D'Millers' Famous BBQ. At this no-nonsense hole-in-the-wall where the motto is "the sauce is boss," the boss comes three ways ― mild, hot, or the plenty spicy mix. Don't even try to ask for medium; you'll get a blank stare until you say "mix." Get your fix of succulent ribs, or try an unconventional but tasty pork sandwich. $; closed Sun-Mon. 7305 Fair Oaks Blvd.; 916/974-1881.
Sharon's Cook-house at the Old Wasney's Restaurant. It's all about the saucy, tangy-spicy ribs at this soul-food spot on the site of the longtime barbecue legend Wasney's ― though the crunchy fried catfish is great too. Of the sides, the long-cooked, deep-flavored greens edged out the deliciously sweet baked beans. $$$; closed Sun-Mon. 1228 Dayton Rd.; 530/342-0452.
EAST PALO ALTO
Uncle Frank's House of Bar-B-Que. Uncle Frank Bell knows how long you have to smoke brisket (30 hours). His spicy sauce is just short of incendiary ― it keeps you coming back for more. Stellar 18-hour ribs and chicken are served up with Louisiana grace and pride in this little cinder-block rectangle. $. 2417 Pulgas Ave.; 650/321-6369.
Everett and Jones Barbeque. Owner Dorothy Everett King's mother was a founder of nearby Flint's BBQ, so this family knows what's going on in the smoker. And the 'cue is rich and tender ― especially the pork ribs and housemade beef links. This is a classy, sit-down spot with a full bar, cheery flowered tablecloths, and antique teakettles on the tables to hold knives and forks. $$. 126 Broadway at Jack London Square; 510/ 663-2350.
Big Nate's Barbeque. Former NBA star Nate Thurmond's joint in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood is infused with basketball glory. The suspiciously tall guy taking orders will recommend the mild sauce ― a rich, throaty affair that goes great with succulent brisket, pork ribs, and chicken. Get it to go, as the four tiny tables don't do justice to this heap of good 'cue. $$. 1665 Folsom St.; 415/861-4242.