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Best Lil' Porkhouse, new BBQ in San Rafael

This new barbecue place in San Rafael opened two weeks ago after the usual delays with permits. It's on the Miracle Mile (2042 4th St.), next door to Red Boy Pizza, in the location formerly occupied by High Tech Burrito. It's almost hidden in the corner of the small strip mall as you drive by so there's a sign on the sidewalk to help with that.

I had the pulled pork sandwich and it was very good and a generous portion. The meat had obviously been smoked, and it was both tender and moist with good flavor. The sauces were fine for me; I liked the spicy and sweet mixed. My choice of sides was the baked beans, quite good especially if you like them on the sweet side which I do. Are they as complex as the great beans at the newly-reopened Pack Jack's in Sebastopol? No, but they're good anyway. They also have brisket and ribs and I look forward to trying both.

It's a small place with a few small high tables with stools. Lots of take-out seemed to be going on. The noon business was brisk; it seems to already have been discovered. Barbecue fans, give this place a try.

Several enthusiastic yelp reports:

A few photos: http://ruthvenphotos.com/porkhouse

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  1. I didn't know the very friendly owner (whose daughter also works there) is an Olympic gold medalist in tennis!


    Here's their website: http://bestlilporkhouse.com

    3 Replies
    1. A friend and I tried this place last night and loved the food as well as the lovely people there. I had the sliders plate which was three (not small at all) sandwiches with chicken, brisket and pulled pork. Delicious and to be honest such a large portion I could finish only 2 of the sandwiches at dinner. I got the creamed corn as side and it was pretty good too. My friend got the pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw on it and the fried okra side. He pretty much inhaled it. The fried okra was darned good to. Everything felt very freshly made. I am no bbq expert but the meat quality was very high and my favorite was the pork. I also really enjoyed the bread which was properly toasted and stood up to the meat inside.
      We also got to taste a sample of the gooey butter cake and oh my god it was amazing! We were too full to get dessert last evening but next time for sure.
      The service was great - a few phone orders came by while we were there and two cops stopped by as well. The word is out it seems. Do try it especially if you are in the area.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jhinky

        According to their website they're using Prather beef, Snake River farms pork (Kurobuta/Berkshire) and Mary's chicken. That's some pretty good quality!

      2. Agreed. The three behind the counter are the friendliest, BEST guys — and, the brisket and pulled pork satisfied my longing. While it doesn't surpass Austin's Franklin BBQ or Snow's in Lexington, TX... it's a happy drive on Hwy 101 from San Francisco to San Rafael. I am more than just pleased overall with the brisket, pulled pork, mac 'n cheese, fried okra and the sweet potato tots, and the gooey butter cake. I am sitting here rereading the menu and planning the next visit to the Best Lil' Porkhouse with my check list. Go ahead, Like them on facebook.

        1. I can't believe that there is a real BBQ place in Marin. Had the pulled pork sandwich today, and it was as good as any I have tried in the South. The brisket at the table next to me looked great, and I'll have it next time.

          And, yes, the staff was awfully nice, too

          1. I "wish" they could expand into the empty space next door to have a larger kitchen and more customer seating. Can't you just imagine the deliciousness that would come out of a bigger kitchen? This is just too good to miss.
            maybe there will be a relocation in the future... more parking! well, a gal can only wish.

            1. Returning from trip out of town & in need of take-out: a perfect chance to try some ribs from Bes L'il. Unfortunately for us, it was late afternoon of their first major catering gig and the place was a madhouse. There were customers ahead of us dining in and behind us waiting to order takeout. The staff, except one harried young guy, were all working on the catering needs. I saw a huge pile of raw chickens waiting to go into the smokers. But having been anxious to get here and with nothing to eat at home, I waited for service--over 30 minutes! A manager (owner?) came from the back and changed the Open sign to Closed--at 5:30 on a Saturday! We got spare ribs--definitely quality meat with nice but not spectacular rub helped mightily by the "tangy" bbq sauce ("hot" was all gone), and rather dry. 1/2 chicken was very nice, juicy but no smoky flavors. It was a Mary's chicken, which I use at home, but was twice the price of RotiRoli (Fulton Valley chicken, my other favorite) and not as tasty. We tried cole slaw, baked beans and potato salad for sides. I liked them all. My wife found the slaw and salad too mayonnaisey for her taste but I found myself back at my midwest childhood when I ate them. The beans were less traditional with bell pepper as a good addition. I will try the ribs again and the brisket on next visit--when they have not undertaken too large a catering job.

              1 Reply
              1. re: alfairfax

                Returned to Bes L'il Friday and this time called in advance. They suggested a 30 minute pickup time which worked well since we called from the road. During the brief wait this time saw notice asking customer's indulgence since kitchen was small and items were prepared to order from top level ingredients--"this is not fast food". Our wait was brief and the spare ribs were great. Hot sauce fine, sides even better than first visit. Worth a try: advance order highly recommended.

