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Jan 14, 2012 10:40 AM

Why is there no good BBQ in the South Bay?

We're relatively new to the bay area and I've still not found any decent BBQ to speak of in the general South Bay area, even going up mid-peninsula doesn't come up with anything. Any recommendations that are rock solid? I'm looking for baby back, beef ribs and brisket. Ideal if we can find some hushpuppies, fried okra, etc too.

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  1. I checked your profile to see what part of the South you might be from to see why type of BBQ you are looking for ... Texas, Memphis, etc, etc.

    However it looks like you are from Boston, so that kind of wipes the slate clean. SF isn't exact;ly the center of traditional Southern BBQ, but having grown up in New England I'd say you can find equal fooding bbq-wise here as in the Boston area.

    What have you tried so far?

    11 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      I would dearly love it if the Bay Area could have barbecue as good as the Boston area. My favorite there was Redbones, which I started visiting when it opened and keep going back to on trips back there. I've heard that there are other places in the Boston area people like even better, but Redbones was the first excellent barbecue in the area.

      Uncle Frank's finally brought good barbecue to Mountain View, but it's gone. You can get some good modern California barbecue at places like T-Rex in Berkeley, but I don't know any place as good in that style in the South Bay.

      The one place I've been meaning to try is the Smokin' Pig BBQ in San Jose. If you've tried it I'd love to know what you think, good or bad.

      The closest good barbecue in more traditional styles that I have tried is the Central Texas BBQ in Castroville, which is covered on the California board. It's been a few years since I've been; hope it's still as good.

      Also note that tri-trip is the local California barbecue style which you probably haven't encountered elsewhere. That's at its best further south in California, say around San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, but it's worth looking for here as well.

      There are still regional foods where you just have to travel to get the good stuff, and barbecue is one of them. Best to focus on what the Bay Area does well - which is so much! - and just keep an eye out for when new places open that might expand our horizons.


      1. re: mdg

        Oh...RedBones was totally what I'm jonesing for right now when I wrote this. You could tell by the ribs, but also hushpuppies and fried okra. I wish there was a place around here even half as good as RedBones! I'm totally with you.

        1. re: InNOutBurger

          We had our wedding rehearsal dinner downstairs at Redbones many years ago. You can say I'm a fanboy. Haven't found a dirty rice out here to match Redbones either.


        2. re: mdg

          T-Rex went downhill. Great BBQ places rarely last around here. Memphis Minnie's is the only exception I can think of.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Yep, Claypool's place that opened with fanfare in Novato, Southern Pacific Smokehouse has already closed.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Wow, I knew they weren't going to make it. The place was more of a steak house and way overpriced for an isolated strip mall. Pasta Pomodoro and Chevy's are considered the high end spots at Vintage Oaks. The one time I visited they had more waitstaff than tables, and even with a Groupon the food was overpriced and nothing special.

          2. re: mdg

            Thanks all! I think i'm going to give Smoking Pig a try tonight and i'll let folks know how it goes. I've tried Little Lou's three times and at best it's 3 stars, closer to 2. Famous Dave's was recommended to me, but it was really bad and not even good in a pinch. Desperately looking for something passable.

            1. re: InNOutBurger

              So tried Smoking Pig last night thanks to the recommendations on this thread. Here's the summary.

              The decor is really nothing to speak of, it's sorta dark and almost a little downright scary. The servers and the owner were very nice though. For the most important question was the food?

              * Really good smoked spare ribs, nice smoke ring, really meaty and moist and the sauce had a nice spice and flavor to it.
              * Brisket was also well smoked, but was a little on the drier side.
              * Same for the pulled pork.
              * Baked beans - some of the better beans I've had. Tons of flavor and nice balance of sweetness. Gotta love the bits of meat in there too.
              * Mac and cheese - sorta a different take from the normal fare. Studded with bits of meat in there too which was nice. Overall it was also quite good.
              * Anderson Greens - collards with some other veg and brisket. This was overly salty which made it actually sorta hard to eat.
              * Peanut butter pie was recommended on some boards, so we decided to try it. It turned out to be overly rich without much consistency. It's whipped cream on top of a peanut butter mouse with a cookie crumb base. It was ok, but not up my alley, so I won't be trying that again.

              So overall, it's a decent find for the bay area where real smoked good BBQ is hard to find. If I'm hankering for ribs, I'll definitely go back. As a note they're cash only.

              1. re: InNOutBurger

                "The decor is really nothing to speak of, it's sorta dark and almost a little downright scary. "
                Sounds about right. When my wife complained about the location and decor at Arthur Bryant's I advised her it was better out here where all the better BBQ joints are in Piedmont.

                1. re: wolfe

                  One last note...I had also posted a review on my Yelp profile and the owner replied back with good honest responses to my feedback (not all of which were positive, though generally it was pretty good). Always like to see that. You can check out my reviews at

                2. re: InNOutBurger

                  Thanks for the report! I'll definitely have to try this out.


          3. Have you tried Trail Dust in Morgan Hill? I haven't so can't offer a personal opinion.

            Southern cooking and barbecue are the newest food trends out here with many new players. Someone's bound to get it right soon. For now, I'm taking a wait and see.

            Trail Dust BBQ Joint
            17240 Monterey St, Morgan Hill, CA 95037

            3 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Melanie, thanks for the reminder! I did try Trail Dust and posted about it in the Morgan Hill thread, and had forgotten about it (I don't get out to Morgan Hill often). InNOutBurger, that is indeed the closest place I've tried that I can recommend. I only was there for one lunch, not dinner, but they have the smoker and seem to know what they're doing with their meats. This thread has also made we want to try Smoking Pig soon, though I see it has mixed reviews at some other sites.


              Smoking Pig BBQ
              1144 N 4th St, San Jose, CA 95112

              1. re: mdg

                The prime grade rib eye is supposed to be very good at Trail Dust too. While I've not tried the place, I did go to the expansion, Salinas City Barbeque, on opening day and was favorably impressed. The same folks also operate Aptos Street Barbeque in Aptos, which might be closer than Morgan Hill for the OP depending on where he's located in the South Bay. Both Aptos and Salinas are covered on the California board.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Trail Dust is still wonderful. We went for lunch today and had the tri-tip and boneless rib sandwiches. Both were excellent with great smoke and meat flavors. Having the boneless rib sandwich rather than the pulled-pork let me try the regular and spicy barbecue slices by adding a little bit at a time for individual bites. Both sauces were delicious, but the meat was so good I used the sauces simply as condiments. The peppery potato salad was a lot better choice of side dish than the beans were on my last visit.

                  Still haven't made it here for dinner, but lunch is a fabulous experience!


            2. I've heard good things about Texas Smokehouse BBQ in San Jose. Haven't been yet. They do have beef ribs.

              Texas Smokehouse BBQ
              1091 S Capitol Ave, San Jose, CA 95127

              1. If you're willing to go to San Mateo Windy City Pizza & Barbecue is quite good. Their best items are probably the rib tips and the pork ribs. I've also had the beef brisket and beef ribs which are also good. Their sauce is not amazing, it's a little too sweet for my taste but the barbecue is definitely worth a try.

                Windy City Pizza
                35 Bovet Rd, San Mateo, CA 94402