Getting Down to Barbecue Basics at Genny's BBQ

For go-to to-go ’cue, try this East Oakland eatery.


Genny’s BBQ, 6637 Bancroft Ave., Oakland, 510-888-1200

Photo by Lori Eanes

A tattered mesh screen attempts to cover the open door of Genny’s BBQ, the smell of smoked meats wafting into the streets of East Oakland. Inside, the dining room is small, more of a waiting area for bags of barbecue always boxed to go. The restaurant gives the impression of a long, tall hall with towering red brick smokers filling the space behind the counter. It’s these smokers that caught fire last year, shutting down the restaurant. Now, Genny’s BBQ is back open and once again serving barbecue. Damn good barbecue.

Genny’s offers the usual variety of smoked meats—pork ribs, chicken, and beef links—as well as fried fish, oxtails, pork chops, and chitterlings. However, it’s the brisket lunch plate—with no bones to slow consumption—that’s irresistible. With a side and a slice of bread for $10.95, you can’t go wrong.

If the smell, discernible from the sidewalk, didn’t key you in, one bite of the brisket will confirm that Genny’s BBQ is all about the smoke. A stack of wood perpetually sits in the dining room, the fuel that gives the meat smokiness evident even through the sauce. Vinegar’s tang, spices, and just a little bit of sugar keep the sauce quiet while hitting the perfect note to harmonize with the meat. It’s a good thing the small, tender slices of meat are drowning in the thin sauce, because you’ll want to tip the to-go box and drink every last drop.

The sides are standard fare in print, but once they hit the fork, they’re exemplary. The corn bread is solid but not dense; the occasional corn meal grittiness confirms it is house-made—as is most everything else, from the sauce to the sweet potato pie. Candied yams—one gust of wind away from completely losing their shape into a pile of mush—manage to be devilishly sweet without requiring a dentist. And the collard greens? Without a hint of bitterness, the tender greens are earthy, smoky, and slightly spicy. Possibly the best in town, Genny’s greens could teach Collards 101.

Strictly speaking, damn, good barbecue.

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