The tools an artist chooses can be a very personal decision. While most pick traditional instruments (e.g. guitar, paintbrush or pen), some pick more unorthodox options. Art Campos’ tools consists of wood, smoke, spices and meat—lots and lots of meat.

What he does might sound like a straightforward cookout, but anyone who’s tried to smoke a piece of meat for hours can understand that Campos is an artist. After five years of running his catering business, The ART of BBQ (TAOB), as well as holding down a full-time job, Campos decided to go all-in and open up a restaurant.

“We catered to over 35,000 people last year alone, and we knew then that we needed to give this to the people,” he says. “They ask for it every single time we cater. And now they get the Pit Stop.”

TAOB Pit Stop opened in early June and already has drawn quite a following—despite being somewhat hidden in a large strip mall.

When asked if he’s worried about the odd location, he nods toward the packed house with a wry smile. “Not really,” he says.

The Pit Stop features an array of smoked meats—St. Louis ribs, chicken, tri-tip, pulled pork, hot links—as well as grilled Portobello mushrooms to appease the veg-heads. I suggest fighting the urge to go straight to the meat. Appetizers such as Mama’s Mac & Cheese Bombs ($5.95 for two) and Bacon Jalapeño Poppers (aka Wolf Turds, $6.95 for three) are both fabulous. The bombs are deep-fried balls of mac & cheese, while the poppers are bacon-wrapped jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese. Need I go on?

As usual when visiting a new BBQ joint, I ordered a sampler plate—known here as the Trifecta Combo ($20.95/three meats) or the Tasty Combo ($15.95/two meats). While all the meats were good, I give an edge to the chicken, tri-tip and ribs. The chicken was amazingly juicy, and the spice rub was on point. The tri-tip came out medium-rare and had a nice grilled char to make the mouth water. The St. Louis ribs were the definition of fall-off-the-bone tender, and they had a terrific smoky flavor despite being cooked for less than four hours. The mix of oak and mesquite that Campos uses is one of the strongest wood combos I’ve heard of, and it really penetrates the meat.

As noted, TAOB has especially strong sides, with the grilled mushrooms topping the list. The au jus they serve the mushrooms in was fabulous, and it was made even more delicious when dunking pieces of tri-tip.

Art can be subjective, but good barbecue can reach consensus. While the Pit Stop might not be The Louvre, it’s an exhibition worth visiting.

TAOB Pit Stop
484 Blossom Hill Rd, San Jose.