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BBQ Restaurants in San Francisco?

  • p

Hello all I am moving to San Francisco soon and am looking for the best BBQ restaurants in San Francisco. Any suggestions?

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  1. First the good news: San Francisco is a beautiful city with many great restaurants of all kinds. Now the bad news: BBQ is not among them. It just doesn't seem to be a San Francisco thing. There are a small number BBQ restaurants in the city and in surrounding areas, though, so maybe someone can help us both find a good one.

    1. Memphis Minnie's in the Haight has decent Texas BBQ, and has been discussed before on the board. There are also apparently good BBQ places in Oakland, although I can't say that I have been to any of them myself.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Rebecka
        Quasimodo Jr.

        > There are also apparently good BBQ places in
        > Oakland

        Is Soul Brothers (on Telegraph) still around?

        1. re: Quasimodo Jr.

          No, it was replaced by an Ethiopian restaurant a couple of years ago. Anyway, "soul food" and BBQ aren't the same thing.

          Since no one has mentioned it, Johnson's BBQ on San Bruno Ave.in SF did very well in our BBQ tasting a couple of years ago.

          Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        2. re: Rebecka

          You mean Memphis style BBQ, right? :-)

          1. re: Nopa

            Actually MM's does not necessarily do Memphis style BBQ. Most places in Memphis smokes babybacks, while MM's goes with St. Louis cut spares. MM also smokes over oak vs, hickory. Even their three sauces are Texas, western NC, and SC based.

        3. Korean BBQ, Chinese BBQ, or what other style?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            American BBQ cooked slow and low.

            1. re: porkjowl

              welcome to the bay area, where American cooking
              is the hard to find ethnic cuisine.

          2. My barbershop recently had many musings about this place in Stockton. It is supposed to have Texas style BBQ, including Southern fixins like collards and black eyed peas. anyone wanna go on a long chowhound drive with me?

            1. Brother-in-Law's on Divisadero is not bad, though if I had the time I'd drive over to West Oakland to Flint's on San Pablo.

              2 Replies
              1. re: hongry dawg
                Robert Lauriston

                Is the Flint's on San Pablo still open? The one on Shattuck has been closed by order of the health department.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  It was open when I last stopped there about 2 weeks ago or so. Quite honestly, at the San Pablo Avenue location in West Oakland, the health department is probably the least of your worries, especially in the evening.

              2. q
                Quasimodo Jr.

                How about Powell's Place at 511 Hayes? What ever happened to Leon's Bar B Q (I think they used to
                have at least two locations)?

                21 Replies
                1. re: Quasimodo Jr.

                  Powell's place is still there, but I've never had the barbecue. based on what I've seen and had there, I don't hold out too much hope. There definitely is no Barbecue smell there.
                  Leon's had a place on Fillmore which closed years ago, and a place on Sloat by the zoo. Not sure if that location still exists either.

                  1. re: hongry dawg

                    Powell's is no longer there - it moved to Eddy St. about 3 years ago. and it's fried chicken, right? not bbq. Brothers is no longer Brothers - it's LuLu's or something, not sure if it changed ownership or just name. I've been to Memphis Minnie's once and was impressed by the tenderness of the tri-tip and the sauces on the side - tho i don't find their hot-hot-sauce to be all that hot. i think i'm only the second person to list Everett & Jones as a fave - the one on university & san pablo in Berkeley - love their sauce, and adore their potato salad smothered in the sauce. most of the time the pork ribs - which is all i ever get - are tender fall-off-the-bone, with just the right amt. of crispy fat-to-meat ratio. occasionally you get a dry rib in an order, but i can forgive that. their hottest sauce isn't super hot either, but it's really tasty. Flint's sauces are hotter, but i like E&J's flavor better.

                    1. re: mariacarmen

                      Powell's moved to Eddy near Fillmore and are primarily known for their fried chicken. They have BBQ ribs on the menu but so far as I know no smoker.


                  2. re: Quasimodo Jr.
                    Robert Lauriston

                    Leon's Schmeon's. The best ribs ever in SF were at Vic and Betty's (TV ad catchphrase, "But what about de sauuuuuce?"). Unfortunately Betty caught Vic with another woman and killed him.

                    I like the ribs at Big Nate's. Have no idea if any of the other items on the menu are good.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      wow! I haven't thought about Vic & Betty's in many years. I gotta agree, the ribs there were better than Leon's or any of the current q places in the city. There was another place years ago called Do-city that I liked a lot too.

