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All Things BBQ: Barnes BBQ

Lots of people (including the Reader’s late restaurant critic, Naomi Wise) have asked, is barbecue solely the province of black America? From the standpoint of pure heredity, barbecue’s roots lie in the black communities of the rural south, and some people still say that African-American pit masters retain true mastery of smoke, dry rub, and sauce. That question is fully unanswerable, since it relies on matters of taste, but there’s no doubt that barbecue has black roots.

Place

Barnes Bar-B-Que

7820 Broadway, Lemon Grove

Notable black figures on the wall at Barnes BBQ

Barnes BBQ (7820 Broadway, Lemon Grove) is a great jumping off point to look at that undeniable relationship. Posters of famous figures from black history line the walls on one side of the dining room, interspersed with historic photographs of early black families from San Diego’s past.

The restaurant claims Texarkana, Arkansas origins, which puts it outside the traditional brackets of barbecue styles. Geographically, we’re talking a hop, skip, and a jump to Texas, which shows in the food.

Barnes’ sauce, in which the restaurant takes great pride, is sweet and sticky, though not overly thick. It doesn’t have a distinct style, though “excessive” is a kind of a style, and the cooks at Barnes like to slather it all over the pork ribs. If anything, "sweetness" is the dominant flavor at Barnes, often to its detriment. Even the peach cobbler suffers from too much sugar, despite the excellent pie crust.

Of note: Barnes gets it right in that cobbler should be topped with pie crust, whereas crumble uses a crumb topping.

Despite the restau’s humble look, Barnes smokes up a decent rib. They’re not Wrangler good, but the ribs have a smoky taste, tender meat, and sufficient cooking that the little cartilaginous bones in the ends can be crunched up and eaten rather than spit out. Asking for the super-sweet sauce on the side might be a good idea.

Barnes BBQ's unsatisfactory pork sandwich

More promising, at least on the surface, is Barnes’ chopped pork shoulder. To read the menu, it’s as if the lucky diner were about to step straight into the Carolinas and sample 'cue at its most archaic.

Meager portions of insufficiently smoky meat, coarsely chopped and doused in sauce (which is really just “OK”), won’t do it. Promises broken.

Even more than the barbecue, Barnes’ claim to fame is the “99-cent soul food” menu of fried chicken, black-eyed peas, braised greens, cornbread, and smothered pork (chopped pork shoulder and gravy over rice), among other staple dishes of soul food cooking.

If barbecue’s heritage is in question, soul food’s certainly isn’t. The African-American community owns soul food, part and parcel. While barbecue has spread beyond the metaphorical boundaries of black America, soul food has not been co-opted by white people to nearly the same extent. The two styles are intertwined to the point that many barbecue restaurants put soul food side dishes on the menu. Barbecue remains smoked pork and beef, despite the variety of styles. Fried chicken and collard greens may be delicious; but 'cue, they are not.

Still, the earliest pit masters would have been black men and women in the deep south, without whom there would be no 'cue at all!

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Lots of people (including the Reader’s late restaurant critic, Naomi Wise) have asked, is barbecue solely the province of black America? From the standpoint of pure heredity, barbecue’s roots lie in the black communities of the rural south, and some people still say that African-American pit masters retain true mastery of smoke, dry rub, and sauce. That question is fully unanswerable, since it relies on matters of taste, but there’s no doubt that barbecue has black roots.

Place

Barnes Bar-B-Que

7820 Broadway, Lemon Grove

Notable black figures on the wall at Barnes BBQ

Barnes BBQ (7820 Broadway, Lemon Grove) is a great jumping off point to look at that undeniable relationship. Posters of famous figures from black history line the walls on one side of the dining room, interspersed with historic photographs of early black families from San Diego’s past.

The restaurant claims Texarkana, Arkansas origins, which puts it outside the traditional brackets of barbecue styles. Geographically, we’re talking a hop, skip, and a jump to Texas, which shows in the food.

Barnes’ sauce, in which the restaurant takes great pride, is sweet and sticky, though not overly thick. It doesn’t have a distinct style, though “excessive” is a kind of a style, and the cooks at Barnes like to slather it all over the pork ribs. If anything, "sweetness" is the dominant flavor at Barnes, often to its detriment. Even the peach cobbler suffers from too much sugar, despite the excellent pie crust.

Of note: Barnes gets it right in that cobbler should be topped with pie crust, whereas crumble uses a crumb topping.

Despite the restau’s humble look, Barnes smokes up a decent rib. They’re not Wrangler good, but the ribs have a smoky taste, tender meat, and sufficient cooking that the little cartilaginous bones in the ends can be crunched up and eaten rather than spit out. Asking for the super-sweet sauce on the side might be a good idea.

Barnes BBQ's unsatisfactory pork sandwich

More promising, at least on the surface, is Barnes’ chopped pork shoulder. To read the menu, it’s as if the lucky diner were about to step straight into the Carolinas and sample 'cue at its most archaic.

Meager portions of insufficiently smoky meat, coarsely chopped and doused in sauce (which is really just “OK”), won’t do it. Promises broken.

Even more than the barbecue, Barnes’ claim to fame is the “99-cent soul food” menu of fried chicken, black-eyed peas, braised greens, cornbread, and smothered pork (chopped pork shoulder and gravy over rice), among other staple dishes of soul food cooking.

If barbecue’s heritage is in question, soul food’s certainly isn’t. The African-American community owns soul food, part and parcel. While barbecue has spread beyond the metaphorical boundaries of black America, soul food has not been co-opted by white people to nearly the same extent. The two styles are intertwined to the point that many barbecue restaurants put soul food side dishes on the menu. Barbecue remains smoked pork and beef, despite the variety of styles. Fried chicken and collard greens may be delicious; but 'cue, they are not.

Still, the earliest pit masters would have been black men and women in the deep south, without whom there would be no 'cue at all!

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Comments
1

Barnes BBQ has been around for years serving great food!!!! I'm not sure why Ian Pike chose to make the review a black thing. When I'm in town I head over to Barnes for a heaping plate full of slow cooked neck bones smothered in rice. You can't beat the price or the warm and friendly service that comes along with your meal. Keep up the good work Barnes BBQ!!

Nov. 26, 2014

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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