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Apr 27, 2006 09:12 PM

Best BBQ in San Diego?

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Anyone heard of Big Jim's Old South Barbeque? It looks good? Any other reccomendations?


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  1. Big Jim's looks good, but it's pretty disappointing. San Diego doesn't have any good barbecue options, honestly. Not compared to the real thing (i.e. Texas).

    49 Replies
    1. re: Js

      Ah yes - one of the oft-repeated SD Chowhound topics: San Diego sucks for BBQ. Too bad Buddha isn't around to tell us why. :)

      I don't know, JS - some people might not think that Texas BBQ is good, or is BBQ, but that is a general food topics discussion, I suppose.

      imsofull points out Joey's Smokin BBQ. Gayle asked about this place back in December and a poster named "Melissa" gave them a good mark. Have other Chowhounds tried this place?

      This week's Thursday insert in the Union Tribune North County (their annual Shilling Around, I mean "Dining Around", magazine), says that in addition to the Carlsbad (La Costa) and Carmel Valley (Torrey Hills) sites, Joey's will soon be opening a third site in Poway.

      1. re: RB Hound

        What about Kansas City BBQ? I've never been to SD, but among KC ex-pats craving cue, they seem to think it's OK.
        Or maybe it's that they can watch sports there...


        1. re: pepper anne

          KC's is a wretched tourist trap with tough, inedible meats. The only reason they're still around is their convenient location.

          1. re: Steve Green

            thanks. I'm PO'ed they take the KC name in vain.

          2. re: pepper anne

            If you like par boiled ribs you'll love KC bbq. Yuck. BIg JIm's sucked and is out of business. JOey's is edible but you won't crave it. As much as I dislike the fact that Phil does not smoke, he does make the best q in town by a long shot.

            1. re: pepper anne

              Worst BBQ I've had in the city. Interesting to go once for the tourist aspect, maybe.

              1. re: DoctorChow

                Do you suppose that after nearly 7 years, this poster is still monitoring the thread? :)

                Thanks for the update on the Clairemont place - I probably will make a lunch visit at some point this winter.

                  1. re: Fake Name

                    Im currently figuring out how I can NOT watch this one without affecting other threads. This one has turned into a huge yawner.

                  2. re: RB Hound

                    @RBH. Doubtful. But I saw a post to this thread this morning from "poolpaul" (which evidently got deleted), and while here decided to poke through the others. Then I decided to add my two cents to a few.

                    Might have been mostly a waste of electrons, but that's how I came to post to this very old thread.

                    1. re: DoctorChow

                      I see, Dr. Chow, I see.

                      I have no problem with old threads being updated, Fakey - just making sure the respondent didn't think they were being ignored. :)

                      1. re: RB Hound

                        I guess I'm The Respondent in this case. No worries about me being ignored -- I can deal with it if no one cares. [Sob, sob...]

                        Cheers & Happy New Year.

              2. re: RB Hound

                Not sure how anyone could claim that Texas BBQ isn't BBQ considering that Texas is one of the ancestral homes to this style of cooking. BBQ has a few homes in the US: St. Louis, Alabama, Kansas City. I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone knowledgeable on the topic that wouldn't include Texas in that list.

                San Diego's best BBQ is merely OK compared to what you find in Texas. I too was skeptical about that claim until I actually visited Texas and ate the best damned BBQ I've ever had.

                Before I had traveled there, Phil's was my favorite in San Diego. Phil's has tasty food, but I have to mark them down on two major areas: sauce, and smoke. Their meat does not taste smoked, and their sauce is too sweet. Sauce in Texas is sweet too - but it tends to be spicier than Phil's, and not as sugary. The sweetness seems to have a bit more depth.

                However, the meat is so delicious from the smoke that sauce is only needed as an accent - if at all.

                One place I went out there, Rudy's, completely redefined BBQ for me. Had brisket, hot links, and turkey breast. Brisket was tender and juicy (first time I've had bona fide juicy BBQ brisket), and the turkey was as well. Think about that - smoked turkey breast that was totally juicy, yet smoky as well.

