Oakland: Phat Matt's BBQ – The best pulled pork in the Bay Area
The pork was full of juicy, porky pleasure with a tinge of vinegar … that was without sauce.
Phat Matt’s started at the Grand Lake Farmers Market, had a brief stint at the Metreon Farmers Market and just opened in the location that has had a few bbq places beginning with Everett & Jones.
Phatt Matt's invites you to sample anything on the menu. A few other items on the menu in addition to the wonderful north Carolina Style Pulled Pork
- Texas Style Brisket
- Memphis Style Pork Ribs
A caveat is that I only sampled the pulled pork … and without sauce. I wanted to see what the meat was like on its own. I also had a sample of the marinated tri-tip which have a nice beefy flavor.
The other caveat is that I'm from New England and 99% of my bbq experience is in NoCal. So that is like someone who talks about the best New England clam chowder only having tried the California versions. I don't have BBQ creds.
Still, this was the tastiest pulled pork I've had to date and one of the few Bay Area bbq items I'd order more than once. For me, the pulled pork is to Phat Matt's as brisket is to Memphis Minnie's.
None of the meats have salt, relying for flavor instead from spices they buy at the excellent SF Spice Company.
One other option on the menu that I like is that all the meats can be ordered alone, by the lb, not just the ribs like most bbq places. I love that. One reason I don’t eat bbq that often is that I am usually not interested in the sides and don't want the uncontrolled portions in 'sandwiches' (which usually means meat with two slices of bread on the side). If I only want a 1/4 lb of pulled pork, I can order that here. Bravo.
That being said I ordered a 2-way combo plate of brisket and pork ribs with beans, collard greens and cornbread (wheat bread comes with the plate, but I ordered a side of cornbread instead). I asked for one medium and one hot sauce on the side. A slice of pecan pie was also ordered.
The meats don’t have a smoked quality, relying instead on flavor from the rubs.
The ribs were meaty with a thin mild outer rub. The brisket was tender with a nice crust and a one juicy fatty slice. However, most were just meat and fat free.
The hot bbq sauce is searing, so be warned. Even the medium sauce had quite a kick though it had sweeter hints. Unlike most places the meat was good sauced and unsauced. It didn't need it, but worked well with the sauces.
The beans were good, slightly sweet with horseradish note.
The only thing on the menu with added salt is the collard greens and that was because of the pieces of ham hocks cooked with the greens.
The corn bread was a thick slice that isn’t the sweet type.
The pecan pie uses brown sugar instead of corn syrup so the filling is denser and there is a lot of brown sugar crumbliness. It was a bit different but tasty.
The only thing not made in-house are the links which are made by Prime Smoked Meat. Charlotte who runs the restaurant with her husband Matt, said they tried lots and lots of links and felt the Prime hot links were the best.
Matt has over 30 years of bbq experience, starting mainly for his own pleasure. For the last six years they entered bbq competitions. The ribbons they won are on the wall. Charlotte spent a few years cooking in the South. I forget where though. They are really both very pleasant.
The restaurant hasn't change much since the last occupant, the much maligned Smokey Blues BBQ. It is cleaner, cheerier and more organized. It is a slight step up from most bbq joints with lots of indoor tables and one sidewalk table.
I look forward to going back and getting more of that pulled pork and trying some of the other items on the menu.
Phat Matt's BBQ
3415 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
East Bay Express review about Phat Matt's
In addition to liking the brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken and potato salad, the peach cobbler got a big thumbs up "The peach cobbler was even better, perhaps the best we've ever had: a ramekin of moist, buttery crumble crowning fruit so sweet and ripe you'd swear it was the Fourth of July."
Recently tried out their sampler plate for $25 - includes a little bit of everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING! Had the ribs, chicken, pulled chicken, pulled pork, brisket, and tri-tip on one platter; the beans, greens, potato salad, cole slaw, sweet potato, mac/cheese on another platter. Also included little dollops of their pecan pie and peach cobbler. It was just the right amount of food for two people at lunch time, and I liked that I could try a little of everything so I can hone in on my favorites for the next visit.
I'd agree that for how smokey the restaurant is when you walk in, you don't really get that taste from the meat. Everything was solid (my favorite being the pulled chicken) with the exception of the tri tip. That was the only real disappointment of the lot, being dry and relatively tasteless. The sauce is pretty overpowering, especially if you choose the peppery spicy sauce, so it's best if you order that on the side (or lightly covering the meat).
Good meats, super friendly service, I'd definitely do a revisit if I'm ever in the area.
I just had my first Phat Matt's experience today and would rate it as one of the better BBQ's in the area, along with Tomm's.
I tried the pulled pork too and quite liked it. I made the mistake of not requesting enough sauce (which I asked for on the side) but it was quite flavorful on its own. I think I slightly prefer Tomm's pork shoulder to this, but pork is definitely something Phat Matt does well.
The cornbread is actually quite sweet - maybe they changed it? Really good and worth the extra $2.
The beans are good. I usually don't eat these when I get BBQ, but the horseradish flavor made them good. The potato salad is just OK, but that's fine.
The pecan pie...what can I say? Delicious.
It's pricier than Tomm's - $19 for all of the above - but I'd go back.
re: Melanie Wong
No smoke that I could taste. The garlicy, peppery,smokey notes came from the rubs. That being said, I was doing a side by side comparison with Matt's where smoke rules the meats. Walking into Phatt Matt's the place was filled with smokey bbq aroma. Just could not taste it. I know smoke rings mean little, but there was none.