I’ve been in the Bay Area of California all week, and finally got the opportunity Thursday night to sneak away from work and go try out Phat Matt’s BBQ in Oakland. I’ve heard a lot about this place from Larry from The BBQ Grail and Bob from Bob’s Brew & Que, so I figured I’d take Pigdog along and go meet them for some BBQ and cobbler and see if it lived up to the hype.
Now Phat Matt’s is only three blocks from the MacArthur BART station, but we were driving in from San Jose so that wasn’t an option. Driving in was, well, not necessarily for the faint of heart as the direct route via Google Maps takes you through some interesting parts of Oakland. However once we got there we quickly forgot all about the scary drive.
The first sign you know you are at a place that serves real BBQ and ain’t fooling around is the smell. And in this case it was the smell of smoked meat that started before we even got to the door. The pit is in plain sight as you walk in; no need to ask to see it to confirm that real smoking is going on.
The second sign is the actual sign over the counter. Any place that brags that it is “so good you’ll want to slap yo mama” better live up to it.
Turns out they weren’t just whistling Dixie. Phat Matt and Charlotte know how to treat their customers and turn out some good eats. In spite of warnings from Larry and Bob, both Pigdog and I ordered the 4-meat combo. Let me give you fair warning, this is not a sampler plate where they give you a bite or two of four different meats. This is a platter with 4 full servings of each meat. I opted for pulled pork, brisket, ribs, and pulled chicken.
As you can see, it comes with two sides, a plate of bread, and sauce, and there is a lot of meat on that serving platter that is masquerading as a dinner plate.
Overall, the quality and flavor of the food was outstanding. The pulled pork was the best I’ve ever had in a restaurant, and stood alone without any need for sauce. The ribs were good, cooked Memphis style (dry), and went very well with the sauce (which I asked for on the side). The pulled chicken was moist and tender, had a nice smoke flavor, and was very tasty when combined with the sauce. The brisket had a nice smoke ring and was cooked to perfection, especially given the challenges of serving it in a restaurant. There is a real art in keeping brisket moist and flavorful without turning it into mush while holding it ready for an entire evening; Phat Matt has figured out how to do this.
Pigdog opted for the tri-tip instead of the pulled chicken. He said it was very tasty, but a bit on the dry side. Other than that, he ate until he couldn’t eat anymore, and then ate some more. I think that was his way of giving his stamp of approval to the meal.
As to the sides and the sauce, they were a nice complement to the meal. The potato salad was very good and clearly not that sweet stuff that restaurants get from the supply stores. The beans were better than average but not spectacular, but at the end of the meal they were all gone. I had the spicy sauce in spite of the warnings, but found that although it had a real good flavor and nice bite, it didn’t leave me sweating like they warned me it would. Then again, I have a high tolerance for spicy foods and seek them out; the average person might want to give the mild sauce a try first before diving into the spicy. The sauce was excellent with the ribs and chicken; none was needed for the pulled pork and brisket.
Then it was time for some dessert, and Charlotte brought out a special strawberry cobbler made in honor of Bob’s birthday.
It turns out she was using us a guinea pigs to see if she should make the strawberry cobbler again. I’m pretty sure it will become a staple on the menu, just like the peach cobbler already is. We got to try both, and as much as I liked the peach cobbler I’d heard so much about, the strawberry may be better. It was a great way to finish off the meal and I highly recommend it to all who go there.
As BBQ restaurants go, Phat Matt’s is one of the best I’ve been to, and I will definitely go again the next time I am in the Bay Area and have an evening free. The prices are reasonable, the food is outstanding, and the people are some of the nicest on the planet. What more could you ask for?