                I think it's hard to pull off the real deal in SD because there's just not enough customers for it. The meat has to sit around too long, and it dries out. Most places out here also don't make good sauce.

                I'm open to trying BBQ out here. Pretty much any place I hear about I'll go and try - and I'm always disappointed. Nothing here lives up to what you find in the great homes of real BBQ.

                1. re: JS

                  Wow, JS, you really took a leap when you thought I was saying that San Diego BBQ was better than Texas. :) I agree with everything you said.

                  I was joking that fans of Carolina-style BBQ (generally featuring pulled pork) often don't consider the brisket style BBQ of Texas (or its relative in Kansas City) "real" BBQ. It's an amusing ongoing war between BBQ aficianados.

                  Once you get in third-order BBQ restaurants like those in San Diego, it is rare you find anything that specializes in any particular style, anyhow - it ends up being a mishmash to accomodate as many people as possible.

                  1. re: RB Hound

                    Don't get me wrong, RBH. I wasn't thinking you preferred San Diego over Texas. I just thought (mistakenly, my bad) that you were dissing Texas 'cue. Jokes are hard to convey on the internet sometimes. There was a study done recently where they found that people misinterpret others' comments in emails something like 70% of the time.

                    It would be nice if San Diego had a really great BBQ place.

                  2. re: JS

                    Rudy's does a great brisket especially if you don't get the lean . Not a big fan of Rudys sauce with the giant chunks of black pepper. P.S. Rudy's ribs are not so good, but the brisket is great.

                    1. re: SeanT

                      Where is this Rudy's BBQ located?

                      1. re: SeanT

                        Rudy's Sause is a texas sauce..not your sugary sweet KC Masterpiece style sauces...was also at Salt Lick and Stubbs and neither of those sauces were sugary sweet so that is how they do it down in those parts...options are pure hot sauce, coffee or beefy broth based sauces, or no sauce at all.

                      2. re: JS

                        Ahh...Rudy's Country Store and first true BBQ joint I went to....served on butchers paper, with wonderbread, all those big vats of Rudy's Sause....all the onions and pickles you want for those sandwiches...unique hand washing mechanism....been twice and ordered moist brisket from point verses lean from the flat...remember the turkey being moist...ribs were good, sausage of course good....question...I am going to SD in a few weeks and staying near Phil's...want to try the Tri TIp sandwich where you cannot get here in Canada, nor in TX, AL, or TN where I have also travelled for BBQ....heard about these lineups at Phil's and my only option is Sunday afternoon as they are closed on Mondays... my Phil's worth the half hour walk from my hotel and will the lineup be murder? thanks in advance....bob

                        1. re: ebay3392

                          If you enjoyed those other places as much as you say (and I have little doubt) you will find Phils amazingly disappointing. I wouldn't wait 5 minutes for Phils.

                          You can have a pleasant meal there, but BBQ, it ain't.

                          1. re: ebay3392

                            The wait for Phils can be 1 hour+ if you get there at 7pm on a Fri or Sat night. During the week it's not as bad but I would expect to wait 1/2 an hour or so at least during normal dinner hours.

                          2. re: JS

                            They make some decent BBQ in Texas but if you want the real-deal authentic BBQ you need to go to the Caribbean Islands and Caribbean Mexico. Traditional authentic BBQ derives from the Taino Indians who cooked meat in pits with hot coals or over open flames on wooden grills. Typically cooking whole lamb or goat. BBQing pork is not authentic BBQ as pigs did not arrive in the Americas until the Spaniards, while the Tainos had been BBQing long before that. The many and varied moles and salsa de molcajete were the first barbecue sauces.

                            1. re: steveprez

                              lambs and goats came with Spaniards also.

