BBQ Man Cafe in Menlo Park.
I went to BBQ Man in Menlo Park soon after it replaced the greasy spoon that was regrettably there for years. Disappointed at everything I had that first time, I hadn't been back till yesterday. BBQ Man is a expanded, fixed version of the proprietor's former two carts in the area.
I'm glad I went, because, although not wonderful, BBQ Man was considerably better than I remembered. The prices were fair, and it is exceptionally convenient to Willow / 101 / Dumbarton Br.
I had the 3-meat platter, which lets you combine any two meats, a choice of two sides, and two half-slices of garlic-and-butter on toast. I had two ribs, a pile of pulled pork, and a pile of brisket.
All three meats were slathered with sweet, mildly spicy, thick barbecue sauce. Next time, I will ask for sauce on the side. The sauce is unexceptional and likely a commercial concoction.
The ribs, like almost all adult pork- and beef ribs, I found dull. There are certainly ways to slow-smoke ribs, get the tendon- and bone flavors into the meat, and not dry out the meat. To their credit BBQ Man's ribs were not dry -- some posters on Yelp have had different experiences.
The pulled pork was just fine, clearly cooked slowly, very moist, and exceptionally tender.
The brisket was actually quite good, and it would make a tasty, simple sandwich. Like the pulled pork, it proved extremely tender.
My sides were coleslaw of the blandest and most forgettable possible character. And beans. The beans surprised me: whole, rich-maroon kidney beans with some red fresh pepper. They reminded me of kidney beans that I've had in all-bean chili made by a west Texan to prove that the chile family can admit beans. I had expected the usual pintos or great northern beans, but I got big kidney beans instead. Good for BBQ Man.
The whole meal, which easily fed two, was $15. This is, locally, not a bad price.
I would go back specifically for a brisket sandwich (applying sauce myself) and a side of beans.
Ribs are much better at the barbecue that Mike runs behind New Sweet Home Church nearby (weekends only). Back-a-yard across the freeway has better quality pork (in a completely different style).
BBQ Man Cafe, 555 Willow, Menlo Park.
I went a month or so ago for lunch and have had fewer more disappointing meals. THe brisket was dry and crumbly and the sauce of no redeeming quality. I can't remember what else I had because none of it was good. I didn't even finish; but not because there was an overabundance of food. The sides were awful - I didn't expect the beans to be simply kidney beans with chunks of ground beef, ugh. Maybe it was that it had just opened or something, but I have no plans to go back when there are other quality places nearby (Uncle Frank's etc.)