                      1. re: hongry dawg

                        Man, Do-City!! Blast from the past. Late 70s. Great pork ribs. Pay thru a lil' slot in the inch thick (bulletproof? I don't think so!) plex 'banker's window' , then food comes out a sliding door down about knee high. Ha ha ha. Good memories.

                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I grew up in S.F. recently returned looking for Vic & Betty's. Can anyone tell me when they folded and why?

                        1. re: glassglass

                          read about 3 entries upthread for your answer. I don't know when they closed, but it was a long time (20+years?) ago.

                            1. re: kevin

                              That's the story I heard 20 years ago.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston


                                anyone, know if bo's in lafayette is still good?

                                seems like memphis minnie's still getting the most votes for the brisket.

                                  1. re: kevin

                                    Bo's is good, albeit a bit different (read suburban). They use Angus beef and carry unique wine & beer selections. They serve sides like smoked yams and mixed greens salad. The brisket and sausage are top rate though.

                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Vic + Betty are my grandparents, and she did not kill him nor did she catch him with another. Unfortunately my papa (Vic) did pass away about five years ago. But I have to agree my nana makes the best bbq EVER. My mama makes Linda bugers (she's Linda) and my aunts are Terri and Vicki. Im waiting for thanksgiving dinner. Aaaaannnd Im rambling..

                                1. re: ope

                                  I'll stop repeating that rumor, then. Why did they close down? I moved to Italy for three years, came back, and was so sad to find it gone (no BBQ there). Still the high-water mark for Bay Area spareribs.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    It was just time to close down. It's always open for me though!! lmao! But yeah. That's just how the cookie crumbled.

                                  2. re: ope

                                    Yes, Vic and Betty's are/were the best ribs in the world and the rest of their BBQ was good too. My Parents owned the Botany (flower) Shop which was catty-corner to Vic and Betty's. I was too young to realize how good it was at the time and took the food for granted. I searched for 30 years (all corners of the USA) for that flavor and never found it until very recently at a private home. Boy did it bring back memories. I loved how Vic would get the hood/vent so full of grease and soot, the fire department seemed to be there once a month to put out a fire. They were also very generous and were my best sponsor for my Swim-A-Thons. I wish we had more money back then to have eaten there more often. OPE, would love to connect for a couple questions. Please tell your Nana, I really miss everything about the store.

                                    1. re: Tabascoman

                                      you can talk to me at kac123ige2@hotmail.com im opes older brother shes my granma lolz she's rite here also n shes remenisin about you, i think she remembers you and your parents shop

                                      but she lives in texas now and we are going to be opening the shop up again here in Fort Worth in May i Belive, she jus said maybe we can mail you some BBQ =]
                                      Also She Says Hi

                                  3. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Do City and Vic & Betty's were great! I miss them as much as I miss the fabled House of Piroshki in the Inner Sunset.

                                    1. re: cheesecakeking

                                      I miss the oyster po-boys at V&B's.

                                2. This may be heresy to some, but Costco carries cooked back ribs cryovac sealed in sauce, about $11 for over 2 lb...and they are really good. Had a party recently, and cheated with the BBQ...everyone loved them. Since back ribs go for about $4.50 lb raw, that is a very good deal. No health dept worries either...or getting mugged.

                                  1. Brothers-in-Law is your best bet, though it's more take-out than sit-down (they do have a coupla tables)... Cliff's BBQ out by Candlestick is also supposed to be good, though I haven't been there personally.

                                    As for Leon's, it was great, but Leon unfortunately passed away a few years ago.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: dave

                                      Jeez, I forgot all about Memphis Minnie's! It takes a knock for being "upscale," but Bob Kantor makes some of the best bbq anywhere... served with sauce on the side, 'cause "why'd I go to all the trouble to smoke the meat just to cover it up with sauce?" sez Bob... nice place to sit and eat, too, and just up the street from Toronado, which has dozens and dozens of great beers on tap in an appropriately dive-y setting.

                                      Link: http://www.memphisminnies.com

                                      1. re: dave

                                        Sorry, Brother In Laws is gone. Someone else is there now. Still the same dump, so I didn't even try the food

                                        1. re: hankstramm

                                          This topic got bumped, that's a three-year-old post. Brother-in-Law's is now Lilly's; she says she's brother-in-law's sister-in-law. Their ribs are good, as is their hot sauce.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Mike the owner of "da Pitt" aka Lilly's was a "brother in law". He runs a tigher ship. You can't miss him....

