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Hi Lo BBQ is open! [SF]

I am very excited that Hi Lo has opened, can not wait for the first report.

and when the excitement dies down and one can actually get a spot there!

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    1. I hope to hear some good things about their brisket and sides. Texas beef brisket, collards and sweet tea would be a go-to meal for me on a weekly basis.

      Hopefully their operations allow for a robust takeout operation - I see that you go up to the counter to order and then try to find a seat at a communal table. Hopefully takeout operations could be akin to many TX bbq joints where you wait at the counter and meat and sides are weighed out for you on butcher paper.

      4 Replies
      1. re: mikeh

        The menu sure doesn't look like Texas bbq served on butcher paper. At $22/lb for brisket they better darn give me a fork and a plate!

        Hi Lo is located in the Mission in SF for those interested.

        1. re: Civil Bear

          Franklin's in Austin is $16/lb. I'd pay $30/lb in SF for brisket on butcher paper that good. In fact, I'd pay a premium to get it served up for me on butcher paper right then and there instead of having to sit down for table service and have waitstaff try to upsell me on drinks.

          Here's a photo of Hi-Lo's test brisket from the other day:


          It looks correct, but if it indeed tastes correctly, it won't even need that sauce sitting next to it...

          1. re: mikeh

            ok - you got me with your pix of the Hi Lo brisket.
            Here's Franklin's

            What are the hours at Hi Lo?

            1. re: Cynsa

              Unfortunately I didn't catch the hours while I was there tonight; meant to ask and then completely forgot. I'm just wondering if they plan on being open for lunch on weekends. Saturday lunch was my slotted bbq meal and become something of a tradition when I lived in the South, and I'd love to resurrect it.

              Incidentally, we waltzed in tonight around 8:15 p.m. and there was plenty of seating and no line at the registers. The place was bustling but not bursting to the seams. It's a good opportunity to get in before word of mouth begins to roll, imo.

      2. Just got back. Verdict: without a doubt the best brisket I've had in the Bay Area, and by a good margin. In fact, it's better than some briskets I've had from somewhat reputable places in Texas (like that Rudy's chain) and as good as anything I had during my two residency periods in North Carolina. The flavor and textures are spot on; it captures the way paradigmatic Texas brisket is supposed to look, taste and feel. Nice black pepper bark, present but not overpowering oak/mesquite smokiness, and exceptionally moist/juicy throughout, even the lean portions, and the cut was a nice balance of fatty and lean. Sauce was smartly served on the side, and the meat didn't even need it. That's the mark of a good brisket - a la Smitty's in Lockhart where they don't even serve you a sauce. But the sauce itself was great too - Texas red sauce the way it's supposed to be, with a nice balance of spiciness, sweetness and tang.

        Another "traditional" element they did perfectly - the sweet tea. It's amazing how many Bay Area places mess this beverage up, but Hi-Lo's version was freshly-brewed, and while sweet was not overly sweet, thus still allowing for the astringency of the tea itself to speak.

        And I like the more culinarily-creative sides and starters too, especially the dino kale and sweet potato salad and the brussels sprouts with preserved lemon chili. Although I love my brisket with a nice side of collard greens, and Hi-Lo's rendition of collards were without fault (velvety texture, tasty pork burnt-ends throughout to impart flavor), I think the brussels will become my pairing of choice.

        Some photos from the meal are attached.

        *One item to note - they aren't doing "by the pound" plates yet, just one portion sizes of various meats. Each order of brisket got you a little under 1/2 pound. I think maybe once they ramp up operations, they'll be willing to sell more "in bulk" so to speak.

        4 Replies
        1. re: mikeh


          I am so super excited!

          I may try to swing by Wednesday night. This is a great report. Thank you!

          1. re: mikeh

            Thank you for the report. It looks like I will have to make a visit.

            Just curious, have you had the brisket at Bside? If so, how does it compare? Thanks again.

            1. re: JonDough

              I haven't, but it looks like I'm going to have to it now. Just moved back to the Bay Area, so I've missed out on a couple of things for sure.

            2. Here's some location info about the place.

              Hi Lo BBQ
              3416 19th St (bet Mission & Valencia)

              1 Reply
              1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                5:30 pm daily until 'que is gone?

