Flint’s BBQ, and the Future of Black Cuisine

Flint’s BBQ and the Future of Black Cuisine

By William Edward Summers

This may not be the time or place but here goes anyway. Last night I had another dream about Flint’s BBQ. Flint’s BBQ was a junky little BBQ chain in the San Francisco East Bay cities of Oakland and Berkeley. It closed over twenty years ago, but even to this very day people all over the world still talk about Flint’s BBQ sauce. Starting around five P.M. a line would start forming at all of the Flint’s shops. I usually went to the one on Shattuck in Berkeley in the earlier evening. In the line would be thugs, prostitutes, housewives, rich people, people with  Phds,  professors, rock stars, hippies, basically any type of person you could possibly imagine. It was impossible to order for take out or reserve a place or time to pick up, the only option was to go there and wait in a line up, which could easily be forty-five minutes long. The service was brusque, the quality of the meat was fair, but the sauce was heavenly. I can’t tell you how many times I went to a rock concert only to see the band members standing in the line in Flint’s  at three in the morning after the show.

The experience at the other Flint’s shop on San Pablo in an area known as the “ho stroll” was even more extreme. First the neighbourhood was unsafe, the line up was filled with many dangerous people as well as prostitutes and petty criminals. However at 3 AM the wait here could be slightly shorter. After Flint died his children attempted to carry on but quickly ran the business into the ground. The sauce recipe has presumably been lost. recently a person I met online claimed to have reverse engineered the sauce , but is was not quite right.

In my dream, which I have a variation of perhaps twice a year, I was following up on a tip abut Flint’s having reopened. It always involves lots of walking. Last night I walked through a newly developed open air food court located in Sequoia Park in the Oakland Hills, there were even rumors that they had a “Top Dog” store there..I finally came to another BBQ that was serving meat loaf with Kraft BBQ sauce on it . One of the customers told me that Flint’s was indeed re-opening someplace across town, but they were still under construction and in the process of obtaining a plumbing permit. So no Flint’s today. I then woke up.

Now that I no longer live in the US I have discovered that it is literally impossible to get really good BBQ. I even found a place in Vancouver that was making their BBQ using Douglas Fir as their wood for smoking – unbelievable !  BBQ is a food that is actually rare. The best most authentic BBQ is made by African Americans, and  is usually found in the Southern States as far North as Missouri. Sadly, there has been a recent intense effort to re-brand BBQ as a creation of Southern Whites.   There have been several TV shows that promote this notion and attempt to completely remove BBQ from it’s African American origins. If this effort goes unopposed in another generation Soul food, including BBQ, will be said to have been created by whites, just like the claim is made today about rock and roll.

Black American cuisine is a treasure that must not be allowed to be stolen. It has tremendous potential for wealth creation all along the supply chain from production to distribution to preparation and selling to the end customer. The economic power of rare cuisine is enormous. Just consider that in 1960 sushi was considered to be fish bait by most people, but twenty years later it was an international luxury food.

28 thoughts on “Flint’s BBQ, and the Future of Black Cuisine”

    1. Hey Anonymous, any chance you could dig out that recipe from his file boxes and donate it here as a gift to humanity? I refuse to believe it’s not copied out a few times somewhere, tucked away; that’s like saying the Mona Lisa was misplaced in the attic before anybody took photos.

      I used to buy it in gallon jugs in the late-70s after I moved to the South Bay and couldn’t make the trip very often – man, that was great food! Now and then I wonder about the source of their links and remembering that calendar on the wall as a clue – “Square Deal Meats” or “Fair Deal Meats” ….. something like that. Have searched both and found nothing, so undoubtedly long gone along with Flint’s.

      I’ve been tinkering with that clone sauce recipe but William is correct; it’s not the real thing. But it’s not bad! Here’s a tip: don’t waste money on Heinz ketchup or Lea & Perrins worchestershire; as good as they are, they’re not right for this sauce – the cheap house brands are a better fit trying to duplicate the original, which probably used cheap big cans of commercial condiments.

      And William, I think you can relax about anybody trying to obscure the origins – I’ve seen the occasional TV show about BBQ around the country and the best I saw (and the best I ever ate) came from black folks. We all know and love those who brought it to us, even if we’re from the Euro-American Community, and we’re not forgetting. If anything, the Flints kids cut an important branch of the tree right off by letting it wither and die out.

      Good eating, wherever you happen to be!

  1. No idea if anybody will ever see this so long after other posts, but what the heck…..

    I used to go to Flint’s on Shattuck all the time in the early/mid-’70s while in school at UCB – phenomenal memories of the great meat plates and that sauce……………. oh God, so good.

    Back then they used to sell the sauce and I bought some now and then but didn’t have the equipment to do the meat right, so was always back in line talking to the ladies about my order. Even after moving to what was then a sleepy Mountain View, I would sometimes make the 50-mile trip to Flint’s and would always stop in when traveling anywhere nearby. I sure miss the place, but I bought Mr. Summers’ PDF recipe booklet, hoping I can get something close to that sauce. I’m pretty sure I’ll remember that taste to see how close it is.

