The original Flint's Barbecue location at 3114 San Pablo Ave. was an iconic Oakland restaurant until it closed in the late '90s. The current iteration of the business operates mostly as a pop-up and catering business. (Our Oakland)
Most of the time, no one really remembers a restaurant 10 or 20 years after it closes. Flint’s Barbecue, a Bay Area legend in the art of finger-licking sauce and slow-smoked meats, is the exception that proves the rule: Even though the restaurant’s heyday was back in the 1970s and ’80s, old-timers in Oakland will still talk your head off about that ’cue to this very day.
That legacy is why folks were so excited when Crystal Martin, the granddaughter of Flint’s founder Willie Flintroy, revived the family business back in 2019, albeit mostly in the form of occasional pop-ups. And it’s why each of those pop-ups has been a sold-out, line-around-the-block affair.
Mark April 30 on your calendar, then, if you’re a hardcore Flint’s head — or if you just want to see what your OG uncle from around the block has been making such a fuss about. That’s when Flint’s will hold its spring pop-up event in Berkeley. It’ll be the first time its barbecue has been available for purchase by the general public in the past seven months.
In fact, Martin says she’s thinking about limiting the pop-up to a once-a-year tradition. These days, most of her business comes from catering and private events, and she doesn’t want the pop-ups to detract from her search for a more permanent brick-and-mortar home for Flint’s.
That search has mostly been a disappointment. Martin’s original plan, to open in the original West Oakland Flint’s location on San Pablo Avenue, fell through. Then, the restaurant had a short-lived stint at a ghost kitchen facility in North Oakland. Apart from that, she’s looked at a string of locations that are way too expensive for her and her sisters to afford. “I’m beginning to get discouraged,” Martin says.
It’s reached the point now where Martin has resigned herself to the likelihood that if Flint’s reopens, it’ll have to be far outside of Oakland. The city of Concord has reached out to her about relocating Flint’s to there. The city of Fairfield has reached out. Thus far, however, Martin says she hasn’t had any offer of assistance from the city of Oakland or any of its local community organizations.
“I’m surprised because everybody loves Flint’s so much — but I haven’t heard from any of the higher-ups,” she says.
The April 30 pop-up will be held at the barbecue spot’s current commercial kitchen location on Shattuck Avenue. Each $42.50 plate will come with ribs, chicken, links, a separate plate of sides and a drink. The new downtown Berkeley kitchen doesn’t have any place for people to dine in, but Martin says she’s had customers walk their food over to the UC Berkeley campus to enjoy a picnic-style barbecue feast.
Customers looking to stock up on the famous Flint’s barbecue sauce will have to be patient. Martin says she usually has a separate sauce pop-up just before the winter holidays.
Flint’s Barbecue will pop up at 2428 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley on Sun., April 30, 1–5 p.m. Customers must buy tickets in advance, with pickup times available at 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. Ticket sales end on April 16.
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