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baby blues bbq opening in SF. any word?

ugh. ok second time around posting this. something ate my report when i tried to post it, and the add place function might be the culprit...ahem

a man gave me a business card for an upcoming barbecue joint that he's doing work on. it's called baby blues bbq, and will be at 3149 mission st @ precita. it's a branch of the original in LA, in venice. a quick search on that board shows that the places has its fans but plenty of people going, "meh." but it's barbecue, so that's how it goes. supposedly was featured in that food network show with the guy with the peroxide spiky do, which doesn't mean anything pro or con to me, but the place seems well known. just hoping that the SF branch is good, as it's really close by

it's supposed to open in about a month, the guy said. any word? any opinions on the original in LA? i'm not even going to try to add place.

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  1. I never got around to trying the original in LA, but reviews are as you describe. If you're going to try it, their specialty seems to be North Carolina-style pulled pork, so that would be your best bet. I believe I've also heard good things about the banana pudding.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cicely

      Although the pulled pork has its fans, I was not impressed the one time I tried it.

    2. This place is very near my house and I glance inside every day. (The old Drugstore with the gorgeous signage--that signage better remain in place, by the way.) It's been in the works for at least a year, and now I see activity at least, but it's still just lumber in there. At least the city notice is on the window now.

      I'm definitely looking forward to the opening.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Atomica

        Supposed to open December 13, but if you walk by it right now, you'll say, "No way that's happening."

        1. re: Atomica

          well, sooner or later. excited since george's BBQ on 24th isn't barbecue, as i've heard ad nauseam from a friend from texas, who doesn't seem to hear me when i say that i already understood this. poor man must be homesick.

          1. re: augustiner

            Where does friend-from-Texas suggest in the Bay Area?

          2. re: Atomica

            Hi. I too live in the neighborhood and was shocked that they were able to do a soft opening on Dec 13. We ate there that night and again the other night with a large group. The guy running it is the brother of the guy that owns or runs the Venice branch. While some of the servers lack experience, he makes sure he gets around the dining room often to ask for feed back. We suggested a spicy sauce after our first meal and they have added one to the tables.

            I've tried most of the menu items. They're still working out the kinks with their smokers, and I have had a few dry ribs there (these were taken off the bill completely). I prefer the baby back to the Memphis ribs and the corn bread is slightly sweet and very moist. Most of the sides are decent and improving but none have been amazing as of yet. Most recently we split the smallest "feed bag" for a group of 8 big eaters and it was way too much food. The pulled pork and beef were tender and moist. I didn't try the chicken. I think the sandwiches are a good deal otherwise the prices are a little high to make it a regular thing.

            Again though, they're trying really hard to please people in the neighborhood and are planning on adding delivery soon. Give them a try.

            1. re: Candice

              Place link doesn't work yet but web site is under construction but up.

              1. re: wolfe


                Baby Blues BBQ
                3149 Mission St, San Francisco, CA

        2. Most of the people who pan Baby Blues in LA do so because of the Venice vibe, not the food. These guys know smoked meat. Skip the pulled pork and brisket, and stick with the long ribs and chicken, which are excellent. Sides are a weak point, but I do enjoy the mayo slaw and the corn on the cob.

          2 Replies
          1. re: a_and_w

            Some help on what, exactly, a "long rib" is? Do they mean full (untrimmed) spare ribs? or do they sell the fat end of the slab separate from the shorter ribs down at the other end? Were talking pork here, right?

            1. re: tex.s.toast

              Untrimmed pork spare ribs -- so delicious.

          2. Baby Blues is in my neighborhood of Santa Monica/Venice. Arguments over the best BBQ in LA are never consensus, and Baby Blues has its share of supporters and detractors. Personally it's my favorite. And I have tried many in LA. That said, LA BBQ is lacking in comparison with other parts of the country, like Memphis, KC, Texas. But I'm glad it's in my neighborhood. I just hope you all can appreciate it as I do.

            1. the chronicle mistakenly listed baby blues as having opened, which i'm guessing is causing them a bit of grief, because management just posted on yelp apologizing for the delay, explaining that their smoker has yet to arrive. they're aiming at first week in january, now.

