(credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Barbecue is a classic American favorite that never seems to go out of style, no matter what the culinary trend of the moment may be. The East Bay is a top destination for barbecue aficionados, with quite a few places offering tender, smoky and tangy barbecue. Here are five popular spots to try.
3015 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94705
Everything at Smokey J’s Q is made fresh in house without preservatives or frozen products. Chef and owner Joshua Kemper is proud of his Texas-born heritage and international culinary career that made him an Executive Chef by age 26, working with a staff of 50. Returning to the U.S, Chef Kemper knew his mission was to bring the best of classic American BBQ to the Bay Area, and he does that pretty well at his Berkeley restaurant. All of the traditional BBQ requests are here: brisket, pulled pork, chicken, baby back ribs, hotlinks and chili. Sides include coleslaw, baked beans, collard greens, roasted garlic potatoes, potato salad and classic skillet cornbread. Catering, meats by the pound and party deals round out the offerings here.
5973 Shattuck Ave.
Oakland, CA 94609
The Brick Pig’s House identifies its cuisine as Black American Style Barbecue, which says something about the strong family Southern roots owners Carolyn and Barry Alexander have to the food they serve. Carolyn, a third generation food professional, hails from a family where food was a profession, so the lady really knows how to cook and knows barbecue well. Carolyn prepares all of the food, using family recipes passed directly to her by her mom, who in turn learned from her chef uncle. Customers praise the brisket, ribs, links and chicken, served with traditional cornbread. Owners Carolyn and Barry are a big draw here as they deliver stellar customer service, and always with a smile. The restaurant also offers party menus for up to 50 people.
100 Coggins Drive
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
The Back Forty story began in a poker game in Austin, Texas, a true barbecue state, and made its way to Pleasanton, California to create a Texas barbecue state of mind. Back Forty Texas BBQ has made its name as a family-owned restaurant offering up “the best BBQ in the Bay Area,” according to the restaurant website. The Back Forty’s numerous awards back up its boastful claims. Back Forty BBQ travels to compete against the nation’s top barbecue operations, and was named #1 Barbecue in the Nation in 2011 by the Nugget BBQ Rib Cook Off, where it is regularly honored as #1 Barbecue In California. The restaurant’s barbecue sauce was twice named the best Barbecue Sauce in the Nation, so you know this place is the real deal. All of the typical barbecue fixings are here, along with appetizers, salads, burgers and fish. Visit the website to view the downloadable menus. Catering, banquets, carryout and online ordering are available too.
692 West A St.
Hayward, CA 94545
This barbecue joint has been family owned since 1979. In fact, folks have often walked in and met Carmen, her kids and her grandkids here. Carmen & Family BBQ is a pretty casual place, so atmosphere is not the draw, though the place sees a lot of customers come for take-out orders. Originally from Jamaica, Carmen’s heritage is evidenced in the Jamaican jerk chicken dinner, banana pudding dessert and Jamaican sodas on the menu. Typical BBQ favorites of pork ribs, sliced beef, chicken, beef links and beef sliders at lunch are all here, along with several Southern favorites such as cornbread, peach cobbler, bread pudding and sweet potato pie to finish the meal. A second East Bay location is in Fremont. Catering is available.
1941 Oak Park Blvd.
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
Slow Hand is a family-owned place known for its wood-fired BBQ meats slowly smoked over oak logs, sauces and sides made from scratch and a large selection of craft beers on tap. Food is served family style on a tray of butcher paper, so go ahead and aim that fork right in, or use the plates provided if you must. Restaurant fans enjoy the tri-tip, beef brisket, pulled pork, St. Louis and baby back ribs and, of course, the chicken. Traditional sides like coleslaw, mac and cheese, BBQ beans and potato salad round out the all-American barbecue experience. Catering includes some items not on the regular menu, so check the website for details.
Melanie Graysmith is a writer, artist and educator based in San Francisco. She writes on adult education, art and lifestyle topics, and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. She is also a member of an independent filmmaking group. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.