Brisket hanging off the edges of the bun at BBQ House Bar & Grill.
5025 Newport Avenue, San Diego
I never had a problem with the beef sandwiches at the BBQ House. I sure ate enough of them when I lived in Ocean Beach. Weekly visits earned me Regular status, greeted like a champ for ordering the cheapest thing on the menu — the trimmed edges sloppy joe. When I had a little extra cash I'd go for the beef sandwich, maybe even with onion rings. But only rarely did I order a beer to go with it.
Oftentimes I was on my way to drink some beer, or had just come from doing so — usually Newport Pizza or South Beach, the most reliable places to find good beer in OB ten years ago. BBQ House was purely about the food.
Things have changed. When I last stopped by this summer I found the place temporarily closed. The family who owns the place had taken over the old site of Cow Records next door, and remodeled the entire expanded space to install, among other things, a 30-tap draught system.
Beer's legitimately on the menu.
The restaurant reopened in August as BBQ House Bar & Grill, but I didn't make it back until a chilly late autumn afternoon. The pier was closed due to big wave damage, the beach was empty save for the winter sand berms, and Newport Ave was about as slow as it gets. But BBQ House had customers.
In the old BBQ House, there would have have been enough customers to fill up small, every-expense-spared dining room. But the new House has space to breathe, so while the roll-up doors opening the place to the doubled length of patio were closed, we lunchtime eaters were able to spread out comfortably inside.
A chilly weekday crowd.
You can even watch sports on the patio.
What used to be a low key shop with tasty slow-cooked barbecue has become a tastefully wood-paneled den, staged with a mix of low- and high-top tables, and several TV screens showing sports. The latter occupy the bar side of the room, where a worthy assortment of beers include even some smaller, newer local breweries. I ordered a Duckfoot chocolate and hazelnut porter guessing it would pair well with the sweet brown BBQ sauce of the house, though it's tough to imagine a beer that wouldn't to some degree.
The menu has changed little, with two notable exceptions. First, the sloppy joe is $4 — which I'm pretty sure costs more than the sandwich I used to pay for with a couple of ones and a pile of loose change. Still a great deal if you just want some food to wash down the beer.
A better look from the street for BBQ House Bar & Grill.
Second, according to the woman who took my order at the counter, they switched their beef cut from shoulder to brisket. Shoulder's a leaner cut, but sinking my teeth into the chopped marbled beef and medium-spicy sauce of this sandwich genuinely satisfied my indulgent 'que craving.
Maybe it's the beef, maybe it's the nostalgia, maybe it's the combination of the two in sweet updated digs, but I'm digging BBQ House better than ever. And drinking their beer.