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Mar 25, 2008 04:26 PM

Pit Boss BBQ revisited...

After a bit of an underwhelming first visit to Pit Boss BBQ in Richmond, I returned as promised hoping that I had caught them on an off-night on the first trip. It looks like I did...

On the first visit I came away feeling the meets were okay (other than the ribs which were better than average) and the sides were inedible (literally, with undercooked mac & cheese and cornbread drier and harder than your average crouton). This time things were different...

The Wifey and I decided to split a 4-way with two sides plus a small order of beans. I wasn't in the mood for mediocre brisket, so I originally opted for tri-tip. When the Mrs. objected, I asked the waitress if the brisket was good tonight. She replied it was so..."as always." That didn't instill much confidence, but after a little more probing she had me convinced to try it. I am glad I did because it was the moistest, tenderest brisket in the Bay Area, second only to perhaps Memphis Minnie's who's brisket has always been consistently good. The pulled pork and chicken were also pretty good, though the ribs were a bit overdone.

And this time the sides were fantastic! Cheesy and flavorful mac & cheese, tender greens (but not mushy in the least), and awesome bbq'ed beans (and I tend not to care for them so much). My only gripe was that the greens came straight on the container, so there was no chance to get any of the pot-liquor. Unfortunately, the cornbread, although better than last time, was still too dry and hard to finish.

Okay, I'll be back again...

Pit Boss Barbeque
12889 San Pablo Ave, Richmond, CA

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  1. How much was the 4-way combo?

    1 Reply
    1. Thanks Civil Bear for taking another look at Pit Boss. Since this place is a 5 minutes drive down the hill for me, I’ve been a handful of times and have been meaning to post about some of the inconsistencies other Hounds have reported and you just gave me the opportunity!

      So, first off, I always make it a point to ask who is in the kitchen and from what I can gather there are 3-4 different people cooking in the kitchen – Mr. Boss, Mrs. Boss, and “others”. The meat is always smoked the night before, but the sides are always spot on whenever Mr. Boss is in the kitchen which is not to say that Mrs. Boss is not also very good, but the worst meals I’ve had where the sides have been as others have said – bland, dry, just not good – have definitely been with the others. Hate to say it, but the love just wasn’t there.

      I usually split a four-way of brisket/ribs/hot links/pulled pork, side of barbeque beans and either the Cajun fries (pretty sure these are commercial, but always fried perfectly) or potato salad, spicy sauce on the side, and the corn bread. Of the four meats, my picks are the brisket which always has a lovely pink smoke ring but did come to me overcooked on one occasion (looked like it was microwaved) and the hot links – fine grind, crisp skin, slight kick. The ribs are my least favorite because I just find them too greasy (I think this is just a personal preference), but the pulled pork – moist with a light smoke – are probably one of the best I’ve had out and that’s saying a lot because my friends are self-described pork-a-holics who spend most of their weekends smoking something. (I'm really not excited about their cancer prospects.) Although the corn bread almost never gets eaten because the four-way is a HUGE amount of food (especially for $25), it has gotten better than what it was with the weird sweet/hot chopped jalapeno topping. Still dry though. The barbequed beans have also vastly improved and are of the thick, smokey, brown sugar variety with just a hint of tang. In another post, someone noted that the bbq beans seemed canned. Not sure what they were talking about, but I would be ecstatic to find canned beans of this quality.

      Nicely stocked bar, good beer selection by the bottle, exceptionally friendly service.

      13 Replies
      1. re: adrienne156

        THANK YOU !!!. That would explain why I always had good experienes there ... Mr. Pit Boss was always in the kitchen on my visits ... it was his passion for Q that started this. Have you noticed any pattern to when he is working?

        Have you tried the catfish? A friend who isn't happy the the bbq, loves the catfish.

        1. re: rworange

          Yeah, I usually have a great experience there, although the place is usually empty. Apparently they do a ton of to-go orders.

          About the pattern... I think Mr. Boss might be there on Sunday nights (although, I'm basing this off of two visits). Last time I went was the the Wednesday before last and it was Mrs. Boss.

          Haven't had the catfish - not a fan of it fried. I like mine in a light tomato curry sauce with potatoes. :o)

          1. re: adrienne156

            Yeah, I dunno. I've only been 3 times, tried mid day to later afternoon. While the sides have varied in quality like a 3 legged meandering koala, there's one thing that has absolutely stayed exactly the same each time. Absolutely no smoke flavor in the meat, any meat. My last visit i opted for the pulled pork/ribs and the pulled pork was akin to eating a fresh cotton mop head. Reminiscent of Jones' BBQ in El Sob, sigh.

            Oh man, just had a flashback to that dinner. The ribs were a mooshy pile of "bits", only 1 thing in there that remotely resembled a pork rib. It was really weird, like pork rib stew. And that's the meal where they forgot my cornbread, feh. Tthe beans were actually cool to the touch, creepy. That picture was taken after digging through my rib gumbo searching for something to eat.


