It was an even toss whether we were going to brave an entrance into Bubbaque’s in Petaluma. On the plus side were three meat smokers belching away on the front lawn despite the rain. On the minus side it’s located inside a frozen burrito, Skoal and beer mart on the outskirts of Petaluma. And everyone in the parking lot was wearing camo.
This was either going to be the best barbecue ever. Or the worst.
Fortunately for our stomachs, the story has a happy ending. Spanning most of the western wall of the Bodega Avenue Market, Bubbaque cooks up some of the best barbecue in Wine Country. The flurry of barbecue stained napkins, flying forks and pants dotted with greasy fingerprints attest to the critical endorsement of both BiteClub and Miss Mouse.
Using locally-sourced pork, his mama’s recipes and a lifetime of barbecue know-how Bubba (aka Tim Young) opened Bubbaque in September 2010 as a proving ground for his barbecue dreams. Longtime friend Jamie McNutt is Bubba’s cohort, spreading the gospel of Bubbaque to all who seek its truth.
Tim (known as Bubba to friends) is a burly bear of a guy who looks every bit the part, standing behind his smokers or dishing up slabs of ribs. He has no formal culinary training, but brings a passion to the craft that borders on obsession. The former crane operator and t-shirt printer works for weeks or months to get the flavors just right in a single dish. If he’s not happy with it, he won’t serve it.
On the menu: Tri Tip, roasted whole hog pulled pork, pork short ribs, barbecue chicken, burgers and his mom Linda’s homemade baked beans (sorry mom, but Linda’s are better), potato salad (a kitchen sink affair with a little bit of everything), pasta salad and coleslaw along with handcut, made-to-order fries. Each of the meats gets its own special sauce, but all share a sweet, smoky, molasses quality that’s hard to put down.
Half pound sandwiches range from $6.50 to $7.99, but are more than enough for two, or just about right for the hungry working guys who are Bubba-regulars. Everything’s available by the pound as well. BBQ Chicken special (a drumstick, thigh and two sides is just $5.99).
Are you Bubba Enough? Bubbaque’s got a yet-unnamed behemoth of a challenge that includes two pounds of hamburger, a pound of bacon, 12 slices of cheese, 12 onion rings, his grandma’s secret sauce, barbecue sauce and a pound of fries. Eat it in a an hour and it’s free, plus you get to name it. If not, it’s $26.99 — still not a bad deal. For slightly smaller mega-appetites, the “Quad” is an off-menu sandwich with pork, chicken, tri-tip and hamburger piled high on a French roll. Want to really man up? Bubba also makes a spicy habanero sauce that comes with a stern warning which Miss Mouse did not heed.
Like any great barbecue, the lack of ambiance weighs heavily in Bubbaque’s favor. The firewood stacks, sticky tables and country fried charm also help keep things, well, real. After all, good barbecue ain’t about fancy tablecloths and shiny silverware.
“We’re just good old boys doing backyard cooking,” says Mcnutt. And a hearty yee-haw to that.
Bubbaque’s, 1105 Bodega Ave, Petaluma, (707) 763-4401