              2. Anyone know if they're open for lunch?

                1 Reply
                1. re: DezzerSF

                  From their facebook: "we are currently serving dinner from 5:30pm to 10:00pm but will be offering lunch as well in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!"

                2. Stopped by tonight to get an order of brisket for takeout. Great flavor, tender and moist. Will definitely be back to check out some of the other meats and sides. Service was very friendly.

                  1. Got a chance to try this place yesterday and I was pleasantly impressed. Also got a tour of the humongous smoker downstairs. It's a rotisserie beast the size of a mini-bus burning straight oak logs. It’s easy to over smoke like that (Texas joints typically first burn the logs down to coals before shoveling them into their pits), and although the food was smoky it wasn't overly so. I was told they are still experimenting with smoker and are apparently going through a cord of oak a day!

                    Brisket: Great color and smoke. pretty moist for brisket. Perhaps just a tad short of perfect tenderness. Nice flavor. I would rate it second to only Memphis Minnie's, as the latter is typically a bit moister and the rub is more complex - but I acknowledge that is just a preference thing. Also of note is that they served slices from both the flat and the point ends.

                    St. Louis Cut Spare Ribs. Like the brisket, they served portions from each end of the rack. I would have preferred the middle section, but the portion was generous (half rack) and the ribs were meaty, Again great color and smokiness. I found the rub a bit too salty on the tail end portion but the flavor was otherwise good, and the tangy sauce served on the side helped offset the salt. The wife thought the ribs were a bit overdone, but I did not mind. Overall the best restaurant ribs I have had since Bruno's a few years back.

                    BBQ'ed Beans: large butter beans (I think) slow cooked in the smoker with large chunks of burnt ends added. Very smoky and delicious.

                    Collard Greens: Tender and tasty with bits of pork thrown in. A little bit of sweetness that I could have done without.

                    Duck Wings: Unusual dish that I enjoyed. A generous portion of crispy fried wings flavored with Thai spices.

                    Pulled Bread: Very fresh and tasty. The bits of green onion inside reminded me of the fresh baked onion buns you can find at Chinese bakeries.

                    Because everything is a la carte and the sides are a bit steep the price point is a bit high for BBQ. The high quality ingredients did show through though. With two glasses of ice tea the total came to about $65 with tax.

                    p.s. I caught a glimpse of the smoked brisket Pho that looked amazing. I may have to go back just to try it.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: Civil Bear

                      not to in any way question your bbq cred - but i do believe that most Texas places (traditionally - a loaded term for sure) do NOT burn their wood in a separate process before adding the coals to the cooker. That two-step process is more typical of spots further east.

                      1. re: tex.s.toast

                        Hey, I'm not about to argue about Texas BBQ with someone with Tex in their username, so I will defer to your expertise! :>)

                        1. re: tex.s.toast

                          This is correct from what I've seen. Back in North Carolina we'd burn the wood down to coals and then shovel it into the pit, but I was standing right next to a roaring fire while in line at Smitty's in Lockhart, TX just a few weeks ago.

                        2. re: Civil Bear

                          This is an awesome report

                          How does the service work? Order at the counter and sit down? Full bar? are those ordered from the bar and then served at the table? or do you bring it to the table on your own?

                          1. re: smatbrat

                            Yes, order at the counter and take a number to your communal table. Food, drinks and bill are delivered to your table. I always wondered if you are expected to tip the regular amount on this type service. Obviously it's not the wait staffs’ fault that you must order at the counter.

                            Not sure about a full bar but I did notice the draft beer is $5. Free refills with the ice T which come with new glasses. The wait-staff was super friendly and eager to answer any questions about the menu.

                          2. re: Civil Bear

                            My experience was similar to yours. We really liked the space. The informal service was friendly and efficient. We plan to be back, probably a lot.

                            I do think they have room to improve the Q. Our brisket was beautifully cooked, nice and tender. But most of it was a bit too lean, or at least the more lean pieces were just a touch dry and over done. The more marbled pieces were pretty much divine. The ribs were on the overdone side too, might have been the luck of the draw. And the smokiness was not as pronounced as I remember Ryan Ostler's Q from Bruno's being. So I think there is room for improvement as they get used to their smoker. I didn't get a picture of the Pho-Que (pronounced fa-Q) but you should definitely check it out. It was the best thing on our table.

