‘When there’s smoke there’s fire’. Will “Smoke Berkeley BBQ” of Berkeley California light a fire under our taste buds? Pull up a chair, grab a rib and let’s go on a bbq journey. ‘Smoke BBQ’ is small restaurant located on a busy thoroughfare next to a car wash. This is the domain of ‘Le Cordon Bleu’ trained, ‘California Culinary Academy’ graduate Tina Ferugson-Riffe. Tina serves her Texas style barbeque with a gourmet mix of side dishes. She uses organic produce from the local farm Catalan. The bread is from the nearby Acme bakery. We walk into this small establishment and survey the chalkboard of listed menu items. Tina is there to help us with our order.
We were immediately enamored by Tina’s soft spoken enthusiasm for her food. We could sense the pride in our meal to come. You can order sandwiches or meats by the pound. You have a choice of sides and different sauces. I requested the hot bbq sauce. Tina gave me a sample to make sure it was not too hot. I thought this was a nice touch. Her sauce did have a kick but it was no match for this Chilehead. (I do eat chile daily) Our orders were placed and we chose a seat outside to watch the carwash.
Fresh squeezed lemonade was our beverage choice. This was made to order sweet lemonade made from Meyer lemons. It was very refreshing. It was perfect for Ms. Goofy’s pulled pork sandwich. This sandwich hit on all bbq cylinders. It was smoky, tender, great pork flavor and was dressed with a tangy vinegar base sauce all on a tasty Acme roll. This was accompanied by a gooey, oozy, cheesy scoop of macaroni comfort.
Our friend Dylan ordered a plate of rib tips. Abracadabra and poof the rib tips had disappeared. The only thing I saw was his sparkly clean plate. I have a suspicion that he may have went over to the car wash to make this plate so clean.
My order was a four ounces of ribs and a four ounces of brisket. My plate was running over with some great beans and coleslaw. The brisket was fantastic. It had the right amount of smoke. It was tender and beefy. The cake like corn muffin was a treat. There was a lot of care in these side dishes. The beans tasted of molasses, garlic and had chunks of brisket. The Cole slaw was sweet, slightly crunchy, with tangy vinegar. This was becoming the perfect bbq meal until…………………
The ribs were huge. These ribs still had the tips attached. Usually the rib tips are removed and served separately. They were overcooked to the point of being slightly mushy. There was way too much smoke. The smoke was so powerful it left a bitter taste in your mouth. The delicious house made bbq sauce could not rescue these bones.
We had no room for dessert but knew of Tina’s baking abilities. She has won a Blue Ribbon at the Texas State Fair for her apple pie. We asked for a piece of chocolate pecan pie that had just come out of the oven to take home. Later that night we devoured a decant brownie like, pecan studded piece of heaven. Oh my!
We enjoyed our dinning experience at Smoke BBQ. We definitely will return. We never did try Tina’s signature dish of tea smoked salmon. The food reflected the skill and expertise that Tina used in making her dishes. Except for the ribs we liked everything. The lemonade, side dishes, bbq sauces and of course the meats were outstanding. Smoke is a destination alone for chocolate pecan pie. Maybe next time Ms. Goofy can go next door and wash the Racing Honda while our food is being prepared. Oh man, did I really just say that?
2434 San Pablo Av.