In all the openings of great new barbecue places in recent years in Bakersfield, we were remiss in not reporting on a promising new place in Oildale, Smitty’s Smokin’ Brisket & BBQ.

It isn’t because this small, family-run operation is located in the former home of one of our old favorites, AJ’s Bagel House, which offered some amazing, New York-authentic baked goods. It just slipped under the radar until a reader reading our raves about Angry Barnyard and PorkChop & Bubba’s thought we needed to check the place out. After visiting, we agree it’s a worthy addition to a growing market, mostly for its “we make everything here” homeyness and the small staff that dotes on the customers. It’s been making magic for almost three years now.

The stars of the show are the pastrami and the brisket, both smoked in house. It’s become quite trendy for Bakersfield restaurants to make their own pastrami — Milt’s has been doing it a long time with impressive results — but what sets Smitty’s aside from the competition is the thick-cut style they use in their sandwich ($15), served on a French roll or toasted rye bread made with caraway and offered with two sides. If pastrami is your passion, you have to check out what they’re doing here, if only to compare. It reminded us in taste, presentation and moist, alluring smokiness of what we have sampled in New York City delis we visited. The menu says they brine the slab of brisket for two weeks before smoking it for 12 hours. You can taste the passion.

My companion ordered the pastrami sandwich and chose as her sides the baked beans (very respectable) and green beans (canned) seasoned with made-on-the-premises bacon. Seems like everything other than the bread is made in house, unusually ambitious for such a small restaurant.

I wanted to try more of the various meats they offer so I went with the trio meat plate ($21.99), with pulled pork, brisket and tri-tip, as well as two sides (shoestring french fries and a creamy but not sharp macaroni and cheese). The meats were exceedingly tender, the brisket has a rub that complemented the smoky nature of the beef and there was a thin fat layer on the outside of some slices that I was glad they had not trimmed away. Let the customer decide is my philosophy. The also-moist pulled pork, which the menu said was smoked with hickory (just like the brisket), was shredded so finely that it made for easy eating, and I appreciated that the sauce and the salsa on the side were available but not required or forced on you. Good smoked meats don’t need any help. And I assure you the volume of food on this plate was enough to fill any big boy’s appetite.

We did not have the capacity for dessert, though the three breads (banana nut, chocolate and zucchini), peach cobbler, apple pie and cheesecakes (Reese’s peanut butter cup was the daily special — skipping that hurt) were, as with everything else, made on the premises. On one of the sandwiches, it noted they make the ranch dressing. Wow. All that’s just an excuse to go back. They do sell the meats by the pound, they offer catering, have a veggie breakfast burrito for the noncarnivores and the chicken bacon ranch sandwich ($11.25) that looked tempting. The pork ribs (smoked 12 hours) are lingering in our mind for a future visit. To say nothing of the Friday special — smoked meatloaf, which was gone on the day we visited. I can imagine.

The ambiance is comfortable but casual with metal-frame chairs, clean laminate tables and not a lot of smoke lingering in the air from the process. The words clean and comfortable definitely come to mind.

Smitty’s Smokin’ Brisket & BBQ can be recommended for a fine dining experience.

Pete Tittl’s Dining Out column appears here on Sundays. Email him at or follow him on Twitter: @pftittl.

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