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south bay bbq?

I've been doing a little research, and maybe "san jose" has the best bbq in the bay area. All the old school Oakland places have closed or changed --- oh, flints in the mid 90's --- but there are few real comparisons.

Sam's BBQ - 1110 S Bascom
Smoking Pig BBQ - 1144 n 4th St
Jon Jon's 1305 Oakland Rd
Andy's BBQ 2367 El Camino, Santa Clara
Blue Rock BBQ - 3001 Meridian

That's a pretty interesting list - any favorites? Comparisons?

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  1. I may be out of the south bay, sorry. The Central Texan BBQ is my favorite in Castroville farther south. Meat smoked low and slow over oak. It's worth the trip.

    1. Wow, an east bay BBQ thread has over 200 items, the south bay has one not even talking about san jose? I guess I have some eating & reporting to do!

      1 Reply
      1. re: bbulkow

        bbulkow - like you, I'm surprised that there aren't many southbay BBQ places. I remember there was an old thread about this a few years ago, but I can't find it, and it'd be out-of-date, anyway. Our families go to Sam's and the new Andy's because I can't find better alternatives, but I'm not that keen about them. I don't like Amadillo Willy's, never liked Austin's, nor the old Andy's (although they all have fans, I know). Meanwhile, I've been smoking/BBQ'ing my own, or I go to our vacation place in Tucson. Good luck, and share the info if/when you find it!

      2. We tried a lot of places and were horrified (ie Famous Dave's, Armadillo Willy's) but then found Sam's and settled into it. It is a little far, but the kid's ribs plate is ridiculously delicious. Blue Rock has good sides and very friendly workers. We recently tried the chain, Dickey's, in Saratoga Westgate West and were pleasantly surprised-- ie they fried our okra and onion strings to order, the meat was good, the prices were not bad.

        1. The only two on this list I've been to are Sam's and Blue Rock, none of which were good enough to make we want to come back. If I were close by it would be different, but these aren't destination places. The best South Bay barbecue place I've been to is Trail Dust in Morgan Hill. I do hope to try Smoking Pig soon.

          Central Texan was indeed good when I went many years ago, but is covered in the California board.


          1. Try Emergency Barbacue on Old County Road in San Carlos. Not much on decor but the meats and the beans are great.

            1. Ok, a new list, chains omitted:

              Texas Smokehouse - 1091 S Capitol Ave, san jose
              Trail Dust BBQ - 17240 Monterey St, Morgan Hill
              Sam's BBQ - 1110 S Bascom
              Andy's BBQ 2367 El Camino, Santa Clara
              Smoking Pig BBQ - 1144 n 4th St
              Emergency BBQ - 765 Old County Rd, San Carlos
              Jon Jon's 1305 Oakland Rd
              Blue Rock BBQ - 3001 Meridian
              Harold's Ribs - Lorenzo's car wash, Mountain View
              Henry's Hi Life - 301 W St John St, San Jose
              Little Lou's - 2455 S Winchester Blvd, Campbell
              Mac's BBQ - 1754 Laurel St, San Carlos
              Rib-licious - 1969 Tully Rd, San Jose
              JC's Famous - 1080 Saratoga Ave, San Jose

              I think that's a fair amount of BBQ. I don't know much about Texas style, know more about NC style, will start working through and reporting back.

              I'm very interested in Texas Smokehouse. That's what got me started, a friend saying there's a place out on Capitol with a huge smoker and a blackened sign.

              12 Replies
                1. re: bbulkow

                  How about Back A Yard in Palo Alto? I've only been there once but would return in a heartbeat.

                  Too bad there's no Central Coast/Santa Maria Style in the Bay Area.

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    Good list.
                    Has Uncle Frank surfaced again? The man is a bbq genius.

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      Andy's has the best brisket of the bunch. I agree with mdg, Blue Rock and Sam's wasn't worth while. Henry's Hi Life, isn;t BBQ. They bake their ribs and then grill them. The last time I went I had a tough rack of baby backs. Jon Jon's is OK, I find their Q inconsistent. Missing from this list is Lillie Mae's House of Soul Food. Their Q was unmemorable as well.

                      I miss Uncle Frank's.....

                      1. re: bbulkow

                        +1 for Trail Dust in Morgan Hill.

                        Sam's is the "just-OK" place where my old co-workers meet up. I loved the old Andy's and like the new location. Did they tone down their preparations to suit the larger, maybe-less devoted crowd they serve now?

                        Major disappointments: Texas Smokehouse, Smoking Pig, Blue Rock, Harold's Ribs (most wished for as it's closest to home), Mac's BBQ, JC's Famous.

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Trail Dust is 100% the real deal. Working the rest of the list - but worth a drive.

                          1. re: bbulkow

                            Reading your comment on Morgan Hill's Trail Dust inspired me to return to the owners' Salinas store, Salinas City Barbecue, two years after my opening day visit. It continues to be solid. This location is outside the SF Bay Area, as is the branch in Aptos.

                            The family gives each of the places a different name, so one might not know that they're related. The newest one is in this region, Gilroy's Barbecue 152.

                            Barbecue 152
                            8295 Monterey Rd.
                            Gilroy CA 95020
                            (408) 842-4499

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              Thanks for the heads up on connection between the Trail Dust and 152. Live fairly close to the Texas Smokehouse but the last time I went there the ribs were sweet enough to be served as bad Thai food... Not to my liking. Looks like a trip to Morgan Hill is in order.

