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Any serious BBQ to recommend in SF/Bay Area? Hosting a Texas native - and need to impress.

Hi - am hosting a Texan native and recent Louisiana transplant who is convinced that - while SF has good eats - there will be no decent BBQ in town. Any suggestions? Thanks!

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  1. I don't usually agree with Texans on many thing but based on the briskets I have imported from Texas he may be right. Best start at Memphis Minnies and hope it's a good day.

    1 Reply
    1. re: wolfe

      +1 on memphis minnie's -- the one guy i know from texas says it's the only bbq worth trying in SF ;) there are some down south -- one in mountain view -- called Uncle Frank's. I love them both.

    2. Your friend is probably right. The best Bay Area BBQ is likely mediocre compared to what is available in Texas. Do a "Search this board" search from prior discussions on Bay Area BBQ.

      2 Replies
        1. re: DavidT

          There's no "probably" about it - nothing in the Bay Area comes close to the best Texas barbecue, though the mediocrities in both places can be pretty similar. And even mediocre barbecue can be pretty enjoyable.

          But we have so many other foods better than what you can get in Texas, why worry about it? Local specialties make things more interesting!


        2. As a Texan transplanted to the Bay Area who has searched high and low for good BBQ, i'd say your probably best not even trying. Memphis Minnie's has passable brisket, but mediocre (at best) everything else. Uncle Frank's in Mountain View can be decent, but has been seriously falling off in my last couple of visits.

          NOTHING here compares to Luling City Market, Kreuz Market, Snow's, or any of the other legendary Texas joints.

          Sorry, that's just the way it is. Instead of trying to compete with Texas on food the state does well, try taking your friend to places serving stuff they don't do in Texas.

          1 Reply
          1. re: texanfoodie

            I've got to agree with the last sentiment, no texan would ever admit that non-texas barbecue was any good so why bother? Take him out for Korean BBQ, Japanese Robata yaki, Hong Kong style roast pork or any other style of food done well here.

          2. I guess it depends on his attitude. Clearly we hear that nothing available locally can be held up to and critically compared with the best Texas BBQ. I believe that. But maybe your friend just likes BBQ. Period. And might enjoy some decent BBQ, without feeling the need to judge the finer details of this or that style.

            As I spend more time on this board I have to say that I love geting tips and ideas from people here. But the competitive need to pass judgement and find the 'best' gets tiresome. If he just wants good Q cuz he prefers Q to anything else -- check that other thread and you'll find plenty of places to have a good time. If he is an afficianado who prides himeself on knowing why Texas Q beats all -- steer clear of the local venues.

            1. I agree with the others that you might have to give up the competition with regard to texas BBQ. You could try taking your friend to a Chinese deli for a different take on roasted meats. You could get roast duck, roast pork, roast goose, chinese bbq spareribs, etc. Or a Middle Eastern kabab place. Or a huge hunk of al pastor...

              1. why give a texan something they can get at home? i would suggest some seafood (swan is great), something not often seen in tx. or perhaps some delicious italian. however if you're determined to BBQ don't take them for brisket that is the kind of BBQ they are know for.

                1. Sorry: best way to impress a Southener is to make sure you NEVER take him/her to a Q joint in the Bay Area. Herd your guests to places like Chez Panisse, French Laundry, or Slanted Door. That might make a positive impression.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jerry i h

                    Exactly. If you were in Texas from California and did the "convincing" challenge on California type dining, what would you expect? It's a trap to be honest, no way you can match things. Sounds like they want some Texas bragging rights...or something.

                    There's one rule of traveling that generally makes sense -- don't travel to a place and look for what you can get at home and expect it to be as good.

                    I don't know what is it about California but people travel here and want a good bagel or slice from NY, etc. and then get a little indigent that it's not here. Well excuse my junior high phrasing...but duh.

                    I'd add Aziza to the list.

                  2. I haven't been to the most-known Texas bbq places, but I have been to several there, also many in Kansas City. I think Memphis Minnie's ranks very well with all the places I've been to. It is sometimes inconsistent, but that's barbecue. I think it's clearly our best; give it a try.

                    Memphis Minnie's BBQ
                    576 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117

                    1. I agree that taking him someplace for traditional BBQ would likely be a losing proposition. Take him someplace for "grilled meats" that he may not have access to back home, e.g.:

                      Korean BBQ, the kind where you grill your food at your table. Also some place that serves Korean short ribs (kalbi).

