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Jun 8, 2011 03:13 PM

Smokey J's Q House - BBQ in Berkeley

Smokey J's Q House is a new barbecue restaurant in the Berkeley/Oakland border region on Shattuck Ave near Ashby. It is a one man operation (like neighboring Emilia's Pizza, could this be a trend?) run by a guy with great skill and passion for what he does. We saw the little sign while driving by and went back to get take out for dinner. The baby back ribs are indeed smokey and slow cooked with a spicy dry rub. Sauce here, mild or spicy is served on the side. The beef brisket is moist and fall apart tender. Yet to be tried by us are house made hot links and chicken sausages, pulled pork and whole rotisserie chickens. A few side dishes are also available but we did not get any. Prices are, at present, really affordable. Time will tell if Smokey J's remains such a great value. Meanwhile we will return to try the other items, encouraged by the best barbecue to hit this stretch of Shattuck in a good long while.

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  1. This is the funky place that was most recently Taste of Africa.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Stopped by last night. I ordered a 3 way combo with ribs, brisket and hot links with hot sauce on the side. With a side of roasted garlic potatoes the meal was $18 and enough food for 2 unless you want to "pig out". The meat was all great. The brisket was tender with good smoke flavor and lots of intense bark came in the order. The ribs were good, although not my favorite part of the meal. The hot links were as good as Ive had, and the hot sauce had a very nice flavor and heat level. Also dont miss the potatoes. They cook them in the rotisserie under the roast chicken and they taste great. All in all I like this place better than others in the area like Tomms, Uncle Willies and Phat Matts.

      1. re: slipson

        I went the weekend before last, so excited to have a new BBQ spot in the area. They didn't have the rib tips when I was there, I hope they will next time because they sound awesome to me. I got the ribs and brisket, which came with some slaw. Sadly my ribs were way overdone, kind of like pork jerky, that being said, they were still much better than the mushy ribs I've gotten from a few Oakland BBQ restaurants. They had a nice smoky flavor, again, better than the mushy steamed bbq places. And the spicy sauce was terrific, I like that they have it on the side instead of trying to hide the meat under the sauce. That's a mark of a good bbq place to me.

        The brisket was really great, best I've had in the bay area. It was moist, smoky & tender. It did have a lot of unrendered fat, but that was easy enough to pull off. The slaw was very simple, seemed like just cabbage and vinegar, it was under the meat so it got some fat on it, which wasn't a bad thing at all. I will definitely be back.

        1. re: rosie7477

          Have been here twice already. Both times I had the brisket sandwich - ok, I'm no BBQ expert but this was fantastic. I liked the fat but my buddy thought it was a bit much - he had ribs which he praised - weren't overdone like previous poster's. The roasted potatoes are also delish. Will be curious to try the smoked whole chicken. Stop by and support this hard-working chef! (note, now closed Mon-Tues.)

          1. re: rosie7477

            >It did have a lot of unrendered fat<

            That doesn't sound good at all to me. Cooked correctly, slow and long, it wouldn't have that unrendered fat left, would it?

            1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

              I've definitely had ribs with a layer of fat. However the ribs at Smokey J's had very little fat -- at least when I tried them.

              The potatoes are cooked under the rotisserie chickens! They include lots of whole, soft garlic cloves. Rustic, but good.

              The spicy sauce is quite hot and very thick -- thick as mole.

              I'd give the place a solid B. Good prices, too.

              1. re: Glencora

                Ribs aren't cooked nearly as long as brisket to melt off fat. The fat on brisket can also depend on how closely its trimmed before smoking and before service. Personally, I prefer to trim the post-smoking fat off myself. Too many places around here cut off too much.

      2. Four of us went last night. Between us we sampled the brisket, pulled chicken, pulled pork, pork ribs, and poultry sausage. Loved everything except the pulled pork, which was fine but on the dry side. I can't comment on the sauces; I had the fall-apart brisket, used the shaker of dry spice rub at the table and loved the clovey, exotic taste. One dining partner detected smoked Spanish paprika. I ate every last piece of my side order of crispy potatoes with garlic and onions, but since they come in a pool of chicken fat from the rotisserie, it's a major calorie bomb and not for everyone. Cole slaw, on the other hand, is mayonnaise-free, healthy, and sweet-vinegary. Both sides were delicious.

