The grill is seasoned, the ribs are smoked and the sauce is flowing at the new Everett & Jones Bar-B-Q, which opened Friday at Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park.
This is the first North Bay location for the nearly 50-year-old barbecue dynasty widely considered part of the “holy trinity” of Oakland’s celebrated African American barbecue culture, along with Flint’s and Jenkins’ Original Bar-B-Que.
“I just want to continue to make my mom and aunties proud,” said Shamar Cotton, the grandson of founder Dorothy Everett and manager of the casino restaurant.
Everett opened the first Everett & Jones restaurant in 1973 with just $700 to her name. The former domestic worker and single mother of nine children put her family to work as cooks, dishwashers and servers, and built a following through word-of-mouth. At one point, there were six Everett & Jones Bar-B-Q restaurants throughout the Bay Area.
The Graton location is one of four remaining Everett & Jones restaurants, including two in Oakland and one in Berkeley, and lines still snake out the doors for the popular barbecue spot.
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The menu has remained constant over the years, with time-tested dishes including smoked beef links, pork ribs, barbecued brisket and chicken with the traditional sides of potato salad, baked beans, green beans and macaroni and cheese. Southern-style red velvet cake and peach cobbler round out the uncomplicated menu that stays true to the flavorful, slow-cooking methods that put them on the map.
Everett & Jones relies on the tried-and-true Southern tradition of brick-pit grilling that doesn’t always work with stringent California restaurant codes. Cotton said the Oakland and Berkeley restaurants — built decades before modern restaurant regulations — have grandfathered clauses that allow them to continue using a brick pit with wood coals. New restaurants, he said, could be subject to different rules.
“We wanted to be able to continue how we’ve been cooking for restaurants. We want to put our best foot forward,” Cotton said. Working with the resort, which is on sovereign Native American tribal land, Cotton was able to build out a double-decker steel cabinet encased in bricks that holds burning wood coals at the bottom. A large upper oven is used for cooking and smoking the meat. The entire unit sits under a large ventilation hood.
Casino visitors won’t be the first to sample Everett & Jones’ new menu. For more than a month, Cotton has been donating food to local nonprofits, including Becoming Independent, Redwood Gospel Mission, Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army, as the Everett & Jones team prepared the open-fire grill and dialed in the menu.
Serving the community has long been part of the family’s mission. Cotton’s aunt, Dorothy King, was a fervent social justice activist and advocate who provided free meals to those without and regularly hired formerly incarcerated and homeless people to work at the restaurant.
“We want to continue to donate to those who can’t come for our food (at Graton),” Cotton said.
On his Instagram page, Cotton expressed his enthusiasm for the donations saying, “21 days of donation and over 1,500 meals prepared for the month of June … a lot of man hours and a lot of preparation and I can’t wait to continue the work … we all will continue what our aunts, uncles and grandma started for us almost 50 years ago … giving back, giving opportunities and caring for others.”
Cotton worked with his mother, Mary Everett, on the Rohnert Park restaurant until her death in September 2021. He vowed to continue moving forward and announced the restaurant’s impending opening in May. Cotton’s aunt, Dorothy King, operated the second Everett & Jones location in Oakland’s Jack London Square until she died in 2021.
“Opening a restaurant at Graton Casino was a dream of my mother’s,” Cotton told The Press Democrat in May. “She won’t be around to see it, but I’m here to keep her legacy — and my entire family’s legacy — alive.”