B Side BBQ in Oakland
Tried B Side BBQ today for the first time. Nice looking place, kind of spare looking, on the small side. Got a pulled pork sandwich to-go and quite liked it. Top quality ingredients, prepared with skill and respect for tradition. Prices are reasonable ($8 for the sandwich) and choices (5 different kinds of BBQ sauce!) are numerous. Beer and wine served.
3301 San Pablo Ave, Emeryville, CA 94608
Just went to B Side on Saturday for the first time for an early dinner. The three of us ordered: the dark and stormy ribs, baked beans, and slaw; chili and cornbread (me); pulled pork sandwich and potato salad. The chili was fabulous--I like a chili with beans and this was about 1/2 beans and 1/2 bits from brisket, ribs, etc. Very rich and delicious with the cornbread plenty of food. Raves all around for the other items as well. I tried the potato salad and it was not too heavy on the mayo but was eggier in taste than I prefer, but for the genre very good. They were out of yams, sadly, but I look forward to trying those on the next visit. The prices were extremely reasonable. Right now they close at 7 but we were told they hope to start staying open until 8 in the near future, which is excellent news for my future take-out plans.
Ate at B-Side last night and below is a repeat of the review I posted last night on the thread I started regarding Barbeque Advice in the East Bay...
Just got back from my dinner at B-Side, so here are my impressions while they are fresh...
First a few impressions about the location and ambiance - while the neighborhood is not one of the better parts of Oakland, the restaurant is clean, well organized and nicely decorated. The staff is very friendly, enthusiastic, and eager to please. Service was excellent. The patrons are an eclectic mix that make the environment feel very comfortable and I would not hesitate to take another business colleague to eat there again. At least compared to the old Flint's, this is a much nicer eating environment (I know, I know - no one ever went to Flint's for the environment!) and I would give them an 8 out of 10 (at least for Barbeque joints) similar to the old T-Rex in Berkeley (but much smaller).
I was with a colleague from Texas and here is what we tried:
1 full order of brisket (1/2 each) - $18
1 pulled pork sandwich with hot vinegar sauce (split) - $8.50
1 half order Jerk Spiced Baby Backs (4 ribs - 2 each) - $9
1 half order Dark and Stormy St. Louis Ribs (4 ribs - 2 each) - $10
1 sideYukon Gold Potato Salad - $4
1 fresh berry tart with cinnamon whipped cream - $??
This was a perfect amount of food for the two of us but with three pints of beer total and taxes and tip, the meal cost $75, which struck both of us as too high. For a total of $50 or maybe even $60, we might have felt the food was fairly priced, but $75 struck both of us as too high by 20-35%.
Brisket - the B-Side brisket is the best best brisket I have ever had in a barbeque joint - nice bark, goo 3/16" smoke ring (properly pink), wonderfully moist and tender (the fat could have been slightly more rendered, but much better a bit too moist than a bit too dry), the seasoning was perfect, allowing the beef flavor to fully come through and the sauce on the side complemented nicely when desired. The sides were a small bowl of pickled vegetables including carrots and cauliflower (which was pretty nondescript but a pleasant diversion) and a thick piece of sourdough toast which was a nice starch complement. I would have to put the B-Side brisket right up there as competition-grade and I give then a 10 out of 10. At $18 it is not inexpensive, but for the amount of food and the quality, it is worth it (though for that price, I would have preferred a small portion of potato salad as an included side, rather than the piece of toast). If I go back to B-Side again, it will be for the brisket - this is their sweet spot. Both myself and my colleague from Texas (who knows brisket) rated the B-Side brisket as among the best we have ever tasted and gave it a 10 out of 10.
Ribs - both the baby back and St Louis ribs were a big disappointment. They get some credit for trying to spice them in an interesting and unusual way but these ribs were overcooked and dried out, over-spiced to the point that the pork could not be tasted, and there was very little meat on them.at $9 and $10 for 4 dried-out meatless ribs each, we both felt the ribs were a rip-off. Especially after having just come from Farmstead in St Helena where I have had the best restaurant ribs I have ever tasted, these ribs were substandard. Both my Texan colleague and I commented that we would prefer the average ribs from a Tony Roma's or any other chain to the ribs served by B-Side and we both give their ribs a 3 out of 10.
Pulled Pork Sandwich - I have only occasionally had pulled pork in a restaurant and it has never come close to the pulled pork I smoke at home, so my standards are probably higher than most. That being said, the pulled-pork sandwich was very average for a restaurant - very stringy and slightly dried out and overspiced to the point that the pork flavor could not be tasted (which might be partly our fault as we selected the 'spicy vinegar' sauce). At $8.50 it was fairly priced for the amount of food but we both gave the pulled pork sandwich a 5 out of 10 as being nothing out of the ordinary.