                            1. re: BernalKC

                              Wow, that looks lean, a lot leaner than the cut upon which I based my review. In fact, 100% of the slices I got would be classified as "moist/fatty" by Texas pitmaster standards. I can't palate lean brisket even at the best of places in Texas, but luckily over there you can usually specify what end you want it from to avoid such encounters!

                              In terms of smoke intensity, I'm glad they are starting out on the light as opposed to heavy side. It'll be interesting to see how it plays in the Bay Area, as quite a few out here think bbq needs to taste like downing an ashtray, and previously touted places like Uncle Frank's in Mountain View or even Memphis Minnie's were/are toward the intense end. There's a happy medium, and I just hope it's on this side of smoky. Again, I've never been smacked in the face by the smokiness of brisket at the greatest Texas places. At times, I've even questioned whether the smokiness was there, but the essence of it presents itself over the course of a meal.

                              1. re: mikeh

                                Here's to a happy medium! I agree about the over smokiness of many Q places, especially Memphis Minnie's. Ostler's ribs at Bruno's were out at that end of the spectrum. I really loved his Q there, so I was expecting something along those lines. I think its clear he's aiming for a different style here. But I'm hoping it gets a bit more smoke. We'll see.

                                As I re-read what I wrote above, I think I was coming across too negative. I really liked the place, and now I know to ask for less lean cuts. If it gets a tad smokier, I'll be in heaven.

                                1. re: BernalKC

                                  I've never had an issue with the smoke at MM's, and I would say the brisket was smokier at Hi Lo the day I was there (not in a bad way). Of course they mentioned they are still experimenting with the smoker and they could have had some consistency issues due to the rain on Thursday. Damp logs obviously make it more difficult to get a clean fire.

                          3. bummer! they had NO brisket tonight. at the counter the explanation was vaguely that they did not have it on the menu tonight but there was some brisket in the cutely named Pho-Que, and some in the baked beans. We opted for the prime rib, the Pho-Que, and a side of the beans. It was only once we were seated that we saw a beautiful heaping plate of the kale salad - looked fantastic. i would have ordered the ribs but the BF is not a fan. We had both really wanted the brisket.

                            Our server came by and asked what we'd ordered and we told him we had come in for brisket but had ordered what we'd ordered. he'd explained that they'd actually had to close down early the night before as they ran out of food, and that the brisket would be back.

                            The pho had brisket pieces - incredibly tender - some meatballs, and some chinese sausage. As pho goes, it was ok, but i would have told the BF not to order pho in a bbq restaurant. the broth was a little weak, and rather one-note (mostly 5-spice). the addition of all the herbs and red chilis helped.

                            my prime rib was smallish (good size for me but small by prime rib standards) and was perfectly tender with nice fatty bits. served with roasted sweet pearl onions and horseradish sauce, it was very good, but not something i would order again, most likely.

                            the beans were limas or broad beans (big fat beans) in a sweetish bbq sauce, and with shredded brisket. they were good, better than most bbq sides i've gotten at most of bbq joints, but not great. so it appears that what brisket they had left had been chucked into other things.

                            so we probably ordered a bit wrong, and i feel like i've said brisket 100 times now, but i would go back to try the brisket and have that kale salad. and the ribs.

                            i had a glass of the house red - a grenache syrah merlot blend. decent.

                            $50.00 we got there at 6:30 and as we were eating a line formed all the way down the wall behind us of people waiting to order. i liked the space, very modern, and i especially liked the burnt wood walls, evoking the crispy burnt ends you'd get on an order of BRISKET.

                            1. Went back for more takeout last night and tried a bunch of the different meats. We got two orders of the brisket (this was most people's favorite). Also popular was the short rib, lots of flavor...served with what appeared to be housemade kimchi. The chicken was quite dry, and the portion seemed a little stingy compared with the other items. The spare ribs were also surprisingly dry.

