In July of 1956, Elvis Presley recorded “Don’t Be Cruel” for his publishers Hill and Range in a lengthy recording session during which the young singer also recorded a little blues number by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, by the name of “Hound Dog.” Originally recorded by “Big Mama” Thornton four years earlier, “Hound Dog” had not made much of a blip on the Billboard chart so it is likely that his publishers considered the song something of a ‘throw away’ and thus relegated that recording to the B-Side of the forty-five. When “Don’t Be Cruel” was released to the radio stations on July 13, 1956 the public soon proved otherwise. Within weeks “Hound Dog” had risen to #2 on the Pop charts with sales of over one million. Though it was eventually overtaken by “Don’t Be Cruel” which took #1 on the Pop, Country and R & B Billboard charts.
“Everyday” the smash hit by Buddy Holly and Norman Petty, was recorded on May 29, 1957. And though the song is ranked #236 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, I’m guessing most of you who know the music of that era will be more likely to be familiar with it’s flip side, “Peggy Sue”: Cause after all, they made a movie about that one.
And then there’s The Beach Boys B-Side to the fantastic (okay let’s face it, everything they did was fantastic) “I Get Around.” That song was “Don’t Worry Baby,” and it is among my favorite songs of all time. There’s just something about it, haunting and melodic, it is Brian Wilson at his best.
There is something to be said for found gold, be it in music or elsewhere. B-Sides in music are often songs that artists aren’t sure their audience will respond to as favorably as perhaps another more “marketable” song. Often the record labels can underestimate an artist’s audience. Either way, B-Sides in music are likely to be as good as, or better than, the original. And so it goes with “B-Side BBQ” the second effort from Chef Tanya Holland of Oakland. Though we, her loyal patrons, know and love her original Brown Sugar Kitchen, with it’s cornbread waffles and crazy good Shrimp and Grits, no one who’s sampled the delectably flavorful meats being served up at B-Side BBQ could legitimately argue that this second effort from Oaktown’s own star chef is in any way inferior to her first.
In fact, the food offerings at B-Side BBQ have a music that stands tall on its own. This food is chart-topping good. On our first visit to B-Side, we attempted to try as much of the fare as was possible in a single sitting.
When we arrived, our Partner in Food Crimes had ordered some of the fried okra bits with creole aioli. Now, generally speaking, okra is not my thing. Even though I love gumbo, I’ve just never been a fan of the slimy green. One bite of Tanya’s steaming hot and oh-so-deep-fried version of this southern staple and I was an instant convert. This ish was goooood! The dipping sauce was tangy with just the right amount of acid to balance the deep-fried flavors. We thoroughly enjoyed them as we sipped our magnificent cocktails. Oh, yeah, did I mention they have a full bar? A good bartender is always a plus where I’m concerned, and this young man rocked my tequila cocktail with some lovely flavor combos that refreshed my palate as I awaited my BBQ.
We’d ordered well. First to arrive was a special Chef Tanya is contemplating putting on the permanent menu. That day it was being offered as an additional appetizer. Y’all better hope she continues to make this dish available, because I’m still dreaming about the flavors! Unbelievably tasty, it was the “short” ends of a side of ribs (pork, of course) in the most amazing delicate sauce, just a bit of heat and topped with a delicate salsa that blew my mind. Just writing this is making me ever so hungry.
Our PFC had the Dark & Stormy St. Louis Ribs with a nice helping of Hot Link Sausage. Adding the sausage was another special we lucked into, for a small charge they made up the perfect BBQ Combo Platter. Hubs had the Barbeque Chicken (of course he did) and it was tangy and finger licking good. I had the Pulled Pork Sandwich which I asked them to deconstruct so I could enjoy my sides of Mac n’ Cheese and Cornbread without the additional distraction of overdoing the carb-loading by having a roll with my sandwich. Though the bread did look delicious.
May I just take a quick break here to tell you if you have not had this woman’s cornbread, you haven’t had cornbread. No. Seriously.
The Pulled Pork arrived with a helping of fresh house-made slaw atop it, and the lovely acidic crunch of that slaw was a nice pop on the palate with the juicy delicate meat. Since I hadn’t yet sampled any of Chef Tanya’s various BBQ sauces, I didn’t want to pick just one. I’m that girl. But the staff was accommodating and made us up a nice Flight of BBQ Sauces for the table. As you can see in the picture they are quite varied. Tanya’s hottest sauce is a lighter, mustard & vinegar varietal, the other, milder-by-degrees sauces being composed of the more familiar tomato-vinegar style of BBQ sauce. The heat quotient went from mild and tangy to quite a kick. Nothing was what I would call too hot. Though I personally love a good habanero-based hot sauce, the spice levels here were nothing like that scale. So if you fear the heat, no worries here. Great selection to please most palates.
The mac n’ cheese was beautifully creamy with the cheese hearty enough to balance the pasta. Nice. Once my sauces arrived, I chose to dip each fork-full of the pulled pork into a different sauce, topping each bite with a nice mouthful of the slaw, in order to experience the salivating goodness that was the entire combo. Really well done, Chef.
We capped off our mountains of protein goodness with a sweet finish. The Bread Pudding (done here more like a cornbread, looks like it was pan baked) with some lovely creamy honey butter on top. Sweet, not overly gooey. Just what the doctor ordered (well maybe not your doctor, but mine gets me. What can I say?).
The meal was perfection, and I have to say that was no surprise. Tanya Holland really gets food, and her portions are generous without being wasteful. I’m not a huge fan of “American” portions. In my perfect world, everything should be served tapas-style. Her portions are somewhere in between. They are actually kinda perfect. As is her effort to bring the ‘cue back to Oaktown. Anyone who knows their Oakland history, knows San Pablo has housed many a fabulous “hole-in-the-wall” serving up great bar-b-que. Tanya Holland’s B-Side is no exception. Oakland’s food renaissance is in good hands.
If you are in the mood for some real down-home BBQ, y’all better head her way. Tanya will be waiting with a nice platter of meat so tender it falls right off the bone. Found gold, people. Check it out, make a memory of your own.
3303 San Pablo Ave
Oakland, CA 94608
Parking can be challenging, but hang in there, it is SO worth the hunt.