T-Rex: pleasant surprise
I went to T-Rex on Friday night with family, a little unsure because of the mixed reports that I've seen on this board and elsewhere. We ordered the smoked chicken drumsticks with blue cheese dressing as an appetizer, shared a half rack of the baby back ribs and an order of the brisket (both with spicy sauce), and as sides got the cornbread, the succotash, the greens and the fries. The drumsticks were really excellent with just enough smoked flavor. The ribs were fine, nothing fantastic, though I did really like the potato salad that came on the side of the ribs. The brisket, however, was really outstanding, moist, full of flavor, just perfectly done.
As for the sides, the cornbread and the fries were the real hits. I liked the cornbread a lot, though it was a little sweet for my taste. I didn't like the greens, and the succotash was okay.
The service definitely has issues, though -- I'm pretty patient in restaurants, but I had to get someone else to send our server over to us to place a drink order, and she wasn't so good at following up or giving suggestions either. The manager who was at the door, though, seemed more on top of his game.
I'll definitely go back for those drumsticks and brisket, and maybe will see how dessert is.
I'm was one of the thumbs down reviews and got dragged here a couple of weeks ago for an A's/Red Socks game. I take most of my criticisms back. I split the mixed greens w/ pear/apple?, candied pecans, and blue cheese, the ribeye med-rare, the banana split and a few Deleriums (yum) with a friend. The salad was fresh, delicious, and generous w/ the pecans and cheese, the steak was less than a 1/4 gristle/fat (a major issue for me considering how much you're paying for the steak), and the banana split was ok. Sat at the bar and the bartender was totally entertaining.
I still say they are on the expensive side and I can't bring myself to eat those drumsticks after watching them sit out, but we really did have a great night.
Edit: Went to T-Rex for brunch this morning and had the duck confit hash after being nudged by months by one of the bartenders. It was not good. It was a plate of diced potatoes with I'd say about 5 shreds of hard confit covered in a viscous cilantro sauce which I saw no mention of on the menu, topped with scrambled eggs (you may have them any way you choose). The potatoes and the scrambled eggs were fine - even though I asked for them scrambled soft and they arrived hard, but the confit and that sauce were just nasty.
This place is so inconsistent that I have a really hard time going there knowing that I'm going to be shelling out atleast $25 for a plate of food and a drink. I am actually sad that I had such a crappy meal after the last one was so great.
I was at T-Rex again this weekend, and had another great meal. The brisket is still great, the macaroni and cheese has improved a lot from the one other time that I had it, and I would now definitely recommend it. I tried the chocolate cupcake for dessert, and while the cupcake itself was good, the malt frosting was addictive, and I tend to find most frostings to be way too sweet for my taste.
The other thing about T-Rex is that I've never had to wait more than a minute or so to get a table there on a weekend night, so if there's a night that you don't have reservations somewhere and don't feel like waiting and the constant parking space battle in Berkeley, it's a great option.
A friend now lives in the neighborhood and we've gone there a number of times
recently, and really been enjoying it.
The cornbread is large and good and sweetened with some sort of syrup just before
serving. I've been asking them to skip the sugar, and liking it even more. I'm impressed
that two people managed to eat both a full order of ribs as well as the brisket. A
half order of any of the ribs is a huge amount all by itself.
The mac and cheese can be a big bowl of complete cheese happiness, though sometimes
it's *way* too salty. Salt-averse people like me may want to steer away or try to wrangle
a low-sodium preparation (they're cooked ot order, so that might be possible).
A couple of drinkable wines available by the glass in decent-sized pours for $7-$11.
I've never had service issues, but we like to sit at the counter directly in front of the
prep area where any problems can be instantly handled by the chef. The upstairs
seating seems pretty remote, though, and I'll bet if there are service issues that's where
they'd be happening.
Friends and I have been going regularly for Sunday brunch the past two months--their brunch is great, if a little pricier than some other spots. But you can watch the Sunday morning ball games (for those who care about football), have a lovely eye-opener (their cocktails are fabulous) and enjoy some great food, whether it is Fatted Calf Spanish chorizo with eggs or duck hash or biscuits and gravy.
Really great food--I was almost disappointed to see the nice review in the Express recently, fearing that it would be overrun with newcomers... but no such effect so far. I think enough people were turned off by dinner experiences there that they may be leery of trying it again. I haven't had a bad dinner experience there myself, though there were obvious glitches when they first opened. But for people who have a fixed expectation of what BBQ should be like, they just won't like this place.
My BF and I were at T-Rex on Friday evening also! It was our first time and I too was hesitant because of the reviews I had read on this board.
We ordered the mixed lettuce salad as a starter, full rack of baby backs & brisket for our mains (spicy sauce), and cornbread, baked beans, and greens for our sides. We loved everything except for the greens. We didn't have any service issues.
We live in Marin & don't make it out to Berkeley very often (we tend to eat out more in SF) but will be back for sure.