              1. I just moved to Napa from the LA area, and I travel to Texas and Memphis for work fairly frequently, and I do LOVE good BBQ as does my wife. The Los Angeles/Venice Baby Blues location is our absolute favorite BBQ in the LA area. When we heard that Baby Blues was now open in San Francisco, my wife and I agreed that we need to make a trip to San Fran from Napa to try it and see if it's as good as the LA location. I'll post soon after we try it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: BigE1967

                  I moved to the Bay Area from LA recently and agree with Big E. I thought Baby Blues was great. I had BBQ from Bo's in Lafayette recently and thought that Baby Blues was WAY better than Bo's. I'm just sad they are opening in SF and not in the East Bay near me.

                2. It doesn't seem like there are many reports, so I will just give my experience in a nutshell. Horrific service. Pulled pork is really ugh - no flavor. The hot sauce I tried on it was all heat with no flavor. I wish I had gone to the Mexican place I was headed to when I saw it. Maybe some of the other food is good, and maybe they will get the kinks in the service worked out, but I will wait until I see some real changes. being reported.

                  1. Any reports on this place? There was a lot of chatter prior to the opening, but not many reports back on the Q.

                    Worth trying, or just another poor SF attempt at BBQ?

                    5 Replies
                      1. re: murdoch

                        I lived in Memphis for a few years before moving to San Francisco. Memphis Minnies is on par with many of the good barbecue joints in that region. The ribs are pretty consistent -- the sides are a problem, but SF blue plate restaurants typically do not do a very credible job of duplicating Southern sides like mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, greens, etc. However, the ribs are very good.

                        I'll be interesetd to try Baby Blues.

                        1. re: zachschef

                          What sides are a problem? Ive had the potato salad, greens (with a non-traditional fruity taste that I dig), fries, beans - all were very good. And that brisket...oy vey, no sauce needed except one time when it was too dry. My problem with these places is their sauces - the 3 ive tried (Minnies, Roadside, and the venice Baby Blues) all offer the vinergary NC sauces, not the traditional tomato based sweet/spicy that I love.

                          1. re: Josh90004

                            Minnies actually offers two types of sauces -- or at least did. The beans are fine. I find the greens bitter and they are not tender (too many tough stems which I expect accounts for the bitterness) and the potato salad a bit watery. The last time we tried the sweet potatoes and were disappointed to find them swimming in syrup.

                            1. re: zachschef

                              There are actually four sauces - in addition to the vinegar and red sauces you'll find the NC style mustard sauce on every table and a bottle of hot (seriously, hot) sauce at the counter.

                      2. Bump...
                        Does anyone have any recent experiences with Baby Blues BBQ? Not a lot of descriptions in the responses so far. How's the smoke flavor in the meats? What type of sauce are they using? Best items to try (someone mentioned the long ribs). Just looking to see if anyone has anything more to say.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: virtualguthrie

                          Despite what people say about the Venice vibe, Baby Blues stacks up against the best BBQ in LA. All of their sauces and rubs are made from scratch. I go for lunch when they first open and it isn't crowded and they have lunch combo plates that are pretty reasonable. Good pulled pork sandwiches and pork ribs are tender and smokey.


                          Menu: http://www.usmenuguide.com/babybluesb...

                          Baby Blues BBQ
                          444 Lincoln Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                          1. re: virtualguthrie

                            I sense major hesitation on trying Baby Blues and the SF Gate article doesn't help.

                            Bad bbq is one of those things that damages the psyche of the palette like few other foods.

                            One because it's a visceral food/experience and two because it's personal...and that's not even mentioning the traditional elements and expectations. Someone is going to have to bit the bullet sometime however.

                            1. re: ML8000

                              I'd love to step up. I'm looking forward to it, actually. So far I've sampled two sandwiches that I took home -- pulled pork and chicken -- and both were very good. Not enough of a sampling to give a real report, but enough of a tease to make me want more.

                              1. re: BernalKC

                                Alright...look forward to your report. I think many people are.

                          2. My wife and I tried the ribs, brisket and pulled pork. None of the items taste like they were slow smoked. In fact, it all tastes as if they were oven baked. The cornbread was dense and soggy ( not cooked enough) and the collard greens were also not cooked enough and under spiced. We came away feeling like this was not real bbq but any standard. Too bad because we live within walking distance. I think we will stick to Memphis Minnies and Bo's.