                                      2. Memphis Minnies if you can get over the cost hump- kind of expensive but good. Brothers in Law has good days and bad- they ain't got no secret. Try Claypool's in the Marina- had a fine pulled pork sandwich for $5 the other day, the problem was I coulda eaten 2.

                                        1. z
                                          Zach Georgopoulos

                                          My favorites are Johnson's, out on San Bruno Avenue, and Cliff's on Bayshore. Two completely different styles. Johnson's ribs are of the falling-off-the bone variety, and they pride themselves on their sauce so they are slathered (Johnson's medium sauce is pretty darned hot -- I have never tried the vaunted "Thermonuclear" sauce, as I value my esophagus). Cliff's is Alabama Style, with the ribs being a bit more firm and dry-rubbed, with the sauce on the side. Both have good sides, as well as other meat choices. I tend to always stick with ribs when I do Q, but I recall the brisket at Cliff's being quite good. A couple of years ago, a bunch of hounds had a BBQ taste-off, but I can't seem to find the link to the results. Maybe someone who's better at searching the site could help?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Zach Georgopoulos

                                            Wow, I really loved Cliff's for brisket & ribs, but Johnson's is downright questionable, IMO. Maybe they were better back in '04? One time I finally got them to provide the sauce on the side. Lets just say that it’s no coincidence it was the last time I was there...

                                          2. If you're willing to come over the the East Bay, there is Doug's at San Pablo and 37th in Emeryville and CJ's at 24th and McDonald in Richmond. I think both are among the best Texas BBQ places I've ever been to so definitely check them out. Flint's is good too but their hours are not exactly reliable.
                                            CJ's probably should be done during daylight hours by the way.

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: kevine

                                              Could you tell us more about CJ's?

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                Found it a few months ago when Doug's and Flint's were closed and was suffering a terrible BBQ jones. They have Texas-style BBQ pork ribs, beef, chicken, fish, oysters as well as other types of sandwiches. 3 sauces for the BBQ: hot, medium and mild. I'm usually a freak for hot food (I regularly eat jalapenos straight up) but the hot sauce is really HOT, almost too much but all of the levels taste fantastic. Sides are great too, especially the baked beans; never had better.
                                                I think they're closed Sun-Mon. I'd recommend going during daylight even though they're right downtown; can't vouch for safety after dark.

                                                1. re: kevine

                                                  That sounds great, thanks! Some of these 'cue joints are so unreliable, you need something in your back pocket for just the situation you ran into.

                                                  Is this the correct contact info?

                                                  CJ's Barbecue & Fish
                                                  2401 MacDonald Ave
                                                  Richmond, CA 94804
                                                  (510) 235-7471

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                      Re risking your life just to get good cue: I used to drive all the way to the Everett & Jones on Fruitvale in Oakland. One night, while eating the delicious ribs -- love their sauce which some grocery stores now sell -- a man in an oversized coat walked in with a pitbull dog and they asked him to take the dog outside and a big argument started up and he threatened to shoot everyone in the place. I thought it'd be a real shame for me to die that way. It was resolved when they gave him some free food to go and now they have big bullet proof windows. Now, the location on San Pablo at University in Berkeley is more convenient.

                                                      1. re: walker

                                                        that's usually the deal with good cue.

                                                        if there's bulletproof glass, and it's mostly takeout, then there's a good correlation to there being some really darn good cue there.

                                                        1. re: kevin

                                                          I've found pretty much the opposite correlation in SF and the Richmond-Oakland corridor.

                                              2. if you're willing to make the trip down to the south bay, try uncle frank's texas barbecue, in east palo alto. the brisket is amazing, cooked 30 hours, and is definitely the star among other delicious items like beef links, pork ribs, and chicken. the cornbread is great too. its on pulgas in epa, with short hours on sunday.

                                                1. If you drive out to Lafayette, Bo's Barbeque is fantastic.

                                                  1. I was expecting to open up messages and see reference to Calvin Trillin's recent visit and claim of no good 'que in SF.
                                                    My regular fix is from Everett and Jones -- from one of their three EB locations. I've been disappointed by both Doug's and Big Nate's. Fond memories of Flint's, but last time must have caught them on one of their down swings and the noted problem of finding them open, so it has been a couple years. Bo's is good and I love the haphazard fine-wine offerings and the great outdoor, under-trees seating -- which they stayed open later.

                                                    I like spicy too -- CJ's is now on my to-do list...

