Inspired by the rumor Shep was spreading about great 'cue in Hercules, I asked my friend Barbara who lives there who was the best. She clued me into Ernie Goods "Hot Rod Bar-B-Q King" in Pinole and was careful to steer me away from Quey across the street. I checked it out last night.
Open less than 4 months, Ernie relocated here after 17 years in Richmond. He's now in a spanking clean, brightly lit storefront in a strip mall (next to the Beacon station) with plenty of bar stools for eat-in dining. Barbara said that the first couple months, they'd run out of food before closing, but now they seem to have figured out how to gauge demand. Even on Wednesday night, the place was lively with happy diners and take-out customers.
Ernie hails from New Orleans and also features fried fish on his menu. The regular "special" is fried chicken wings with fries and barbecue sauce drizzled over - several orders that passed by looked great. The sauce is housemade as are the desserts - pecan pie, sweet potato pie, and peach cobbler.
While I was waiting for my dinner, my phone rings.
M - Hi Vince, how are you?
V - Melanie? I can hardly hear you, where are you? In a bar?
M - No, I skipped tonight's funk fest and stopped for a bite to eat.
V - What's that noise?
M - Besides the TV, can you hear the chopping?
V - Yep, I hear the chopping. What are they chopping?
M - Can you smell the smoke?
V - Yes, I smell the smoke, what are you doing?
M - Someday you'll have to start eating red meat again. Can't you tell I'm in a barbecue joint waiting for my order? This is the first time I've ever been to Pinole.
V - Melanie, how do you find these places?!?!
A two-way combo of pork ribs and beef brisket was drowned in a pool of medium sauce and served with baked beans, potato salad (or cole slaw) and choice of white or wheat bread. The brisket was sliced into large julienne and the ribs were from the small end and chopped into manageable pieces. The portion was enough for two people.
The brisket was moist and flavorful and still on the chewy side. Not quite up to Flint's but very good marks here. The ribs had a good crust and weren't mushy soft from par-boiling (my chief complaint at most places) with a firmish texture. The sauce was unique with an exotic Asian spice (sandalwood? cassia? anise?) and a sweet-sour balance that almost reminded me of Hunan-style brown sauces. It was less thick and jammy than Flint's or E&J's which suited me fine and also less sweet. On first taste, I was disappointed at the heat level, but soon the cayenne and black pepper burn started to build up and I decided that "medium" is my level here. The potato salad was decent too with a loose texture, plenty of black pepper and dill pickle juice and pieces. The beans were nothing special.
An individual size sweet potato pie went home with me. The filling was tasty, but the crust had softened. Reheating might have perked it up. Doug's is still my standard.
The trays of peach cobbler looked awfully tempting too. I also noticed that the staff were mostly eating the hot beef links or brisket when they took their meal break, so I know what I'm ordering next time.
Friendly staff, clean and safe surroundings, and good food. Maybe not worth a special trip, but certainly worth noting the next time you're traveling this strip of 80. The search for the 'cue master of Hercules continues...
Ernie Goods Bar-B-Q
2830 East Pinole Valley Rd.
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