Chilebrown at home

Saturday, February 23, 2013


“You can have the best BBQ meal of your life and come back three hours later and have the worst meal ever”….. Reverend Biggles

It is several months until competitive bbq contests get into full swing. We love to have our smoker going every weekend but also enjoy eating out at barbeque restaurants. Being “Master Judges” is a fantastically great job but it also can be a curse. We are constantly exposed to the best bbq in the nation. When we go to restaurants the judge in us can be uber critical of our meals. Are we spoiled with good fortune of sampling and scoring great barbeque or the restaurants we have visited are just not that good? Lately our bbq restaurant experiences have not been stellar. Today we are traveling to Pleasant Hill, California to dine at “Slow Hand BBQ”. “Slow Hand BBQ” occupies the former site of ‘Smokin Oakies’, one of our ex-favorite bbq joints. We have very high expectations.

Slow Hand is located in a small strip mall on a shaded tree lined street. We find a parking spot right in front next to a portable smoker. This is the smoker that the owner. Dan Freng used at farmers markets, catering events and the streets of San Francisco. This smoker is not used for the restaurant because there is a brick lined custom pit that has been with the building and used by former tenants. The inside of the restaurant is very nice. The layout is very warm and comforting. In the corner is a small beer/bar area with a large television set to sporting events. Artistic pictures of Dan and his smokers line the walls. A huge steer horn points you to the counter to start your barbeque journey.

Dan, the owner was there to take our order. You can order sandwiches or meat by the pound. The four meat categories: chicken, pork ribs, shoulder, and brisket are offered. The usual sides are offered and warm German potato salad caught my attention. Dan who was very personable pleasantly gave us a little history lesson about how Slow Hand was created. We noticed passion in his story. One thing that was missing from this story was Dan had never competed. We placed our order and found a table.

A nice touch to the restaurant was the beer selection. Dan has a good selection of quality micro beers. He runs special beer themed events such a pairing bbq with certain types and styles of beer. An icy cold tasty mico-beer is always welcome at our table. ‘Racer 5’ from Healdsburg was Ms. Goofy’s choice.

Our meal arrived on a shiny metal paper lined cafeteria tray. The sides are served in Styrofoam cups. The sauce was in a handy squeeze bottle. You just dive in to all the messy barbeque goodness.  There is a whole roll of paper towels at your table to help keep some level of neatness.

The sauces were pretty standard tomato based products that were house made. I wanted to try everything with out sauce first and ribs were on the tray. These ribs had color, the color of charcoal to be more precise. These ribs had taken a trip to the smoker for a little to long. They fell off the bone practically disintegrating. The texture was mushy and the smoke was overpowering. I hoped that brisket would bat clean-up. This was another offering of over-cooked meat. Yes it did fall apart but would not pass a pull test in any contest. I would compare this meat to a poor pot roast. No bark, no smoke rings, and disapprovingly no pizzazz. Ms. Goofy’s pulled pork sliders struck-out too. No smoke, mushy texture and soggy buns made her unhappy.

The German potato salad was bland and starchy. The rest of the sides are not even worth mentioning except the slaw. The slaw was a breath of fresh air in this stuck cruise ship of a meal. Bright vibrant flavors with a sweet vinegar kick tried to tow this meal back to port.

We wanted to love this meal. The owner and restaurant is a welcoming and potentially great place. The meats and side dishes just misfired on all cylinders. We are hoping we just came three hours too late.


Three Dogs BBQ said...

Sadly Paul, good BBQ is hard to find. We have Smokey Bones and a few local joints. One local joint is ok, but inconsistent. Another is consistently mediocre. I see a niche for Three Dogs BBQ in the future... ;)

Chilebrown said...

Three Dogs BBQ restaurant, we will be there.

Zoomie said...

Thanks for doing the research for the rest of us. At the end of each year, you should do a "roundup" blog post rank ordering the local spots.

Chilebrown said...

Zoomie, That sounds like way to much work. How about you just go try one.You know it is a blast to try new things.

Toons said...

Boy I hope you never get mad at me! Thanks for the heads up.

Chilebrown said...

Hello Toons, I want to be honest in my reviews. We wanted to like this place. I am not sure where you read any animosity. Take care.

cookiecrumb said...

Disappointing. But, really, does anybody expect Eric Clapton to be any kind of pit master? Bloke's English!

Chilebrown said...

cookiecrumb, One of his best albums ever. We missed Rob this Sunday but will be flying our freak flags next week for sure. We would love to see you clean hair and all.

Greg said...

Three strikes and you out! BTW stuck cruise ships means lower prices for those of us addicted to cruising.

Aaron said...

To the point of the quote at the top of your post, Lori and I went and the brisket was good enough to warrant a re-visit we've yet to make.

Agreed on the ribs, pulled pork and the unique slaw. The pit-cooked beans are a good side too.

Beer selection is indeed a big plus.

Chilebrown said...

Greg, After your adventure I am sold. We hope we get to sit at the captains table with Captain Merrill Stubing.

Aaron, Long time no see. We went to Smoke in Berkeley and had a much better meal. Review will be up soon.
I would not rule out a return visit and follow up but we have some other place to try.

Chris said...

A swing and a miss! Happens sometimes but I think you handled the review as tactfully as possible.