I went to Ma Pinkie's in San Mateo again, hoping to come away feeling barbefulfilled, but I don't.
The plusses: friendly, pleasant, and accurate service; a good selection of both fried and unfried foods; smoker visible right behind the counter; unassuming, light-industrial park and formica-table atmosphere next to the freeway.
On the minus side: only packaged drinks or ice water; no unsweetened iced tea (I asked, then ten minutes later the people at the next table asked)
Batter for the fried foods is cornmeal and adheres well, even to the chicken wings and sliced little nuggets of okra. Oil clean and the fry light, at least at lunchtime. Catfish and snapper stand up well to this batter.
The beef brisket is slightly smokey, dark on the outside, but somewhat dry.
Pork ribs are better, perhaps because it is harder to dry out pork ribs. Many people cite 'falling off the bone' as a measure of rib quality. I have never had pork ribs cooked slowly (and fully) where the meat wasn't falling off the bone. Ma Pinkie's are fine -- you would be delighted if you got them from a chain barbecue place.
The barbecue sauce is a sweet-and-sour style, with a good pucker, but mild and with little depth. You can effect provisional repairs with the squeeze bottle of pepper sauce on the table.
Of the sides I have had, the greens (cooked with almost undetectable turkey) are watery but not mushy; blackeyed peas are simple, a little soupy, and edible. The small corn muffins are unexciting but fresh; green beans were also simple and not overcooked. Macaroni and cheese forgettable.
You can eat for under $10, although a two-meat, two-side plate will run a bit more.
But I'm sure I'll go back. Since losing Gravy's in Daly City and Luxie-Q in Menlo Park, the Peninsula is woefully undersupplied for soul food and barbecue.
Ma Pinkie's BBQ & Soulfood, 207 N Amphlett, San Mateo, (650) 342-1394