By Pati Navalta
A 1,000-gallon offset smoker sits in the middle of the new Horn Barbecue restaurant’s dining room. Great design idea for a barbecue joint, right?
Not necessarily. The smoker was a great source of controversy, a main reason why the highly anticipated West Oakland spot from chef and pitmaster Matt Horn took so long to open. (Oh yeah, there was also the shutdown forced by COVID-19.)
Horn wanted to house the smoker behind the restaurant on a piece of land Oakland owned, but the city wouldn’t allow it. After months of negotiations, the smoker found its way inside as part of the decor at the 2534 Mandela Parkway location, the former home of Brown Sugar Kitchen.
The restaurant, which had originally planned to open in late 2019, finally welcomed barbecue-starved customers on Sept. 26. For now, the state’s coronavirus restrictions limits the clientele to about 80 for outdoor dining, and takeout will be available as well.
Horn’s first restaurant will feature many of the favorites that made his West Oakland pop-ups so wildly successful over the past five years, including smoked brisket, beef ribs, pulled pork, spareribs and turkey, all sold by the pound. Along with the classics, Horn and his team will be adding new items including half and whole quartered chickens, homemade hot links and a variety of sandwiches. A whole hog will be roasted each Saturday, along with oxtails and lamb shoulder on special rotation.
As with his pop-ups, Horn will be at the counter hand slicing meat to order. Beyond the meat, Horn Barbecue’s Southern-inspired sides include pit beans, collards, black-eyed peas, potato salad, slaw, granny’s potatoes and cornbread. Desserts, created by Matt’s wife Nina Horn, include banana pudding, bourbon bread pudding and rum cake. The drink list includes custom-made sodas, sweet tea and a curated beer and wine menu featuring local breweries and vineyards.
When indoor dining is allowed, diners can expect the décor to tell the story of Horn Barbecue through photos and stories. Lining the counter are a row of custom cowhide bar stools, all leading to a large glass wall. Behind the wall is the 750-square-foot pit room that houses what is now California’s first indoor smoker.
2534 Mandela Parkway, Oakland, hornbarbecue.com
Photos courtesy of Horn Barbecue