8910 Troy Street, Spring Valley
What’s a Kamenitza beer, from far-off Bulgaria, doing in Cali Comfort?
Long story short, the owner is Bulgarian. The place has been in his family for some time. Used to be a breakfast place, but the barbecue smoker went in during the two-thousands, and they haven’t looked back at omelets since! Now, the one clue to Cali Comfort’s BG pedigree is that Kamenitza lager on the menu.
It’s too bad they don’t sell Kamenitza Fresh, the low-alcohol, citrus-flavored beer beverage that the company produces for the Bulgarian market. Fresh looks like it’s in the long tradition of lemonade-spiked alcoholic summer beverages, in the company of the classic shandy (beer and “lemonade,” which is basically Irish for 7-Up) and tinto de verano (the popular Spanish drink made from red wine and lemon Fanta).
Here in the US, beer-and-soda combos refuse to catch on. The ill-fated El Take It Easy tried to sell calimocho (red wine and cola) to the masses, but nobody was buying. It might be that American audiences don’t want to pay full price for low-alcohol beverages, though some restaurants sell lemonade and iced tea without the privilege of refills, which is more or less the same deal. It’s still a pity that beverages like Kamenitza Fresh don’t pop up on more local menus, regardless of why.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand, Cali Comfort’s actual barbecue is OK. Ribs get the trim treatment, removing the succulent rib tips and making it less bang for your buck. All the meat has the smokiness we want to see, but they don’t manage to hit that magic trifecta of smoky/barky/fatty that gives good ‘cue its luster. Underwhelming brisket doesn’t do much one way or the other, but the pulled pork is pretty good. It’s at least fatty and succulent.
Unlike a lot of other barbecue places, which sling ribs for days but little else, Cali Comfort is less of a single-issue candidate. The sprawling menu lists off sports bar favorites (jalapeño poppers and potato skins aplenty!), burgers, entrees (including an ornate mac 'n’ cheese dish with chicken, bacon, and sour cream), and even breakfast.
Cali Comfort’s best feature might be the drinking options. “Fish Bowl” drinks (for two or more people to share) are big enough that little rubber duckies can float on the top. The restaurant’s Bloody Mary looks delicious, and there are these little chocolate “martini” drinks that could bridge the gap between alcoholism and insulin-injection dependence.
Call it crazy, but it might just be fun to get wrecked on housemade Jungle Juice and try to eat an order of San Miguel Firefighter Wings, which are so hot they require a waiver.
If you want barbecue, however, go up the street to Valley Farm.