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Dec 14, 1999 08:10 AM

BBQ in Manteca: Kelley Bros. Brewpub

  • g

Manteca is not a town reputed for haute cuisine. The town name, however, translates as "lard" from Spanish, so you know eating is an important activity. I remeber Manteca as a pungent point on the road from Modesto to San Francisco--home of a sugar beet processing factory, with the waste fet to cattle in an immense stockyard, and just across from that whole setup, a complex of open ponds for primary sewage treatment--pretty unbearable.

Today all that's gone and Manteca is agrowing community, home to lots of commuters to the Bay area and Sacramento/Stockton. The city has been working to bring back its downtown, and Kelley Bros. Brewing Co. & Brickyard Oven is a nice centerpiece to that effort. The resaurant is located in a former cinema that was gutted by fire a few years back, and retains a few hints of its movie heritage in the decor.

I went with a group of a couple of dozen last night. Teh place has only been open a couple of weeks and the kitchen was having some trouble keeping up--our meals were served over about a 20 min. stretch. The server, however was a real pearl, and kept everyone happy.

I can't speak for the whole menu, of course, but the BBQ is excellent. The heart of the kitchen is a wood-fired brick oven, using local orchard woods--cherry, peach, almond, apricot--to slow-cook the meats. The St. Louis pork ribs I had were cooked just right, and the sauce/marinade is delicious. Not the place to find your ribs swimming in sauce, this was just the right balance--enough to flavor themeat and add a bit of "juice" without overpwering. Sesame, black pepper, and soy were identifiable. Garlick mashed potatoes were a delicious compiment to the ribs.

Being a brewpub, I also had to sample the beers. I'm partial to darks and was impressed with their porter. Teh pilsner was not to my liking. Interestingly, the beer is available for takeout in half-gallon scew-tops from the tap.

I'll be back.


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  1. As a historical aside, the (obviously non-Hispanic) founders of the town reportedly thought they were naming it after the Spanish word for butter, because the land was so rich. Boy, must their faces have been red!

    2 Replies
    1. re: j gold

      I've heard the same story...except that the Gringos shortened the proposed 'Mantequilla' to 'Manteca' because they thought their compatriots would have trouble pronouncing the latter.

      Now, on to Los Banos... ;-)

      1. re: Tom Hilton

        I meant 'the former', not 'the latter'. Need another cuppa Peets...

    2. How Manteca Got Its Name:
      Years ago Manteca was the location of a creamery where butter was made. Trains would stop at each little town. The name of the town was Monteca. The train station misprinted the tickets typing an "a" where the "o" should have been. The name Manteca has stuck ever since!

      Kelly Brothers is one of my least favorite restaurants in Manteca. Not only is the food lacking, but so is the service.
      There are 2 good restaurants in Manteca:

      Isadores on Main St. which is top notch. My favorite is their "Three's Company", a trio of beef tenderloin with 3 different toppings. My husband loves their duck and lamb. When you sit down, they greet you with fondue and bread. The service is excellent and everything tastes great. Wonderful desserts as well.

      Manteca also has a great Italian restaurant on Main Street called DeVega Brothers. My favorite is the Chicken Pasta, but everything I've not tasted has been good.