Potato Salad - another disappointment. More 'spiced mash potatoes' than potato salad, the flavor was good but the texture was wrong (completely blended like mashed potatoes rather than chunky as it should be) and was also too dry for my taste. The flavor and spicing were good enough that I will give it a 5 out of 10, but for $4 a helping, they should be able to make a much better potato salad than this.
Berry Tart - this was their special of the evening and I am happy to report that we ended our meal n a high note - the berry tart was excellent - fresh, tart, complemented nicely by the cinnamon whipped cream. I am not sure what we paid for it as it is not on the menu I took home, but it was a delightful way to end the meal and it was probably the best dessert I have had in a barbeque joint. 9 out of 10.
As I have already said, I will go back to B-Side again but only for the brisket. The pulled pork sandwich for lunch may be worth an occasional try as well but the brisket is where you can find a heart-of-texas barbeque experience here in the East Bay. Avoid the ribs until they learn how to cook them to tender without drying them out and tone down the spice so that you can taste the flavor of the pork (I had asked for my sauce on the side but they 'don't do it that way). Overall, I really liked this place and I am rooting for them. If they can learn to perfect ribs the way they have perfected brisket, they will develop a growing and loyal clientele. For the prices they are charging, they should review the sides they are including and the size of the portions (especially the ribs) since we both left feeling a bit ripped-off (except for the brisket) and that is never a good way to build a successful business...
B-Side catered an event I was at yesterday: good pulled chicken sliders, and potato salad that had thick chunks of potato but could have used a bit more spice. I was in the neighborhood again today so I stopped by. Had a bowl of chili (made with burnt ends) and their fried okra. The chili was really good with the burnt ends. I would have liked more chile in the chili, but I'd order it again. And the fried okra was some of the best I've had. A light cornmeal crust that stayed didn't slip right off -- they were crispy and hot and everything you could want in fried okra.
I also got an order of brisket and an order of hot links to go for later. I've eaten brisket all over Texas (including Kreuz and Sonny Bryan's), and I ate at the old Flint's, and this brisket was right up there with any of them. It's definitely worth a trip. The hot links were very good too. E&J are some of my favorite links around here. These are not as coarsely textured, but they are still very good. B-Side has a small but good selection of beers too.
My friend and I had lunch at B Side on Thursday March 15, arriving a about noon amidst that cold wet storm. The place was busy and we felt lucky to get a seat. Service was prompt, helpful, and knowledgeable. One of the specials was chili with brisket and lots of burnt ends. We split that order and an order of cornbread.
I had a 22 ounce Drake Imperial Stout which was perfect.
I had the full order of brisket and a hot link and my buddy had a half order of brisket and half order of ribs with the dark and stormy sauce.
We finished with the cornbread pudding for dessert.
Service: Spot on and close to perfect. 5 stars.
Appetisers: The chilli was perfect. Perfect heat with a dollop of sour cream. Just possibly the best chilli either of us have eaten in a long time. The portion for one was a more than fair and we initially thought we were foolish to split the order but it turns out we were wise. 4 stars only because it is now the benchmark/gold standard for chilli measurement. It if is available you are foolish to pass it by. Chilli is a 4, only because there were perceptible beans and I think chilli must not have beans. If Chilli is OK with beans this could be a 5. It was worth the trip just for the chilli.
The cornbread was fresh, home baked and tasty, but nothing special. It was perfect for the chilli and everything we wanted. Cornbread is a 3.
Pickles: Oh my god. These were perfection. Never eaten better cauliflower pickles in my life. The trip just for the pickles is a must. 5 stars.
Brisket. Fork tender. Fat enough for flavor and the burnt ends and thick slices were soooo good. Not the same brisket as at Double D which is also outstanding. Flavor was terrific. Smoke ring excellent. Texture was perfect. I loved this. The full order really is a lot of beef. Most excellent. Definitely approaches standard. Cannot judge the sauce because I had mine without the sauce. Only way to eat brisket. This was excellent. Approaches gold standard. I rate this as a 4 only because I think 5 is attainable. A few more visits like this and the rating will rise up.
Ribs. OMG what a smoke ring. Fall off the bone. Tender. Delicious. Meaty. Dark and Smoky sauce exactly as advertised. Lick your fingers and just get down. Lovely ribs. 4 stars.
Dessert. Cornbread pudding. Incredible surprise. Sweet, special and just possibly the best of all possible desserts. We were full and split the order and it was so good. So much better than I have ever expected. Go there just for this if you must. Wow. 5 stars.
Value was 5 stars. I added up the ticket twice just to be sure I had it right.
4.375 stars. Go and eat lunch. This place is great.