                      Middle Eastern kabobs (lamb, beef, chicken).

                      A Hong Kong-style Chinese BBQ meats place.

                      A Brazilian/Argentinian churrasco place -- grilled meat heaven.

                      There are good examples of each in the B.A.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: chow_eb

                        Great idea!

                        I don't know why you'd ever take a Texan to eat BBQ in the SF Bay Area, unless you want to provide an easy opportunity for the Texan to gloat that his home-state BBQ is better, all the while eating a disappointing meal. Just concede immediately that his state's BBQ is better, then attend to the task of where to get a quality meal here.

                        Why not take him instead to a restaurant that offers a cuisine that's done well here? Asian, fusion, Californian, etc. Or a resto that's distinctly San Franciscan, like Swan's?

                        If you must eat BBQ, eat an Asian/Korean or Hawaiian version or some kind of BBQ that your Texas friend has never experienced. That might be a frickin' hoot and real change of pace. Just don't play the competition game.

                        1. re: chow_eb

                          By the way, I once attended a dinner that hosted 60 Italians at a [gulp] San Francisco Italian restaurant. Trouble was, American-Italian food or even Californian-Italian food could never compete in a million years with Italian food from Italy. The guests were lovely, but privately a few of them grumbled how awful the food was.

                          The moral of the story: I know now never to take someone who is well-versed in the cuisine of his homeland (which includes your Texan) to a restaurant that offers a non-authentic or diluted version of that cuisine. It's a classic set-up for disappointment.

                          On subsequent visits back to the city the Italian guests requested and thoroughly enjoyed Thai, Sichuan and Californian food -- all cuisines they could never get in Italy.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            As I have said previously "Our slice of pizza is a Mission burrito."

                            1. re: wolfe


                              When I first moved here from Texas and was given a Mission burrito, I was horrifed at "nasty travesty of Mexican food". In the years since, I have come to accept the Mission burrito as a known regional dish. I might offer it a visiting Texan, but only with a certain amount of explantion to set expectations.

                              But really, I just wouldn't bother offering BBQ or Mexican to a visiting Texan unless it was something they expressed interest in.

                              (That said, I had many native Texans at my July 4th wedding. We served Memphis Minnies and received many compliments.)

                          2. re: chow_eb

                            Add carnitas tacos! Although they might have them in texas.

                            I was asking myself a similar question a while ago. I've gone over to china on business a few times. They take you out eating at least once in the visit. If they came here, where would I take them - greater palo alto?

                            I decided the answer was Sundance Steak House. There's no way they've had a thick american steak, or a bottle of decent red wine. The atmosphere is different from most chinese restaurants.

                            1. re: chow_eb

                              Great suggestion on other types of BBQ.

                              I don't know any places in the BA but Santa Maria tri tip is California barbecue. Point them to Santa Maria or SLO or you can cook one yourself. It's really easy and there's a lot of recipes/instructions around. It cooks somewhere between grilling and slow smoking a brisket.

                              Add some good pinquito beans and salsa, the BBQ'ed oysters, guac and chips and what's not to like? Serve a good California red and you'd do fine.

                              1. re: ML8000

                                There's a vendor at the Oakland Friday Farmers Market that sells Santa Maria tri tip. Haven't tried it yet though.

                                1. re: ML8000

                                  We buy a Santa Maria tri-tip at Tower Market / Mollie Stone's that is consistently excellent. The best tri-tip is served at Camp Mather on Friday nights. Worth the price of admission.

                                  1. re: ML8000

                                    Well, I think tri-tip is the best option. It's an (in not the ONLY) indigenous CA barbecue style. It's traditionally over oak wood and is very respectful of the beef flavor. THAT will showcase the meat!!

                                    1. re: ML8000

                                      Santa Maria-style tri-tip is grilled quickly over a hot oak fire. It can be pretty tasty, but the only thing it has in common with pit-smoked brisket is the word "barbecue" in the name. A visitor from Texas would call it a sirloin steak.


                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Texans can call it sirloin if they like and it is the bottom sirloin but it has a unique form factor that makes it different in cooking and handling. Not going to get into the pit BBQ vs. other types of BBQ. Ultimately what matters is if it's tasty and if cooked right it can be very tasty. I prefer using mesquite since it's easier to get.

                                  2. Agree that it's unwise to take a Texan to California BBQ. I'd take him, as suggested, to Swan Oyster Depot -- uniquely San Francisco. We just took some out of towners there and they were blown away by the food and atmosphere.

