Saturday, July 24, 2010

T-REX BARBEQUE - Smoke gets in Your Eyes

Several weeks ago, we were dying for Barbeque, and in the mood for another food adventure. We also needed a place to watch the soccer semifinals. So, a restaurant with good food and limitless television screens was in order. After a little research, our soon to be out-on-his-own Partner in Food Crimes, had the solution. T-Rex Barbeque in Berkeley. We were off.

T-Rex is an intriguing space. Large, open and fairly “loft-like” the place is all about its use of negative space, and it’s well done. According to the website, the restaurant was designed by Kava Massih, constructed by Sassoon Construction with the help of Kathy Farley/ It is such a remarkable achievement in interior design. One enters into a expansive lower area that holds a spacious open bar, and is surrounded by swirling banquettes and tables surrounding the walled areas. The center of the room holds a staircase to the upper area, which surrounds the open stairway with tables lining the outer walls. There are televisions everywhere. This is a big sweeping, classy, man-cave of a place, yet completely suitable for wives and children. Neat.
Cocktails anyone?

Once seated, we decided on cocktails, because it was Friday, as well as a huge soccer match with everyone in the joint a-drinkin’ and a-screamin.’ Now that’s what I call good clean fun! I’m not entirely sure what I ordered cocktail wise, guess I was thirsty. I’m fairly sure it was called a Ginger Press. Looking at their drink menu on the web, that drink is a combination of Ketel One vodka, muddled lemon, ginger syrup, and ginger beer. I do think I remember the ginger beer, which I really like as a companion to an alcoholic drink.

I do remember it was delicious. The BH had this fun little two-step concoction that required he pour in a shot of soda. I think his was called a Billie Jean. Their menu says it is composed of Cazadores Reposado tequila, muddled blackberries, Chambord, lime juice and simple syrup topped off with soda. It has to be that, since he got this cute little mini shooter of bubbly meant to be poured into the concoction. Interesting, fizzy. Fanciful.

Now for the fun part. The food. Have you all figured out I love talking about food yet? Yeah, I know, right? Anyway, I ordered the Pulled Pork because when I’m in a barbeque joint it’s one of the markers for me. Can they do a good pork? Well, uh, yeah. T-Rex can throw down with the best, and I know, because I’ve had the best. The meat was tangy, smoky, buttery — every bit of it tender as possible and simply melting in the mouth. Each bite was heaven, after two bites I was weeping with joy. But I told everyone around me it was just the smoke in the air...
Pulled BBQ Pork!!!!

And then there was Macaroni & Cheese w/Bacon. They do their macaroni with oricchiete. Oricchiete with sharp cheddar and parmesan. Simple. Perfect. The white cheddar is baked into a nice crisp top layer that clings to the bacon. These ingredients all come together to result in a delectable combination of exquisitely baked pasta, held together with a blissfully gluey layer of oozing cheese, full of cubed chunks of bacon (one can get it without the bacon, but for me that would be blasphemy) — all of this is topped with a lacy layer of fricco— the bits of cheese that has melted, reformed and turned into delicate cheese-chip goodness. This is quite simply the best macaroni and cheese dish on the planet, and I can say that with authority. I’ve had at least a dozen varieties. The Mac & Cheese at T-Rex is just sheer, cheese-tastic ambrosia. I know this because we all looked at each other simultaneously and went “Oh, YEAH” at the same time. It was as transcendant as a food experience can be. If you don’t agree when you try it, yours is on me.

Another item we sampled was one they title Belma Bucket’s Cornbread, which is, as it's name might imply, cornbread. I liked the bread itself immensely. It was a very dense concoction, chewy and grainy in that good ground-meal way cornbread can be. But they serve it in a pile of honey, which I found distracting and too sweet. I far prefer a smidge of butter, or perhaps the honey butter they use to perfection at Brown Sugar Kitchen.  So bottom line, love the cornbread, will probably ask them next time to leave the honey on the side.

Macaroni & Cheese Ambrosia
The BH ordered the Bone-in Chicken Breast which was moist, smoked, perfection. The skin crisp and resistant, the meat buttery and soft beneath it, both thoroughly imbued with the flavors of the smoky pit. It doesn’t get better than this. Our PFC had a Pulled Pork Sandwich. It was chock full of the same fantastic meat I was enjoying, and he did love the accompanying sides. But seeing the mountain of delectable porky goodness I had been served up, he decided next time he’d skip the bread and get the bigger helping of the straight stuff. They served his sandwich with beautiful housemade BBQ chips. I will remark that housemade chips are never quite as brittle and light as store bought. They all tend to be a little chewy, but I believe that is a lack of preservatives and artificial processes that are better not consumed anyway. The flavors and spices of the home made are so much better, that the slightly less crispy result is preferred, at least by me. Lastly his coleslaw was bright on the palate. A nice tangy pile of cabbage to balance the smoke in the meat..

BBQ Pork Sandwich
w/House Made BBQ Chips
Loved their barbeque sauces as well. PFC and I are spice hounds, we both prefer the hot. Though we’ve been working on him for years, so that he can handle a bit of heat, my Better Half can only manage the mild BBQ sauce at T-Rex. But they’ve got a range of heat, just for that reason.

Out of curiousity we ordered a Firelit “Blue Bottle Coffee” liquer, with our dessert. Rather than being as exotic as it’s name, it was merely a small espresso cup of a cold coffee-flavored alcohol. Tasting a bit like a homemade kalua, but a lot less sweet. None of us enjoyed it much. Too bad, cause I hate when I encounter any wasted potential for success. Suppose it can’t be helped when every place is striving to set itself apart. At least they tried.

Strawberry Shortcake
w/ poppy seed cake
We finished off the meal by sharing a dessert of Strawberry Shortcake. Theirs was made with poppy seed bread, which were actually these tiny little scone-textured cakes slathered in whipped cream and generously topped with the freshest spring strawberries. I do love the simplicity of a good strawberry shortcake, and T-Rex doesn’t confuse that blend of sweet cake, fresh fruit and cream that is at the heart of this delightful country classic. Scrumptious.

So I guess you can tel by now that I would highly recommend a visit to T-Rex if one is fond of smoky-licious barbeque and/or macaroni and cheese done well. Great place to watch any sporting event, plenty of room and all the TV’s are easily visible.

Check it out, and Bon Appetit!

T-Rex Barbeque (& Sports Bar)
1300 10th Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 527-0099


  1. I love this place!! They do have the BEST macaroni and cheese + a cool berkeley vibe. Nice review.

  2. Wow! Just saw ur kind words you dropped for me over at my space and just wanna say...WOW!
    It means so much to me you have no idea!
    I'm so excited about your new camera can't wait to learn a thing or two from you about photography.
    Keep up the good work and stay in touch!

  3. I will definitely let you know if I manage to get some nice photos up! Thanks!

  4. Great review. I've seen this place and am always looking for good barbeque. I think we may check it out this weekend.


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