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. Another vote for Big Nate's, though they can be hit or miss.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: tobze

                                                        My visit to Big Nate's was such a miss that I haven't returned. Really tough brisket. I can conjure up lots of reasons for too fatty, too dry, etc. But not way too tough.

                                                        1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                                          Hit up Big Nates the other day. The chopped brisket was okay, but the ribs were tough as nails. I liked the smoke sausages, potato salad, and coleslaw though.

                                                          I still haven't been able to find consistently good ribs in San Francisco since Cliff's went down. Outside of town I really like Bo's for ribs.

                                                          1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                                            Somewhere new for you to check out, my post on the California board,

                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                              Oh boy, that's enough to get me to try bbq'd beef ribs again (I don't think I've ever liked them, including at Jerome's in Petaluma). Also, I have a note about great ribs at Smalley's in Salinas. Problem is that Salinas isn't exactly on my regular route...

                                                          2. re: tobze

                                                            I had a decade of misses at Big Nates. Lived in the neighborhood. Tried everything on the menu mainly out of convenience. Average at best, dry and tasteless at worse. I see they are advertising on tv lately.

                                                          3. In the city, Memphis Minnies gets my vote. The smoked pork is amazing and the sweet tea is legit, but the sides and cornbread are pretty weak.

                                                            I really like the sauce at everett and jones, the meat is nice and smokey, but the brisket and ribs tend to be very fatty and the chicken gets dry. Beans are decent, yams are wonderful. Weak cornbread.

                                                            No one has mentioned back 40 texas BBQ yet. The beef ribs, which I don't usually care for, are fantastic. Definetly on the greasy side, but worth it for the flavor. Baby backs are hit or miss. The sauces are good and the sides are better than most places. The new one in Walnut Creek/Pleasant Hill is huge and has a full bar. Has a chain restaurant feel, but better than chain restaurant food.


                                                            8 Replies
                                                            1. re: Fussy Foodie

                                                              I'll second Memphis Minnie’s in San Francisco. I BBQ competitively and am also a certified judge, and have yet to find anything that could beat MM's brisket.

                                                              ps-if anyone is interested, there is an informal BBQ contest at the Petaluma Market this Sunday. Around 1:00pm the public will be judging on brisket, country style ribs, and chicken.

                                                              1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                I agree about Memphis Minnie's brisket and (usually) ribs. It's the best barbecue in the Bay Area to me and as good as any I've had anywhere (mostly Kansas City, some Texas).

                                                                Who will the BBQ contenders be at the Petaluma event? Sounds like a good excuse to drive to Petaluma.

                                                                1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                                                  I'm sorry Mick, but I have no idea who will be competing other than KNRBQ (me!). There are some odd rules like a 2-backyard smoker maximum and all the food having to be ready at the same time, so I have no idea what to expect. Moreover, this is apparently the first event for this promoter. Still, I 'd check it out if you don't have to far travel...

                                                                  1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                    Thanks! If you're competing, it must sound like a good enough event for you to do that. I'll probably stop by and taste some good bbq.

                                                                2. re: Civil Bear

                                                                  > there is an informal BBQ contest at the Petaluma Market this Sunday. Around 1:00pm the public will be judging on brisket, country style ribs, and chicken.<

                                                                  Thanks. I got up there soon after 1pm and it was fine for a small event like that. But by then all the ribs and most of the brisket were gone. Which group were you with (and where located)? What was the name of the winery that had a team there (name started with "C"); they had everything except ribs available and I thought it was quite good.

                                                                  1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                                                    Glad you were able to make it MR. The event was a lot of fun, though the lack of structure made things a bit hectic. I was cooking for KNRBQ, located in the first competition stall outside the market doors (next to the large smoker-trailer passing out free hotdogs & burgers,

                                                                    We were told that we would be preparing briskets, country style ribs (rib looking strips cut from pork shoulder), and half-chickens, and that we should have them ready by 1:00pm for judging. As it turned out, the butcher didn't feel like cutting hundreds of country style ribs, so we all received 10-lb pork butts instead. Since I wasn't sure if the "ribs" had to be cut a certain way, we opted do go with Carolina pulled pork, which was a bit of a challenge due to the time restraints.

