FEAST: Join in on a -- successful -- hunt for stand-out sauces and beautiful brisket
Stand-outs: Aforementioned pulled pork is tops here, as is South Carolina mustard sauce (and they're perfection together). Sneaky's brings it with Creekstone Farms brisket and baby-back ribs. The outfit is to be commended for using all natural, hormone-free meats, smoked with locally-cut almond wood. Sides ($4) include a classic coleslaw, and fresh — not soggy or overcooked — collard greens. Cheeky points for Rebel's fancified gay biker bar setting, and the majestic motorcycle that serves as the room's centerpiece.
1760 Market, SF. (415) 431-4200, sneakysbbq.blogspot.com
Nate's BBQ had quite a following — not to mention coveted home delivery. It recently morphed into CatHead's BBQ under the direction of Tennessee native Richard Park and Pamela Schafer, and has become one of the city's best BBQ options. Thankfully, it still offers delivery. Vegetarians get a nod with cornmeal-crusted BBQ tofu. Mains are wonderfully priced at $7 with a mini-biscuit and pickles, while a platter with two sides is $12. Of note: large biscuits are aptly described as having the size of a cat's head
Sauces: Mustard, ketchup-based BBQ sauce, North Carolina finishing sauce, habanero, CatHead's catsup, pepper vinegar
Stand-outs: They had me with Coca Cola-smoked brisket. A subtle sweetness permeates the über-smoky beef. Ribs are also strong, the best of any place listed. The secret is extra fat, rendering the meat fall-apart tender. All sides ($4 each) are vegetarian, including mustard or spicy habanero slaw. Collard greens taste healthy, a fresh change of pace from traditional collards. Though I miss the ham hocks.
1665 Folsom, SF. (415) 861-4242, www.catheadsbbq.com
B SIDE BBQ
Tanya Holland of West Oakland's beloved Brown Sugar Kitchen opened B Side Barbeque a few months ago, a hip, comfortable space lined with photos of African American cowboys. Look closely through the smoky, rich air and you'll see Tanya and her husband in one of the old-timey shots on the walls.
Sauces: Hot vinegar, Carolina mustard, or traditional
Stand-outs: Pulled pork is tender and lush in Carolina mustard sauce, but they shine with smoked brown sugar-rubbed brisket ($9 half order; $16 full order). Fatty beef sings with sugary crust. Ribs are succulent. A side of fresh, spicy coleslaw ($4), light on the mayo, is a happy companion. Food is prepared with care, a step above many East Bay 'que joints.
3303 San Pablo, Oakl. (510) 595-0227, www.bsidebbq.com
The Marina has itself a BBQ restaurant. Small, welcoming, and lined with rustic artwork and paraphernalia from Texas to the Carolinas, Cedar Hill is a big win for the neighborhood to the north. The 'que is not as soul-satisfying as it is in the South, but has plenty to offer with dishes like Cajun shrimp on Anson Mills grits topped with andouille sausage and piquillo peppers ($17), or sweet tea-fried chicken ($7.50–$19 for a quarter to whole chicken).
Sauces: Texas red, KC BBQ, South Carolina mustard, North Carolina vinegar
Stand-outs: Tender smoked pork ($4.50-16) wins out over Texas beef brisket ($4.50-16), while Memphis baby back ribs ($5-25) are a little dry. Worthy sides ($3.50–$11.50, portion to quart) include a fresh, bright coleslaw, or pit beans glorified with burnt tips. Ruth's buttermilk pie ($5) with graham cracker crust is a creamy delight. Extra points: Cedar Hill serves bottles of North Carolina's classic wild cherry soda, Cheerwine.