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Smoke is mostly just a takeout counter, situated in a tiny building on the edge of a car wash parking lot. Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more welcoming hostess than chef-owner Tina Ferguson-Riffe, a native Texan. The barbecue is good, too: especially the brisket and the Asian-inspired tea-smoked salmon, as well as the housemade spicy barbecue sauce, which, with its smoky, complex heat, is in the conversation for best in the East Bay. Better still are the side dishes — a mix of traditional ones and others that have playful, globally inspired twists: Mexican cornbread (a Texan classic); zucchini pancakes that wouldn’t be out of place in a Jewish deli; excellent, jalapeño-spiked mac 'n' cheese; and, best of all, Texas-style baked beans, slow-cooked in a sweet, garlicky sauce loaded with nubs of soft beef fat.

— Luke Tsai

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