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May 2, 2010 04:17 PM

Salinas City Barbeque Opens in Salinas

For the last month, I've been watching progress on Salinas City Barbeque toward opening. The restaurant has taken over the former location of Smalley's RoundUp. I'd noticed the sign painting underway on April 6, shown here.

And, I've made a point to stop by when I'm in Salinas to check on opening plans. The owners also operate Trail Dust in Morgan Hill.

I understand that the soft opening was yesterday, May 2. The official opening will be Tuesday, May 4. Hope to hear some reports!

Smalley's Roundup
1190 S Main St, Salinas, CA 93901

Salinas City Barbeque
700 W Market St, Salinas, CA 93901

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  1. When I returned to Salinas on the appointed opening day, May 4, I drove by at 5:30pm to see “Closed” and no sign of life. The next day I stopped by and spoke to someone who said there will still some loose ends to tie up and that it would be open the next day.

    We made another pass on Thursday morning and found the smoker rig puffing away and in action.

    We were advised that the doors would open at 11:30AM, and took a seat on the front porch for the 10-minute wait.

    Two take-out customers beat us through the door. But Mom and I were the restaurant’s first ever eat-in customers on opening day. We took a table near the front windows. Here’s the front and back of the menu.

    The food columnist in the local paper had covered the opening that day. More people started to trickle in after noon.

    Here are some shots of the interior.

    My mother was curious about the rib sandwich. She was puzzled on how one could eat a sandwich with rib bones. I assured her that “sandwich” usually referred to a smaller portion size served with bread on the side. However, here I was proved wrong. The small end of the ribs served with bones pulled out and slathered with sauce was tucked into the Golden Sheaf bun. Good flavor, but crumbly dry. I mentioned this to one of the staffers and he urged me to come back to try a full rack, as the small end tends to dry out. The side of beans, studded with bits of smoked meats, was very tasty and had great texture. Whole solid beans, not mushy and just firm enough.

    I went with the Pulled pork sandwich. I chose the garlic bread option, and that’s the way to go here, also using Golden Sheaf’s excellent bread. Very tasty, especially the pieces of crusty “bark” with tender, un-stringy succulent texture and nicely marbling but minimal visible fat. Served with “hogwash”, made of vinegar spiked with garlic and molasses, the flavor of the smoke, pork and sauce melded beautifully. I also tasted the regular and “hot” versions of sauce from squeeze bottles on the table. Good complexity, not oversweetened, but too heavy on the smoke component, as I prefer the smoke to be in the meat and the sauce to provide a counterpoint. My side of coleslaw was entirely finely chopped cabbage, quite plain and in need of more acidity.

    The restaurant stays open through the day between lunch and dinner. Parking is limited, so take-out might be in order. This was a good start, and I look forward to returning in a few weeks to try more.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Melanie, I got a kick out of the name of their vinegar sauce,"Hogwash" lol. I'm surprised I've never heard that used before but you being a Bar-B-Que judge no doubt have. Now you've got me thinking I'll have to make a run to Ruben's Bar-B-Que here in Fresno for din din tonight. I haven't been there for several months so I'm hoping things are still good. Any reports?

    2. Return to Salinas City Barbecue

      Last month, I swung by Salinas City Barbecue to grab some take out. This was my first time back in the two years since opening day.

      A new menu had just been introduced, as shown here,

      The one big change is that brisket is now available every day and not just on Fridays. That made my choice easy. I ordered one brisket plate and a half-rack of ribs ala carte, asking for both with sauce on the side.

      Here’s what they looked like once I got them home: ribs (unsauced), $14, and regular size meal of smoked brisket, $10.95, including two sides (cole slaw and beans) and garlic bread. The meats were wrapped in foil preventing any drips, and the compostable containers stayed clean for another use.

      I asked for brisket with more fat from the point end. Sure they’re homely, as the point doesn't yield a neat slice like the flat end. But the extra marbling makes the point cut much tastier and this was no exception. Deeply beefy and moist, a bit overcooked making the meat overly soft, but a judged hand with the level of smoke and tasty rub made this good enough to eat unadorned by sauce.

      Half rack of St Louis style pork ribs had the fresh-out-of-the-smoker juiciness that’s so hard to find. Nice bite to the tooth, done just right, and even if some of the fat on the back side did not fully render, I enjoyed the meatiness of these ribs. Also some residual graininess from unmelted brown sugar visible on the back side contributed a sweet note but also a raspy texture. But all in all, this was a good example from a commercial outfit.

      Again, I liked the beans a lot but found the coleslaw more of a condiment or foil for the meats than a salad to stand on its own. With time in grade, Salinas City Barbecue continues to deliver a solid performance.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Thanks for the report. We'll stop on our next trip north.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Thanks to Melanie Wong for the great report on this restaurant. I flew into San Jose the other day for a Monterey visit, and was planning to get BBQ here for a late lunch. However, I found myself somewhat hungry before I even left the airport, so (remembering that it was the same management) I stopped in at Trail Dust in Morgan Hill. Sorry, brisket only served on Fridays. Really? In a BBQ place?

          Since I'm a serious brisket fan, I decided to continue on to Salinas despite my immediate appetite. I was very glad I did. This is some of the best BBQ brisket I've ever had, and I've eaten brisket at Black's in Lockhart, TX, Flint's (RIP) in Oakland, and other legendary places. Fall-apart tender, with a tasty rub, and great smoked flavor that I just couldn't bear to cover up with sauce. Like Melanie did, I requested the point cut, as it's moister and tends to have more flavor. I think the cell-phone snapshot below says it all.

          Next time, I plan to bring a cooler and will order a couple of pounds to go. I just wish we had 'Q like this in Vegas. Nothing here even comes close.

            1. re: Steve Green

              I love good brisket too though adequate examples are few and far between in these parts. Yours looks even better than what I was served.

              One thing I noted here was that when I asked for my meats unsauced, the cashier just wrote it down on the order without making a fuss. When I've made this request at some other barbecue places, the staff try to talk me out of it. By now you'd think I'd have learned that is the signal to turn around and leave because the meat can't stand on its own.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                It actually looked better yet when served -- I had started to load my fork, then stopped myself to get the photo!

                As for the sauce, when I asked for "no sauce", the waiter said they always serve it without sauce. Definitely a good sign.

                On the other hand, at the late, great Flint's in Oakland, the menu specified "No sauce served on the side or put in containers", and that was OK, because Flint's brisket was (at its best) sublime, with a unique and excellent sauce. Unfortunately, it was occasionally inedible, and no sauce in the world would have helped. As I posted on another thread, I've had some of the best and worst BBQ I've ever eaten, from the same place (Flint's) on different days.

                Great food, and BBQ in particular, is ephemeral. Get it while it's there.