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Oakland Barbecue

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Moving here a year ago, I was excited by the prospect of some good barbecue. Many friends from the East Bay hyped it to me. So far I've been pretty disappointed.

I've tried:
two branches of Everette & Jones (both awful)
Doug's (not too bad)
Flint's (ridiculous food and hostile service)
T-Rex (very enjoyable but sort of a different genre)
Bo's (my favorite so far, but I'm looking for better)

Is there some fantastic place I'm missing? I like pork ribs best and the crucial factor in my enjoyment is smoke. The sauce is secondary.

G

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  1. I have yet to find anything I consider 'great' as well. Although I did have the chance to eat plenty of kickass bbq when I was working for Absolute Barbecue Company in Redwood City...sadly they don't have a restaurant and only do catering.

    1. We're from Texas, have been here 7 years and pretty much still looking. Everett and Jones is awful. Bo's was "alright." There's a place in Santa Rosa that's pretty darn good, adverttise as having "real Texas BBQ." I've had it and talked with them and they actually went to Texas, had their pitt built there, purchased their sauce recipe there and do a pretty good job.

      3 Replies
      1. re: rtmonty

        Is it Stim's Texas BBQ?

        Thanks,
        G

        1. re: Gerard

          Yep, that's it. They had really good brisket and good ribs. Even the sauce wasn't bad. It wasn't Texas, but it was as close as I've found.

        2. re: rtmonty

          The Central Texan BBQ - Castroville. As good as it gets anywhere near....sawdust on the floor, genuine Texan as your host, this ain't California. Good eatin' on your way to Monterey - order Brisket. Comes with sliced onion, beans; bread.

          Beer's crap - no microbrewery in town. The usual brands. Interesting sodas.

        3. There's the poor neglected CJ's in Richmond. I admire it more on every visit.

          Richmond & Fairfield - CJs Barbecue & Fish – the rest of the story

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

          I liked it more than on this first visit.

          Richmond & Fairfield - CJ's Barbecue

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

          I had a memorable chicken there, but with BBQ joints it is always a game of chicken roulette.

          3 Replies
          1. re: rworange

            I'll check out CJ's. But you prefer Flint's? The day I went, Flint's was so bad it passed the line between subjective opinion into objective fact.

            What the hell is up with that place? Everybody I know whispers of it like they're in church and then tells me it's not as good as it used to be.

            G

            1. re: Gerard

              Sheesh. Make me go back and read my own posts. That will teach me to be brief in the future.

              I liked the chicken better at Flints, but only marginally. At both places I think I just happened to stop by at the right time.

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

              I know Flint's never on San Pablo never opened on June 1st as the above link says. Don't know the status.

              I think the pork ribs at KC's (not CJ's) are the best in the Bay Area that I've tried so far for a traditional style ... just be sure that you get the horrid sauce on the side. I didn't like the other meat thouh at KC's. Haven't tried the chicken, though.

              CJ's does a nice pork rib. It didn't need the sauce and had a nice smoke. One of these days I'll try the baby backs.

              IMO, Flints has some of the better beef on this side of the Bay, but T-Rex just knocked everyone else out of the competition for me. I like the ribs at T-Rex, but like you said, it is a different animal, so to speak.

              I really like Flint's sauce even though others have said it isn't what it once was. It is different and while I ususally toss the BBQ sauce, I think food I can use the Flint's sauce for and finish it all up.

              Since you traveled as far as Bo's, you might give Gracie's in Vallejo a try.

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

              I only had the brisket which was very lean and full of smoke. Melanie mentioned something about the baby back ribs being good.

              1. re: rworange

                Back from CJ's. Not bad at all. I think I'd put it above Doug's, but I've only given each one chance. The sauce was forgettable, but the ribs were nice. I could've dealt with a little more smoke.

                I tried to do a taste test with KC's, but they were closed.

                Thanks,
                G

          2. You need to try Memphis Minnie's in the city. I find it the best barbecue in this area and at least the equal of the best I've had in Kansas City (lots of experience) and Texas (much less experience). Some people don't think so highly of it, but that's barbecue for you. I've been many times over many years (started in their prior location) and have found it "off" only once.