    As for those links – that was my favorite item on the menu. Don’t know for sure where they bought them, but here’s a possible clue: I remember they always had a calendar from “Fair Deal Meat Co.” or “Square Deal Meat Co.” on the wall. Anybody know anything about them? No doubt a wholesaler in town at the time; maybe they made the links, too.

    This thread, and Mr. Summers’ booklet, were a great trip down the memory path – thanks!

  2. yes its sad flints was a instituation in Oakland, born and raised in west Oakland san Pablo was my flints I guess the kids never thought about marketing the sauce could have made lots of money because it was the sauce that made the food great

  3. You can play around with the amounts of the following, but it is basically the Flintroy recipe as told to The Shadow by Willie Flintroy while sitting at the Bosn’s Locker Bar one Sunday afternoon.

    Tomato puree
    Red pepper flakes
    Dark Molasses
    “Holy Trinity” of White, Black and Red Cayenne Pepper (this makes heat)
    Apple vinegar
    Brown sugar
    On stove, bring to boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes.

    You can add other seasonings to taste, but that is your choice.
    The Shadow of Shattuck Avenue

    1. That’s awesome, thanks…… I heard that a dash of something called kitchen bouquet is also added. We will have to give your recipe a try.

        1. There used to be two places owned by Black American’s in Paris that my brother worked at, but they’ve closed down in the last decade or so. I had some BBQ at one place in 2012 and the meat wasn’t my type of thing but the sauce was incredible!

    1. The links were still good…My second choice after Flint’s was gone was KC BBQ on San Pablo in Berkeley. They had better meat but not that sauce…

  4. thanks for the article. i remember my experience with Flints. the sauce made it all worth it. i now live in Nebraska. no good BBQ here or in Colorado. Colorado has a Boney’s in Denver. not bad but the portions are small and the costs are high but not bad when you want to “remember”

    1. Flint’s meat was not the best. KC bbq on San Pablo had better meat. Flint’s had by far the best sauce.

    2. Real BBQ is actually quite hard to find. I am beginning to believe that only solution for most people is to buy the equipment, develop a good sauce and make it yourself.

    3. I actually was contacted by the Family that owned Flint’s. Unfortunately they have not responded to my request for the recipe yet.

  5. OMG just sitting here with my family talking about heavenly it would be to have Flints right now. I’ve never had a sauce like it. My mouth waters just thinking of it. I think Everette and Jones in Jack London Square duplicated it and came real close. I wish to God I could have the sauce I would buy cases of the sauce. Finally I wish the children had kept the legacy going. What a lost treasure ………..

  6. Hi William, thank you for your response. Question, are there any brutha lobstermen or commercial fishermen or any who own seafood businesses, your way?

    1. The two industries with which I am familiar are spot prawn fishing in Cowichan Bay. B.C. and oysters north of Qualicum Beach. B.C. Cowichan Bay is a cute, artsy fishing village. It is very friendly and low key. The area with the oysters is also really nice. Super low crime and you will be surprised at the extremely low racism. However it is 99% white. The lifestyle in this corner of Canada is fantastic, it is like going to the past in terms of how business is done. If you are over forty Qualicum Beach is a small town that is literally made for boomers. The area with Cowichan Bay is called the Cowichan valley and is like Vancouver Island’s version of Napa Valley in the late sixties.There are zero bruthas in the fishing business as far as I know. There is mind blowing salmon fishing farther north in Campbell River. Lots of opportunity in a beautiful, unspoiled environment.

  7. Wow, just came across your site while on D& H. Thanks for writing about this topic. Bar b que is something I think about often. I even thought about traveling to seek out the best bar b que places in the north & south, (actually I’ve already started about a year ago), and then recreating a place here in the NE, where I’m from.

    So much revenue lost, this is what’s going on. People don’t value themselves enough, and so their cruisine is capitalized upon, monopolized and sold back to them by others seeking profits.

    I’m still working on this Idea and hope to bring better news soon.
    I still believe many people are struck, not sure of how to be or do, besides what is familiar to them. Somewhere along this path folks got lost.

    1. Since I moved out of the US I have not been able to buy good BBQ. I once went to a place in Vancouver that used Douglas fir to smoke their meat. Can you believe it?? Most places here just roast their ribs and then add sauce. Really awful…

      It is a real disgrace that so called “Texas BBQ” by whites is being pushed into the public consciousness as the authentic, real BBQ. This is after Paula Deen was crowned the Queen of Southern food. Like I have said before one day the French Quarter, Harlem, and Caribbean locations will become Black theme parks without the Black people. The cuisine invented by our ancestors will be credited to whites, just like rock and roll was. This is a real tragedy.

      I wish you success with your plan to recreate real Southern BBQ in your location. Back in the eighties one Brutha opened a BBQ spot in Paris and became a runaway success.
      If I ever return to the US I will be taking a tour of the top ten BBQ places in the world, just like you mentioned.

      1. Well, as you can see, your grandfather and family created a lot of long-lasting happy memories for a lot of people, so you’ve got a culinary heritage to be proud of.

        And by the way, in my 5th or 6th test batch, I’m finally very, very close to that amazing sauce. Now, about a source for those links …………….

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