                            1. Sounds like this place can be hit or miss. I got Friday night delivery (yes BBQ delivered to my doorstep) from this place a few weeks ago and overall found it to be quite good. I tried the Memphis Queen (1/2 baby back ribs, 1/2 memphis style), 1/2 lb pulled pork, 1/2 lb beef brisket, beans, collard greens, coleslaw, cornbread.

                              Everything arrived pretty hot and within 45 min or so. The cornbread was absolutely delicious (cripsy on the bottom, corn kernels throughout), the beans and coleslaw were good (beans had chunks of pork, coleslaw was vinegary). I prefered the baby back to memphis (found it to be juicier), but both styles were quite smokey.) I would NOT recommend the pulled pork which to me tasted like dirty socks (not sure what that was about). I absolutely loved the brisket though which was surprisingly very vinegary. Both came in little plastic containers that had pools of oil (I had no problem with this but am sure others may be turned off). My boyfriend wasn't a fan of the greens but I thought they were good (much better than the crap at Hard Knox). Also, really liked the very hot sauce.

                              For comparison, I'd rate these guys higher than Memphis Minnie's.

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: carfeng

                                Do they even have a smoker ?
                                From the texture and taste I think they are oven baking most stuff. The food doesn't strike me as being slow smoked. In other words there is something not right about this place. I cannot honestly recommend it.

                                1. re: jpgsf

                                  I'm pretty sure you are wrong. They definitely smoke in LA -- you can see the pink in the meat. I would be shocked if the SF branch doesn't have a smoker.

                                  PS: Further research suggests they have two smokers at the SF location:


                                  So, unless they've had some problem with the city authorities, the meat should be smoked.

                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                    Problems with city authorities over smoking in San Francisco, you must be kidding.

                                    1. re: a_and_w

                                      I spoke to them and they told me that they first " smoke " their meat and then finish it on the grill ( hence the grill marks). To me this is not real bbq - by any stretch of the imagination or style: Texas, Memphis, etc.

                                      1. re: jpgsf

                                        Fair enough, though I haven't noticed grill marks in the LA branch. Regardless, your information was clearly wrong. Their meat is smoked, not oven baked, even if it lacks the red ring I would ideally prefer.

                                        1. re: a_and_w

                                          No matter what it isn't good and not worth putting up with a disorganized operation.

                                          1. re: jpgsf

                                            I can respect that -- many have complained about the service.

                                          2. re: a_and_w

                                            Ah, but does a gas smoker really count as a "smoker", particularly if they are not adding enough wood to produce a smoke ring?

                                            1. re: Civil Bear

                                              I think it may be the length of time in the smoker, rather than the amount of wood, but your point is well taken either way.

                                              1. re: a_and_w

                                                Just a note on the smoke ring. It is fully developed in the first 3-5 hours in the smoker. Once the meat exterior hits 135F, the chemical reactions that develop the ring are shutdown. That is why veteran que'ers know to add the meat to the smoker cold if they want a thicker ring.

                                                1. re: Civil Bear

                                                  Fascinating...further research suggests that the smoke ring has nothing necessarily to do with the smoke. The reaction can be replicated with the right chemicals (Tender Quick salt) in an ordinary oven! As a result, some competition criteria actually discourage judges from putting too much weight on the smoke ring.

                                  2. Well Atomica as you said the signage is still there and because I had forgotten I was cursing my GPS when it announced I had arrived. My brisket made a very nice sandwich with my Thorough Bakery Baguette but it was not BBQ, no smoke.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: wolfe

                                      I agree. I think they oven bake their food.

                                      1. re: jpgsf

                                        Again, skip the brisket and the pulled pork for the long ribs and chicken.

                                    2. So what does "authentic" mean?

                                      I have been lurking on this site for a long time -- silent really because I have been in awe of Melanie and Xiao Yang and others ... whose knowledge and advice is so dead-on and who keep getting to "authentic" Asian places before we do.

                                      So, although we have eaten our way through China (including a week in Chengdu and the ma po tofu at the descendent restaurant of Grandma Chen's original place, one of the great dishes of my life along with the Truffle Soup at Bocuse) and we know what "authentic" Sichuan is, I just didn't feel I could add much.

                                      "Melanie" is a household word at our place, as in "Melanie's mother says..." How could I compete with Melanie's mom. And her Salinas taco truck map.

