Occupation: Sound Designer and Mixer
Favorite Restaurant: Smoke Berkeley
Reviewed Smoke Berkeley: “Numerous Visits” December 2013
Smoke is a small BBQ joint with a couple of tables inside and about a dozen tables outside. On warm days, it’s nice to sit outside and chow down, but when it’s cold in West Berkeley, you probably want to sit inside or do what a lot of people do and get your meal to go.
Smoke has a broad menu, but what I really crave there are items that never show up on other places’ menus. My favorite is the Smoked Lamb. Chef Tina’s signature dish is Tea Smoked Salmon. It’s always moist and tasty. Served on a bed of brown and red rice, it’s topped with a cilantro ginger sauce that has a little bite.
The Ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender and yummy. The Chicken is satisfying as well. Don’t miss the Sliders. On a soft Acme roll, I usually get a combo of lamb, pulled chicken and pulled pork.
Smoke offers mild, medium and hot sauces. Their hot sauce is quite mighty, so powerful that they ask you if you’ve had it before when you order. If not, they give you a taste to make sure it’s not too strong for you. My lips were tingling for hours after my last meal there, which included their beef link. The links that Smoke buys are not pre-cooked, so all of the cooking happens in their smoker. I find that makes for a tastier link.
The Sweet Potato Pie is an honest, simple, straight forward dish, unconfused by too many spices. With a soft crust, it’s my favorite dessert there.
Chef Tina Ferguson-Riffe brings Texas BBQ chops and Cordon Bleu training together to make Smoke a unique and excellent eatery. You may have to get it to-go, but you’ll be glad you made the trip.
Occupation: Marketing Program Manager
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Contigo
Reviewed Smoke Berkeley: Saturday, December 7, 2013
I have to say, I had the BEST time at Smoke Berkeley. Yes, the food was great, but it was really about the staff and the experience. I have never before stepped foot in a restaurant that was so ready for its own reality show until I stepped into Smoke Berkeley’s unassuming little spot.
You could smell the smoke from Smoke Berkeley two blocks away. Our mouths immediately started watering and were all set when we walked in.
We were greeted by Sean at the counter; a true character who greeted us with a warm smile, a few bell-rings (indicating we were first-time customers) and some information about Smoke Berkeley. They had just celebrated their 2nd year anniversary and their meat had just been smoked for 6 hours!
After talking through the menu, my friend decided on the Pulled Pork Plate with a side of Baked Beans. I chose the Brisket Plate with Potato Salad and Jalapeno Mac and Cheese. Seating is a bit strange, two tables inside and about 4 tables outside, next to a car wash. We sat outside and enjoyed every bite. The Pulled Pork was moist and slightly spicy due to the Mild Hot Sauce. The Brisket was a little tough but still very tasty. The two sides were OUTSTANDING! The Potato Salad was the best I have ever had and the Mac and Cheese was cheesy, gooey, and slightly spicy and had that gorgeous cheese crust on top.
The story here is all about the service and value. Sean checked up on us a few times and really shined when he looked at my brisket. Unprompted, he apologized and said that it didn’t look correct. He immediately brought me a whole other dish, the Tea Smoked Salmon with Ginger Cilantro Sauce. Though I enjoyed my plate, I LOVED the salmon. It was moist and slightly smoked. The real star was the sauce. That ginger cilantro sauce should be served with everything AND should be bottled/sold. It was unbelievable.
It was a little hard to get to from BART, but if I were in the area I would go back in a minute.
Favorite Restaurant: Paradiso
Reviewed Smoke Berkeley: Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Yum! Smoke Berkeley is a wonderful place to get Texas-style barbeque in the Bay Area. The staff was really kind and gave me wonderful suggestions on what to order, and the portion sizes were really filling. I had a few different items here, and my top recommendations are the Sliders (I tried both the pork and beef brisket) and the Chocolate Pecan Pie.
First, you can’t go wrong with the Sliders: Smoke Berkeley uses fresh Acme bread, and the meat is so tender and flavorful. The sauce has just the right amount of zing, and does not overpower the natural flavors of the meat.
Second, save room for the pie—seriously. I tried the Chocolate Pecan Pie, and while it was more chocolate than anything, it was delicious. This pie is a melt-in-your-mouth, rich-chocolate-fudge in-a-home-baked-crust type of pie. There is a pretty extensive menu, so I think you can certainly find something for everyone.
I would definitely go back to Smoke Berkeley (especially since Austin, Texas is less convenient to get to) for some real southern brisket and pie!