Aptos St. BBQ
My wife and I had lunch at Aptos St. Barbeque Saturday and we can enthusiastically second Matt's recommendation.
As Matt mentions, the place is bright and clean, with a very friendly and welcoming staff. You order at a counter and then sit down and wait for your food to be brought to you.
Each of the meats is available in a sandwich or a "meal" which (although the menu doesn't make it clear) includes your choice of two sides and a slice of garlic bread. I had the two meat combo with chicken and pork ribs and my wife had the brisket, which was listed on the blackboard as a special, but is apparently available often. We each chose potato salad and beans as our sides and shared a large bottle of Mom Hefeweizen from Rogue Ales Brewery (they have a pretty extensive selection of microbrew beers).
Cutting to the chase, everything was great. I was, of course, hoping for an improvement over the Cole's that had previously been at that location (setting a pretty low bar), but this was really outstanding BBQ. All three of the meats walked the delicate line of exhibiting a wonderful smoke flavor while at the same time being moist and tender. A very nice sweet and tangy sauce is served on the side. The sides were very good (although the garlic bread could have been a bit more garlicky for my taste). My wife had bread pudding (reportedly from the owner's mom's recipe) for dessert. Served in an individual foil pan, it was topped with a crunchy nut and brown sugar crust and was delicious.
Toward the end of our meal, we were told that they were choosing wines for their wine selection (it was still only beer at the time) and were offered tastes of some of the wines they were considering. "Tastes" consisted of healthy pours (for each of us) of a pinot (surprisingly good with the BBQ), a zin, and a cab.
All in all, some of the best BBQ we've ever had and an entirely delightful experience.
Given that they're not in a very good location for discovery by tourists, or even random walk-by traffic, I really hope the local community discovers and supports them.
Aptos St. Barbeque
8059 Aptos St.
Aptos, CA 95003
Sorry, can't recommend this place. I used to eat at the old Cole's all the time, and this place does not measure up. Their portions are about half the size of Cole's, and the ribs are scrawny and so overcooked it's just nasty. The sauce is overpowering instead of complementary. They kept the location and the furnishings and the telephone number, but this place is a fail.
Next time I'll just make the drive down to the other Cole's in Portola and get a big slab of nice, juicy, off-the-bone ribs with a half-pint of sauce for the same price I just paid to be disappointed.
A friend and I tried it a week ago. He had tri-tip and I had a pulled pork sandwich. The owner also brought out a sampler rib for each of us. I thought the ribs and tri-tip were both really good. Beautifully smoked - long and slow but not too long. Not dry at all. The pulled pork was decent but I wouldn't get it again, although I'll caution that I have yet to have a pulled pork sandwich that made a huge impression (closest is the one I had from Central BBQ in Memphis). I'm not so sure I like pulled pork that much, which is funny since I love to braise pork. The cole slaw was remarkably undressed. I almost always think slaw should have less dressing, but this is the first case where I thought it would be better with a bit more.
Yes, it isn't cheap but then again, real BBQ isn't cheap anywhere (Central BBQ sells a half-rib plate for $14, and Memphis is not nearly as expensive as Santa Cruz). I'll definitely go back.