                              1. re: Ed Dibble

                                Yes,that's correct! I was just trying to use a subtle form of sarcasm to point out the ridiculousness of the arguments whereby something is described as bad if it's not "authentic". IMO there is too much time wasted on arguments like 'Phil's BBQ is not good because it's not what i had growing up in (Texas, KC, Northeastern (but not Northwestern) Carolina, etc.) and that's "real" barbecue. Well, none of that is actually real anyway. We should focus on food quality, flavor, cooking technique, etc.

                                Based on the continuing discussion at the bottom of this thread, I've failed in my attempt. Maybe I was too subtle! ;)

                                1. re: steveprez

                                  RE: " 'Phil's BBQ is not good because it's not what i had growing up in (Texas'"


                                  "Based on the continuing discussion at the bottom of this thread, I've failed in my attempt."

                                  I have to wonder about your perceptions, since I clearly wrote:
                                  "Phil's is good for what it is. It's just not BBQ."

                                  And Cpt. Jack wrote:
                                  "If you like Phil's great. It is just not BBQ as Josh states above."

                                  So please let's not pretend that anyone has said Phil's doesn't offer a tasty grilled meat product.

                                  As for what constitutes authentic BBQ, the earliest origins of this food's history isn't really a settled matter. Mexico has a dish called barbacoa, involving slow, moist cooking, and some historians suggest that could be as much of an inspiration as the Caribbean.

                                  Either way, I'd argue that the regional southern American traditions of BBQ, while all different in terms of seasoning and saucing, all share the common characteristic of long, slow cooking over smoke. To say that you can parboil some ribs and grill them over mesquite with sweet sauce and call it BBQ based on the fact that in North Carolina they like mustard sauce vs. the dry rub of St. Louis style seems a little silly.

                                  Phil's grilled meat product in sauce is tasty, sure. It just bears no relationship to traditional BBQ from any region of the country.

                                  1. re: Josh

                                    I never really saw much dry rubbed bbq in St. Louis. It was more like a sauced Memphis style prehaps a little spicier. I found this in both the black and white communities.

                                    1. re: Josh

                                      Sorry, Josh. My post was not targeted at you and I apologize if it came across that way. I chose Phils as part of an arbitrary statement since it's a favorite topic on this board. Not to refer to anyones comments in particular.

                                      I agree with your other statements, though. Phil's is not like BBQ from other parts of the country. Though BBQ from other parts of the country bears little resemblance to traditional barbecue as originally practiced. Traditional barbecue is closer to what we call grilling. BBQ from Texas and the South is better refered to as hot smoking. In fact, there is a movement starting to call this type of cooking hot smoking and not barbecue to distinguish it from traditional barbecue. Very confusing!

                                    2. re: steveprez

                                      "We should focus on food quality, flavor, cooking technique, etc."

                                      Huh, I thought I covered basic BBQ cooking technique in my "continued discussion at the bottom of this thread."

                                      Just because I think your argument about Spaniards and pigs is weak, does not mean that you were "too subtle." That statement is condescending.

                                      1. re: Captain Jack

                                        Ditto my comments to Josh above. Wasn't targeting any particular statements. As to being condescending, i was actually trying to have a little fun. Sorry if it came across that way. Text is a por medium for conveying context.

                                      2. re: steveprez


                                        "Authentic" matters not one whit. Authentic could just as easily be described as consistent. Or repetitive. Or boring. Indeed, one of my favourite cuisines (Vietnamese) is a mix of French and southeast Asian style cooking. Not authentic French, not authentic Asian, but damn delicious.

                                        1. re: Indirect Heat

                                          AMEN to that Indirect Heat! Authentic is the most overused word in regards to food. That and "Meh". What's authentic barbeque anyway? Are we talking authentic to Chicago, the Carolinas, Tx, GA, St Louis? Dry rub, sauce? All different. My Italian grandmother put fresh mint in her meatballs and they were awesome! Someone would probably say they weren't authentic. To what? Can't get more authentic than Nonnie off the boat with a handed down recipe from the homeland.

