Longtime San Jose residents will remember when a craving for barbecue basically meant going to one of three places: Henry's Hi-Life downtown, Sam's on Bascom Avenue or the Bethesda Community Church trailer on Old Oakland Road. All three of those are still around, but now they have new competition from a national chain: Dickey's Barbecue Pit.
Dickey's started in Texas. For most things here in the Bay Area, that would be strike one, two and possibly three, but barbecue is one area where Texas has to be given its props.
And Dickey's doesn't disappoint. For a chain that now has outposts in 43 states, they know how to make a mean barbecued beef brisket.
It's fork tender, but not dry and has plenty of smoke flavor. In fact, they manage to get smoke flavor into their pulled pork, ribs and even their chicken and turkey breasts while keeping them moist. That's no small feat with poultry, which can dry out on a grill or in a smoker very easily.
In all, Dickey's offers 10 different meat choices, including both sliced and chopped brisket.
They also offer 11 different sides. Standouts for me were the coleslaw, waffle fries and fried onion tanglers (a heart attack in a bag, but well worth it). The Caesar salad was a pleasant surprise, with fresh romaine lettuce perfectly dressed that didn't get soggy even after a 20-minute car trip. Who would have thought it?
Sandwiches come in three sizes: Lil' Hoagie ($4), Big Barbecue ($5.50) and
My favorite sandwich was the pulled pork with the coleslaw topper. The crunchy, creamy, slightly sweet slaw provided the perfect contrast to the smoky tang of the pulled pork and barbecue sauce. The Lil' Hoagie was more than enough for me at lunch.
One thing to consider about getting the sandwiches to go is that they are messy. Unless you've plastic-wrapped your entire car or are beyond caring (I'm talking to all the parents of small children now -- how do those Apple Jacks get in the spare tire wheel wells?) you probably shouldn't try eating a sandwich while driving.
Another tip is that the coleslaw topper, while delicious, will quickly make the sandwich's bun soggy, so you want to get it only when you're eating the sandwich right away.
Besides sandwiches, you can also get full plates in one meat ($10.50), two meat ($11.50) or smaller quarter-pound size ($9). You can also get a plate of just ribs ($12.95). The pork spareribs have a nice smoky crust and are moist, with just enough grease to remind you that you're eating ribs.
I couldn't get enough of the Dickey's traditional barbecue sauce, with its molasses flavor nicely balancing a vinegary tang, and ended up getting extra to slather on my ribs. Luckily, Dickey's offers all the extra sauce you want at no charge in original, sweet and spicy varieties.
Dickey's also offers free pickles at all of its restaurants, and my favorite, free vanilla soft-serve ice cream. I'm not ashamed to admit I've had dessert first on several trips.
The service at both South Bay Dickey's was outstanding. You can watch your order being prepared, and everyone always seemed genuinely glad to have you there. I never failed to get a "thanks for coming" as I was walking out the door.
Dickey's Barbecue Pit
5391 Prospect Road,
1402 Camden Ave., Campbell
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Types of food: Barbecue -- and chicken nuggets for the kids.
Average meal price: $6 for a sandwich, $11 for a meal
Good choices: Pulled pork, ribs, turkey
Not recommended: Getting coleslaw on a to-go sandwich; the bun gets soggy
Attitude: Very friendly. They always thank you for coming.
Amenities: Free soft-serve ice cream and pickles, plus flatscreen TVs.
Baked potatoes, coleslaw and Caesar salad
Drinks: Fountain sodas and iced tea
Eat in car: It might be a little messy with sauce everywhere.
Next-day edibility: Surprisingly good
Who goes there: Those looking for fast but tasty barbecue; families on Sundays, when kids eat free
Credit cards: All major ones
Restaurant reviews are
The Mercury News pays for all meals.