Monday, February 19, 2007

Bo of Bo's BBQ is Berkeley hippie plus Mississippi farm kid ...

Bo wears flip flops, too. Don't tell the workplace safety people.... and he's really generous, writes James Temple in an interesting Contra Costa Times profile of Bo, who is already legendary in the East Bay for his barbecue, served out of his restaurant in Lafayette.

Bo gives little gifts that are sometimes not so little, Temple writes. Bo gives free wine when his line gets long. Bo gives money for local homeless children, and food for battered women. Bo coaches little league. Bo helps jazz musicians as a teacher, mentor and benefactor.

Bo gives extra food when he caters. Bo pays musicians at his restaurant so generously that at least one calls him "exceeding generous" and suggested to Bo that he take back some of the money.

Bo seems sort of like a relaxed hippie, which makes sense because he was a grad student at Cal. Temple writes:
His ever-present bright yellow bandanna and bushy white beard suggest the hippie leanings of someone who attended Cal in the early 1970s. So does his penchant for peppering his speech with words like man, beautiful and love.

McSwine hugs customers on their way in. McSwine hugs customers on their way out. He sits down at tables filled with his friends and gabs away. He strolls up to tables filled with strangers and introduces himself.

When people who work to better the community show up, people like him -- firefighters, cops and teachers -- they might get a free beer. They might get a free meal.

But Bo is not shy about calling out the "crap meat" he sees at other BBQ places. And, as Temple notes in a scoop:

McSwine is in discussions to open additional Bay Area operations, potentially in the North and South Bays, and will soon begin selling his barbecue sauce in local stores.

A quick detour on food:

My grandfather in Dallas used to love serving smoked ribs and brisket when we'd visit from Houston, so I enjoy barbecue and visit as many local places as I can. I judge them by the pork ribs, my favorite dish.

I've visited Bo's twice now, and it's now my favorite barbecue joint in the Bay Area, though Everett and Jones at Jack London Square is very competitive on the all important ribs.

I love Bo's ribs, but for some reason my passion falls short of what I would expect, given the care clearly put into the food. I used to think it was a problem with how he smoked the meat, but the last visit revealed exquisitely pink and juicy meat that pulled easily off the bone.

The ribs that get me most excited are barbecued by me personally or by friends and family. Perhaps it's the smell of smoke on clothes, or some other irrational, psychological cue, like the investment of four hours slavishly working a bullet smoker. Maybe it's the smell of smoldering hickory. Maybe it's just the strong spice rub I prefer.

And it's certainly a testament to Bo that the only thing missing at his restaurant is the memory of a long, hot day above a BBQ pit.

Full story: Southern-bred generosity provides tasty, jazzy dish (Contra Costa Times) (free link)

(Disclaimer/name drop: Temple is a friend of mine.)



Post a Comment

<< Home