            Memphis Minnie's
            576 Haight, between Steiner and Fillmore
            San Francisco
            415-864-7675

            While you're in the city, you can also try the new incarnation (Lilly's) of Brother-in-Laws on Divisidero. I was just reminded of it by this message: http://chowhound.com/topics/show/308286 I haven't been there. I used to like B-i-L, not as much as MM's, but it was real barbecue nevertheless.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Mick Ruthven

              I have tried Memphis Minnie's and thought it was pretty good. Not my particular Holy Grail, however. Lilly's I'll add to the try list.

              Thanks,
              G

            2. Anyone know if Ernie Goode's BBQ ever re-open somewhere? It used to be in Richmond then in Pinole, now gone.

              J

              1. Suggest you try KC BBQ on San Pablo Avenue just north of Ashby.

                1 Reply
                1. re: sydthekyd

                  Are they aiming for KC style or is it just a name?

                  Thanks,
                  G

                2. Second KC's. My husband loves it. I'm not too into BBQ, so I don't get it much. We live a 5 minute walk from Flints and never go there.

                  1. Any feedback on Doug's? (on San Pablo,unsure if Oakland or Emeryville). Supposed to be the best in the East bay, but I haven't tried it yet.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Hunicsz

                      About a month ago I posted this about Doug's:

                      "As requested, your report on Doug's:

                      I went to Doug's about two months ago. It's certainly not the Promised Land of Q, but it was fine. I had the beef ribs, which were fatty, but they're beef ribs. No real smoke to the taste. I remember liking the sauce.

                      My overall impression upon finishing my food--in my car, since you really can't eat there--was "Hey, not bad. Now where's a good place?"

                      That said, since people's taste in Q varies so drastically, I find other folks' opinions are best used as WARNING SIGNS. In other words, if somebody tells me a place really sucks, I'm willing to trust that. But many times somebody else's "acceptable" ends up being my "great"."

                      G

                    2. I am not an expert, but there is a Great American BBQ on Alameda near one of the bridges, I can never remember which one. Right next to (of all things) an aerobics studio. The meat is smoked and not pre-sauced. I liked it, but again, am not an expert. They have three heat levels of sauce, all are ok, however even the hot stuff is not actually very hot.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Louise

                        It's right off the High St. bridge, just as you come off of it, on the righ, if you get to the light you've gone too far. We live 3 blocks from it and I bet I haven't been there in 5 years. Please don't take that as a slam, it's just a place I really never think of.

                        1. re: Louise

                          I just went to Great American for lunch this past weekend and I have to say this is the best BBQ in the area, overall. I shared two plates so got to try ribs, brisket, pulled pork, mac and cheese and slaw. Every thing was excellent; nice smokiness, sauce on the table, not slathered on the meat. The sides were pretty good but the meat was definitely the star. I've been to MM, the old Brother in law's, Dougs, Chef Edwards and Bo's. Bo's is the only one that matches up but I'd rather save a little $$ and driving time and go to Great American.

                        2. >>"I like pork ribs best and the crucial factor in my enjoyment is smoke. The sauce is secondary."

                          Then you need to try Cliff's B-B-Que & Seafood on Bayshore in SF. Ask for their Alabama Cut. They are the best pork ribs I have tried in the bay area, and as usual with good 'cue, the sauce is always served on the side.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Civil Bear

                            Is Cliff's still open? I've tried searching for them but can't find anything outside of chowhound.

                          2. The list so far:

                            EAST BAY
                            CJ's (which I just tried and found to be decent)
                            KC's (which was closed)
                            Great American Barbecue

                            SAN FRANCISCO
                            Memphis Minnie's (which I've tried)
                            Lilly's
                            Cliff's

                            SANTA ROSA
                            Stim's Texas BBQ

                            G

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Gerard

                              So, what did you try at CJ's? I'm lonely. I'm the only Chowhound who tried this place until I lured you there.

                              1. re: rworange

                                I stuck to a small order of pork ribs. My motto: if the pork ribs aren't good, then who cares about the rest of the menu?

                                They were pretty good. They had a pleasant texture--neither rubbery nor all the way off the bone. A good flavor, managing the fat content very well. I could taste a little smoke, but a lot more would've been welcome. The sauce was forgettable--thin and far too sweet.

