Bob Kantor, founder of Memphis Minnie's, died earlier this week
I found out today after eating lunch there (didn't sense anything "off"), then stopped for dessert down the street at Cafe International where the owner told me Bob died last Monday of a heart attack while scuba diving.
I discovered Bob and Memphis Minnie's in the early(?) 1990s when it was on Polk Street (I think his second location). I recognized the quality of the bbq immediately, as did a visiting family friend with a masters degree in food service and an accomplished chef in his own right. I've been going to his Haight Street location since it opened, probably every three months on average when I would be close at the right time. The barbeque seldom failed me, and the staff always seemed dedicated, accomplished, and friendly, quite a feat to pull off for Bob. The staff obviously is dedicated to carrying on Bob's vision, and if today was a good example they're doing a very good job of that.
This is terrible news. I really enjoyed being around Mr. Kantor a lot, and he visited Tokyo once and treated me and a friend to really good sushi. I would always visit Minnie's on my yearly stays in SF. I recall once he was talking about the true definition of barbecue, and said there were some people that would definite it as something cooked and covered with red sauce, so by that definition a plate of spaghetti could be called barbecue. I once called him on his assertion that good sake is the ideal accompaniment to barbecue, and he responded by inviting me down to Minnie's and treating me to some ribs and his standard 3-sake sampler selection. Well, he was quite right about that -- and all along I'd been assuming that raw fish was the ideal pairing. I have so many Bob stories that I'd better stop now. He will be sadly missed. I hope the shop can continue.
It seems fitting to report on the lunch I had at Memphis Minnie's today, not knowing that Bob had died earlier in the week. I've always stuck to the straight-up barbecue there, because that's what I go there for, but today the sign for the special of Brisket Pot Pie caught my eye, and also my ear when the counter person said that's what she was going to have for lunch. It was probably the best pot pie of any kind I've ever had, or at least right up there with the very best. I just had to get it out of my mind that I was at a barbecue place, because it wasn't at all a barbecue item; it was pot pie that included their very good brisket. Wonderful fresh, if mild, flavors, it all came together. Also a very generous serving, enough for two lighter meals.
A few photos including an earlier brisket sandwich. The reason the place is empty is that they had just opened at 11:00 am.