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Cox: Ribs and a smile

  • Owner and chef Ge Li serves a chinese inspired barbecue pork with sweet sauce at Red Bee BBQ in Santa Rosa on Thursday, April 10, 2014. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Among the extras on offer at the Red Bee BBQ in Santa Rosa is the friendly sociability of the husband-and-wife owners, two of the nicest folks you'll ever meet.

The "mom" of this mom-and-pop shop is Grace Wang, and the "pop" is Ge Li (pronounced Jee Lee), who originally are from Beijing, China. She immigrated to the U.S. in 2007 and he arrived a year later.

The Red Bee, like the owners, is a modest, unpretentious little shop, selling primarily Asian and Chinese-style barbecue. If you're looking for southern or Texas-style barbecue from a pit smoker, go elsewhere. This is barbecue in the sense of being cooked on a grill and, in a few cases but not all, being given a swipe of sweet sauce, like a bean-based hoisin.

Red Bee BBQ

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The most notable aspect of the food at the Red Bee is the price. Grace Wang and Ge Li are not getting rich serving this food. In fact, one customer, commenting online about the price of the food, wrote, "I told the owner that he should charge twice as much money for half as much food, but he said he is just trying to make people happy!"

How refreshing is that attitude? These days, when jobs are hard to find, food stamps have been cut, and times for many people are really tough, it's great to know there's a place like the Red Bee. You'll find it on the east side of Stony Point Road, in the shopping center between Route 12 and Sebastopol Road, between a dentist's office and a Little Caesar's.

There's not much seating, just one small table with two chairs and a counter with four stools. The shop is really about take-out. It's a simple room, but neat and clean, with Li running the steam tables and Wang handling the barbecue gas grill and the cash register.

As you enter, you're greeted with an offer to sample anything you'd like from the steam table. This is lunchroom food, not gourmet fare. But care is taken with it. For instance, if you order the Brisket ($3.99, 2 stars), Li trims the fat from each thin slice and cuts the slices into inch-square tiles. They're chewy and served without barbecue sauce.

Pulled pork ($2.99, 2 stars) has been slow-cooked so that although it's stringy — as pulled pork appropriately is — it's tender, with its flavor enhanced by a little sweet sauce.

Barbecued Chicken ($2.99, 2 stars) is a leg and a thigh slow-cooked so they're tender and juicy. A slightly spicy, sweet barbecue sauce adds a punch of flavor.

On a recent night, these three items were part of a Three Meat Special ($9.99, 2 stars) that also included one side dish — a lot of food for under $10. Many of the entrees and side dishes can be purchased as combos, making them even more of a bargain.


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