                                    That said, the best BBQ I've had in the Bay Area is in Napa at BarbersQ (off Trancas). It offers a variety of styles (tomato-based sauces; vinegar-based sauces) in a sleek, minimalist space rather than a "down home" atmosphere. Particularly good: pulled pork sandwich with butter lettuce salad; fried chicken on their special days for it; brisket. Of course, it has a fine wine list (it's Napa!) as well as beer. This restaurant has made the Chronicle's top 100 restaurants two years in a row and made the top 10 newcomers list when it opened last year. Check it out.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: cortez

                                      Have you ever tried Red Rock Back Door BBQ in Napa? There are reports of a good hamburger there, but no reports about the Q.

                                      3900 D Bel Aire Plaza, Napa, CA 94558

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        rw: I drive by Red Rock all the time but have never been in or tried their takeout. I must make it a point to give it a try -- it certainly looks authentic (smoke coming from the roof; red table cloths; neon beer signs in the window; small, cramped older place with virtually no parking).

                                      2. re: cortez

                                        I went to BarbersQ for the Sunday lard-fried chicken special, which was well worth the drive to Napa, but the barbecue was surprisingly lame and the choices limited (brisket, baby backs, pulled-pork sandwich, plus "barbecued" chicken) for a place with such a name.

                                        We tried the brisket and baby back combo, and both were a couple of big steps down from T-Rex.

                                      3. >>"Hi - am hosting a Texan native and recent Louisiana transplant who is convinced that - while SF has good eats - there will be no decent BBQ in town. Any suggestions?"

                                        Yeah, Hog Island Oyster Co, for BBQ'ed oysters. Or even better, Nick's Cove in Marshall.

                                        But seriously, it all comes down to your visitor's meaning of "decent". Memphis Minnie's is good barbecue. is it legendary? No, but anyone classifying it as indecent is either visiting on a bad day or wouldn't know decent BBQ if it hit them on the arse.

                                        1. I have eaten much Texas bbq. I think the food at the Broken Record compares favorablly to anything I have had there.

                                          1. You tell him if he doesn't laugh at our bbq, we won't laugh at his wine.

                                            I actually prefer E&J's sausages to anything I've had in Texas, most recently from the two reputedly "legendary" sausage places in Elgin. Both were pretty ok but that's about it. On the other hand, E&J once served me the worst piece of brisket I've ever eaten. And bbq -is- brisket, the rest is just a sideshow. So your houseguest is probably correct.

                                            If I had a visitor I was trying to impress with fire-cooked food, I'd follow the advice a couple of posts up and take him to get barbequed oysters. Either down to Princeton or up to Marshall. Show 'em the ocean -- just like the Gulf except without the smell of oil and no hurricanes.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. howdy - native texan here. i haven't tried any bbq places in the bay area yet, but a friend (not from texas) said a bbq place at mission/cesar chavez called baby blues was good.

                                              for me, bbq = brisket eaten with pickles, onions, and bbq sauce on a piece of soft white mrs. baird's bread. would it help when ordering to asking for "extra moist" brisket, or ask them to leave some fat on the meat? rudy's extra moist brisket holds a special place in my (artery-clogged) heart

                                              but - i agree, that unless your visitor has a serious hankering for bbq, i would have them try things that are unique to or better in sf like seafood, asian/dim sum, artisan bread/sourdough, etc.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: lschow

                                                I seriously doubt that Baby Blues brisket will suit your tastes. It is "pulled" and comes in a wet pile of meat. I guess you would not have to ask for 'extra moist', but the texture (and the smoky spiciness) is, shall we say, unusual. Definitely not the first Bay Area BBQ place for a native Texan to check out.

                                              2. Thanks for all the responses! I appreciate the recomendations from those that delivered suggestions (as opposed to unecessary criticisms about trying to locate local Q). Memphis Minnies was a success. Good find - especially if I ever feel the urge to indulge in BBQ w/o said Texan friend.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: jenshanks

                                                  For future reference, I think Uncle Willie's in Oakland would probably please a Texan as well or better than Memphis Minnie's.

                                                  Uncle Willie's BBQ and Fish
                                                  614 14th St, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    You know, I'm going to have to get over there and try Uncle Willie's (I'm an MM fan). It's not on any path I normally take, but I'll have to do it anyway.