Where were we? We we lost or were we in the barbecue belt of Texas, or somewhere in Northern California, just off I-5? I did know that I was in barbecue heaven, and I was in the small northern California town of Yreka, at BBQ Express, the finest barbecue in Siskyou County.
Photo: BBQ Express, in Yreka, California. It's Friday afternoon, October 15, 2004, and after a long trip up the Oregon coast, we're back in California, heading home, and ready to enjoy some barbecue.
Photo: Like the places in Texas, there is a sign outside that announces the daily specials.
Let's see, Sharlene and I have been on the road for six days... Remember that old Dave Dudley C&W song "Six Days On the Road?" It sort of applied to us, as after several Mexican restaurants, many fish grottos and countless fast-food eateries, we were looking for something more... barbecue. We found it, in the small town of Yreka, in extreme northern California, an unlikely place to find barbecue that rivals the best barbecue, the barbecue of the barbecue belt, in Texas.
Basically, we were driving south on South Main Street in Yreka, looking for the perfect photo location to photograph the awesome dormant volcano that dominates the landscape of northern California, Mt. Shasta. So, as we were tooling down South Main, my eyes popped out of my head when I spied Barbecue, namely BBQ Express. Not to mention, the smoker was out in front with a pile of oak logs in plain view, and American flags surrounding the place. Hmmm, let's check this out...this looks like barbecue!
Photo: As Monica described it, this is Gil's "Mean Cookin' Machine" outside the place where the meat is cooked, in the Texas-style pit. Note the oak and madrone logs parked outside the enclosure.
Photo: Monica (left) and Linda (right) "person" the counter at BBQ Express, and provide very friendly service.
So we pulled up, parked our van in front of the rustic building and smelled the smoky smell emanating from the steel pit, parked out in front and noticed the signs in front. This is looking good. What's inside? We opened the door and, Bingo! A few tables covered with red/white checkered tablecloths and a take-out counter that offered more than what was advertised in front and listed all the options and sides. This place is starting to look a lot like Texas..
This place is typical barbecue; no frills, friendly staff and heavenly smells and lots of choices for the main dish and the sides. We decided to go for the "family special" which included your choice of meat and two sides. For meat, we chose beef short ribs, and the entrees we chose were beans and potato salad; which is a necessity for real barbecue. BBQ Express advertises this as a "family meal," but i would advertise it as an "army meal." More on that later. By the way, for the main dish, we could have chosen four smoked Cornish game hens, pork ribs, brisket, or more choices; we chose the beef short ribs.
Photo: Our slab of pork ribs is almost ready to be rolled in foil for the trip back to our motel.
Photo: Monica opens up the pit to give me a look at smoking brisket. After this photo was taken, she placed sausage links and pork ribs into the pit.
The gals at the counter were at first, shy for the camera, but warmed up to me when I explained what I was doing and that I liked barbecue and had plans to publish their place on the web. (Assuming I liked the food; if I don't like a place, I don't publish it.) Monica explained to me that she's not the pit boss, Gil, the pitmaster is her boss, the owner of the place. However, the boss puts the wood in the smoker around 8:00 AM (they use locally-grown oak and madrone, very dry and well-seasoned) in order to be serving lunch by 11:00 AM. The wood is allowed to burn down into coals, and then the meat is loaded into the steel pit, to smoke a couple of hours before serving. Of course, it is a continual process: Put wood in, let it burn to coals, and put more meat in to smoke. Such is life with good barbecue.
Monica was gracious enough to allow me to watch her open the pit to inspect the beef that was slowly smoking to perfection. When she opened the pit, the smell told me that they make good barbecue. However, when I opened my mouth to talk about Texas Barbecue, she corrected me and let me know in no uncertain terms that they cook California Barbecue, not Texas barbecue. Well, whatever is in a name, BBQ Express makes good barbecue.
Photo: Monica opens the pit again - I asked her to - to give me a closer look at the smoking brisket, sausage links, and pork ribs. I wanted to see how things were looking, after taking the preceding photo.
Photo: My dinner plate of beans, potato salad, ribs and brisket was a "Texas treat" made in Yreka.
So what do you get for $17.99? About 3 lbs of short ribs, and, where are the bones? A quart of potato salad and a quart of beans. A gigantic slab of garlic bread sticks. And a small tub of barbecue sauce, mild or spicy, take your pick. Enough to feed a family? Well, maybe a big family, or, perhaps, a squad of hungry soldiers. You get a lot of bang for your buck and a lot of outstanding barbecue that would make many Texas barbecue joints blush. Sharlene and I put the leftovers on ice, and took them home for three more dinners. Now, that's value!
Take my advice: For finger lickin' good barbecue, with a huge bang for your buck in northern California, stop at BBQ Express in Yreka, California. You'll think you're in Texas... or heaven... or maybe more...
Copyright(c) 2004 eRench Productions. All rights reserved. This site has been on the web since December 22, 2002.