The Barbecue Zeitgeist: A Few Sides to Go with Today's Review

Categories: 'Eat'
Hekela R./Yelp
Southern Sandwich Co.'s pulled pork manwich.
About two months ago, I noticed that SFoodie was covering the appearance of an awful lot of new barbecue businesses. Slow Hand, Southern Sandwich, Smoke, Smokin' Warehouse, the Rib Whip, T-Dub's on Fridays, the not-yet-open Hyde Away Blues Barbecue ... the boom was so immediate it bore investigating. Hence this week's review.

For a while, my refrigerator became a morgue for takeout boxes. There was no room to store any fresh produce, which seemed perversely fitting. Not only did I eat at eight new-ish barbecue spots in the past two weeks, many of them were pop-ups or mobile operations. (Excused from competition: Dontaye Ball's Good Foods Catering, awarded in last year's Best of San Francisco issue.)

The current boom seems to be a grassroots movement, operating independently of the high-end, food-magazine circles that introduce so many national food memes into San Francisco kitchens. And the mobility of these new operations works in their favor. There's a long tradition of mobile smokers in this country ― given the ubiquity of BBQ competitions, many pro-level machines are designed to be hauled across state lines ― and they can easily travel to parties and catering gigs. Some businesses, like Cathead's and Sneaky's, turned out to be successful caterers who wanted to graduate up.

Three finds that didn't make it into the article:

1. The chili at Smokin' Warehouse BBQ. I wasn't as much a fan of the sauce-drenched ribs and  pulled pork at this Bayshore window as I was of some of the other trucks' barbecue, but the bowl of steak chili I ate on the side ― smoky, pepper-red, and capped in cheese ― was great.

2. Smoke's barbecued beans. When I was talking to Mark Furr about his K.C.-style barbecue just before turning the article in, he mentioned how he would stick a pot of the beans in the smoker overnight to cook with the meat. I hadn't tried the side dish in my two visits to Smoke, so I asked Birdsall to pick some up for me when the truck was parked outside our offices. The sweet-spicy sauce is one for fans of baked beans; the beans themselves come out creamy-centered but intact, smoky enough to tame the sugar in the sauce, and interspersed with chunks of brisket that melt away before you can chew.

3. Mission Chinese Food's BBQ brisket and lamb cheeks. Omitted simply because SFoodie has given Danny Bowien and Anthony Myint's new smoked meats more than enough press. Really, though: Check them out.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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