Richmond & Fairfield - CJ's Barbecue & Fish
CJs puts the B in Barbecue. It wasnt grade A mind-blowing wonderful, but the food was a solid B grade-wise on my first visit.
The beef was chopped up like carnitas. It was juicy and tender with a touch of fat, but I couldnt detect any smoke and there was no smoke ring.
The medium sauce was mouth-tingling hot and when added, the meat absorbed it like a sponge. It was a happy marriage of sauce and meat. The sauce is required here.
It might be best to ask for the sauce on the side because too much and the meat flavor gets lost. The medium was plenty hot for me. I can't imagine what the hot would be like.
All sides are house-made. They get a B too. Maybe I should grade on the curve since most BBQ sides are so forgettable in the Bay Area B+
The slaw was basic and with a slight wilt that might be the result of the journey home. Nice enough potato salad with a little celery and black olive
The serving, while generous, wasnt as hefty as Flint;s and, at $11.00, was more expensive.
A special of greens and cornbread was salty greens that were long-cooked with a piece of pork. Pork and pork bones were in the greens. Two tiny corn muffins were crumbly and tasted of margarine. The greens also tasted like they had some sort of margarine or butter in them.
They make their own banana pudding and peach cobbler. Again the cobbler earns a grade of B. It was made with canned peaches and broken up pie crust. Pleasant with a hint of clove and not overly sweet
I wasnt too inquisitive or chatty because I planned to see what Chowhounds or others on the web had to say. It seems like Ive seen one-line mentions of CJs here and there but Goggle is turning up nothing on Chowhound or elsewhere. So heres what else CJs has on the menu
BBQ: pork ribs, chicken, links (mild or hot) and, of course, the sliced beef
BBQ slabs: baby ribs, pork ribs
HOAGIES: Links, beef, pastrami, ham, turkey, pork. Hoagies come with sauteed onions, jalepeno peppers and garlic. Fries and soda or bottled water included.
FRIED: snapper, catfish, prawns, oysters, chicken wings, chicken strips
SIDE ORDERS: Potato salad, mac salad, cole slaw, baked beans and French fries.
Huspuppies are $1 for 3.
I just noticed that a small order of any of the sides is only $1.
In addition to the house-made banana pudding and peach cobbler, they use a Berkeley bakery for cake slices, pecan pie and sweet potato pie.
Theres also a specials board. Today it was greens and muffins. They also had green beans. From the looks of the signs, these might be permanent specials.
It is mainly take-out, but there re four tables. Miminalist decor - black and white tile floor, counter, brick oven. I think Shep said this place was once Good's BBQ.
Has anyone else tried this place? How are the hoagies?
The menu says:
You've Tried The Rest Now Try The Best, Ask Charles & Jeri About, Delicious B-B-Q Catering
CJ's Barbecue & Fish
2401 Macdonald Ave
Richmond, CA 94804
520 Parker Rd
Fairfield, CA 94533
Well, either no one has been here or the people who have aren't reading the board today, so I thought I'd answer some of my own questions and pick up a hoagie.
I got the mild link which comes on a soft bun with sesame seeds. Topped with mild sauce and sauteed onions, peppers and garlic.
I really like the link which has NO casing and is an unusual grind, somewhere between a hot dog and a breakfast sausage. In fact, it had that juiciness of a breakfast sausage.
Smoke was evident, but not sure if it is the sauce or link. I liked the sauce which was sweet without being cloying.
This is a sandwich to eat with a fork since the soft roll is useless and falls apart. Like the supermarket bread given with most BBQ, its purpose is to mop up the sauce. It does this well. There are a few chopped up onions and fried green bell peppers on top. Grade: A-
Sides can be substituted for fries. Nice baked beans with two types of bean. The slightly soupy sauce is mildly hot with sweet undertones. A-
A dollar splurge bought another side of the macaroni salad. This was the best side. Macaroni was perfectly cooked and not mushy with little minced stuff for flavor. The pieces were so small it was hard to identify, maybe olives, pickles and celery. Nice Flavor. Grade: A
The macaroni reminded me of the beans which were cooked just right, not too soft with a little bit of bite.
No banana pudding today, but they had sweet potato and pecan pie today. Trying to coax out what bakery these came from ... Is is Cassandra's? ... all I got was "My cousin makes them baby".
Well, the cousin does one fine job. The crust was browned and crisp with a filling that wasn't too sweet and tasted like fresh sweet potato with a touch of what seemed like pumpkin pie spice. Grade: A- (but only because Nellie's is an A).
Didn't get too much info. The people here are a little less chatty and smiley than Flints. They call you baby, but it sounds like maam.
CJ's has been in San Pablo about 4 years. The Fairfield location has been open 8 years. The pastrami they buy and it is deli pastrami, but they don't usually have that, the turkey or ham at the Richmond location.
Maybe after a few months as a regular customer I can coax out another nugget of info. Their rules seem to be order it, eat it, enjoy it. Questions are unnecessary. Is it delicious or not ... and we don't really want to know the answer. If you come back, it's delicious ... good enough.
Sometimes, but it is sporadic. After eating there a few more times, my original opinion and that of honeyb is kind of on-spot ... it is a solid "B" ... good if you are in the area, probaby not a destination and a lot better than some BBQ in the Bay Area.
I found another place in Richmond that I'm not sure is open anymore. It is Candy's BBQ on Marina Way. It is attached to a Mexican Market. It wasn't opened when I went by, but if I have time, I'll stop by prime time on the weekend and ask. What got me were the cords of wood stacked in the windw and the big brick chimney. Then again, Richmond is a BBQ graveyard with People's Choice, Backyard, and a few more empty spots. Demographic change.
There's a report from one of the local papers that was really cool. During WWII, it attracted a lot of Southern African-Americans. The remains of that can be seen in the abandoned BBQ's in the area, especially around MacDonald and 23rd. There is still a significant population near the area of the San Rafael bridge so there are lots of fish fries still on MacDonald and a few markets.
A decade or so ago, there were a lot of Thai immigrants, but in terms of upgrading, that didn't happen much. There are still a few Thai markets and some population here, but on the food scene it doesn't have a big current impact.
The Latinos moved in next and are, in a sense, gentrifying the neighborhood. There is a lot of home improvement and lots of Latino markets/restaurants. The most interesting are the street vendors.
The Brazilians started to move into the neighborhood big-time recently and there are more and more Brazilian Markets and food sources. There are about 10,000 Brazilians in the area.
There's a growing African, primarily Nigerian group in the area that hasn't manifested itself so much in restaurants yet, but the markets are starting to creep in
Nothing official, just observation from stopping here and there. St. John's Church in El Cerrito is interesting in that it has 66 nationalities represented and they are alwayscelebrating something that is food related. I believe the Nigerian Yam Festival is this Sunday.
You like Mexican things and should look into the Gaudalupe Festival in San Pablo