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Fine brisket at Memphis Minnie's (SF)

Memphis Minnie's is well known here, with both its fans (including me) and detractors. I had their brisket sandwich (with sweet potato side) for lunch today and reacquainted myself with why I like this place so much. It was as good as any brisket I've ever had, and I've had it at a bunch of places in Kansas City and Texas (although not the famous-name Texas places). This was smoky, but not too much so, and both tender and moist without being too fatty for me. As usual, they serve the brisket in thick slices; other places should take note of that. No, it's not always this good, but today's brisket was a gem. The chunks of sweet potato were just right in flavor and texture; they left them relatively plain which was fine with me.

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  1. Hate to be a Debbie Downer, but compared to what's available in Texas and other areas in the south, MM is just mediocre.

    Since MM is about as good as it gets out here, I have pretty much given up on BBQ in the bay area, and I advise tourists to choose another type of cuisine.

    Edit: I note that Dickey's has opened several franchises in the bay area recently, and I have not tried them yet since I generally stick to SF.

    13 Replies
    1. re: sfchris

      I've tried the brisket from Dickey's at the Dallas airport a couple of times and would pick MM's brisket hands-down.

      1. re: sfchris

        Personally I'm a MM detractor since they moved from Polk St. Have eaten there half a dozen times and the meat has always been dry and tough.

        I'm not a Texas bbq expert, but I think b-side in Oakland or Smoking Pig in San Jose have much better brisket than MM.

        1. re: drewskiSF

          Interesting. I've had the brisket at MM's maybe 2 dozen times and never found it to be dry and tough (indicative of not spending enough time in the smoker). I have had had it on occasions when it has been over cooked, but even then it has been delicious albeit falling apart.

          We must travel in different cycles! ;)

          1. re: Civil Bear

            I should clarify that I've mostly had ribs at MM so that wasn't 1/2 dozen bad brisket meals. Still, every meal was sub-par.

            I have a friend who used to live a block from MM and really liked it, which is why I kept trying it over the years (he'd drag me).

            Even he admitted the food wasn't good the times when we went so chalk it up to remarkably bad timing?

            1. re: drewskiSF

              We've had some discussions in the past on the best times/days to eat at MM. My recollection is that Tuesday, after the Monday day off was deemed optimal.

          2. re: drewskiSF

            I've had the same experience as Civil Bear on roughly the same amount of visits. The sauces are weird but the meat doesn't need it.

            1. re: drewskiSF

              Yah I agree with everyone's positive comments. I do think B-Side have passed them by, and probably Cathead too, but I eat there when I happen to be in that nabe, and I'm always satisfied with it.

              1. re: dunstable

                Have you tried Grease Box? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/919563

                I haven't been to their store so can't comment on their consistency, but at a private event they catered, Grease Box's brisket was better than what I've had at MM, which I like, or B-Side, which I don't. It had a delicious layer of fat, the meat was soft and juicy but had structure but wasn't taut, and a nice salty outer crust.

                1. re: hyperbowler

                  I have not. Is on my list now, though, thanks...

              2. re: drewskiSF

                It can be good or dried out. Luck of the pot.

                1. re: stanbee

                  Secret is to ask for the the wet or fatty end. They will understand what you mean and then this is one of the two best briskets around. The other being Smokehouse 10 in Martinez, which is probably the best this side of Taylor, TX.

              3. re: sfchris

                I'm looking forward to this, since 4505 has become my butcher of choice and they do a brilliant smoked brisket, which is only occasionally available...


                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Never noticed it. Never had one anywhere :-)

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    On the assumption that, like me, the next most likely metropolitan area that you may visit is LA, there is a new restaurant, Roadside Eats, near the Arclight Theater in Hollywood that has fried pies on the menu, along with many bbq items.

                    I used to spend a lot of time in the lower Haight, but have been to Hollywood many more times in the last few years. I need to find a reason to hit LH, else will have to wait a few months for LA.

                    1. re: chocolatetartguy

                      the lower haight is way closer than LA if you happen to live in SF, so why the relucatance ? just curious.

                      1. re: kevin

                        I just have no compelling reason to go to the Lower Haight, or Haight Ashbury for that matter. In the past I spent a lot of time on that section of Divisadero and ate at Kate's Kitchen, Big Sherm's, Rosamunde. I have regular business in LA. Someday when I have nothing better to do, I'll make a special trip to MM for a fried pie.

                  2. it's great though i hven't been in years.