                                          1. re: Island

                                            Non-authentic food can be as tasty as authentic food. To describe a certain dish or restaurant as "authentic" helps to understand what to expect. If for example somebody describes an Italian pasta dish as authentic I expect it to resemble what you would get in Italy, e.g. focus on the fresh pasta not the sauce, different pasta to sauce ratio than in most restaurants in the US etc.
                                            The word "authentic" doesn't say anything about the quality of the dish/restaurant but a lot about the style of cooking.

                                            1. re: Island

                                              To reiterate - St. Louis, Carolinas, Chicago, TX...doesn't matter. While the sauce/seasoning may be different, it's all cooked over smoke at low temperature. You can't escape that fact.

                                              Authentic is a meaningful term, like it or not. It seems to me the people who hate it the most are the ones who profit from muddling the meaning of words.

                                            2. re: Indirect Heat

                                              That comment about Vietnamese food is truly bizarre. Vietnam had an indigenous cuisine that adopted influences from various occupiers, but that doesn't make the food inauthentic anything - it's its own distinct cuisine. What's the parallel in French cuisine to the banh mi? Or the parallel in Chinese food to pho?

                                              Authentic does matter if someone says they want BBQ. If you get someone in SD who's from a region that has any kind of BBQ tradition and send them to Phil's they'll think you're joking them. Phil's is great BBQ if you have no idea what the word means.

                                              1. re: Josh

                                                Ummm... where do you suppose the baguette in the banh mi came from? 200 years ago, I'm sure someone in Vietnam said, "Banh mi isn't authentic Vietnamese!" And yet now it's a signature Vietnamese dish.

                                                What is authentic bbq? What is authentic?

                                                Point is, you're saying that folks who like Phil's BBQ (never been, can't comment on food) don't know that it's not bbq. But if they think it's bbq, and Phil's calls it bbq, and they think it's tasty, who cares? Who gets to be the arbiter on what real bbq is? Someone from South Carolina? North Carolina? How about Canada? California? Texas? I've lived a lot of places, and seen a *lot* of definitions of bbq, and they're all different. Just like I've seen a lot of definitions of "authentic" pizza and "authentic" pyrogi.

                                                1. re: Indirect Heat

                                                  Not sure your point. I pretty clearly stated that the Vietnamese adopted influences from their occupiers. In any event, you're kind of screwing up the argument - what makes an authentic banh mi, not is the banh mi authentic Vietnamese. Vietnamese food encompasses the cuisine of a nation - BBQ is a regional speciality. BBQ is a regional specialty of American cuisine, so BBQ's parallel is more something like the banh mi than Vietnamese cuisine as a whole.

                                                  So in that respect, if someone made a banh mi with no pickled veggies, no cliantro, and instead stuck some grilled meat on a baguette, then you'd be right to challenge its authenticity as a banh mi, since it's missing the very components that define the item.

                                                  While you may think you've seen a lot of definitions of BBQ, one element authentic BBQ has, regardless of region, is slow cooking over smoke. Anything else is grilling, not BBQ.

                                                  1. re: Josh

                                                    "While you may think you've seen a lot of definitions of BBQ, one element authentic BBQ has, regardless of region, is slow cooking over smoke. Anything else is grilling, not BBQ."

                                                    That is your definition of BBQ. It's a definition that's quite common, all across the southern U.S. I've seen quite a few definitions that included neither smoke, nor slow cooking. Indeed, BBQ in Canada is anything with BBQ sauce on it. Ever heard of Brazilian BBQ? Good quality meat cuts, skewered on a sword, over a fire. Argentinian BBQ is most commonly done over woodfires. Of course, now you'll say none of those are "authentic" bbq, which certainly is your right.

                                                    Best of luck! And happy eating.

                                                    1. re: Indirect Heat


                                                      Churrasco is the Brazilian dish you're talking about - "Brazilian BBQ" is a name bestowed on it so that Americans don't have to learn how to say "churrasco", or "churrascaria".