                              I only add the caveat that I am in no way a bbq aficionado, but I certainly think this is a tasty addition to the neighborhood.

                              1. Went back this week and was chagrined to find they didn't have brisket on the menu that day. So I tried a prime rib plate that was in its place. It was really delicious. Tender, well marbled, nice and pink the way I like it, with a subtle smokiness on the outside edges. Served with roasted cipollini onions and a horseradish aoli. Not what I was expecting, but really satisfying.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: BernalKC

                                  our same experience, 2 months ago. seems the thing to do is call ahead and make sure.

                                2. http://untermanonfood.com/hi-lo-north...

                                  Hi Lo Northern California BBQ

                                  By Patricia Unterman / April 5, 2013

                                  1. Dropped in yesterday at opening time - got the brisket plate and the fried brussels sprouts side. The brisket was ok - as has been mentioned by others, you get a couple slices from both the first and second cut. The second cut pieces were, as you might expect, fatty and moist, with light smoke character. As for the first cut pieces...well, I can't remember ever getting BBQ brisket anywhere that was more dried-out-looking than those slices. They had a rather stringy rind on the outside, and sorely needed a dunking in the ramekin of BBQ sauce on the plate.

                                    On the other hand, the brussels sprouts were thoroughly great, tender with some exterior char from the presumably-panfrying, and doused with a pineapple-chile glaze and fried shallots that complemented them well.

                                    I'd try the place again to see how the other BBQ items are, but this first experience with the brisket (well, the first cut part, anyway) scared me.

                                    1. They've finally extended their hours! 12pm-10pm, everyday, no breaks.

                                      At 5pm on a Saturday, it was nearly empty. Compare that to Tacolicious, which had a 45 minute wait (seriously???).

                                      The Iacopi Farms BBQ Baked Beans & Burnt Ends were delicious. These aren't overly sweet and the dish on a whole would make sense as a soup/starter to be split between two people. Very large beans. The tender ends weren't as intense as the ones in the chili at B-Side BBQ in Oakland, but they had the appropriate intensity for the rest of the dish.

                                      My DC had a chicken dish that I didn't eat, but I tried a piece of plantains from it. Some of the best plantains I've had in a while--- tender, slightly caramelized, not greasy.

                                      Fried Brussels Sprouts pineapple chili glaze, shallot crisps could have been slightly more tender, but had lots of crispy edges and a good flavor.

                                      1. It breaks my heart to report this, but Hi Lo will not be open for lunch for a short period of time. During the Chef change, Hi Lo will return to the original opening hours of 5-10pm nightly. Come by for some phó 'cue tonight!

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              Gotta wonder what a team that does 17 course tasting menus is going to do with a 6,000lb BBQ pit?

                                              Of all the incarnations of Hi Lo, I liked the original one the best. But I guess the high cost of opening a new restaurant, and the need to pay back partners ruled out any sort of low-key, counter service; ruled out any thought of being patient and letting the team and the business find its niche. Remember when there was talk of selling Q by the pound for take-away? Instead we've had a year of churn: counter service replaced with table service, chef fired, cocktail program elevated, modest smokiness replace with over-the-top ash tray smoker excess, brunch anyone?

                                              So me its a sad story of potential never realized.

                                              1. re: BernalKC

                                                plus they had the fire at Maverick, so i'm sure they were looking at the $$....

                                            2. They will close on April 5th.

                                              I'm bummed. Quality had not slipped during a meal I ate last week, and the bruleed tres leches cake is probably my favorite SF restaurant dessert.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: hyperbowler

                                                alright, gotta make it over there soon!

                                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                                  Wow, I wonder what became of the giant smoker in the basement?

                                                  1. re: Civil Bear

                                                    Having met the Lazy Bear dude, I would suspect they kept it, and have nefarious plans.

                                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                                      Sounds like from your post that Lazy Bear has taken over the location. That would be good because moving that thing would be a problem!

                                                      1. re: Civil Bear

                                                        I think that was a post I saw here, or in Eater, regarding the HiLo place. HiLo was doing fine but they got an offer they couldn't refuse.

                                                        1. re: bbulkow

                                                          That's in the Inside Scoop story I linked to above.