              2. On my second visit, I ordered a full order of ribs. I arrived 15 min later, and only had to wait 5 minutes. The owner was concerned about the state of the french fries and graciously asked me to wait a bit for fresh ones.

                The ribs were fantastic, although a full order was a little less than my son and I wanted, and we could have used a few more ribs. But they were great, as was the sauce. The sides were perfect. I'm still excited about the fact that there is BBQ in Marin.

                1. We had a rack of ribs the other night. It took about 30 min, and the order was ready when I got there. They were concerned that the fries might be a little soggy, and suggested that I wait a bit for fresh ones. Not necessary but a really nice gesture.

                  The ribs were fantastic, as were the two sauces. This is a great addition to the fairly pathetic Marin restaurant world

                  1. Good news. They're expanding into the space next door.


                    1. The ribs are fantastic. The sauce is magnificent, and the pulled pork BBQ sandwich was excellent. I have no further comment.

                      1. Finally got to try this place - ouch! The place was bustling and I am not sure why.

                        Overpriced brisket & pork came out of electric smokers and were overdone and on the dry side. No semblance of smoke and not much beef flavor on the thick cut brisket. Pork had slightly more flavor but both were aided greatly with the mediocre bbq sauce.

                        Baked beans were above average and enjoyed the cheesy mac & cheese. The fried pickles, which cost $1 extra for some reason, came from the freezer. The horseradish dipping sauce was pretty good though.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Civil Bear

                          I hope that's not a sign of permanently not being able to keep up with the increased business. My pork and brisket were not dry and had good smoke flavor. But that was a while ago.

                          1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                            I went back recently, and I agree, they are no longer able to keep up. The quality was poor. The ribs were dry, the help was uninformed. In fact the help there was trying to up-sell us on additional sides, so we ended up with 5 sides. They were not good either by the way.

                        2. Had a pulled pork sandwich there today. Generous serving, OK quality - not dry at all, but not much smoke flavor. I don't care much for their sauces; too one-dimensional. Onion rings were very good. They've opened a separate room next door with lots more seating. It wasn't needed on this rainy day but will be good in crowded times.

                          Photo of the separate room:

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                            Great photo of the new separate room. It looks cozy and tastefully decorated, but the TV up on the wall REALLY looks out of place.

                          2. Any reports on the new location in Corte Madera where Max's deli used to be?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: little big al

                              I had lunch at their "Max's" location today. Pleasant, efficient service. I had the brisket sandwich ($11.95), requesting no sauce since all their sauces are on the tables. The brisket was very thinly sliced, had some discernible smoke flavor, but not much other flavor and no real "character". Cole slaw side was a good mayo type; enough flavor to not be boring. I enjoyed the sandwich for what it was, but there is better bbq brisket out there (Memphis Minnie's).

                              1. We stopped by the San Rafael location on Saturday for lunch, right at noon. Overall, we liked it, but probably for different reasons than others.

                                At the outset, the owners are from St. Louis and the cheese they use on various dishes is provel, the processed-cheese-only-available-in-St.Louis-terrible-unless-you-grew-up-there cheese that makes St. Louis pizza so special (or horrible, if you are not from St. Louis). We didn’t know this when we stopped by—and this alone, made our day.

                                We got the special smoked brisket french dip sandwich with provel, and it was delicious. It was a tasty sandwich in its own right (actually, the beef seemed to have some good smoke), but the provel was just such a welcome surprise that it brought us back to some sandwiches in St. Louis.

                                However, the other St. Louis-centric items are not quite right. The house salad was too Californianized – it needed to have marinated (jar) artichokes hearts, more chopped up and with a good dose of substandard parmesan cheese to really capture the “St. Louis salad” nature. And the gooey butter cake is not gooey butter cake – it was a cross between a gooey butter cake and cheese cake. Tasty, yes. But not gooey butter cake.

                                [The paragraph above is really for any St. Louis natives looking for a certain nostalgic fix … of course, you can make the salad and gooey butter cake at home, but it is special to see it out. But the commentary means little to non-St. Louisians.]

                                With respect to the BBQ, we only got the pulled pork, which I found to be quite tasty, but probably needed more smoke. I liked the original and sweet-n-sassy sauces (probably because they had a sweet and smoky profile of STL-style BBQ). I was not a fan of the mac-n-cheese, but it is the overly creamy (almost custard) style that I avoid. The fries and sweet potato tots were good.

                                Overall, I would go back (and am looking forward to the Alameda location opening). The pork was solid, and the menu hits certain nostalgic notes for me.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: The Dive

                                  To demonstrate the controversial nature of provel, see my earlier St. Louis-style pizza post: