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Melanie Wong | Aug 30, 202011:02 AM     3

Long ago in 2002, one of our early chowdowns was a round-up of barbecue from all over the Bay Area.

One of the favorites was Carmen & Family's from the Hayward original location, besting its Fremont spin-off. While it took me a long time to return, I have been back a few times in recent years, including last month in support of black-owned businesses, and can offer this update.

In 2014, I finally made it back and took this photo of Miss Carmen who was about 84 at the time. She started the restaurant in 1979. She is originally from Jamaica. Despite what has been repeated elsewhere, I asked and she told me that she never worked for Flint's in Oakland. We had a nice chat.

The restaurant has a sign that take-out orders cannot be consumed on site. When my to-go box was handed to me, I asked if I might enjoy one rib while fresh from the smoker. Miss Carmen said, "Don't touch that box. I'm going to make you a sampler." And instructed her staff to bring me a taste of everything I had ordered. Great housemade beef hot links and succulent ribs, plus long-simmered greens. The sauce has a lot of red tones and is not as dark and dusky as Flint's so I disagree with those who find it similar.

And the cornbread doused with butter.

When Miss Carmen asked if I'd tried her jerk chicken, I had to confess that I'd missed that memo. Previously only available on Saturdays and in short supply, it took me till 2018 to sit down to this plate. Though I found the breast meat on the dry side, the jerk seasoning and especially the wood smoke influence made this special. Traditionally jerk chicken is grilled/smoked but that's not often seen in our area, making this a rare find. The jerk chicken is now available every day.

Last month I was back at Carmen's where a patio was open for outdoor seating. Inside ropes demarcated social distancing spacing for the line-up to order at the counter for take-out.

Once again I ordered the spareribs and hot links. But after the 45-minutes in transit, these did dry out a bit. Moral of the story: eat them on site for best results.

Carmen & Family Bar-B-Que
692 West A Street
Hayward, CA 94541
(510) 887-1979
Mon - Thurs: 11am-8pm*
Fri - Sat: 11am - 8pm*
Sun: 11am - 8pm*
*Covid Hours

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Carmen & Family Bar-B-Q
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