From Texas to Kansas City, from dry-rubbed to sauce-laden, there are multiple barbeque traditions, each claiming to be the best. Texans eschew sauce; Saint Louisans love their sweet sauce. Some regions rely on pork while others lean heavily on beef or poultry. In Oakland, you’ll find different styles of meat, sauce and seasoning all at the same pit: evidence of Oakland’s multi-region approach.

East Oakland’s legendary barbecue pit, Flint’s, was my first taste of barbeque. The wood-smoked meats crafted in that dingy storefront became the standard by which I judged all other barbeque. Flint’s is long gone, but here are five local barbecue spots that hit all of the right notes, where you can chow down on some quintessential Oakland ‘cue.

Each establishment offers well-prepared, homemade fare in generous quantities, with passionate and patient barbeque masters at the helm. By way of comparison, at every restaurant I ordered a two-way combo of brisket and ribs with medium sauce, along with three sides (baked beans, collard greens and potato salad). When cornbread was available, I ordered that as well. In every case, the two-way was large enough to share.

Everett & Jones
126 Broadway (at 2nd Street)
(510) 663-2350
Open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. – 12 a.m., Saturday noon – midnight and Sunday noon – 10 p.m.
Neighborhood: Jack London Square
www.eandjbbq.com

Many of Oakland’s most-beloved barbeque restaurants have seen closures in recent years, including Flint’s, which closed in 2010, as well as Tomm’s, Chef Edward’s, Doug’s and DoubleD. But the venerable Everett & Jones, founded by Alabama-born Dorothy Everett and her daughters back in 1973, is still going strong. The place has its detractors (Yelpers complain of bad service and mediocre food), but the formula still works.

The brisket, which is cooked over oak, was moist and reasonably lean with just enough peppery sweet sauce to still taste the meat. The pork spare ribs are large, meaty and tender. The potato salad is fresh, chunky and not overly sweet. But it was the unctuous baked beans, with their candied consistency, that were the biggest attraction for me. The only miss was the collard greens, which had an off odor on this visit. Everett & Jones offers a tempting selection of cakes and pies, as well as their famous bottled sauce. There’s ample indoor and outdoor seating, so you can enjoy a full-service meal in addition to take-out.

Cost: $20/ two-way combo with two sides and cornbread.

BBQ Hut
6400 Shattuck Avenue
(510) 285-6628
Open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sunday noon – 5 p.m.
Neighborhood: North Oakland
yelp.com/biz/bbq-hut-oakland

BBQ Hut

BBQ Hut at the corner of Shattuck and Alcatraz. Photo credit: L’Oakavore.

If Everett & Jones is the grande dame of Oakland barbeque, then BBQ Hut is the new kid on the block. The Hut opened without much fanfare in February at the former site of Nic Nak Liquors at the corner of Shattuck and Alcatraz. Diners can pull right into the fenced lot to pick up their ‘cue, or stay and eat there. Owner and Oakland native Earl “Lucky” Moffett is an experienced business owner, but BBQ Hut is his first restaurant. He learned the barbeque trade from his dad, who hails from Mississippi.

Earl cooks his meat “low and slow” to ensure tenderness and uses different wood for different meat. His spacious kitchen is squeaky clean and full of shiny stainless steel appliances. Earl and his son, both Skyline High School grads, work side by side in the kitchen. The menu is comprised of brisket, chicken, links, ribs and three sides — all made onsite. There’s no cornbread or dessert. “We keep it simple,” explains Lucky.

Simple is good in this case. The meats are impeccably seasoned with Lucky’s pleasantly peppery dry rub. To my taste, the baby back ribs were the best of any I tried. The fall-apart tender brisket was likewise delicious. A thin (but tasty) fruit-juice-based sauce is available for self-serve at the counter, but none of the meats need it. The Creole potato salad and collard greens are respectable, but it’s the thick and smoky barbeque baked beans that shine. Also recommended are BBQ Hut’s juicy hot sausage links, which Lucky makes himself.

Cost: $16.50/two-way combo with two sides.

Genny’s Fire Pit
6637 Bancroft Avenue
(510) 777-1200
Open Wednesday through Friday noon – 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon – 9 p.m.
facebook.com/Gennys-BBQ-PIT
Neighborhood: East Oakland

The brick ovens at Genny's FIre Pit. Photo credit: Loakavore

The brick ovens at Genny’s Fire Pit. Photo credit: L’Oakavore.

Located deep in East Oakland, Genny’s turns out wood-smoked, Memphis-style barbeque with delicious homemade side dishes at a great price. Genny’s no-frills storefront reopened in April 2014 after a flue fire shut the place down about a year after it opened. Owner Virginia “Genny” Roberson is a restaurant novice, but she’s no stranger to food. She’s been cooking since she was seven years old, which is the same time her family moved from Houston to Oakland.

One of the eldest of eight brothers and five sisters, Genny did a lot of cooking for her family. She was the designated barbecuer – although she’d never used a brick oven until she opened her restaurant. It took some tinkering at first, but Genny is now an old hand with the wood-fired ovens, slowly roasting her meats with a 17-ingredient dry rub. Her pork spare ribs are meaty and tender with a nice balance of fat and lean. Genny’s beef brisket, which is cut into bite-size pieces rather than whole sliced, is moist and flavorful. Both meats come topped with a sweet vinegar sauce. The homey sides are fresh and well made: the collards have a light pork flavor; the potato salad (made with chopped eggs) is sweetened with pickle relish, and the corn cake is dense and chewy. In addition to BBQ, Genny’s has a menu full of soul food favorites like chitlins, black-eyed peas, catfish po’ boy, and a variety of desserts. There’s booth seating inside, but Genny’s is primarily a takeout spot.

