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Thread: California > Pleasant Hill: Slow Hand BBQ

  1. #1
    Moderator Chris Allingham's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 1999
    San Jose, CA

    California > Pleasant Hill: Slow Hand BBQ

    Slow Hand BBQ
    1941 Oak Park Blvd.
    Pleasant Hill CA, 94523

    Daniel Frengs opened Slow Hand BBQ in this location in July 2012. Prior to Slow Hand, this spot was the former home of Smokin' Oakies BBQ Joint and the original home of Back Forty Texas BBQ many years before that. The restaurant is located in what seemed to be a quiet but somewhat busy neighborhood, occupying most of the ground floor of a smallish two-story building along with offices for a few other businesses. There's a limited amount of parking in the small lot in front of the restaurant, and street parking on two sides of the building. We arrived around 12:30pm and waited only a minute for a parking space to open up.

    Upon entering the restaurant, we found it to be quite busy. There were a few open tables and a relatively short line at the "Order Here" counter. We scoped-out the menu, much of which was meat ordered by weight, and placed our order. We'd heard from a friend that the brisket and ribs were good here, so we ordered 1/2 lb of brisket and a half slab of spareribs. We also got 1/4 lb of pulled pork, 1 hot link, and small sides of french fries, baked beans, and German potato salad (oops, meant to order regular potato salad instead). An iced tea and a pale ale from the extensive beer menu finished our order.

    As we sat down and waited for our food to be delivered to our booth, many more people showed up and the line went out the front door. At the time, we assumed we'd arrived during a lull in the action. What we did not find out until later, in talking with the owner's father who is an active part of this family owned business, is that Slow Hand BBQ had been featured in the most recent episode of the popular PBS restaurant review program "Check Please! Bay Area". The place has been slammed with customers ever since, so we were lucky to arrive and get our order in when we did.

    After our visit, I watched the segment online and it's clear that Daniel takes a great deal of pride in running his business. He becomes emotional when talking about his family and the role they play in the day-to-day operation of the restaurant. While I didn't get a chance to talk to Daniel during our visit, I can tell you from talking to his father that the feeling is mutual. He was very proud of all the hard work his son has put into the business to transform it from cooking on Weber kettles at the Farmers Market in 2010 to starting the restaurant in 2012 to the level of success they are now enjoying in 2017.

    When our tray of food arrived, laid out on butcher paper on a rimmed baking sheet, we were hungrified, the food looked appetizing, and we were ready to dig in! Let's cover the highlights first. The brisket was moist and tender, especially the slices from the point. The slices from the flat were moist, too, but sliced in the wrong direction, with the grain! No self-respecting BBQ joint slices brisket this way. Daniel himself appears to slice brisket the correct way in the PBS program, so it must have been an aberration by the kitchen staff. The saving grace was that when I cut the brisket flat into pieces, the brisket tasted good and ate well. I wish I had a do-over on that brisket flat in order to evaluate it properly.

    The spareribs ate well, too. They were not fall-off-the-bone tender (Hurray!), were served without being sauced (Huzzah!), and had good meaty flavor. Maybe another 15 minutes in the smoker might have been good for these ribs, but maybe I'm being picky.

    The french fries were hot and crispy, as you'd want. I like fries with barbecue, and it looks like they are a recent addition to the menu, so good for Slow Hand.

    Now for the rest of the story. The hot link was just that--HOT, all about the heat. Would have enjoyed a less hot beef sausage more, but truth in labeling in terms of heat. The pulled pork was unremarkable. Kind of dry, despite being moistened with a mustard-based sauce. Served with squishy dinner rolls for DIY sliders, the pork is something I would avoid in the future unless reworked. The baked beans looked thick and delicious, with brisket scraps thrown in for good measure. Too sweet for my wife Julie, OK sweetness for me, but had an off-taste that I could not identify and did not enjoy.

    We won't say anything positive or negative about the German potato salad because it was ordered by mistake due to a misunderstanding between me and Julie. Not fair to evaluate something you don't like and didn't mean to order.

    Two barbecue sauces are provided at the table, a mild and a spicy. I liked the mild sauce, it complimented everything on the plate, but didn't care for the spicy.

    About half of the menu at Slow Hand BBQ consists of the usual meats sold by weight: brisket (e.g. $20/lb, $11/half lb, $6 quarter lb), baby back ribs (e.g. $26.95 slab, $14.95 half slab), St. Louis style spareribs, pulled pork, tri-tip, chicken, hot links, and smoked corn beef on Friday's. They also have a selection of lunch or dinner plates consisting of 1 meat, 1 small side, and a fountain drink with choices of burger, BBQ sandwiches, 1/2 chicken, 4 ribs, and pulled pork sliders.

    Sides include no-mayo coleslaw, the aforementioned German potato salad served warm, BBQ beans, mac & cheese, a regular potato salad, french fries, and sweet potato tots. Each is sold in four sizes ranging from individual to serving 5-6 people.

    There's an extensive selection of craft beers on-tap that constantly change, plus a wide selection of domestic and imported bottled beers. I didn't notice any desserts and none are mentioned on the menu as far as I can tell.

    All in all, sincere barbecue made by a family that's working together and enjoying every minute of it. Slow Hand BBQ is worth a visit, just stay focused on the brisket, ribs, and beer.

    P.S. If you watch the PBS video, you may recognize Pete Slosberg, the customer who chose Slow Hand BBQ as his favorite restaurant for the show. Pete is co-founder of Pete's Wicked Ale and among the pioneers of the craft beer movement in America.


    Here are some photos from our visit to Slow Hand BBQ. Enjoy!


  2. #2
    Moderator Chris Allingham's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 1999
    San Jose, CA

  3. #3
    TVWBB 1-Star Olympian Bob Correll's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Near St Louis, MO
    Very nice review Chris.
    I would love for you to visit St Louis and give some reviews for a few of the bbq joints here.
    It seems like a new one is popping up every month or so, and I've been to very few of them.
    Cooking a steak to well done is like killing the bovine twice.

  4. #4
    TVWBB Wizard James N's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Central California
    Good review Chris, Haven't been to pleasent hill in years... Nice town to visit though.

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