            1. re: DrBiggles

              I have never had a meal like the one you describe. Wow, that sucks - did you ask for your money back?

              "...the pulled pork was akin to eating a fresh cotton mop head." I haven't had the pleasure of having eaten a fresh cotton mop head, but does that mean dry? I agree that the state of barbeque in the bay area is pretty grim, but there is smoke in that meat.

              Edit: I also haven't had anything that looks like the food in the pic you've got posted... Are those supposed to be the ribs?

              1. re: adrienne156

                Yeah, those were the ribs. I tried so hard, each time I went to enjoy the food. It's close to my home and my work, I'll try again this summer maybe.

                There was more smoke flavor in my morning orange juice than in my food.

                The catfish, however, was absolutely perfect in every way. The chicken? Cool to the touch, no real flavors (smoke or otherwise) and I think the 'sauce' was watered down ketchup. Got my cornbread though!


                1. re: DrBiggles


                  Ya know, I haven't had good bbq chicken anywhere in the bay area. Always dry, always flavorless, no smoke -- just crap. Have you had any luck elsewhere?

                  1. re: adrienne156

                    Well, DER. My smoker.

                    To be more direct, not really. I love chicken dearly and it can be so fussy when introduced to the smoker. It doesn't have the fat content for the low & slow, plus it doesn't keep well in the warming trays. Kinda like sausage, gets all funky and wrinkled quite quickly. It's just too much trouble when compared to pork shoulder and beef brisket. These items can be rubbed, marinated and tossed in to the smoker with ease. Keep after the fire and you're golden.

                    E&J's has given me the best so far, University location.


                    1. re: DrBiggles

                      E&J's - thank you.

                      I understand the nature of chicken in the smoker - hence why I don't usually order it - I was just hoping to find someplace with a high turnover that may be able to deliver something decent. Well smoked chicken is a beautiful thing.

                      Btw, has anyone ever mentioned to you that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit? :)

                      1. re: adrienne156

                        I had one of the most memorabel chickens of my life at Flints ... yes the re-opened Flints. Then soon after that I lucked out with an almost as amazing chicken at CJ's in Richmond. I would never recommend that anyone buy chicken at either. In both cases I belived I was just at the right place at the right time. In both cases it was about 5 pm. However, if BBQ ribs and brisket are hit and miss, having the planets align to get the perfect chicken in the Bay Area is a miracle up there with parting the Red Sea. Should have bought a lottery tickect those two lucky days.

                        1. re: rworange

                          Do you remember if it was a weekend or week day?

                        2. re: adrienne156

                          Maybe so, but it's all I have.

                          Just got back Americas with a load of Pollo Campero!


                          1. re: DrBiggles

                            To adrienne ... sorry, don't remember.

                            Biggles ...

                            Check out Taqueria Los Americas next to Kragen on San Pablo. They are now doing a chicken that is in Pollo Campero-style. I think it is quite good.

                2. re: DrBiggles

                  I had the exact experience as you when I ordered the pulled pork. I knew my food was ready when i heard the "ding" of the microwave. Sides seemed kind of weak and the quality of meat seemed not so great. Hopefully my BBQ crawl in Texas will take this bad memory away :-)

          2. I pulled up to the parking lot in the back and walked through the back door. The first thing was a sign directing me to order food "up front". I walked through the seating area and towards the bar.

            A very nice young lady was chatting with another customer who had already placed his take away order. She offered me a menu. While I was making up my mind, she and the other customer talked about how the restaurant AND bar were not allowed to be open past 10pm. They were collecting signatures for a petition to present to the city to allow them to stay open later. She pushed a signature sheet towards me but there was nothing on the sheet that indicated what I was signing, so I politely ignored the sheet.

            I ordered a pulled pork sandwich with their "hot" sauce for take away. Served with a side of cole slaw and your choice of potato salad or fries, I went for the potato salad. At $7.50, I think it is a pretty good deal. I didn't have to wait very long; within ten minutes I am back in my car with my lunch and headed back to the office.

            Eight minutes later and I am sitting in front of my computer. I open the container and my pulled pork sandwich is open-faced on a soft french roll with more than enough meat piled on the roll. I didn't think to order the sauce on the side so it was poured over the meat.

            As I take a bite this very moment the meat is moist, tender and the hot sauce somewhat zingy but not thermal-nuclear by any means. There is a hint of smoke in the meat but not overwhelming. The potato salad and cole slaw are a good contrast to the tangy barbeque sauce.

            (Twenty minutes later)

            The only thing I didn't finish eating was the french roll. I pretty much just picked the meat out of the sandwich, alternating bites of cole slaw and potato salad. I hadn't thought to request sauce on the side, so it was just poured over the pulled pork. Thankfully they did not drown the meat so I have an unopened moist towelette packet that was thoughtfully provided.

            Four people walked into my office with questions while I was eating, and one person came in three times. So that was seven interruptions in twenty minutes. Next time I will remember to close the door.