Chopped and sauced roast at the BBQ House in OB.
  • Chopped and sauced roast at the BBQ House in OB.
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BBQ House Bar & Grill

5025 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach

The barbecue orthodoxy argues over much, but stays firm on one thing: barbecue must be smoked.

That assumption demands to be challenged.

As the late Naomi Wise, the Reader’s former restaurant critic, pointed out, smoking’s not so easy in California. Zoning and health department controls (beloved by politicians and hated by restaurateurs) complicate matters, making big, smokey barbecue pits hard to install. Many barbecue restaurants in San Diego (and elsewhere) opt for a combination of slow cooking and grilling to simulate the conditions of traditional barbecue. Others utilize some form of the Alto-Shaam, a programmable, self-contained smoker that can yield excellent results.

Touring SD’s ‘cue scene, both of those options will to come up over and over again. The dirty little secret of barbecue is that they can both be good, as long as they’re done well.

Ocean Beach’s BBQ House (5025 Newport Avenue, 619-222-4311) is in the former category of what we might call Cali-Cue. Not that we will call it that, because that’s a terribly foolish term. Still, the restaurant could be a gold standard for how to do ‘cue without the ecological encumbrance of a massive smoker. They also nail the ambiance of a friendly neighborhood restaurant. Anecdotes abound of friendly people at the restaurant, as opposed to the surly pit masters one might expect.

At the BBQ House, it’s all about the “roasts.” Huge cuts of pork and beef linger beneath heat lamps, reminiscent of a Mexican carnitas joint like the delectable Estilo Michoacan in City Heights.

Roast meat chillin' out at the BBQ House

Roast meat chillin' out at the BBQ House

Service on BBQ House’s roasts is as plates of chopped meat served with side dishes (beans, coleslaw, etc.) and garlic bread. In terms of actual barbecue, the OB shop’s fare runs closest to a Carolina ‘cue, where the meat is chopped and served with thin, zesty, vinegar or mustard sauces. Finding some of that in San Diego would be a treat! BBQ House’s sauce is thick and sweet, made there in huge stockpots if the website’s photo gallery is to be believed. While not super-duper smokey, the roasts are tender, flavorful, and generously portioned. A $13.99 plate could feed two normal eaters.

The side dishes taste of mass-production. Nevertheless, canned beans (if that be the case) and pre-made slaw served in good condition (as the sides at BBQ House are) are better than handmade stuff kept poorly, or generic sides served stale and off-temperature (like at Kansas City Barbecue).

As if to prove just how California ‘cue can be, BBQ House chops the roast meat and fills a BBQ burrito. Beans and slaw nestled alongside slow-cooked pork? Delightful and beautifully Californian! Perhaps even the show stealer, although the restaurant’s take on a sloppy joe, using the crispy ends and trimmings of their roasts, is an inspired dish--and much closer to a real burnt end, to boot!

BBQ burrito

BBQ burrito

BBQ House even offers a substantial selection of vegetarian dishes. That may be OBecian to the core, but it's certainly not approved by any of the barbecue authorities (which really exist!) that codify what constitutes legit 'cue.

While BBQ House may not be the spitting image of a real barbecue pit, it’s a good restaurant in its own right, and it proves how much can be done with non-traditional equipment.

All Things BBQ: Prologue

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Mercy Baron Nov. 21, 2013 @ 8:22 p.m.

You are correct about the word BBQ and what it means to us folks that are serious about our Q! It does mean smoked, but we know which restaus in SD get away with using that moniker anyway, don't we?

I'm a Kansas City Certified BBQ Judge #66003 (which gives you a bit of an idea how many of us there are and growing all the time) and I do love the smoky goodness of some tender meats and that beautiful smoke ring...even though we're not allowed to judge the smoke ring in competition. I love that I live literally right behind the BBQ House and I try to go at least once a week. Father and son owners, Abdoul, Melvin and Davin truly care about the food they are serving.

You mentioned their Sloppy Joe trimmings to be like burnt ends? I totally agree and have them take a bunch of that meat and pour it over some fresh and hot french version of BBQ Carnitas fries!

What took you so long about getting to the BBQ House though Ian? I reviewed it over a year ago for the OB Rag, lol. Check it out here.


Ian Pike Nov. 22, 2013 @ 7:04 a.m.

Good story about the place in the Rag, Mercy. I've been wanting to do an extended BBQ feature for about six months and it's finally happening now. Stay tuned, as there's much more 'cue to come!


bbq Nov. 22, 2013 @ 10:26 a.m.

Ian, I was speaking to a co-worker as I read your story, He is from North Carolina but like you he mentioned the South Carolina bbq sauce being the mustard based, his opinion is the SC Mustard sauce at Trader Joes is some of the best he's ever had.

Now where the real bbq comes from in my opinion is it should be what each individual wants it to be.

My son makes a pretty fine sauce at home which is a combo of the whiskey, tomato, ketchup variety and a mexican chile infused hot sauce, sweet with nice after burn in the mouth!

Is there really any "BAD" bbq? I think it's just a matter of likes, tastes and personal tradition. Keep pedaling, BBQ


Shawn Walchef Nov. 22, 2013 @ 3:40 p.m.

Ian: Thank you for the story on the BBQ House! From your review and Mercy's comments it appears that the owners of the BBQ House are dedicated to serving some great tasting que! We look forward to more reviews on the San Diego Barbecue scene and we also hope you head out to Spring Valley to try our Low-N-Slow Cali BBQ sometime in the near future.

If your hungry for slow smoked tri-tip this weekend, our Cali Comfort BBQ Team will be serving up tri-tip sliders, "wedding" bbq beans and our wicked peach cobbler tomorrow at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival! We hope to meet you soon!

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Mercy Baron Nov. 23, 2013 @ 9:46 p.m.

Ian, you MUST try Cali Comfort next!! BBQ House and Cali Comfort are IMHO, the two BEST Que places in SD!!


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