Last November, my boyfriend and I road-tripped to the East Coast. Desperately in need of nourishment in Kansas City, we followed highway signs to Arthur Bryant’s, considered by many to be a barbecue institution. Our saucy brisket sandwiches not only sustained us through a long night of driving; they also introduced us to Kansas City’s barbecue tradition of slow-smoked, dry-rubbed meats.
Months later, on my way home from work, I stopped at Ragin’ Hog BBQ, a tiny, cash-only joint off Lowell Boulevard in Berkeley. I was again tired and hungry, and so I practically swooned as Arkansas-born Stacy Van Tuyl (who owns and operates the spot with his pit-master wife, Colleen) walked me through the menu.
Once I decided on the $16 two-meat combo plate, Van Tuyl disappeared into the kitchen to pull my ribs and hot links from the smoker. While I waited, I wondered about Ragin’ Hog’s “Southern-style” barbecue. Unlike Kansas City, which adheres to its regional brand of ’cue, the Van Tuyl family subscribes to more of a melting-pot approach.
In fact, the Southern sauces showed the spot’s versatility: From the vinegary Memphis to the mustard-enlivened Georgia, the flavorful blends cut the richness of the pleasantly fatty hot links and smoky ribs.
The sides didn’t disappoint either. Meaty collard greens were so good I spooned up every drop of their liquor, and the coleslaw was light and crunchy.
There might not be a highway sign (yet) directing folks to this tiny destination, but Ragin’ Hog is certainly worthy of a detour.
Sandwich Combo, $13
Two Meat Combo, $16
Half Rack of Ribs Combo, $15
Red Velvet Cookie, $1
Sweet Tea, $1