On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Rick Sjoberg fires up his BBQ and smoker. It is a good idea to reserve your meat because it sells out quickly. There are also rotisserie chickens, house-baked roast beef and BBQ sandwiches.
Today I had the brisket, right out of the smoker. IMO, it is better than Memphis Minnies. It is smoked a minimum of eight hours, with a little marbling of fat. The outside is reddish and colors the top 1/8 th inch of the brisket that is fall apart tender, smoky, and wonderful. The smoky aroma permeated thru the grocery store and meat market today.
It is not a big operation. The smoker and BBQ are about the size that you would have in your back yard. Rick wheels it out to the sidewalk next to the market.
The meat doesnt catch your eye in the display case. Without the tip from Dr. Biggles on this board, I never would have found Ricks, and, even if I did wander in there, it would be highly unlikely Id recognize anything special.
As Dr. Biggles said on a post buried somewhere in Chowhound I can say from experience, Rick knows how to smoke food correctly. The man NEVER let's his fire smolder, the temperature doesn't fluctuate wildly and he tests temp on the meat as he goes. Plus, all these times and temperature checks are NOTED in a book.
A sign on the counter will tell you what is smoked or bbqd that day. Today there was pork loin that had been smoked for 5 hours, smoked chicken and brisket.
I have had the mahogany skin smoked chicken and liked it very much. The BBQ chicken and the rotisserie chicken are also better than what you would get at Safeway, but the smoked chicken is the star.
The BBQ chicken is not brined. The smoked chicken is. The brine can be different every time. On Dr. Biggles website he mentions the chickens were once brined in cherries, apple and brown sugar. Rick sometimes will make pasta salad with the smoked chicken.
I think I remember a mention that the type of wood used to smoke the meat varies from week to week as well.
Im also a fan of the smoked salmon. Dr. Biggles warns to check about the salmon. Sometimes it's Natural Farmed Salmon and sometimes it's Wild King Salmon. Lately it has been wild Alaskan salmon. The pork ribs, though, dont do much for me. There was not as much flavor as the other meats and didnt have enough meat on the rib.
The outstanding roast beef is baked every few days. This wont mean much to anybody but me, but there was this deli in New Haven that my family would make a special twenty mile trip on Sundays that had roast beef much like Ricks.
He also makes BBQ sandwiches on soft roll that has some thin slices of red onion, BBQ sauce, smoked cheddar cheese and the brisket or pork. In the link below I raved about the pork. That was before I tried the tender brisket which is my new favorite. BBQ sauce is bottled and not house made.
Ricks also has some nice potato pancakes from Nonas and good orzo.
The schedule is a little mysterious. You can call to reserve your meat the night before or that morning. If you place an order and dont show up, you are put on a list which doesnt allow you to reserve meats in the future. Banned at Ricks, so to speak. Without a reservation, show up between 4-5 pm.
It took me five tries to get a rotisserie chicken. If you dont show up exactly at 4 pm, without the reservation you probably wont get a chicken.
Sometimes Rick makes a lot of meat. Sometimes he doesnt. Sometimes there is enough pork loin, chicken and salmon for the week. Sometimes it sells out that day.
So heres the scoop
All meats are only available after 4 pm on the day they are being prepared.
Monday Friday: Rotisserie chicken
Wednesday: BBQ chicken, ribs and whatever is the meat of the week
Thursday: Smoked meats. Usually pork loin, brisket and chicken. Sometimes sausages
Roast beef is available usually ever day and baked every 2-3 days as needed.
If you dont see what you want, ask. Sometimes Rick keeps things in the back cooler.
This is just a meat market, so all food is take-out. The BBQ sandwiches have meat that is thinly sliced, microwaved with the cheese, added to the roll and topped with sauce. Just thought Id mention it for the BBQ purists. It is currently my favorite East Bay sandwiches.
Here are some previous links which contain more info and pictures by Dr. Biggles.
Ricks Quality Meat
Located inside Giovani's Produce on the corner of Protrero and Liberty. It's two blocks up from the Denny's on the corner of San Pablo. A few blocks from Target and BART
1600 Liberty Street
El Cerrito, Ca 94530
Monday Friday: 9 am 7 pm
Friday: 9 am 6 pm
Sunday: 9 am 4 pm