                                                      It's not "my" definition. It's the historical definition. Canadians thinking meat with sauce on it is BBQ means nothing - Canada has no history with this dish. That's like saying if I stick some chicken in a pot of white beans I just made cassoulet, and who cares that there's an actual traditional recipe of what cassoulet is?

                                    3. re: RB Hound

                                      I've tried the Joey's in Carmel Valley for take out - I liked it, but I am very much not an expert. I had a sampling of the sweet ribs, dry rubbed and wet. I didn't care for the dry as much as the wet and sweet - which I thought were very good. I also got a 1/2 of the beef brisket - it was just okay.

                                      I've been meaning to get takeout from them again - and I'm excited if the Poway location does open. I think enough people are fans of good ribs and the associated foods - we could use more but I've never been to Phil's and that Big Jim's was just okay the one time we went.

                                      1. re: RB Hound

                                        I have tried Joey's BBQ and for starters, I am not a BBQ expert and it is not my first choice for food, although I had a good bit of it when I lived in S. Carolina.

                                        re: Joey's, we had the brisket with coleslaw and beans. I thought the meat was on the tough and drier side. Using the sauce helped for flavor. Coleslaw and beans were average. My take on it--expensive for what you get and not that great overall. My husband liked it better than me and ate the leftovers.

                                        1. re: RB Hound

                                          The Joey's Smokin' BBQ in Carmel Valley is legit. I go with my Memphis-raised neighbor and she says it's the closest she's tried to what she eats back home. The pulled pork sandwich is fantastic; you'll never stop craving it.

                                        2. re: Js

                                          Hey guys. There is good barbecue in San Diego you just have to know where to find it. There's this small outfit named Coop's West Texas Barbecue that smokes some of the best meat I've ever tasted. What he does is smoke meats, vaccum seal it, and freeze it. He calls it "Barbecue in a Bag". All you do is heat it up in the microwave or the oven in its concealed pakage. I was amazed at the quality of the taste. I have'nt tasted anything like it. I ran into him at a barber shop in Southeast San Diego where he was sampling his chicken and ribs and boy was I impressed. He has a website up it's I would recommend him to president.

                                          1. re: bradrick

                                            Got turned on to Coops in Lemon Grove a while back by FN. Very appreciative for that! Best that I've had.

                                          2. re: Js

                                            That's why I make my own BBQ. Buy a Weber Smokey Mountain (you can find used ones on craigslist for $100), learn how to use it (The virtual weber bullet is a good place to start) and test out rubs, buy them etc. Over at the Virtual Weber Bullet, bbq aficionados pointed me to Texas BBQ Rub ( and while I make my own rubs still when I want a different flavor, nothing beats their rub recipe. The original or brisket blend are both great, some people mix it.

                                            I don't serve it sauced and frankly you don't need to sauce it, but sometimes I might put a bowl of Bone Sucking sauce (hot) next to the meat for those who must dip.

                                            1. re: deeznuts

                                              I agree with you. Dry rubbed smoked meats do not need a sauce. It only hides the awsome flavors of the rub (that you or I create) and the meat itself.

                                            2. re: Js


                                              1. re: montdaddy

                                                Consistently tought brisket. Very good slaw, with almond slices.

                                              2. re: Js

                                                I've had "the real thing" at Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, Missouri.

                                              3. Phils is pretty darn good!

                                                1. Big Jim's is a Big Disappointment. All fluff and no substance. I would say hands down the best BBQ is
                                                  Phil's in Hillcrest. In North County, Joeys Smokin
                                                  BBQ is pretty good also

                                                  1. I am a fan of Phils, but I also like HUFFMANS. Huffmans lacks the ambiance of Phils, it is all take out and everything is stacked on white bread. They also have fried chicken. The chicken is not started until you order it.

                                                    1. I am a fan of Phils, but I also like HUFFMANS. Huffmans lacks the ambiance of Phils, it is all take out and everything is stacked on white bread. They also have fried chicken. The chicken is not started until you order it.