I was stopped at the light at 20th and San Pablo today when the unmistakable aroma of smoky bbq assailed my nostrils. I immediately changed my lunch plans and headed into Chef Edwards (1998 San Pablo, Oakland), where I found one of the best 'cue bargains in town: the "famous" Piggly Wiggly sandwich (thinly sliced roast pork, heeped onto a french roll, slathered in sauce) and a side of Mama's cole slaw for $4.25.
I took a quick browse of the reviews on the walls and asked for the hot sauce, which I think must be the only way to go -- although tasty, it's a little on the sweet and ketchupy side, and I'm guessing the mild might be overly so. The hot was nicely hot, but not overwhelming. The meat was tender and lean (although I'd actually been hoping for something fattier), and there so much of it I actually ate half of it with my fork before attempting to pick up the sandwich. As an avowed mayo-hater, I was pleased with the slaw, which was prepared with a vinegar-based dressing and was halfway to being pickled (in fact, it tasted somewhat like bread and butter pickles, with seeds that appeared to be dill and/or celery and mustard, and a bright yellow color that screamed turmeric).
The atmosphere was welcoming (although I probably wouldn't go there alone at night): a lunch counter with half a dozen stools and two tiny tables -- most people take out, but I was glad I didn't have to. Chef Edward is on a first name basis with most of his customers -- by the time I left, I was too (although I don't object to being called "beautiful" in lieu of my name (g)). From overheard conversations, I learned that Chef Edwards is from Yuma, and thus only uses mesquite for his 'cue. All orders are served in styrofoam containers, with a baggie containing plastic utensils, napkin and a moist towellette (very thoughtful touch!).
The customer known as "Bread Pudding Man" inspired me order some of same ($2.25). Dense but not overly soggy or eggy, topped with a creamy vanilla sauce. Yum! He also had banana pudding, sweet potato pie, and other desserts.
An earlier post on Chef Edwards said the sides were the real bright spot -- there's a wider selection than most places: beans, black-eyed peas, cabbage, candied yams, corn on the cob, coleslaw, dressing with gravy (to go with the bbq turkey wings), salad, green beans, mac-and-cheese, greens, potato salad, rice and spaghetti. The sandwiches come with the choice of one side, the dinners and combos come with a choice of two. There are also lunch specials that include a drink.
In short, while not great bbq, it's definitely good bbq, and the wider choices and fact you can eat in are plusses. I'll undoubtedly go back and try the brisket (which seems to be a specialty).
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