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Uncle Willie's BBQ in Oakland

This is a jump off this thread, which discussed Uncle Willie's: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/330895

Went to Uncle Willie's today, a small place close to the Oakland Fed Bldg that opened in 2005. It looks like it was renovated at that time. I think there were 5-6 small tables to eat there, like a small cafe. Nothing fancy but neat, clean and new-ish. A couple of police officers were eating inside which I took as a good sign...i.e., the cop/good eats check off.

My original mission was to try the ribs. When I got there I thought about the brisket for some reason, so asked about it. I was offered a sample right away. Right away I knew the brisket was good...moist, smoky and not soaked in fat. I decided to ordered the two-way combo (pork ribs and brisket). I was also asked if I wanted the brisket with some fat on it or it cut lean. I opted for lean...might opt for some fat next time (I guess that's the Texas cut). Nice touch asking for trim preference, definately gets points.

When I got home the brisket out-shined the ribs by a good margin. The ribs were okay but the brisket is definately the star. I ordered mild sauce with hot on the side (never under/over estimated BBQ fire power). The mild was really bland IMO. The hot was not outlandish but mixed with the mild it was good. Didn't like the sauce at first but I think it "settled". It grows on you or it mixed with the meat very well.

Final verdict: I'd definately go back for the brisket (not so sure about the ribs). Interested in tasting the pulled pork sandwich given I'm guessing it might benefit from similar cooking method as the brisket. Extra points for friendly service, owner/staff. They definately took pride in their food to the point you want to see them succeed.

Uncle Willie's
614 14th Street (off Jefferson
)Oakland, CA
http://www.unclewilliesbarbq.com/

Disclaimer: yes, BBQ is highly subjective like burritos and pizza...so take this with a grain of regional salt.

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  1. Thanks, ML8000! I'll have to remember to check it out next time I'm craving BBQ.

    1. Was this the place that used to be called "Texas BBQ" back in '5? (looks that way from the map) They had been closed for about eight months between 2005-6. Guess it was a very extensive remodeling, including a name change.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Marc Wallace

        Marc, yes this is the same place. Texas BBQ was only open for maybe a year and closed down. They were good, but Willie's is even better.

        I've been going to Willie's ever since they opened and agree with ML8000 that the ribs are nice, but the brisket is the real winner. And their hot links are good too if you like that sort of thing.

        I'm going to go on a limb and say that Uncle Willie's is the best and most consistent BBQ in the East Bay right now. And I'm pretty sure I've eaten them all.

      2. Adding a link:

        -----
        Uncle Willie's BBQ and Fish
        614 14th St, Oakland, CA 94612

        1 Reply
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Oooooooooh! I'm excited! Will report back next week.

        2. I've been three times, and widely varied experiences...makes me not eager to go back.

          First time was a Friday afternoon, people could not have been nicer and the brisket plate was very solid, not fatty with quite a few slices of the brisket...the next time was a Saturday afternoon, and the folks (different crew) were somewhat brusque, even though it was far from busy. I got the same order as last time, but I swear there was half the meat this time, and it did not seem to be as good. The third time was also on a Saturday afternoon, I got the fried catfish, which was pretty solid.

          The widely varied amount of meat gives me pause to go back...when it falls on your side it's great, but when it is light, it's disappointing. Brisket was great the first time, but a bit too "pot roast"-y the second time...again, inconsistency.

          It's worth trying, I thought the prices were fair, and I want places like that to make it...maybe I will give another try...

          2 Replies
          1. re: Munching Mark

            Who served you the times you got a fair amount?

            The couple of times I've been, Uncle Willie himself (mid-40-ish, 5'-8"-ish) served me and I got a whopping amount. Uncle Willie owns/runs the place with his niece(s) and nephew(s), hence the uncle tag. Really nice guy...as you mention, couldn't be nicer. I've always gone on a weekday evening.

            1. re: ML8000

              Gosh, hard to recall...I know the fellow taking my order on the Friday was a younger, tall, thin gentleman with a beard...super nice guy.

              I think Willie was there the Saturday I went, sort of hovering...a younger guy was dishing it up

          2. Was walking by the other night so gave it a try.

            Brisket: perfect texture, good fat-lean balance, but barely any smoke flavor; I much prefer Memphis Minnie's smoky version

            Hot sauce: fabulous, best I've had anywhere, complex, very spicy, not very sweet

            Black beans and rice: totally bland, good with some of that sauce

            Greens: simple (vegetarian or close to it) but very good, not overcooked

            4 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I've been meaning to go back once before posting anything, but my limited experience was both similar and different to yours. Had brisket in a sandwich order with greens as my side. I thought the sauce was very good as well. The brisket had a very good texture, I agree on the fat-lean balance, but also, it was stored and served at a good temperature, so that everything stayed tender, unlike sometimes when the brisket is allowed to cool and the connective tissue sets.

              I did not ask for sauce to be on the side, so it was hard to be sure, but I had the distinct impression that the beef may have been stored wet, i.e. in warm water or jus on a steam table, which may have accounted for the correct texture, but may also have diluted/washed away some smokiness. However, I will say that some of the pieces I had were distinctly smoky.

              greens were salty and rich tasting with a distinct smokiness; although I did not see any bits of meat, I thought that they must have been cooked with some sort of meat like smoked turkey necks or something similar.

              all in all, I thought worth a follow-up.

              1. re: twocents

                I might go there just to buy that hot sauce. And then bring it with me to T-Rex!

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Robert, just for my info- what do you like for a meat/fat balance- what percent fat would you estimate? My sad visit to T. Rex featured brisket that was 45% fat (this is an honest number- no exaggeration). I have never had that much fat served with brisket before.

                  1. re: P. Punko

                    I don't know. The fat was mostly rendered out but it tasted like there was plenty of fat in it.