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
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.
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.
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.