Just went to B side for the first time. Thought it was great. Got the Dark and Stormy ribs - tasty, complex spicing rub with most sauce on side. Juicy and well cooked. The green salad was good with a refreshing dressing. The Mac and cheese was solidly good. Service was super friendly especially when I came back within 15 minutes to get some to go for my wife's dinner. She got same ribs plus cornbread and greens which she enjoyed.
I'm an old Flints fan and while this is totally different I really like it and look forward to my next visit.
Takeout this afternoon- half orders of spareribs and brisket, beans and baked yams on the side.
The ribs (3 in the half-order) were great- cooked properly, with the pinkish meat pulling completely from the bone but not falling apart, seasoned with a nice paste and striking a balance between meaty and smoky flavors.
The brisket (3 slices) was nice as well, with rich fat and, again, a nice balance between the flavor of quality beef and smoke.
The yams were the star- easily the best yams I've had at a 'cue joint. More roasted than baked, their skins boasted crispy char marks, and the flavor of the yams was allowed to shine unencumbered by brown sugar, butter etc.
The beans were good, with tiny bits of burnt ends, though there was a dominant spice (cinnamon?) which kept them from being great.
Thick slices of grilled Acme bread are a nice change from the usual cornbread or wheat slices, while the pickled veg was a good palate-cleanser once I got around the copious coriander.
I couldn't eat the sauce that came with the brisket without thinking of pasta sauce, or maybe a weird salsa, while the thinner, vinegary sauce that came with the ribs was good, with a soy note. But the ribs didn't need it- it was better with the brisket than the sauce intended for brisket was.
The 2-way I assembled a la carte was $29- reasonable considering the quality of the meats.
Tanya Holland was in the kitchen.
Brisket was excellent - fork tender, beautiful pink smoke ring, good balance of fat and crispy burnt ends, good smoke flavor. Nice portion for $9. Glad to see them using Prather Ranch meat. Given earlier reports, sounds like maybe they're figuring out their smoker.
Also enjoyed the mac and cheese, texas toast, and pickled veg. Collard greens were a bit bland - could have used some bacon or ham hock.
They had a nice range of beers on tap and are looking to open for dinner soon. I'll be back.
I tried B Side for the first time today.
The space itself is a bit nicer than what it was in its last incarnation as Yardie Jerk (R.I.P. - I miss their Oxtails and coconut cornbread). It was about 80% full at 12:30 on a Thursday.
I got Brisket and Baked Beans to go.
The brisket was a disappointment.
Have you ever has brisket that was so tasty that it didn't need sauce at all? Where the meat falls apart at the gentle coaxing of a fork, and the charred outside bits combine with the fatty bits and melt in your mouth in perfect harmony?
If so, hang onto those precious memories - Because this isn't that.
The brisket was under cooked to the point where it was almost impossible to cut with a plastic knife. The meat was only fairly chewy, but the fat was really tough to get through. I actually had to trim quite a bit of fat off which to me is a sin in BBQ. Fat should be the star.
The meat did have a good smoky flavor but that was about it. It was fairly bland on its own. When I covered it with either the tomato based sauce (that comes with brisket) or the vinegar based sauce (which I requested as extra), the sauces added needed flavor and salt but covered up the smoke.
There was no smoke ring to speak of. Instead, one side of the meat was almost a bright red color and the rest of it was pale grey. I have no idea if only one side of the brisket was getting the smoke all along, or if the strange coloring was for another reason. Usually a smoke ring is pinkish, no?
The full size portion was quite generous and $16 seems about par for the course for that amount of BBQ.
The baked beans were really, really good. Not too ketchup-y or sweet as baked beans so often are, these were a real treat and had lots of charred piece of meat to add interest.
The Texas toast and pickled vegetables that come on the side were both fine, although I think the vegetables would benefit from a bit more vinegar. They are nice and spicy (from included jalapenos) but the overall flavor is so mild that it really can’t stand up to the other strong flavors of BBQ.
I’ll probably go back to try other items, and for the fabulous beans, but I won’t get brisket again unless I hear that my experience was the exception rather than the rule.
The brisket I had also was not very tender. The smoke ring was pinkish (not red) and went all the way around (see pic). The rub, which tasted mostly of black pepper, was on the fat so you probably lost some flavor by completely removing it.
The pulled pork was much, much better. Moist and smokey. The bun had a thicker, chewy crust that held up well to the sandwich. The slaw was a little bland, but I liked the pickled onions. They did give me pineapple glaze when I asked for the mustard sauce.
Service was not good. The servers looked to be still learning the POS and seemed to take forever with each person's order and when they hit the floor they were scurrying around trying to play catchup. Getting the check and paying was an exercise in patience.