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Restaurants & Bars 24

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Barbecue in Vallejo

Melanie Wong | Oct 17, 200311:56 PM

Shep aka 2 Cheap Hungry Guys said, “Vallejo is Que Town when they wanna be.” Two years later, I’m finally reporting back in on his lead.

Driving the streets and by-ways of Vallejo, you get the sense that this town is a final resting place for burned out and abandoned ‘cue joints. L. P. O. T. (Little Piece of Texas) and Rod’s Hickory Pit had already closed up shop before I got here, leaving behind only long vacant stores, smoke-covered walls and cock-eyed signs as memories of their earlier purpose.

From time to time I would peer into the closed storefront of Pipkins Pit BBQ wondering if and when it would ever open and let me buy something. The neighbors said that it was still in business and the little black kids riding their bikes in the parking lot swore the ribs were really good Some times a kind soul would answer the phone only to tell me they’d already sold out and to check back on Sunday after church – hallelujah! Then one night I noticed the lights were on and pulled up. The person packing up things inside said they were moving across the street to become Lady Nisee’s O Taste and See and offer fish too.

Lady Nisee’s O Taste and See, besides having one of the greatest restaurant names around, continued the habit of being a business that never seemed to be open. My calls were so frequent that Mrs. Pipkin could recognize my phone number on caller ID. “Hello, precious, no, we won’t be open today. The kids are in a tournament. Praise the Lord!” Or, “We’re taking the ministry on the road and forgot to start the ‘cue last night. God bless you!” A few months ago a “for sale” sign appeared on the building and I haven’t seen the Pipkins Minstry RV in the lot for a while, so I think it’s given up the ghost and gone to heaven.

I’ve been keeping an eye on King Albert’s this whole time, as there seemed to be some construction activity going on and the phone was still connected. Last week I finally got through to someone and learned that they’ll be reopening October 31 after a long remodeling project. The local ‘cue fans I’ve shared this news with have been ecstatic, as this had been the reigning favorite. We’ll see if it can win their hearts back again.

In the meantime, there are others to choose from. Meyers BBQ (private residence address of 419 Georgia, 707-208-6457) doesn’t have a retail location but sells at the Napa and Vallejo farmers market. I haven’t tried the product myself, but a couple friends stand by it.

Earl’s Texas Bar-B-Q (1601 Marine World Parkway, Suite 365, 707-649-1BBQ) has decent sauce that’s tomato-y and mildly spicy. Spareribs are dried out and stringy with little smoke flavor. They do a better job with fried catfish. Sandwich lunch specials for $3.95 are popular. The counter girl is surly, but you can sit down and eat in.

The gregarious owner of D’s Bar-B-Q (2909 Sonoma Blvd. @Nebraska, 707-557-6765) is from San Francisco and swears that we went to school together at Washington High. He’s handed me a sample of sausage or beef dipped in sauce the two times I’ve been here, but I don’t know if he does this for everyone. The medium sauce is plenty spicy for me and is a cross between the black coffee depth of Ernie Goods and the jammy fruitiness of E&J’s. The sliced beef is the specialty here with good smoky tones, although not as tender as Memphis Minnie’s. The homemade hot links are terrific – coarse ground, pretty lean with a dryish texture and the afterburn of lots of black pepper. The pork ribs are good too with a nice crust and deep smoke ring. While these meats are uniformly good, the three sides (potato salad, cole slaw, and baked beans) are gloppy and completely inedible. Don’t even try them, and certainly don’t buy extra. “To go” only.

The smell of smoke led me to the bright red trailer and rig that mark Gracie’s Family Bar-b-cue (formerly Kenelli’s, 2525 Springs Road, in the parking lot of William Kims Tae Kwon Do Center, 707-552-2254). A sign proclaims “Baby Back Ribs Smoked to the Bone”, and that is the specialty here. The lean sauce is more savory than sweet with mild spicing and tastes more like fresh veggies than long stewed flavors. But who needs sauce when the baby backs so outstanding on their own? Indeed smoked all the way to the bone, they’re meaty, not fatty, and very juicy and moist. A subtle rub, the smoke treatment and the natural sweetness of the smooth and succulent pork provide all the flavor for these toothsome beauties. Only available after 3pm, they often sell out before closing time. The chicken is good, as are the regular pork spareribs. The hot links made by Home Sausage with a hot dog-like fine grind that doesn’t suit me, but they’re plenty hot. Potato salad and baked beans are all right. A couple picnic tables and umbrellas provide seating. The menu (and a lunch discount coupon) can be viewed at



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