West Coast BBQ - La Mesa - Bekkers Returns!
This past Sunday I had dinner at the new West Coast BBQ in La Mesa. The restaurant is run by the same family who ran Bekkers, formerly on Mission Gorge Road. According to their website, this restaurant (and catering business) is officially headed by the daughter Maria, though it sounds like mom & dad still have a presence behind the scenes.
I could smell smoke from the restaurant before I could see it. The restaurant is located in the Ross shopping center on Lake Murray Drive (turn in at the stoplight next to the Jack-in-the-Box) and is very easy to get to from both the north and south. Smelling the smoke makes me wonder if the surrounding neighbors may end up complaining like Phil's neighbors did since the shopping center is in the middle of a residential area.
There was a line waiting to get in since they don't open until 4pm. They have tables and chairs out front and we had to wait until the staff set up the tables and chairs and cover the tables with table cloths before we could enter the restaurant (couldn't they have come out before 4pm and set everything up before hand?). I guess they're still working the kinks out, having just recently opened. I know some of their waitstaff are new as I could hear an older woman (Maria herself?) quietly instructing our waitress about refilling glasses, bringing the bread out, etc.
It took a while before the waitress was able to get to our table to take our order. Then it took more time for it to arrive at our table but then again, this isn't fast food.
I had the 3-item combo which included 3 meats (chicken, pulled pork and your choice of ribs) and 2 sides. The sides arrive in the typical small white dishes you've seen at countless other BBQ places. I'm always surprised with BBQ joints who don't throw the bits and pieces of BBQ meat into their baked beans or their chili which was also the case here. Both the baked beans and their chili were missing that extra kick that the presence of smoked meat could have given them. The baked beans are a little sweet but still good and the chili was also good (not overly spicy) but again, was missing any sort of smokiness you'd expect at a BBQ joint. I also had the slaw which I thought was good, crisp and not swimming in dressing.
The pulled pork is a misnomer, actually. It's not really pulled. It's served sliced and we could see the pink smoke ring in some of the slices. It had a nice smokey flavor and was quite tender and I also got a couple "burnt ends" (end bits where the pork is crispy).
For my ribs I asked for the pork ribs which ended up being fall-off-the-bone tender.
We didn't order the beef ribs but I did see several other diners ordering them. Of course, the beef ribs are huge and it looked like you got a decent portion (though they have two portion sizes, according to their menu). I wasn't even able to try my chicken as I was full by the time I made it through the pork and pork ribs. The chicken was slathered with their BBQ sauce. My brother said his chicken was good.
They do have 3 different cobblers for dessert which arrived in those ubiquitous little white dishes and amounted to little more than 3 or 4 bites. The menu says the cobbler comes with whipped cream but of the three cobblers we ordered, all of them were missing the whipped cream. That's just a small quibble. The few bites we had were good though not spectacular.
They have an Express Window on the front of their restaurant so you can call in your order in ahead of time and swing by to pick it up. There were people waiting for their orders sitting outside when we left the restaurant. The Express Window also has its own menu which includes large amounts for families.
They are running a coupon in some San Diego papers but the menu price is basically the same as the coupon price except with the coupon you get dessert thrown in.
Even though the wait to order and then receive your food is longer than it should be, overall, it was a good dining experience.
They're open Tuesday through Sunday from 4pm to 10:30pm. It's a shame they aren't open for lunch.
I ate here the first week it opened and was cautiously optomistic. I got the last order of pork ribs that night and they were falling-off-the-bone tender but somewhat dry. The cobbler portion the first week was huge but not all that good. Sounds like they've (appropriately) scaled it back. BTW, those little round dishes are called "monkey dishes" in the trade.
On several subsequent visits I've had the pulled pork, and it was pulled, not sliced. The beef has been very good, nice and tender with a decent smoke flavor. It's been my experience that the smoke ring is more evident on the beef than the pork. The beef has, so far, tended to be a bit on the dry side, but BBQ cures that. Their house BBQ sauce is okay, but I think a bit sweet. I keep swearing to try the chipotle BBQ sauce but always forget to order it <sigh>
We've had the beans and they were actually very good and ours did contain bits of meat. And I'd agree that they, too, are a little too sweet, but not cloyingly so. The sweetness sort of grows on you and they seeem to go better with the beef than the pork for some reason. We've also had the cole slaw (okay, most likely not made on site) and the house green salad that's really too huge before a combo meal ;-).
We did not experience the same service problems. On all visits our service has been friendly and super speedy, almost to quick. The BBQ Pit on Fletcher Parkway is good, West Coast BBQ is better. They been open about 4 months and are still somewhat inconsistent, though the swings in product quality are getting smaller and smaller. I think they may still be experimenting with menu itmes and service. We've used their take out service and it's quick and easy.
I'm sure the BBQ afficionados will pick this place apart once they find it, which is too bad. Their food is good and it provides serious options in an area that is woefully barren of anything remotely decent to eat. I think it's better than Phil's and it's definitely a better value.
The Mister brought home the pulled pork family dinner for 2 ($16) -it was at least 2 pounds (even though it should be one pound; maybe they knew it would just get thrown out-it was close to 8 pm and they close at 8:30) - tender, smoky, could see rings on the pieces of skin that were part of it all. It came with a 1/2 pint of sauce (sweet, vinegary and smoky) and a pint each of the cole slaw (good, crispy, fresh, light sauce) and baked beans (sweet not mushy with a tang and some meat pieces) and 3 rolls.
We liked it a lot.