                                      I've also been described as having "barbecued" my way across the US several times and my wife is a Southern girl who craves her greens and banana pudding and chess pie. So, the opening of a version of Venice Beach's Baby Blues BBQ is a chance, maybe, for me to give something back to this site. Last night we had a pleasant meal there -- the Big Blue platter (Memphis Ribs, brisket, and a Texas Rib) and banana pudding. Pretty OK, but was it great? No. Authentic? Well, that's a loaded word.

                                      BBQ has different meanings wherever you go, and in Kansas City and the South (Texas, La, NC, SC, TN, ...) there is no agreement about many aspects (sauce or no sauce, pork cuts, beef, ... Within one state, North Carolina, there are huge arguments (as intense as rooting for Carolina or Duke) about Eastern vs. Western Carolina sauce (vinegar based, without or with tomato).

                                      But throughout this region, there is general agreement that BBQ involves very slow cooking (many hours), lots of smoke, no high heat grilling, no par-boiling, a preference for brick ovens with real wood (not gas flame and chips -- though many places do that).

                                      In the Midwest, ribs (except at some excellent black-run shacks) are generally parboiled and grilled and sauced. They can be quite delicious. Many years ago we had a Swiss cousin visiting in the Chicago area and we took him to Carson's (a local ribs chain) and he is still talking about it as the best meal he had in the US.
                                      In California, "BBQ" usually applies to something which Southerners would call "grilled". Santa Maria BBQ is wonderful but very different in concept from Southern BBQ.

                                      The owner of Memphis Minnie has studied Southern barbecuing. I believe he is even a certified BBQ judge and has judged at Memphis in May. Their brisket is as close as I have ever found to real Texas brisket -- Louis Mueller in Taylor, TX being, perhaps, the supreme -- particularly if you ask for it cut from the "moist" end (as I learned to do at Mueller's). Their ribs and pulled pork could be found at good pits in the Carolinas. Other places like Nate's and Brother in Law's (or whatever they are called now) also specialize in very slow real wood smoking.

                                      The first clue that something was different at Baby Blues was the long wait after ordering, even though the place was not too full. BBQ in the south is all cooked and ready to serve after a quick slicing or chopping. The 2 types of ribs at Blues were somewhat smoky and charred. The brisket, we were advised in advance was "pulled" as pork often is. All quite pleasant as I said.

                                      Later I saw what was going on in the kitchen -- a large gas grill was covered with meat they were charring. Apparently there is some kind of wood chip based smoker and they then grill some individual ribs to add to the flavor. We agreed it reminded us of Midwest (Carson's like) par-boiled and grilled.

                                      The sauces, I thought, were very good, actually better than Minnie's. Actually reminded me of Bryant's in KC (but nothing could be that good).

                                      Things are not always so simple -- in Memphis there are 2 kinds of ribs - wet (Corky's is the prototype) and dry (Rendezvous). Sometimes I suspected that Rendezvous might actually have put their ribs on a grill to char them -- so Baby Blues was not too far off there. But dry ribs in Memphis are completely covered as a single slab with a red pepper based spice powder, and not served with sauce.

                                      The greens passed the Southern-girl's approval -- though they have a little tomato in them, she said, as a more subtle sweetener than at Memphis Minnie's, which she thinks are too sweet (but I like better). The slaw was OK. We think Minnie's is better. The banana pudding failed -- "really just banana cream pie without the pie" -- and was not finished (waitress comped it). Southern-wife does (strongly) approve of the banana pudding at Minnie's and the sweet potato pie and the chess pie (at Brother in Law's, I think.).

                                      On the way home, we passed Eric's, an "authentic-Noe-Valley Chinese" place and concluded that Baby Blue's is a fine enough authentic-Venice-Beach "BBQ" place. We'll go back, some day. But we really like Minnie's and Spices II because they are "authentic" to very special old traditions.

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: Thomas Nash

                                        Great analysis Thomas, thanks for adding some perspective. I'll probably eat there sometime as I live nearby, but I guess I won't be getting a definitve BBQ experience.

                                        1. re: Thomas Nash

                                          I stand corrected re the grilling -- thanks for th info. But how can you possibly equate smoking with wood chips to parboiling? The two techniques do totally different things to the meat. Also, I'm surprised a "Southern girl" would be satisfied by the greens, which are prepared without pork. I'm still very curious to try Memphis Minnie's, which was closed when I went by on my last visit to SF.