                                If somebody lived in the East Bay and north of, say, Central, this would be a good candidate for your regular Q spot. I preferred it to Doug's in Emeryville, but as I said in a previous post, that's based on one tasting for each.

                                I'll be back. Thanks for the recommendation.

                                G

                            2. EAST BAY:

                              Nellie's. I had ribs there I liked very much. On the weekend they have an okra side dish too!

                              Nellie's Soulfood
                              (510) 625-1350
                              1155 3rd St
                              Oakland, CA 94607

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: sailorbuoys

                                What types of ribs does Nellie's have?

                              2. CJ's catered our annual staff picnic lunch today for over 100 people. Most folks enjoyed their food: pork ribs, mild/hot links, chicken, mac and potato salads, roll, beans and peach cobbler. It is decent Q but there could be better. Taste of smoke but I did not detect a smoke ring on the the ribs or chicken. I liked them with the sauce. My food preference is when they say hot (links or sauce), that means "make me sweat" hot and these did not induce that reaction. Pot of beans were tender but too saucey. Salads were a bit too sweet to my liking, looked it contained some chopped black olives, both were basically the same recipe except one had macaroni and the other had almost mashed potatoes. As someone stated before, the peach cobbler is made with canned peaches, nutmeg and some real thin layer of dough, slightly sweet -- this dish was runny too.

                                Hard to find Q that everyone agrees to. CJ's took the middle of the road today to make sure they fit within the 100 or so palates they had to feed.

                                Q is finger food, but in an informal setting with coworkers, you are a bit obligated to use the plastic utensil. What I hate most is those lousy, flimsy ones like CJ's issued. Sturdy food needs sturdy eating utensils.

                                CJ's is worth a try on the list of local Q joints.

                                1. Discussing 'que is like discussing burritos, god and beer -- everyone is an expert (rightfully so), there are believers and non-believers and nothing matches home, ever.

                                  That said, I tend to agree that the que in the East Bay has been in decline which is too bad...but hey we're in freakin' Kahlifornia...there's a bounty of other foods, and no shortage.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: ML8000

                                    It is the change in demographics. The next generation moves to better neighborhoods. Right now many of the areas that supported BBQ, now support Latino and, specifically, a growing Brazilian population. African, it seems, is starting to slowly move in.

                                  2. I have to say our new favorite is Looney's. It is more Western than Southern, with a dry rub rather than the sauce slathered and then baked on, but it's got a delicious smoke flavor, isn't fatty, and isn't steeping in sauce. The sides are great, too, unlike Flint's. Good onion rings, fries, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, very good greens, etc. The only clunker is the vegetable stew--unless you like canned tomato sauce.

                                    It's FAR better and cheaper than T. Rex's.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: lintygmom

                                      Have you tried Looney's pork ribs? I keep looking for a report.

                                      The best pork ribs I've had recently were at T-Rex, but they've been signfiicantly different every time I've gone there.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        The pork ribs and baby backs were great. And MUCH less expensive than T-Rex. Less fatty, too. I expect my pork ribs to have the fat slow cooked off.

                                        The sides were better, too. Much better and you get two with the meat.

                                        1. re: lintygmom

                                          We had a small gathering at T-Rex a few nights ago and everyone was extremely impressed with the food and the list of bourbon and whiskey. The pork ribs are great and the beef rib (yes, one Flintstone-size one for $14) that I have was so juicy and tender that it was just divine. The place has definitely improved (perhaps they were reading the posts here?) since the opening weeks.
                                          We discovered Looney's after the Cal v Portland State game. Service was slow but the food was good and portion very generous. Been there twice since and experienced inconsistency in the preparation in the ribs. Could it be possible that sometime they parboiled the ribs before smoking?
                                          I'll go back to either place for the meat but definitely to T-Rex for the sides, particularly the mac & cheese.

                                          1. re: FireSheep

                                            Both times I've had the pork ribs at Looney's they were great--the last time was for an office party.

                                            Does T-Rex still make the mac&cheese with shells and sauce of cream? I couldn't eat it when I was there--just Looney's is more the old-fashioned elbow mac thick stuff I love.

                                            Maybe I just cannot pay what T-Rex charges for bbq.

