By Dave Fountinelle | email@example.com
I love good BBQ. Well, I love the idea of good BBQ. I say that because good BBQ places are rather hard to find around these parts. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of great BBQ spots in the Central Valley. It’s just that finding one can take some searching. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard about a new BBQ spot opening in Clovis: Kemp BBQ. They claim to offer authentic, Texas-style BBQ. No fancy fusion, no “re-imagined sides, “just traditional, slow-smoked BBQ done right.
Owner Dom Matthews’ BBQ career began a few years ago with the gift of a smoker from his grandmother. With no formal culinary training, Dom taught himself how to smoke meat. He traveled to Texas to sample some of the best BBQ in the state, picking up even more tips and techniques along the way. In 2019, Dom opened his first BBQ restaurant in Gustine. While the response from customers was very positive, he felt a lot of pressure to expand his menu beyond the standard fare found at traditional BBQ spots.
“People would say, ‘Why don’t you serve fries?’ or ‘How about making burritos?” Dom recalls, but he wasn’t convinced. “Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, but that’s not traditional BBQ.”
Two years later, Dom closed his restaurant and relocated to Clovis. Excited to bring his signature style to the Central Valley, Kemp BBQ opened its doors at the end of December. The public response has been extremely positive. Dom has been hustling to keep up with the demand. He’s also been listening to customer feedback, which has helped him fine-tune the menu while still maintaining his commitment to tradition.
I visited Kemp BBQ prepared to throw down on some BBQ. Dom greeted me with a smile and asked what I was in the mood for.
“I want all of it!” I declared, like a carnivorous Gollum searching for my precious. But seriously, how could I just choose one, or two, or even three types of meat to try when Kemp BBQ has pulled pork, brisket, tri-tip, hot links, and of course ribs.
“Actually, we’re sold out of ribs,” Dom said sheepishly.
“WHAT? NO RIBS?? It’s barely after lunch!” I protested.
“Sorry, man, you gotta get here earlier next time,” He chuckled. “But don’t worry, I got you!”
A few minutes later, Dom produced a tray loaded with half-sandwiches of pulled pork, brisket, tri-tip, and hot links. Next to them were each of the sides: ranch beans, rice pilaf, mac n cheese, and coleslaw, along with cups of their traditional and spicy BBQ sauces.
I started with the pulled pork. Served on a toasted french roll and topped with a generous serving of Kemp’s house slaw. It was the juiciest, most flavorful pulled pork I had ever eaten. The rich, smoky flavor of the meat contrasted perfectly with the sweet, tangy, and crunchy slaw. However, I had to resist the urge to eat the whole thing because I still had 3 more sandwiches to try, plus those sides.
Next up was the tri-tip. Now, I’ve had all kinds of delicious tri-tip, cooked in just about every way imaginable, so I was prepared to judge and judge harshly if this wasn’t up to snuff. However, one bite was enough to convince me that Dom knows his way around that smoker. The post oak wood smoke blends expertly with his secret-recipe dry rub.
I had to try some of the delicious-looking sides that were just sitting there staring at me with those sad mac n cheese eyes. Aww, it’s ok, mac n cheese, I didn’t forget about you! And unforgettable is definitely a great way to describe it, too. But it was the homemade ranch beans that really knocked me out. I wanted to dive into that cup of beans and swim around. Is that weird? Moving on…
Next, I tried the hotlink sandwich and was promptly kicked in the mouth with a sweet and (very) spicy link that snapped beautifully when I bit into it, exploding with juiciness. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting from a hotlink, in the best possible way.
And then there was only one. The brisket. The standard by which all good, traditional BBQ is judged.
Kemp BBQ slow-smokes their brisket for up to 12 hours to get it just right. Boy, did I save the best for last. Let me tell you, that brisket melted in my mouth – it was so tender. Now, at this point, I was starting to get the meat sweats, but I wasn’t going down without a fight! I did my absolute best to leave nothing on that tray but memories, but the meats had me outnumbered 4 against one. I reluctantly threw in the towel and leaned back in my chair, completely satisfied.
For more information about Kemp BBQ, follow them on Facebook and Instagram.
2220 Herndon Ave, #102, Clovis