                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                            Agree that parboiling and smoking with chips are different. I think the point I was making is that when you put lightly smoked (as at Blues) or parboiled ribs on a gas grill, the charred meat flavor dominates -- and this is very unlike the typical long and slow smoked Southern pork.

                                            As to the greens, Southern girl says there were chunks of pork in them. She never saw a green, as I can remember, she didn't like (likes Italian greens with olive oil and garlic as at Delfina Pizza), and thought Blue's were "pretty good".

                                            1. re: Thomas Nash

                                              Points well taken. Less time in the smoker means fewer beneficial effects of slow cooking with indirect heat. This clearly explains the absence of a true smoke ring. Still, I would urge folks to give them another shot when they've worked out the kinks. The long ribs and chicken are quite tasty.

                                              PS: ML8000, could you be thinking of Mr. Cecil's, which used to tout their parboiling?

                                          2. re: Thomas Nash

                                            Indeed, great analysis. Now that i think of it, I remember a similar "BBQ" process in SoCal where I grew up. There was this place, Zubies, that did the same thing -- some very mild smoking or oven prep and finished on the grill. I think they were listed as "ribs" on the menu since it was only one item and nothing else in the place was BBQ.

                                            1. re: ML8000

                                              Zubies? You can't possibly mean that place in Costa Mesa, can you?

                                              1. re: Calvinist

                                                Yup. I haven't been there forever like 15-20 years ago. I understand it closed then re-opened/changed but that's the place. Any way, the ribs were grilled but they were good for what they were, just don't think of them as full Q.

                                                p.s. I stopped by for food, not the "nightlife".

                                            2. re: Thomas Nash

                                              Thanks. Good analysis. Still, this place has a long, long way to go before they can be considered top notch. Part of the problem is that they have too many menu items. As the old saying goes: the thing is either good or it's not...
                                              I'll stick to Bo's & Memphis Minnie's .

                                              1. re: Thomas Nash

                                                Thanks so much for that great piece, Thomas. Have you read "Smokestack Lightning"? After reading it I saw clearly that, as you said, BBQ has different meanings wherever you go. I too find MM's brisket and ribs as good as I've had in Kansas City and Texas, and for me it's by far the best in the Bay Area.

                                                1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                                  I completely agree regarding Memphis Minnie's. Also, I want to add Bo's does a fine job.
                                                  Their links, ribs and brisket are wonderful.

                                                  1. re: jpgsf

                                                    Definitely the two best spots in the Bay Area!

                                              2. there's a little-known operation called Sneaky's BBQ that a few guys run out of their backyard, i think somewhere in the mission. It's pretty underground, but you can get on their email list for once-a-week delivery I think they have a website and maybe on Yelp or facebook or something.

                                                Hands down the best BBQ in the area. They deliver it to your door, its cheaper than any of the SF restaurants, and it is the real deal. Carolina pulled pork and best ribs I've ever had.

                                                2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                                    Thank you SMC and MR...that's too good to pass up.

                                                1. I'm not a fan Memphis or Carolina style bbq served in California so I won't comment too much on the meats (we tried nearly everything but the sausage and catfish) except to say everything was pretty good, not amazing. The service was very helpful with ordering advice and checking in with us - a long period did pass before the food came to the table though.

                                                  The beer menu is Lame.

                                                  1. We went Friday after drinks across the street at El Rio. My companions liked the food better than I did; something didn't agree with me, possibly just eating big slabs of meat. I'm not a purist about BBQ, and personally don't like a lot of smoke.

                                                    Oddly my favorite thing was the shrimp. The ribs were giant and tender but cooked too long and not that flavorful. Sides were okay--the creamed spinach in particular looked good. I liked my collards and mac and cheese, but didn't really finish anything.

                                                    Service was very friendly and efficient. The place was packed (apparently bbq is recession proof). Prices are okay, although the combos are expensive, and I can't imagine not wanting a combo over a giant slab of ribs.

                                                    Sweet tea for $3 a glass was not good. The wine list isn't a good match for the food. The best option was Syrah, which was only available for $40 a bottle.

                                                    So I guess like augustiner, I wanted to like it more than I did. Which is a shame because it's very convenient. But there are better dinner options in the neighborhood (Lotus Garden, Inka's, Yo's), many of which are hurting for business.