You could stand on a corner and look around until a restaurant sign draws you in. But we have a better idea. Each week, Patch picks a restaurant in Petaluma, Novato or San Rafael that is worth checking out. Here's this week's choice:
5000 Northgate Mall # 135, San Rafael, 415-479-7200
(Also 3751 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, 415-221-7427)
Overview: So far, there are only two Roadside BBQs in the Bay Area, owned by the same individual, Randy Kaplan. It is not a chain or a franchise operation, although it has the slick look of one. It is, however, a well-thought-out concept. Kaplan has been in the restaurant business for more than 20 years, five years with Roadside.
Décor: The look is rustic with lots of memorabilia on the walls, especially signs from other barbecue places from around the country.
Drinks: There are sodas, wine, milk, juice and beer.
Appetizers: There are several salads perfect for two: a garden salad, same salad topped with ‘que and also a wedge of iceberg with all the bells and whistles: blue cheese, bacon and spiced pecans. A small side salad is just $4.95. Sliders of three meats for $6.50 are perfect for the younger set ort as an appetizer; buffalo wings are smoky good.
Entrees: Barbecue is what’s for dinner. All meats get the signature rub and are smoked up to five hours and then glazed with barbecue sauce. Choices include beef ribs, free-range chicken, beef brisket, pulled pork, sausages and baby back ribs.
Each meat has a signature ‘que name like Memphis pulled pork or Texas beef brisket, but they don’t have specific sauces making them like the originals. All meats get the same sweetish house sauce. There is also a hot barbecue sauce, but you have to ask for it.
For the uninitiated, the best way to eat barbecue is to order a two-way (two meats) or three-way (three meats). All orders come with two sides – don’t pass up the housemade brisket baked beans. There is also cole slaw, potato salad, mashed potatoes, veggies, french fries, sweet potato fries, garlic fries, mac n’ cheese, a small salad and a two-bite corn muffin.
Vegetarians, who may wander in here by mistake can order a grilled veggie platter with two sides and a corn muffin ($12.95).
All meat orders come in small or large. Beef ribs are $11.95 to $15.95; brisket $10.95-$14.95; and pulled pork is $9.95 to $13.95.
As someone who has a bumper sticker that says “ I brake for barbecue,” I say the two-way that includes the unsurpassable brisket and the baby back (pork) ribs is the way to go. On this $14.95 dish, you get five big slices of tender brisket and a small rack of baby pork ribs. Unlike more soulful barbecue places, the counter help here doesn’t ask if you want hot or mild sauce, or half and half (my preference). They just slop on sweet.
The baby ribs are reheated on the grill, making them somewhat dry, but the fabulous brisket makes up for them. The baked beans and the vinegary cole slaw are just the right foils.
Desserts: Housemade pies include a serviceable pecan or a luscious coconut cream pie.
Cost: $11-$17; some higher
Disabled accessible: Yes.
Noise level: Talking normally gets difficult at peak hours.