                    1. ever since da pitt on divis closed down, there is really no good authentic barbecue in SF. that being said, there are a lot of places doing their own innovative modern takes on barbecue, like cathead, hi-lo, wexler's, and others, which i much prefer to a sad attempt at the real thing like memphis minnie's, especially for someone who's actually eaten real memphis barbecue.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: vulber

                        What about chef Edwards BBq ????

                        Still around.

                        Though it was in a rough and tumble section of Oakland.

                        1. re: kevin

                          Chef Edwards closed long ago. Hopscotch is in that space.

                          1. re: Pius Avocado III

                            What's Hopscotch all about ?

                            Thanks for the update.

                        2. re: vulber

                          Curious to know what makes the brisket at Hi-Lo modern and innovative while the brisket MM's a sad attempt to be authentic.

                          Good brisket in Memphis is hard to find.

                          1. re: Civil Bear

                            i was speaking more generally about barbecue, not specifically brisket; which i have not had there. the brisket at MM's is far too dry for me. interstate barbecue in memphis has excellent brisket.

                        3. The two best beef briskets I've had in the Bay Area have been from 1) Smoking Pig in San Jose; and 2) B-Side in Oakland. MM doesn't hold a candle to those, IMO. The "ash" taste is way too overpowering at MM, whereas at the other places, it complements the meat nicely as a balanced element.

                          1. Went to Memphis Minnie's for the first time in about a year. In the past, I've found that the bbq can be hit or miss (probably because BBQ doesn't keep well and their business is variable). Today, the brisket was exceptionally good - moist, tender, just the right amount of fat and the seasoned ends were just perfect.

                            1. Brisket might be tender or tough and dry, depending on the hour. Not crazy about any of the the sauces or sides. Better brisket in Armadillo, Texas though not a famous spot.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: stanbee

                                There's much better brisket all over Texas. Even at chains like Rudy's.

                                1. re: mikeh

                                  I've had plenty of brisket in Texas. My favorite brisket so far is Franklin BBQ. The brisket I had at MM this week was very good. We must have very different tastes. I thought Rudy's was terrible the one time I had to stop at one.

                                  1. re: wanderlust21

                                    The bay area seems to have a serious surge of BBQ. There's always a long-simmering BBQ capability, but with Smokestack, Perdidtion, 3 Pigs, probably others in addition. I think these places would be in the mid-range in texas.

                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      Thanks the only newish bbq I've tried is 4505, I prefer the brisket I just had at MM. I haven't tried any of those new places you mentioned, which one would you recommend for brisket?

                                      As far as comparisons to Texas, I understand using it as reference point for the places you mentioned. I'm sure there is better Texas brisket in Texas, and better xlb in Shanghai and ramen in Japan etc., but I'm generally looking to find good eats within driving distance of San Francisco...

                                      1. re: wanderlust21

                                        1. I haven't tried MM. It's just not in a part of SF that I've ever frequented (sure, now and then, for the Toranado).

                                        2. I didn't have the brisket at Smokestack, but was very impressed by the pulled pork. If you're in SF, I think it's really worth a try.

                                        3. There are a couple of places in berkeley/oakland I haven't tried. I have tried perdition.

                                        4. The best brisket I've had, especially if you like the high side, is Smoking Pig in SJ. That's a long trip.

                                        5. If you like smoke & lean brisket, get thee to Trail Dust in Morgan Hill. You'll be sweating smoke for 24 hours.

                                        1. re: bbulkow

                                          it's kind of unfair to compare Mempis Minnie's to the real goods in Texas, i think.

                                          1. re: bbulkow

                                            Inexplicably, Trail Dust was only serving brisket on weekends, when I stopped by midweek (not sure if that's still the case). So armed with the knowledge imparted to this board by Melanie W., I instead went to their sister restaurant, Salinas City BBQ -- I was heading that way anyway. I've returned since, and IMO it compares favorably with Black's in Lockhart, TX, and was much better than Smitty's. IOW, probably the best BBQ I've had. I've only had the 'Q from Black's and Smitty's once though, and have yet to make it to Franklin or Snow's, so I'm not claiming to be an expert on Texas Q.

                                            It's been a long time since my visits to Minnie's, but IME, it's good but not great. Inconsistent of course, like all BBQ. Although I usually eat BBQ sans sauce, I do enjoy a bit of sauce occasionally. MM's sauces are nasty to me.

                                            1. re: Steve Green

                                              I have been to Salinas City BBQ. Enjoyed. I found Trail Dust smokier.

                                              I attended this event in houston. I understand that everyone in texas thinks houston's BBQ is inferior, I got to believe out of the 20 places sampled, some were as good as the Lockhart places.