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Nov 12, 2009 10:25 PM

Taste of Joy re-opened on Grand Ave: BBQ, gumbo, chicken and waffles, and more

I went to Taste of Joy for dinner tonight after reading Beaker's report that they'd reopened next door to Camino (at 3909 Grand Ave). Figured I'd start a new thread since the other one contains lots of now-irrelevant information about the old Lakeshore location. Here's that older thread:

We got there at 5:00, which is when their website lists them as opening for supper, but note that, at least as of now, the kitchen doesn't actually open until 5:30, so we sat at the bar for a while. The new space is much, much nicer and more spacious than the Lakeshore location. Whereas before I thought of it strictly as a takeout joint (though there were tables, etc.), now it's definitely a sit-down kind of place--still a significant step down from Pican in terms of being upscale, but moving more in that direction.

They have a liquor license now, so there's a wine list, several beers offered on tap, and (I assume, though I didn't really check) a full bar. I had a couple sips of my wife's "Southern sangria" ($7). Refreshing.

The chef/owner, Brian, came over and greeted us warmly and talked a little bit about some of the problems he had at the old Lakeshore location, where, apparently, the terms of his lease stipulated that he had to be out by 7:30 every night (which would explain why they closed at like 6:00), after which point it seems it turned into some sort of lounge that played Nigerian music (?). The old space was also TINY. At these new digs, he now has a fully equipped kitchen (and a much more extensive staff), so they've added a number of new items to the menu, like chicken and waffles (with fried chicken wings) and fried catfish.

I placed my standard order, from before: BBQ beef brisket ($15). This came with a choice of two sides (I got mac & cheese and mustard greens), a piece of garlic toast, and a small honeyed cornbread muffin. As I mentioned in the earlier thread, this is a different style of brisket than I'm used to from other BBQ places--sliced very thin and with a sweet sauce--but it's also probably my favorite Bay Area rendition so far (haven't tried Willie's yet). The sides were good too. The only dud was the cornbread, which was pretty dry. Don't know if they're still sourcing that from Arizmendi's. On the whole, the food seems the same as before, but it's plated more prettily--a little bulb of roasted garlic with some herbs stuck in, like a little flower arrangement, and some more herbs (chives?) strewn over the brisket.

My wife ordered the gumbo ($18), which we've been wanting to try for forever, but they were always out of it when we tried to order it at Lakeshore. I'm no gumbo expert, but I thought this was excellent--comforting and deeply flavorful (not spicy, though, but I'm sure a dash of hot sauce would do the trick if you wanted it to be). Lots of "stuff" in it: sausage, a chicken wing, some shrimp, some crab leg (in shell). I think we both agreed that we liked it a bit better than the version they serve at Angeline's.

Service was casual but good.

As noted, the prices are higher than before. You used to be able to order a "small" order of BBQ, which was a bit smaller than the portion I got tonight, but plenty of food for one person, for about $8. It was a fantastic deal. The large would be about $14. So now they've dispensed with the "small" option entirely, and I'm not sure if the current portion size is the same as the old "large" or not. You also used to be able to get a combo of two different BBQ options for about $16--now the only combo is $25, and I forget how many types of BBQ that comes with. I think only two.

Still, considering the much higher overhead costs, the nicer space, and the service, I think that's more than fair. It's still only marginally more expensive than, say, Nellie's, and I think the food is better and the restaurant itself is much nicer.

Will be back soon to try the chicken and waffles and maybe the ribs. (And my wife's favorite order from the old location was the cajun meat loaf, which is still available.) They will serve lunch eventually, but I don't think that's started yet.

Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen
2261 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

Nellie's Soulfood
1155 3rd St, Oakland, CA 94607

Taste of Joy Barbecue & Southern Bistro
3909 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA

Pican Restaurant
2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

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  1. I'll edit the info in the Restaurants/Places listing as soon as I'm given access (unless someone else wants to do it first).

    1. I doubt there's a full bar, there wasn't at Taza de Cafe.

      1. I picked up dinner from Taste of Joy tonight, and it was pretty good. I got a combo plate with ribs and links, with macaroni and cheese, mustard greens and potato salad as sides, and the fried chicken wings plate with more macaroni and cheese (my sister is a mac and cheese lover) and red beans and rice. The ribs were good, though I asked for them to have the sauce on the side and they came very saucy; I liked the sauce, but it was a little sweet for my taste, the meat was good, though. The chicken wings are great, nice and spicy and flavorful, really moist meat, probably would have been better if we had eaten in instead of getting it to go. The mustard greens were well seasoned and well cooked, still a little bitter and not too soggy. The red beans and rice were fine, but not my favorite, and the potato salad needed more flavor. I loved the macaroni and cheese, really cheesy, not too dense, one of the best restaurant versions I've had recently. One combo plate would have probably served all three of us, maybe with one extra side.

        1. Looks like the Grand Ave. location has closed for regular service, at least for the time being (message on their machine says it's "temporary"). It appears that they might still be doing private parties and catering in the meantime.

          Doesn't bode well...

          1. Came back from being away for three weeks and found a "For Lease" sign up.

            I was not a fan of ToJ but that spot is starting to look cursed.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Pius Avocado III

              The website now offers catering. Here's the contact phone: 415.710.3431 .

              1. re: Pius Avocado III

                I don't know about cursed, but I don't think that stretch so far down Grand is ideal--probably hard to be successful unless you can generate a lot buzz/hype, a la Camino.

                1. re: abstractpoet

                  Back "in the day" decades ago, it was the very successful Pewter House with lots of business folk -- lunches & after work cocktails/wine on the back patio, leading onto to other hi-jinks. But times have really changed.