We return to Berkeley, California on a smoky tip from our good friend Kimberly. I do mean smoky literally, at ‘Smokey J’s’ barbeque restaurant. Smokey J’s is located at the edge of the downtown area bordering residential neighborhoods. It is a tiny store front establishment on the corner. The windows are wide open displaying a beautiful brisket to entice you in. We found out later the windows and front door was wide open for different reasons. We arrived at the noon hour and were one of the first customers for a busy lunch. The inside is tiny with several communal benches. You place and pay for your order at the counter. We bought the usual ribs, brisket, and pulled pork sandwich. This is our usual go-to orders to try out new bbq joints.
We were waiting for our food and again noticed how the windows and doors were open. One customer was having a coughing fit. The back of my throat was a little dry and quickly found out why. The order taker/cook was heating up meats on the grill. Billows of smoke would float upwards towards the venting hood. Apparently this hood was not working properly because little wafts of smoke were entering the restaurant. The smoke would clear quickly because of the ventilation provided by the windows. We were right near a window so this was not really an issue.
Our food arrived and it looked delicious. Ms. Goofy’s pulled pork sandwich was huge. It pulled on all the right points. Tender, smoky, great vinegar sauce, slaw and all on a yummy roll made for Ms. Goofy’s eating pleasure. Let me expound on the slaw. It was very minimal in its presentation. Shredded cabbage with a slight dusting of salt, sugar and vinegar was all she wrote. It worked with her sandwich.
‘Baby Back’ is the only type of ribs offered and they were cooked perfectly. The ribs were a beautiful mahogany color from rub and smoke. Two tasty house made tomato based sauces, one mild the other spicy, were offered but not needed. The brisket passed the pull test with tender success. It had a beautiful smoke ring. The combination of smoke, tenderness and seasoning all added up for a beefy treat. I was lovin this offering of brisket. A skillet baked corn bread accompanied my meaty meal. It had delicious, not overly sweet corn flavor. The only fault in this meal was the bottom of this muffin was burnt. It did not stop me from slathering honey butter all over and devouring it.
We did get to meet the owner/chef Joshua Kemper. He claims to be born on a grill in Bryan Texas. He ended up spending his youth in Berkeley. At a young age he became an accomplished chef in the hotel trade. He dug way back into his Texas roots to create BBQ for the Bay Area with this restaurant. Joshua's goal is; "“Serving good, affordable, traditional food in a friendly communal atmosphere is what it’s all about." Amen! We really enjoyed the wild picture of him on the wall.
We already have plans to return to Smokey J’s. They have a ‘Mac & Cheese’ special on Thursdays that Ms. Goofy wants to experience. Macaroni and cheese is offered with the different meats. ‘The Fat Mac’ offers 'all the meats with twice the size'. Smoky J’s has chicken that has been brined for 12 hours, smoked for an hour and finished on the rotisserie that smelled wonderful. We are looking forward to our next visit. We will be sure to grab a seat near the window.
3015 Shattuck Av.
Berkeley, Ca. 94705