQ). The chicken was similarly cooked - not quite crisp enough for my tastes on the outside, but still very good.

            The sides were flat out excellent, wonderful cabbage with a nice hint of red pepper, excellent baked beans with shallots thrown in. The corn bread muffins were not so great, nothing special. And the cobbler . . . mmmm, the peach cobbler was very very good. I'll let you try it for yourself - they also had cherry and one other that I don't recall.

            The women behind the counter were wonderfully nice and helpful, and I assured them that I would be back again.

            1. re: Brad Kaplan

              Glad you enjoyed the experience Brad. I am not from the south so my expectations are not nearly as high.... I would consider this a stamp of approval considering your culinary heritage.

              1. re: Brad Kaplan

                Thanks for adding the voice of the cognescenti, Brad. I had forwarded Ken's post to my brother who had been the one to turn me on to Pearl's originally. Here's the return e-mail from him.

                "saw thread. Pearl’s was where Ma Pinkie’s is now.
                Long time since I went; ate there when they just moved in a few times (several years ago).
                Unless they’ve improved over the years, Pearl's was better barbecue. And I especially liked their spicy potato salad and peach cobbler. No one made potato salad like that.

                Guess we're still mourning for Miss Pearl. Hope we can find her some day.

                1. re: Brad Kaplan
                  Andrew Raskin

                  The wind was howling today, so after an afternoon of windsurfing, I headed over to Ma's for some chow. Many folks more bbq-qualified than I have already commented on the food. I'll relate an exchange between a customer and the guy behind the counter:

                  COUNTER GUY: Okay, your order will be ready in just a minute.
                  CUSTOMER: Is that gonna be a New York minute or a Texas minute, or what?
                  COUNTER GUY: That's gonna be a Ma Pinkie's minute, which is longer than both of those.

              2. prefered it to Doug's, Ev&Jones. Very tasty chicken. But spotty service/management.