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Nov 29, 2007 11:30 AM

Looney's Smokehouse BBQ: Berkeley: report (lg)

I finally got a chance to try this newish place downtown last night with my 4 1/2 yr old daughter, Sonja. We got there about 5:30 pm and I noticed a sign on the door that said "Happy Hour 4-6 pm: Ribs: $1.25 each" Now the decor is a little on the "sports bar" side but has a few nice touches including a large indoor water feature in front of a bar seating area that Sonja loved. After we sat ourselves down, a nice man brought over some water right away and our server Faye came over and asked us about drinks. We ordered lemonade (which was Ok) and she was kind enough to suggest adding raspberry syrup when Sonja wanted Raspberry Lemonade (sweet but pretty tasty). We decided to share a 1/4 BBQ Chicken Dinner with fries and "spicy"(not really) cornbread and have two ribs as well.
Since it wasn't crowded we didn't have to wait very long for our meal (10 minutes? Time is always hard for me to keep track of when I'm trying to herd little ones)
My goodness, what a lot of food! A big 'ol chicken thigh & leg, hearty serving of seasoned wedge fries (skins on), a dinner roll (ok), butter pats at the right temp., two good-sized ribs and I think the piece of cornbread was about 4" square. Here, the meat has a dry rub it (which I liked) and you have your choice of 4 sauces on the side (located on each table): Texas Spicy (I think that was the vinegar-based sauce, good flavor & texture), Girlyman (I didn't try), Kansas City Mild & Kansas City Spicy (my favorite, sweet with a little smoke & spice). My chicken and ribs were good and still moist, (I couldn't tell you about how smoky things were because I was just too hungry to notice) the fries were decent and the corn bread was fairly moist and a great vehicle to sop up the yummy sauce. I could only finish about half of the chicken after devouring the ribs (beef I think), so I asked for box for the rest. After Faye brought the box, she also brought out a sample of their Bread Pudding w/Whiskey Sauce. Man! Big chunks of bread, a sprinking of pecans, eggy/custardy stuff towards the bottom and the sauce was pretty good too. It was so hard to stop eating it, but I had to surrender after about halfway through.

Now I'm not a BBQ expert, but I love tasty food and a good deal. Our meal, including tax was $15.48 (with enough food leftover for another meal). Ok, this place ain't no "joint", has a number of healthier options like salads, grilled fish and broccoli & asparagus for sides
(it is in downtown Berkeley after all), but its definitely better than corporate BBQ fare IMO.
I'll be taking some of my extended family back on Sunday for a dual birthday bash for my husband and younger brother. Once I try the brisket and get other opinions, I'll report back

Looney's Smokehouse: 2190 Bancroft Way (@Fulton) Berkeley, Ca 94704
(510) 649-0628:

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  1. Well, the family LOVED the food. The brisket (smoked for 10 hrs) was flavorful if a little on the fatty side and I really enjoyed the spicy Carolina-style pulled pork. The monster beef rib was pretty good but kinda hard to handle and a little fatty as well. (All the meats except the brisket are usually smoked for 4-6 hours with a dry rub)
    The filet mignon (sp?) was truly wonderful. (He takes the entire tenderloin, smokes it for several hours with a black pepper rub and then cuts it) It melted in my mouth and was one of the best things we had besides the bread pudding.
    Ken (the owner) was very nice and brought out samples of his hush puppies and a hot fudge sundae, both of which were yummy. Don't get me wrong, there are things that still need some work (like the beans) but overall we had a great dinner with enough leftovers for at least one or two meals apiece. My sister-in-law said she'd be willing to drive back over from South SF to eat here again, as would my brother in Vallejo. My Mom loved it so much, I'm getting her BBQ for the Holidays!

    11 Replies
    1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

      I always have a great meal at Looney's and don't comprehend the negatives it gets here. We don't ever get the beans as my husband doesn't like them, but the other sides are usually yummy and the meats are just fine. And we also have extra meals so it winds up being a bargain.

      1. re: lintygmom

        I agree. I'm glad that its been getting some better reviews recently.

        We ALWAYS have leftovers; can usually eat for a couple days on them!

        1. re: chemchef

          I'd be curious to hear if anyone else has eaten at Looney's lately and has noticed any improvement.

          I was really hoping this place would turn out decent, seeing as how it fills a culinary void in downtown Berkeley, but I quickly realized it's a place to drink beer and watch sports, not eat. The last meal I had from there six months ago (pulled pork sandwich) was practically inedible, and there's lots of reports on Yelp of questionable sanitary standards here.

          1. re: Agent 510

            Due to its proximity to campus and downtown, its an obvious choice to drink beer and watch sports. Since my husband and I don't do either, we usually just take our order to-go. Nevertheless, the food is good.

            1. re: Agent 510

              I tried Loonies a few times last year (when they first opened) and found their main problem to be their inconsistencies. It seemed like they couldn't decide on how to prepare some of their main courses. Still, the majority of heir offerings were pretty good, although you couldn't count on having them prepared the same way on the next visit.

              I understand they have a new chef from Louisiana, so I'll be sure to try them again now that Cal basketball is back in season.

              1. re: Civil Bear

                Yeah, as we were walking out the door, Ken gave my sister-in-law a sample of the gumbo which smelled good. Unfortunately it went home with her instead of me, but I definitely want to try the Jambalaya as well.

                If you haven't been in while, maybe you might want to give it another try. They just recently added a "mild" version of the Carolina-style pulled pork because the regular was "too spicy" for a lot of people. It's a vinegar-based marinade with chilis and whiskey that most West Coasters haven't had before and I was surprised how much I liked it.
                (The brisket and filet are still my favorites though)

                I'm looking forward to returning soon to get takeout so we can see if my husband's sister and her fiancee want Looney's to do the food for their wedding. (Hope so!)

              2. re: Agent 510

                The City of Berkeley's most recent inspection (11/27) gives no reason for concern.

                1. re: lmnopm

                  The disparity between my experiences and the (sometimes) ferociously negative posts here make me wonder. The owner has been nothing but nice and accomodating but did he peeve someone 'round these parts?

                  BTW: I was curious about the YELP reviews and went to review them. I'm sure a lot are people's honest opinions but on the first page I found two IDENTICAL negatives (down to the "OMG. this should be a crime" opening) by a "Lance B." and a "Mike L." I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist but this all makes me worry that the playing field's not quite level.

                  1. re: lintygmom

                    As far as my previous reports on Looney's, it's definitely nothing personal, and the service was nice enough at the time, though definitely inexperienced, but the food was very very bad that first time. No doubt about that. Rubbery, smokeless brisket sandwich that I had a hard time cutting through nevermind biting through and a undercooked slice of blueberry cobbler. I am willing to give everyone a second chance though, so long as things are different, which I hope they are.

                    1. re: nicedragonboy

                      go in the evening, talk to the owner and tell him of your experience and see what happens. I've had drug reps bring their bbq to the office and everyone loved it. one rep is going to have her cater her engagement reception

            2. re: lintygmom

              I give them points for smoking their meats instead of grilling and slapping on BBQ sauce. I look forward to trying this place.

          2. wow...all these new reports on Loonie's. Looks like I'll have to give it another try. It's been 2 years since I've gone, which was about when they first openned up and that first experience turned me off soo much I haven't been able to bring myself to go again despite numerous bbq cravings.

            2 Replies
            1. re: nicedragonboy

              So, do you just sit there and suffer or is there another bbq place you prefer? :)

              1. re: adrienne156

                haha...i suffered that day because I was hoping it was a quick bite before a meeting so I didn't have time to send it back or get another meal, but I've been liking Brick Pig's House recently.