Bulldog Barbecue, Martinez
Spurred on by a recent MeatHenge post and needing to atone for the prior weekend's T-Rex transgressions (6 hours they smoke the brisket! 6 HOURS!!) I made the trek to Martinez to try Bulldog Barbecue. I should have done so weeks ago. 3-way (2 sides), $16.95, a "half" pulled pork sandwich $3.95 (it was an entire sandwich AND came with another side), Sierra Nevada Celebration on tap (high at $4.25 the 16oz. pint but maybe it's tough to put that handle on in a 'cue joint, so OK by me).
From the moment my fork hit the brisket I knew this was going to be a memorable meal- it barely resisted. Deep smoke ring and man, oh man was that bark good. Memphis Minnie's-level good, at least. No unrendered fat to get in the way to speak of. Yeah, it came to the table in a little pool of sauce, but it was a small enough pool that only the bottom piece really had any sauce on it (and it's a very good sauce). The spicy sauce was offered, we accepted; it was good but the quality of the meat here is too high for a sauce that competes with it as much as the spicy does. This is perfectly-smoked brisket.
The ribs were gloriously unadorned with sauce, the dry rub was excellent and they were perfectly smoked as well. What little fat hadn't rendered out of these delectable ribs was almost worth the price of admission alone. The pleasantly garlicky links were good and went very well with the sauce. The pork on the sandwich was more sliced than pulled; it was tasty and certainly a bargain; this "half sandwich" would be considered by anyone to be an entire sandwich and, with the side, would certainly fill up someone who wasn't on a mission as we were.
Sides: they were out of greens. The baked beans were very good (they're thick and in the molasses camp). The potato salad claimed the middle ground between chunks and mashed, mustard-y but not overly so as you find elsewhere, and cleansed the palate between the various mains. The mac and cheese was a bit dry, not in the custard camp; more macaroni than cheese which is good when you get several pounds of meat...
Lots of tables, bar seating right in front of the magnificent smoker, and, yes, a large fish tank. Very comfy atmo'. And you can park for free Saturdays in downtown Martinez.
I can't vouch for this Uncle Frank guy but I can vouch for Bulldog and it should be generating as much buzz on this board as UF's because Bulldog is the real deal.
This was the Thanksgiving of barbecue for only $32 (2 beers). Ruined us for dinner.
Bulldog BBQ: 601 Main Street, Martinez. Get some.
I agree that Bulldog BBQ is really good food, indeed.
However, I will never spend a dime there again.
I had 2 fantastic visits. I returned a third time on a Sunday around 5pm. The open sign was on but there were no customers inside. I walked into the restaurant only to be greeted by a younger woman who asked me in a surly tone if there was something I needed. I replied that a beer would be great. In an even more surly tone, I was told that they were out of food and the restaurant was closed. She turned her back to me and continued doing what she was previously doing.
I can understand and forgive the lack of food - even at 5pm - I mean, things happen. But, this lady never said "I'm sorry" or "you may want to call ahead in the future" or anything else that even remotely resembled empathy for my trip in vain. In fact, her demeanor with me was so snotty, it was as if I was inconveniencing her for walking into her restaurant.
Sorry Bulldog, never again. I don't care how good the food is.
People are too funny. Not you, the one in the restaurant. My sister and brother inlaw had nearly the same experience. Except there WAS someone in the kitchen, but they were playing hide & seek. They wouldn't come out and would only duck behind things in the kitchen. My sister and hubby, after a bit, decided to leave. Nobody there and no one to take an order.
Always looking for good Q. I thought I would try Bulldog as per board reco. Now that I'm back to post my report I see two new posts. Well I showed up in the tween time before dinner and after lunch and it looked like it might be closed. I was able to get inside and nose around. No patrons and no workers. So I hung out for a minute looking at the menu when a nice guy came out of the kitchen. He told me yes I could get something to eat and that a waitress was around here "somewhere". I said no worries can I get a 3way to go? Sure he said, 5 minutes and I sat down. Another person came in and went through the same thing I did, she was just about to give up when the nice man showed up with my food. He then went off to find the waitress who was also the cashier. I'm not sure if this was the same person as previously mentioned, but either way this portion of the staff needs an attitude adjustment. Still I got my food albiet with only 1 piece of wonder bread instead of the website mentioned French bread. A plus though is she included a pat of butter. The 2 cups of sauce was almost enough and had a pleasant sweet taste, not my favorite but OK. The beans were a good rendition of this Q classic. The cheese while dry would have been fine if it had a bit more flavor, perhaps a bit of salt might have helped, not sure but a dissapointment none the less. The links were tasty with a touch of fennel? perhaps ..some seed. Nice smoke and texture but a bit dry and too salty. Nothing there to go back to. The ribs were smokey, flavorful and tough. Yikes I had to chew and chew and I gave up on a couple. Not sure what was the deal there but perhaps I got a less than stellar rack. The brisket however was tender with great smoke and bite. Might have been the best brisket I have ever had. Portions were a geneous size and the price consistent for what you get. I'll try it again in a month or two.
Recently went by, beginning of Apr 08, and wanted to report. I arrived around 5pm-ish, place was empty for the moment. The woman who was working was pleasant and talkative. She called the owner after I mentioned chowhound.com. As I was waiting for my 3-way another guy walked in and ordred his "usual," the BBQ chicken sandwich. I spoke to him and he had nothing but praise. See the Quick Score and read on below if you like.
Quick Score [out of 5]:
Employee/Owner - 5
Value - 4
Ribs - 4.25 [succulent, good natural flavor, fell off the bone]
Brisket - 3.25 [cut a little thick for my taste and a lil dry BUT made for a good sandwich the next day]
Links - 2.75 [not bad, not good, nothing to set them apart from your standard store bought link]
Chicken - I didn't have it but must be AT LEAST above average if some guy keeps going back for it.
Physical plant - 4.5 [clean, well organized, a couple of TV's to watch the game, nice beer selection and wine. Oh, there's patio out back].
Return Visit Probability - 3.75
The highlights of my visit was talking to the owner, the friendly employee and the RIBS [in no particular order]. The ribs were really great [not the best I've ever had but damn good]. I like to taste the meat and not have my bbq smothered in sauce. These came with the sauce on the side and after tasting them, the ribs didn't need it [only used the sauce to add a different twist to the flavor]. A man with no teeth could enjoy these - they were moist, meaty, tender to the point of ALMOST falling off the bone [in reality you don't really want your ribs to fall apart on you]. To get a 5, they needed a little more of the "rub" flavor to come through - it was subtle but quite good compliment to the natural meat flavors.
Also, I think the place would be a good spot to go hang-out, eat some good ribs, have some beers and watch the game or kick back with friends out on the patio. I can't comment on the sides - didn't eat mine, my co-workers did and no one complained [but there weren't any raves either].
Random last thoughts: I did get French Bread which I thought was a different but good twist to the typical slices of bread given elsewhere. Sauce, the mild is mild and a little sweet - not my style but it wasn't bad sauce just not my style; I'll have to go for a spicier version next time. Oh, did I say that I liked the RIBS?!?!?!
Either Bulldog worked out its service problems since 2005 or, as I read elsewhere, they changed ownership in 2007. Do you have any idea if that is true?
Anyway thanks for the update. There's a really nice bakery acros s the street if you are in that area again ... La Gateau Elegant.
601 Main St, Martinez, CA 94553