This October, Genny will add baby back ribs to the weekend menu (currently, they’re only available as a special order). She’ll also soon introduce “Tip Day” Tuesdays, when she’ll offer a limited menu and a special bowl of rib tips and a side of potato salad.

Cost: $18/ two-way combo with two sides and corn cake. Cash only.

Phat Matt’s
3415 Telegraph Avenue
(510) 879-7294
Open Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. or sell out, Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. or sell out
www.phatmattsbbq.com
Neighborhood: North Oakland

Phat Matt's Charlotte and Matt Gonzalez. Photo credit: L'oakavore

Phat Matt’s Charlotte and Matt Gonzalez. Photo credit: L’Oakavore.

Phat Matt’s tagline, “So good it’ll make you want to slap yo momma,” is a Southern phrase that implies that a food is so delectable that you’ll be angry at your mother for not being a better cook. True to the sentiment, husband-and-wife team Matt and Charlotte Gonzalez are making the kind of barbeque that will make you wish you’d discovered before now. The duo started selling barbeque at the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market, and their success there led to the opening of their smokehouse in 2009. Matt, who’s originally from Chicago, grew up making barbeque, but it was Charlotte who helped turn his lifelong passion into a second career by entering the former stone mason into the Alameda County Fair’s amateur cook-off on a whim.

Matt and Charlotte describe their approach to barbeque as a “road trip around the nation.” They offer many different styles, from Texas-style brisket and North Carolina-style Pulled Pork, to Memphis-style ribs. Each is handled with care using fresh, locally-sourced, organic ingredients when possible, and the highest grade hormone-free meat that they can find.

Everything at Phat Matt’s is well executed. The pork spare ribs were meaty and nicely seasoned with Matt’s organic dry rub; the Texas-style thick-sliced brisket is moist with a good balance of fat and lean; the ketchup-based sauce exhibits a pleasing balance of sweet and spice. The collard greens, infused with pork flavor and chock full of meat, are the best I’ve tried. The bright potato salad (one of the few items not made in-house) is the perfect foil to the simple barbeque beans. Charlotte’s cornbread is crumbly and cake-like. Most people wouldn’t notice, but Phat Matt’s food has no added salt.

Phat Matt’s often sells out in the afternoon, so it’s best to call before heading over. Matt, who likes to experiment with new flavors, offers a daily special (like “Piggy Nuggets,” pork tenderloin nuggets wrapped in bacon), a changing selection of desserts, and candied bacon.

Cost: $19/two-way combo with two sides. Cornbread is extra.

B-Side BBQ
3303 San Pablo Avenue
(510) 595-0227
Open Tuesday through Sunday, noon – 10 p.m.
Neighborhood: West Oakland
bsidebbq.com

Oakland’s most pedigreed barbeque spot belongs to star chef Tanya Holland’s B-Side BBQ. Tanya, the daughter of southerners, describes her barbecue as a culmination of her formal French training, her heritage and her extensive professional cooking experience. The popular chef and cookbook author took a risk opening her restaurant in a desolate stretch of San Pablo Avenue, in an area of Oakland that used to be known as the barbecue belt. The scuttlebutt earlier this year was that B-Side was moving to a more visible uptown location, but the restaurant is staying put.

Tanya’s style is the most spare of the five. You can taste each ingredient, and the quality is evident, from the ribs, to the bread, to the potatoes. In fact, B-Side is the only barbecue restaurant I’ve ever visited that serves bread that’s worth eating on its own. The thick-sliced buttered white toast from Acme that accompanies B-Side’s takeout orders rivals the restaurant’s buttermilk cornbread with sweet butter honey in deliciousness. The Niman Ranch Smoked Brown Sugar Rubbed Brisket and Prather Ranch St. Louis Ribs are unadorned beauties that will appeal to barbeque purists. Meats are accompanied by a thick homemade sauce that’s more like a chutney in consistency and flavor. B-Side’s simple barbecue-baked beans are made with white beans, bacon, ham hocks and burnt barbecue ends. There’s a take-out menu at B-Side, but you can opt for a sit-down meal in the restaurant’s Old West-inspired dining area. B-Side also has a full bar and offers appetizers, sandwiches, additional entrees and a daily dessert.

Cost: $23/two-way combo with one side, toast and pickled vegetables. Cornbread is extra.

New & Noteworthy

Oakland’s unique cat adoption café concept, Cat Town Café, is set to open on October 25 at 2869 Broadway (at 29th Street). It will offer a menu of light bites and beverages. The café will be separate from the Cat Zone, where shelter cats will be available for adoption. The café will be open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. The adoption area opens at 10 a.m.

Adrienne DeAngelo is an Oakland-based freelance writer and publicist. Her L’Oakavore columns showcase neighborhood restaurants, bakeries, grocers and food companies. Email her if you have a story idea.

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2 Responses

  1. Robin Williamson

    Im floored…. You bettah cuff your slacks and pull up your skirts and plan to hit the pig… brickhouse pig on Shattuck and 59th. Aint no way you can go home empty handed knowing this kindah food exist…. I seen wives humbly shopping for their family, after work, during commute hours, with a smile they face…

    Reply

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