When it comes to barbecue, the phrase “low and slow” is supposed to refer to the smoking of meat, not the governmental permitting process.

But Matt Horn, having become a master of both, will finally open his eagerly awaited first brick-and-mortar restaurant, Horn BBQ, on Saturday in West Oakland.

“THE WAIT IS OVER” screams the headline on the website.

Lines of eager customers are expected well before the 11 a.m. start. Closing time? When the central Texas-inspired brisket, ribs, pulled pork and wife Nina’s banana pudding sell out.

“Opening this restaurant has been one of the most challenging things I have ever faced,” he said in announcing the new opening date. “Thank you all for loving us, for being patient throughout this journey, and supporting us to express our love through the craft of barbecue.”

Bureaucratic hurdles and the pandemic shutdown delayed the launch. During the interim, the couple and their team created the Horn Initiative, raising money and feeding at-risk residents and first responders.

Fans of Horn’s legendary pop-ups, which took place down the road in an abandoned repair shop on Center Street, will recognize dishes on the small but mighty menu: beef brisket, spare ribs, beef ribs, pulled pork and turkey available by the pound ($22-$30) or as sandwiches ($15), and side dishes ($6 or $10), including the collard greens and black-eyed peas of his childhood and a new dish, Granny’s Potatoes, a casserole-style dish layered with melted sharp cheddar.

Horn will reserve the specials, like oxtails, smoked whole hog and lamb shoulder, for Sundays in the large patio on Campbell Street, which has been closed to accommodate about 18 black-and-white picnic-style tables — and a makeshift bar for Southern sweet tea.

It’s been a long road to this moment. Horn got his start on a small vertical smoker at Fresno-area farmers market before moving to the Bay Area with Nina in 2016. They popped up at breweries and eventually found the General Repair location, where they parked Lucille, a decommissioned 500-gallon wood smoker, and gave away free beer to people who were willing to wait hours in line.

This weekend, those lines will form at 2534 Mandela Parkway. Although Alameda County is preparing to allow indoor dining, Horn will stick with outdoor tables and a takeout window for the time being.

Details: Open Thursday-Sunday starting at 11 a.m. www.hornbarbecue.com  


By Richard Moran

Richard Moran loves to write about sports with the Golden State Online. Before that, he worked as a senior writer at ESPN. Richard grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of San Diego in 2004, after which he worked as an editor for five years.

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