"Taste of Joy": new BBQ and gumbo joint on Lakeshore (Oakland)
Walked by this place on my way out of the Lakeshore Arizmendi's in Oakland today and noticed a new signboard advertising "Gumbo, BBQ, Greens, and Yams". This is where that crepe place that no one ever seemed to go to used to be, and I only noticed today that the sign had changed. I guess now it's called Taste of Joy.
Anyway, I went in to grab a menu and chatted with the owner (I presume) for a little bit. He said they've been open for two weeks, and they're featuring gumbo and BBQ (hot links, spareribs, brisket, etc.). Says they're smoking the meat themselves. The menu also has "Cajun Meat Loaf", smothered pork chops, and some sandwiches.
According to the menu I took, they're only open until 7:00 Wednesday to Saturday, and then to 6:00 on Sunday (closed Mondays and Tuesdays), so I guess it's more of a lunch/takeout place, at least for the time being.
Has anyone been? It's gotten a handful of reviews on Yelp so far, all overwhelmingly positive. Do I dare to dream that there might be decent BBQ so close by? In any case, I'll definitely be checking this out in the near future.
I went by this afternoon and ordered a small order of the BBQ brisket to go, after asking the chef/owner what he most recommended in terms of their barbecue offerings. For $7.90, this came with a small round of Arizmendi's cornbread (fine, but very small) and two side orders. I had the greens (which I liked, even if they didn't have much "punch" to them--really felt like you were tasting the flavor of the mustard greens instead of just vinegar like you get at a lot of places) and the red beans and rice (rather bland, I thought).
The main attraction, though, was the brisket itself--a generous (for the price) pile, sliced much thinner than what I'm accustomed to with BBQ brisket. When I took my first bite, I was a little bit put off because it was different from what I was expecting--I guess I though it would be more of the chewy texture of the brisket at, say, T-Rex. This had real crisp edges (so as to be a TAD bit dry in parts) and of course was sliced real thin and soaked in a rather generous pool of sauce. The preparation reminded me more of what I'd expect from pulled pork or, say, some BBQ roast beef that I've had in the past. But I have to say--I took one bite, and then another, and then another, and before I knew it the whole plate was gone. It may not have been the moistest or most nuanced BBQ I've ever had, but it was damned tasty, comforting food--the meat was flavorful and the sauce was addictive. This would make a fantastic sandwich (which is, in fact, offered on the menu for $7.50). I guess the only criticism might be that because the sauce was so dominant (tasty as it was), it was hard to tell how well smoked the meat was.
Anyway, I've always been more of a ribs guy and have only started getting into brisket more recently, so I'd love for some of you BBQ purists and connoisseurs to check this out and let me know what you think. But in the meantime, Taste of Joy moves pretty high on my (rather limited) list of takeout options right near the lake.
I eyed the desserts they had on display--a pecan pie and a peach cobbler that the young gentleman working the counter said were from Merritt Bakery, as well as a lemon Bundt cake that he said his grandma had made. So, of course, you know which one I'll be sampling next time.
Went to Taste of Joy last night (on a Friday night, now about 6 weeks after they opened) and we are definitely planning to go back. I don't consider myself a BBQ connoisseur, but IMHO the food here is MUCH better than Everett and Jones.
Overall, all the food was excellent. We had:
- BBQ ribs: the BBQ sauce was delicious. Kansas City style: tomato-based with molasses, so a touch sweet. just a little heat. even my hubby who usually turns down his nose at mild sauces thought it was great. The spare ribs were smoky and meaty and with a good chew, benefiting from 5 hours in the smoker (according to the chef/owner), but not fall-off-the-bone tender. (because the meat came already slathered in sauce, i couldn't taste the meat on its own.)
- BBQ brisket: agree with abstractpoet; this is not like other brisket I've had but super-yummy. It's as thinly sliced as roast beef - which I found I prefer - less chewiness in general - and slathered in the yummy sauce.
- BBQ chicken: also well-cooked; moist not dry, and again, slathered in sauce.
- potato salad: perfect all-american flavor. texture a bit too like smashed potatoes though - I usually like bigger chunks of potato interspersed
- mac and cheese: YUM! perfectly al dante pasta tossed in (but not drowning in) a nice cheesy sauce, with extra cheddar melted on top
- salad: fine; the dressing was basically the bbq sauce thinned down. that's what I get for ordering a salad in a BBQ joint.
- bacon and bean soup: basically, baked beans in soup form. tasty but not outstanding, and not enough chunks of bacon.
They are definitely going thru new restaurant growing pains. Although we arrived at 6pm, they had to make us the last customers to be served because their cash register froze up. The server was brand new (to waiting in general it seemed) and it really showed in our service (he was slow, forgot things, etc).
a few notes:
- they call themselves a "southern bistro." the ambiance is a weird blend of upscale/downscale. e.g. you order at the counter, but the tables all have table cloths. they have white bistro-ware for plates, but cheap paper napkins rolled up in a glass on the table.
