Smoke signals

Everett and Jones Barbeque

7271 Franklin Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95823

(916) 427-7935

Nobody ever seems to think of including Oakland in the pantheon of great barbecue cities and regions that encompasses the likes of Kansas City, Mo.; Memphis, Tenn.; Texas; and North Carolina. But Oakland has its fair share, perhaps more than its fair share, of excellent barbecue joints. One of the best known of these is Everett and Jones, which has expanded beyond the confines of its city of origin, opening up a few branches in spots even less famed for barbecue, such as Berkeley and, last summer, here in Sacramento.

I had been meaning to hit this new outpost of the well-known Everett and Jones since its opening, but I missed it last summer, and somehow it never seemed like the time was right during the exceptionally gray, drizzly winter we had last year. Barbecue is quintessentially summer food, perfect for picking up a bundle of heavy, fragrant takeout bags and heading to the park for a picnic.

Everett and Jones clearly does a bang-up takeout and catering business, but the atmosphere at the restaurant is also a cut above that of the average barbecue joint. It’s spacious, comfortable, extremely clean, and bright with red paint, with flowers on every table. You order at the counter, and on our visit the service was sweetly friendly and genuinely welcoming.

The short menu holds few surprises, covering the basics of barbecue: pork ribs, beef brisket, chicken, and beef links, which are made in-house. There’s an array of the usual sides—potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, collard greens and so forth—and a choice of cornbread or wheat bread. Drinks include sodas and iced tea, though there is a separate bar area off to one side. The only departure from tradition was the inclusion of the “barbeque salad,” greens and vegetables in a house dressing that the menu says includes the house barbecue sauce.

You can get all of the meat options in small or large servings or order up a two-, three- or four-way combo. Normally, I go right to ribs, but I’d heard that the links were a specialty, and for some reason chicken sounded good, so I tried a two-way with those meats. I chose beans and greens for my two sides. My mother ordered the ribs, so I knew I could try one of hers. She also had a bright-orange side of candied yams.

Even the small portion of ribs was really darned big. The tender, if slightly fatty, meat had a nice smoke flavor underneath the liberal dousing of tangy sauce. Both of us ordered our sauce medium (the other choices were mild and hot), and I wondered what the mild would be like since the medium was too tame for my taste. I wasn’t looking for incendiary, but I thought there might be a little more zing. Next time, I think I’ll try the hot.

The meats themselves, however, were the stars. The generous helping of chicken was cleavered into big chunks that, aside from one drumstick, bore little visual resemblance to commonly served chicken parts. There were parts of bony backs as well as thigh and breast portions. The bonier portions required a good deal of messy but satisfying gnawing to get at all of the succulent, sauce-coated chickeny bits. It was worth it: The flesh was juicy and smoky. Chicken sometimes seems like an afterthought at barbecue joints, but not here.

The links were completely different but wonderful. The coarsely textured beefy sausages were chopped into chunks. In a few cases, they had disintegrated into the sauce, like a kind of sublime Southern-style Bolognese, but mostly they retained a real integrity—a far cry from the hot-dog-like links you often see. They weren’t hot, but they were quite flavorful. The links were a nice complement to the tender, brown-sugar-enriched baked beans. The greens, long cooked in plenty of meaty juices, had a bitter but enjoyable bite.

Stuffed, we decided to take desserts to go and have a walk before tackling them. At the counter was a case of mini pecan pies and slices of pound cake. The cake was disappointingly dry and crusty, with an unappealingly artificial lemony flavor. The little pecan pie’s crust was a bit hard, but it had a soft, caramely filling that was just right. Wrapped in plastic, it was like a sublime version of those little pies they sell by the cash register at 7-Eleven.

Everett and Jones also offers ribs by the slab and other picnic-sized options, and the price is right. You can buy enough ribs for three or four people for less than $30, and there’s an unbelievably filling combo dinner (with plenty for lunch the next day) for just $14. Kansas City this ain’t, but as the dog days of summer continue to heat up, and picnics or backyard dinners seem like the only option, we can all be glad that this reliable outpost of a longtime Oakland favorite has made Sacramento that much more of a barbecue town.