                                                                    Anyway, at about 12:15 the market folks started passing out ballots to the public and some teams started serving food. Luckily our brisket was finished earlier than expected, so we were able to serve it up by 12:30. At about 1:00pm the chicken was done, so we started passing that out. As originally feared the pork butt went a bit long, so at 1:30 we took it off the smoker a bit early, chopped it up, and served mini NC pulled-pork sandwiches topped with a bit of coleslaw (turned out they had too much bread in the meat-to-bread ratio, blech).

                                                                    Overall things turned out pretty well, and we managed to take home third place. First place went to the pros at the opposite end (serving pulled pork, brisket, and chicken tacos), and second place went to the Petaluma Market team, so we were happy with our results. And it looked like the public had a good time too, as you rarely see so much free food getting passed around!


                                                                    1. re: Civil Bear

                                                                      Ha, I think I was too late for your brisket and too early for your pulled pork. I only stayed for "one round" of the stalls. The other-end stall that you said got 1st place only had chicken tacos when I arrived. Do you recall the name of the stall from a winery (name started with a "C") in the row nearest the building and facing away from it. They were one that had brisket, pork and chicken remaining and it was all quite good. Sorry I wan't an early bird so I could have tried more brisket (the two other brisket samples I had, from stalls nearer the Western St. entrance, weren't very good).

                                                                      1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                                                        Too bad about the brisket. Out of the three items, we were most happy with the beef. Sill, it had a ways to go to get to Memphis Minnie's caliber.

                                                                        Sorry, but I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the winery. I believe right next them was an ol' salty looking guy smoking his chickens hanging from the inside of a couple of upright 55-gal drums. Classic!

                                                              2. Brothers-in-Law is now Lilly's (But it looks and smells the same) at Divis. and Grove and Powell's Place is now at Fillmore and Eddy (not Hayes). One option is Delessio's Bakery at Broderick between Fell and Oak. My father was in town recently and wanted some good brisket (he's Texan) They make their own (not every day) and it was really good.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: cafecreme

                                                                  Last weekend, I was all excited to check out Lilly's (new Brother-In-Law's BBQ) on Divis... the brisket was inedible. It hadn't been smoked nearly long enough. The fat it in remained grisley. I couldn't even it eat it. I haven't had the other items on their menu, but I was sorely disappointed. I used to live in that neighborhood and ate at Brother-In-Law's a lot.

                                                                  It looks super cheesy from the outside, by Memphis Minnie's gets my vote in the city. In the East Bay, the Everette and Jones on San Pablo at University Ave is tasty.

                                                                2. Roadhouse bbq wasn't mentioned (2nd/Geary). I understand why, it's only average at best. Meats can come cold and the sides are lousy. Some people seem to like it though.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: hankstramm

                                                                    Lots of reports about Roadhouse in topics started since 2004, notably:


                                                                    1. re: hankstramm

                                                                      The few times I've been to Roadhouse I thought it was good. The meat was never cold and I liked both the brisket and pulled pork (both in sandwiches). The beans were very poor, thin with not much flavor (I read that they had improved lately), but I liked the non-mayo slaw and the sweet potato fries were great although not really "barbecue food". I'd put it #2 behind Memphis Minnie's. That's without trying the ribs.

                                                                      1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                                                        Oops, the name is Roadside BBQ, not Roadhouse. Their ribs aren't by a long shot as good as MM's.


                                                                    2. It's not a restaurant, and it's not in SF, but Stephanie Perry, who at the unfortunately closed Perry's Food for the Soul in San Leandro made ribs as good or better than Flint's in its heyday, has a catering company.


                                                                      1. The problem with Nate's is they FORK everything. By the time the ribs are done or anything, they have forked it 25 times and any moisture in the ribs or meat is cooked out. All of his food is drier than cardboard made out of cotton. I told them one day to get rid of their forks and they looked at me as if I just arrived from Taft, California. If they just bough some tongs they would improve their product by 200%. All of that work and then some idiot forks it 25 -30 time and gives it to you, Hell, if Nate just took a trip to Texas or the Southeast and looked, he'd see they all use tongs for handling their brisket, ribs, chicken etc. Wake up Nate! You could have lines out the door if you throw away those FORKS!!!

                                                                        Big Nate's Bar-B-Que
                                                                        1665 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                                                        1. Anybody Who Recollections About Vic And Bettys BBQ( Vic And Betty Are My Grandparents ), Id Love To Hear From You, Im Linda Burgers Son Lolz... You Can Reply Here Or My Email kac123ige2@hotmail.com

                                                                          PS Vic n Bettys Is Reopening May This Year In Fort Worth Texas "With The Same Soulful Menu".