                                            1. re: lintygmom

                                              The mac & cheese is still a generous portion of shell and cream. Bring lactaid.
                                              The sides at Looney is "old school" and T Rex is pure joy.

                                            2. re: FireSheep

                                              I'm gonna have to tell my mom about the $14 beef rib. She loves, but can't stand to pay $10 for a great one from a place in my home town.

                                      2. KC has good ribs and chicken. Pass on the links and beef.

                                        The sauce is not so good so I usually get it on the side.

                                        1. hey, i know it isn't east bay proper, but there's a joint in downtown martinez, of all places, that is worth a try. forgot the name of course, but it's right on main st.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: echo

                                            Echo, were you thinking of Bulldog BBQ in Martinez?

                                            Bulldog BBQ
                                            601 Main St
                                            Martinez

                                            http://www.BulldogBBQ.com

                                          2. It's remarkable how "hit or miss" BBQ can be. Many places are not honest about meat that isn't ready yet and just sell it to you half done (done enough for health codes, but not for ideal texture), and you wonder why everyone else loved it. <Sigh>

                                            One more place to maybe try is Bobby's Cajun at the Hilltop Mall exit in Richmond (up the hill, away from the mall, about a block). I wan't too excited about the usuals, or about the gumbo (not being a big fan of gumbo in general), but a special of roast pork was decadently delicious.

                                            Thread with discussion re: Bobby's
                                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Jefferson

                                              That's Bobby's as in the former Bobby's Backdoor? I was never pleased with their BBQ. Their gumbo and jambalaya were good.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Yup, you mentioned that in the thread I linked to.

                                              2. re: Jefferson

                                                I think part of the "hit or miss" nature of Bay Area que is related to turn over of product compared to places in Texas or the South. It's really not that much different from burritos, turn over helps consistency but of course to get turn over you need quality or value. Sort of a chicken/egg question.

                                                OTOH, Californians just don't eat that much que so that doesn't help. How often does the average Northen Californian eat barbeque? Once a week, once a month or once a quarter? I like barbeque but I have it maybe every two months.

                                              3. Well sometimes quanity and price makes a different. Anyone have Doug's lunch special (Tues - Fri) until 2:30 p.m. For $7 bucks you get a 3-way combo. I've had better and I've had worse but $7 bucks for a 3-way is a deal in any book.

                                                1. Looney's is really good, as long as you like dry-rub not sauce-cooked-on bbq. The ribs are greaseless and very tasty, beef as well as pork (though the beef look burnt, they're not--the rub's very dark.) Also, the sides are excellent: delicious greens, excellent mashed and mashed sweet potatoes, good fries, onion rings, etc. The only clunker to me is the cole slaw which, for some reason, the felt the need to make spicy. To me slaw should be like raita with an Indian meal: creamy, maybe slightly sweet, and soothingly cool.

                                                  The spicy sauce is very tasty, with chunks of tomato in it. The ribs don't come drowned. The brisket is in a very spicy sauce and the pulled pork is tasty! And if someone in the party isn't up for bbq, they can have chicken-fried steak or fish.

                                                  Looney's serves alcohol and the atmosphere is a lot nicer than most bbq places. Parking's tough, though.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: lintygmom

                                                    A little known secret...there is limited parking in the rear of the restaurant. I told the owner my wife was circling in the car while I ordered take out. He told me I could park in the rear as long as he know which car it was, in case they needed to shuffle some cars for people to get out.

                                                    1. re: edmartin75

                                                      I actually parked behind Looney's on Sunday. There was "stuff" (like lumber and various metal objects) in all the spaces so my car stuck out into the lot. It would have been a mess with 5 cars in there...

                                                      I took out the combination of sliced beef, pulled pork and chicken and a separate order of spare ribs. The ribs were good, but the sliced beef and pulled pork were too dry. Perhaps Sunday lunchtime is when they get rid of leftovers?

                                                      Tried both sauces. Intriguing flavors, but I prefer Texas style sauces.

                                                      When ordering sides, I picked the cole slaw (okay) and sweet potatoes (odd spicing) and beans (good). Ken at the counter suggested mac and cheese as the fourth side and although I only sampled a little, it was more interesting than the usual smooth orange cheese sauce.