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March 3, 2010 > Restaurant Review: Southern Heritage Bar-Be-Que

Restaurant Review: Southern Heritage Bar-Be-Que

By Denny Stein

The riches of Solomon are available to all, right here in Fremont. These aren't your usual rubies and diamonds. These are the riches of smell and taste, the splendor of crisp freshness, of mellow sauces, and slow cooking. Southern Heritage Bar-Be-Que uses the richness of nutmeg and cinnamon, brown sugar and butter to enrich its offerings; and thick toasted white bread, corn meal baked into corn bread or seasoned and deep-fried as hush puppies to accompany the stars of its menu.

Southern Heritage Bar-Be-Que is a dining kingdom carved by Solomon Smith after conquering careers in high-tech sales, wholesale pies, and the military. Mr. Smith is a renaissance man with interesting tastes. Hailing from Arkansas originally, Solomon Smith learned to cook by paying attention to his mother's kitchen skills. "She told all us kids we should know how to cook, cause some day we could be on our own and need to eat!" After the bottom fell out of the pie business in the '80s (actually interest rates were high and small businesses struggled), Smith thought it might be fun to open a restaurant. He had found, living in California, that the tastes of home were unavailable. So thirteen years ago, Southern Heritage was born in a small shopping plaza in Irvington.

The South is a big area of this country though and numerous heritages of bar-be-que recipes; ingredients and kick, color and consistency vary from state to state and within states. Solomon Smith's heritage, and specialty is known as Central Southern since Arkansas sits west of the vinegar based sauces of the Carolinas, south of Kansas City's sweetness and east of the multitude of Texas bar-be-que idiosyncrasies.

It was obvious, from the first bites of Solomon Smith's brisket, ribs, and pulled pork, that this bar-be-que heritage was going down easy. It was just right... not too sweet, not too tart, not too thin and not too thick. The beef brisket and "pull pork" had been cooked and smoked for 15 hours; the resultant tenderness of thin-sliced brisket handled the sophisticated tangy, sweet, tomato-y blend of flavors, as did the tangled shreds of pulled pork. There is something dramatic about a thick, crispy on the outside, fall off the bone, meaty pork rib and these attested to the three and half hours they had been nurtured in the ovens.

Lest you miss any of the succulence available at Southern Heritage Bar-Be-Que, there are several combinations you can order. All come with Texas Toast and choices of Smith's bright corn or green beans, cole slaw, potato salad, fried okra, candied yams, or baked beans. This Southern Heritage doesn't stop with beef and pork, though... there are chicken specialties also: Bar-B-Q chicken salad, sandwiches, and spicy wings. Try the catfish, cooked as only Solomon Smith can - perfectly. It all adds up to a complete line of bar-be-que.

There are a several reasons to keep coming back, besides an addiction to Mr. Smith's bar-be-que. First of all, you can't have everything in one sitting. There are the BBQ Sandwiches, Non-BBQ Sandwiches, Fried Catfish, and four kinds of dessert. Three different Fish combos are listed under The Disciples Fish Catch; see Peter, Mark and John. The Sweet Potato Pie is "to die for" declared Dr. Park, my dining sidekick. Peach cobbler is yummy (a restaurant reviewer's term of art), and the Pecan and Apple Pies are still to be tried. There is no lack of temptation.

Daily Specials are available and occasionally a "Special" Day. The Special might be Soul Food's traditional Red Beans and Rice - "The Working Man's Plate" - or Smothered Pork Chops served with rice or potatoes. When the spirit moves him, Solomon sets out an All You Can Eat Soul Food Feast that adds macaroni & cheese, black-eyed peas, cornbread, to all the meats you can eat. Call to find out when the next one will be held, you don't want to miss it!

What struck me as really special though, is that Solomon does all the cooking himself and has done so since he opened Southern Heritage Bar-Be-Que. His heart and soul goes into this soul food; his heritage is honored in the kitchen. Repeat customers - both sit down and take-out - reflect the value of the Smith tradition that Solomon has brought to Fremont.

Finding the Southern Heritage Bar-Be-Que takes a bit of planning, but don't let that stop you. The restaurant is in a shopping center at Fremont and Grimmer Boulevards near Coverleaf Family Bowl, Allied Auto Stores and other small shops. It's one of the ubiquitous small, hidden Fremont establishments worth discovering.

And as Solomon says, "You can always eat a rib!"

Reviewed February 20, 2010

Southern Heritage Bar-Be-Que
40645 Fremont Blvd., #23, Fremont
(510) 668-1850

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