The “I can’t believe such a great restaurant sits hunkered down in a strip mall restaurant” review is rapidly becoming a cliché in Southern California food writing. Let me add a tenor to the chorus. Sweet B.O.B’S—which stands for Sweet Big Ol’ Baby—is a fantastic addition to both IE cuisine in general and barbeque joints in particular. While not without flaws, one leaves the place feeling as if they’ve had a relatively cheap (yet delicious) bit of barbeque, in an atmosphere not without its charms.
Granted, Sweet B.O.B’s has little curbside appeal, but once you walk through the doors you’ll realize that you’re in a hip and soulful joint. The walls are crimson, giving a bracing tone to the entire dining area, and much of the décor is inlaid with copper. The jaguar painting that hangs on the wall is straight pimp, while a small flat-screen television is set to ESPN near the bar area. Petite red lights hang from the ceiling and loud soul and R&B tunes make up the vibe. Thankfully, there aren’t any fake reproductions of New England farmhouses, faux-Italian art, any pictures of rowboats or of Elvis or of James goddamn Dean.
The freshness extends to the food—this is a place to eat a complete barbeque meal on the cheap. All the sandwiches come with pickles (“Dr. Pick-L”), onions, Texas Toast, and fries. The fries are especially good, but the less said about Texas Toast as an actual item for sale in a restaurant the better. It’s a ton of food though and unless you’re freshly off a hunger strike there’s no sense going for the Big Bob version as I did. Lighter eaters can fill up on the Triple Nickels plate—a smaller sandwich with a choice of five meats—for $5.55.
Ah the meats—the meats at Sweet B.O.B.’s are guaranteed hormone and steroid-free, and the vegetables that make up the “Smoking Greens” are as organic as they are colorful. It’s a concept that can be accurately called fresh fast food, and without denigration. The pulled pork is all that pork should be, coming close to some of the better swine I’ve eaten in New Orleans or Spain. Its light airy consistency combines with the fruit smoking to produce the divine. Add to that the sweet, subtle sauce and you’ve gained entrance to barbeque nirvana. Other meat options deserving to be sampled include the brisket of beef, the rib tips, and the smoked sausages (affectionately known as “Mr. Wiggle Tooth”). They also do ribs at B.O.B’s as well as offering up a slew of catering options for fiestas of all sorts.
And they’ve got some truly eclectic options, too. Their “Happy Fries” come topped with meat of your choice (and the famous shibbittywibbitty seasoning) and are described on the menu as their “4:20″ fries (no word on if they offer a ten-percent discount if you flash your medicinal use card). Sweet B.O.B.’s has a unique dessert menu, featuring the sweet sweet-potato ice fries—”as addictive as heroin”—which come covered in brown sugar, whipped cream, sprinkles, and cinnamon (“pixie-dust”) to the very unusual BBQ ice cream, which is simply ice cream with crushed fruit, honey and barely detectable hints of barbecue sauce. Somehow, this exotic idea works.
Kids under five eat free with a paid adult, and adults have the option to take ice-cold beer to go. That’s right—suds on the run. With plastic silverware co-existing with copper accents, this is a mash-up of bourgie-spirited casualness. By the end of 2007 Sweet B.O.B.’s will have taken over the IE, with plans to open in Moreno Valley and Riverside. But for now, it’s a down-home haunt that’s the shibbiddywibbitty.
Sweet B.O.B.’s Bar-B-Que 718 N. Main St, #102, Corona, CA 92880; (951)-735-4747; Lunch for two: $15-20