                              1. re: slowshooter

                                I was in Morgan Hill today and swung by the farmers market on Depot St. I noticed a place called Noah's Smokehouse & BBQ in the Depot. Here's a photo:

                                It wasn't open but a call to the number roused somebody who said it would be open next week. Maybe you could give it the sniff test when you check out Trail Dust.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  That's great! I'll be happy to give it try and let you know what I think.

                            2. re: bbulkow

                              Finally had a chance to drop in on Trail Dust for lunch on the road to SoCal. Loved it. Excellent pulled pork sandwich, but a lot of places do pulled pork well. Good slaw. Really good beans. But my wife's ribs were the main event. Perfectly cooked, fall away tender but moist and meaty with the right amount of smokiness, sauce on the side. And the beers on tap were an unanticipated bonus. Can't recall the names of either, but my wife had a barrel aged beer that tasted like a port wine and packed a good punch.

                              How I wish this place was not 70 miles from home.

                              1. re: BernalKC

                                +1 on wishing for a nearby BBQ place I like this much. Recently went to Andy's for the last time. Nothing we ordered was well-prepared. Service was disinterested although the place was about 75% busy.

                          2. I've never had 'cue in the south bay but I note that Paul Kirk, competition barbecue guru, consulted on the menu at The Cats in Los Gatos as part of its re-opening at the end of last year. Awhile back they were touting that connection prominently on their website; now they are not, though he is listed on the Culinary Team on their Facebook page. He also taught a class there in October.

                            The menu is a mix of hickory and applewood-smoked meats and steaks and chops grilled over red oak.

                            Has anyone been?


                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Pius Avocado III

                              I have not, but it looks like Paul Kirk is coming back for another class this June

                              1. re: Pius Avocado III

                                Visited the reborn Cats in January and thought their BBQ ribs to be right tasty. Tender, meaty, and finger-lickin' sauce. Good sides, too.

                              2. Nice to see this thread as I live in the south bay. IMO San Jose has the worst good-BBQ-to-population ratio in maybe the entire country.

                                Armadillo Willy's is mass chain quality and nothing special. Will go here if I'm craving BBQ, they do have really good corn muffins.

                                Blue Rock is yuppie bbq that would be out of business in a month in the midwest or south. The fact that they don't have brisket should tell you everything you need to know.

                                Famous Dave's is a national chain that I went to a few times when I was out east, but they were very inconsistent - sometimes their food was dry like it was made last week.

                                Henry's Hi-Life from what I saw on TV, didn't cook their ribs like proper BBQ so I have no desire to go, as tender as people who do like their ribs have reported.

                                Andy's BBQ doesn't look like anything special just based on the Yelp pictures, like cafeteria BBQ.

                                Sam's I may try because the BBQ looks decent but the reviews are mixed.

                                Trail Dust in Morgan Hill looks promising - I may go there this weekend.

                                Best west coast BBQ for me has been Phil's BBQ in San Diego, wish there was one up here, I'd go there every week! San Jose, just a total disappointment.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: Bunson

                                  I've never been to Blue Rock, but I do know it's run by Tennesseans (went to high school with one of the owners). I however would vehemently disagree that "not serving brisket" is a big deal. One of these days I will make the trek to Blue Rock and see if the food's good, but dismissing a place based on the menu is kind of lame.

                                  In North Carolina, they don't often even bother saying "pork" on the menu, because that's obviously the only kind of meat you call barbecue. I'm guessing that tells you all you need to know, so there's clearly no need for you to hit Lexington #1 when in the area. Only beef they've got there is chuck steak.

                                  So, not serving brisket isn't a big deal - indeed, I rarely find a place that can both do justice to pork and to beef properly. Restaurants that try to do both often fail to do either very well.

                                  1. re: wilbanks

                                    Smoking Pig BBQ is really a great place. Gorgeous moist and tender babyback ribs and heavenly juicy and smoke flavored chicken top my list. The dressed down diner ambiance with service on metal prison trays just adds to the funkiness. Live music Friday nights.

                                    1. re: Ken Hoffman

                                      i've heard good things about Smoking Pig from friends. too bad i'm usually down in San Jose on Tuesdays which is when they are closed! :(

                                      1. re: drewskiSF

                                        The smoking Pig is now open tuesdays and closed Mondays. :) It's my favorite local spot.
                                        I downright despise new Andy's. Poor service and always more unrendered fat than meat every single time I've gone.

                                        And, I miss Uncle Frank's too. The old middlefield location at Francesca's was great.

                                  2. re: Bunson

                                    I think all of Florida south of (and including) Orlando could rival San Jose on your BBQ/Population ratio. Odd, because it borders two great BBQ states, Alabama and Georgia. Few joints, mostly mediocre chains (Sonny's, I'm gunning for you).

                                    I always liked Armadillo Willy's because it was consistent, if not great.
                                    Famous Daves is horrible. I don't think that meat has touched smoke. Corn in the mac-n-cheese? Bleh!
                                    Is Sam's any relation to Sam's Hof Brau?

                                    1. re: Bunson

                                      Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but I'm from San Diego looking for BBQ in San Jose or nearby.

                                      And I have to comment, that I'm looking for BBQ here because I love BBQ. and Phils is not BBQ. Not traditional BBQ at least.

                                      They bake their meats, then throw them over a grill to char it. They do not smoke their meats. So if that's what you consider BBQ, go for it. I think San Diegans are crazy for standing in line for 2-3 hours for this. It doesn't taste bad, but they sell his BBQ sauce at costco. You can do the same thing at home.

                                      Coops which is south of San Diego a little smokes their meat at least.

                                      1. re: deeznuts

                                        I would start with Smoking Pig on 4th street. and they do smoke their own

                                        1. re: deeznuts

                                          The smokiest I had was Trail Dust. My pores sweated smoke for hours afterward.