- they have no liquor license.
The chef/owner, Brian, is a super-friendly and nice guy and came out to chat with us. It's his first restaurant, and to his credit, he said something like, "please give me your feedback. please be honest - I can take it." And then actually genuninely seemed open to what we said. So I am hopeful that this place will keep getting even better and better because we need more great BBQ restaurants!
Thanks for the report. It was especially good to hear about what it was like dining in. I'll have to try the mac and cheese next time. I'm curious about the gumbo too and wonder if it compares favorably to Angeline's, which I think is just OK.
And, granted I've only been to E + J once, but based on that one experience, I have to agree--this is better, and it isn't close. T-Rex spare ribs are probably still the best BBQ I've had on the East Bay, but this is so much more affordable and low-key and, for me, closer to home.
Went back for the 2-entree barbecue combo ($15.95) to go tonight--brisket and beef hot links. The brisket was even better than last time--more tender and moist. Just great. Can't wait to make myself a sandwich for lunch tomorrow with the leftovers. Hot links were very good too--perfectly cooked, not dry at all. Not very spicy, but flavorful.
Had the mac and cheese and the potato salad as sides. Liked them both. As Cassia noted, the mac and cheese is nice and toothsome; not very rich or creamy, but just right as an accompaniment. Potato salad's texture was indeed almost like chunky mashed potatoes, but that didn't bother me.
Also, ordered a slice of the lemon pound cake, and the woman working the counter actually gave me the rest of the cake they had out (more like 3 slices), I guess since they were closing soon. Nice of her. =) The cake was nothing special but not bad. Moist and a bit on the sweet side.
Got two (small size) entrees as takeout yesterday--so we could try more of the sides. Beef brisket and the spareribs, with greens, mac n cheese, candied yams and potato salad as the sides.
The brisket was totally delicious and addictive. Definitely a sweeter type of sauce, and yes, sliced quite thin, but melt-in-your mouth tender. I was really hoping for some leftovers to make a sandwich but we were completely unable to resist continued snacking on the last few pieces. The ribs were good, actually not a ton of sauce on them (more of a glaze, although I dipped mine in the sauce from the brisket). I would say they were slightly on the tough side, but still tasty.
For the sides, I was the most impressed with the potato salad, which I don't even usually like that much (husband's pick). Really creamy, pureed texture and a lot of flavor. It went well in combination with the greens which were pretty basic. (I wouldn't go quite as far as to say bland, but they definitely improved in combination with other dishes.) The yams and the mac n cheese were about what I would expect from a barbeque place--which means tasty but nothing unexpected, flavor-wise.
Had the peach cobbler (didn't realize it was from Merritt bakery). As perhaps to be expected, it was OK--canned peaches and the bottom crust was kind of chewy. But by that point I was too full to even finish it.
They do seem to be open somewhat erratically. I went by there one Wednesday and they were closed altogether--the (very nice) kid at the counter explained a few days later that they had had a catering job. I also called one evening a bit after 6 to find that they had already closed, so I would recommend calling ahead in general before getting your hopes up too much. Will definitely be back though.
They were closed again on Wednesday, the 10th, for internal repairs (according to the sign on the window). Hopefully, these random closings will stop once they get everything set up to their liking.
My wife is now a big fan of their Cajun meatloaf. I sampled some and agreed it was pretty good, if you're into meatloaf.
Has anyone tried the gumbo?
We still wanted bbq today and called at 11:15 until they answered and we asked if they were open. They said, "We're running late. Give us until 12:30. Maybe 1..." So we were there around 1. We told the blonde woman behind the counter that we'd come over yesterday and found them closed despite their declared hours and maybe it would be nice if they'd put open/not open on a voicemail message updated daily. She replied, "Yeah? Well we're open today." Would have been nice to have gotten a "Gee, sorry."
So my husband got gumbo and it did have adequate proteins in it, 6+ shrimp and chicken, but I'd have to say the depth of flavor wasn't there. His lemonade tasted a bit like sweetened lemon water.
I had the ribs, mac n' cheese, and greens. The ribs were basically tasty and came encased in sauce but they were lukewarm and showed every sign of having been made previously and re-heated in a microwave. The greens also--and they came with a little bit of the plastic wrap that had covered them, all tenderly warmed together. I pointed this out to the blonde and she said, "Sorry."
The mac n' cheese was good.
Even better, when they were closed yesterday we wound up at Neecha Thai on Grand and that was pretty damn grand: pad kee maowr very basil-flavored and with random width excellent but not copious enough rice noodles, som tum tangy and not sweet like some places, beef and mint salad, and fried rolls. Sort of upscale like Xyclo Vietnamese but ever so good. I guess a branch of Neecha in the CIty. We will be back there.