        I found the place and clientele a bit upscale relative to most BBQ joints I've seen. One wall is covered with framed clippings of media coverage from Chef J's previous stints cooking in Mumbai! Free watermelon after the meal, and free sweet tea with lime.

        3 Replies
        1. re: sandunga_rbb

          What time were you there? I went pretty early and found the potatoes not as crispy as they might have been, but also not greasy. Other people have complained about the meat being overcooked -- I wonder if that is more likely later in the evening?

          1. re: Glencora

            We got our food about 8:15pm. The potatoes were crispy in places and greasy throughout. But good!

          2. re: sandunga_rbb

            Two of us went on Friday, and again on Sunday.

            Friday - hours after we left, we were thinking about that spice rub. Delicious! We shared the ribs, brisket, pulled pork, rib tips (LOVED IT), pulled chicken, and garlic potatoes.

            Sunday - we tried ordering the rib tips, but were told they weren't being served that day. So we got a full rack for 3 and the frito pie. We didn't finish the rack, but even the next day - it had great depth of flavor and lots of smokiness.

            Note - if you don't like a lot of smoke, be wary of the pulled chicken. It had a lot of smoke flavor that I could see overwhelming some people.

            Also, I preferred the regular sauce to their spicy sauce. Regular has more vinegar tang and seems brighter.

          3. I happened upon Smoky J's yesterday and got their pulled pork sandwich. AMAZING! I was on the way to play a gig at the Starry Plough and wanted a cheap snack. Walked away with a sandwich I can't stop thinking about. The pork was pulled straight from the pork shoulder (as opposed to the typical pre pulled and thus dry and stringy pulled pork I find at most places). A nice bed of cole slaw, a little sprinkling of dry rub and a side of their bbq sauce (which I kept, it's in my fridge).

            I took it back to the club and all the boys in the band buzzed around me like flies. They tried to hit the spot after the show but it was closed.

            Yeah, Smoky J's kicks ass.....

            Smokey J's BBQ
            3015 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

            1. I got a 2-way combo with brisket and ribs for lunch today.

              Prices are pretty good. The 2-way is $11.99 and 3-way is $14.99. 1/2 rack - $7.99. Full Rack - $14.99. Sandwiches are $5-6 depending on meat.

              Neither meat had any noticeable smoke ring, but the brisket did have a nice bark.

              The brisket was the better of the two. Lightly smokey. It was falling apart tender like pulled pork. Some dry-ish pieces.

              I wasn't a fan of the ribs. Tender yes, but also on the dry side and pretty bland, despite the rub. BBQ sauce was a necessity, not an option.

              I thought it was just chopped cabbage under the ribs, but it was a light vinegary slaw which I liked.

              The woman manning the register and preparing the plates was very friendly.

              2 Replies
              1. re: drewskiSF

                I got the same combo for lunch on Saturday.

                The brisket was overcooked IMO. Fell apart completely but also quite dry. For me, the best brisket (i.e. central Texas places like Snow's, City Market, the Lockhart joints) still has structural integrity and also moist, so it failed on both accounts, at least on this day. I thought the smoke flavor was decent, though. BBQ sauce necessary or else not really edible.

                The ribs I thought were much better. Quite moist. Rub wasn't too bad, though a touch too sweet for my taste. But they were baby back, not St Louis cut, which I prefer.

                I know better than to judge any BBQ place by one visit. Reading all these posts suggests that they've got serious consistency issues, which is probably the hardest thing to do well for any BBQ joint. I hope they'll iron them out soon.

                1. re: drewskiSF

                  Got another 2-way combo. This time ribs with pulled pork.

                  The ribs were night & day vs. the last time. Their was a thicker layer of rub and the ribs were meaty, tender and juicy. Really nicely done.

                  The pulled pork had a stronger smoked flavor vs. the ribs, but the meat was on the dry side.

                2. Had my first visit at lunch today, and the brisket was a knockout: moist, smokey, very flavorful.
                  Hot sauce on the table was quite good.

                  Hope they will maintain the good quality.
                  and hope they introduce some multi-grain bread... (even if it ain't authentic)