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Best slow-smoked meat in San Diego?

Brazen BBQ has reason to B.R.A.G.

Full rack of Baby Back ribs with two sides and Texas toast.
Full rack of Baby Back ribs with two sides and Texas toast.
Place

Brazen BBQ

441 Washington Street, San Diego

Exterior of Brazen BBQ

When it comes to meat, I like it lean — no chewy gristle, no greasy globules of fat, I just want that succulent muscle. Meat-wise, I’m a bad foodie — I prefer filet mignon over marbled rib-eye cuts, and pork tenderloin over oleaginous pork belly. When meat is slow-cooked (for a long time at a low temperature), most of the fat melts away, a process that increases tenderness and concentrates flavor. It’s important to keep the temperature low so that the meat doesn’t dry out. When this process is executed well, you’re left with tender, juicy meat, minus the bits I don’t care for. I’ve yet to find a restaurant in San Diego that slow-cooks better than Brazen BBQ Smokehouse & Bar.

When David and I choose to head out for lunch, I often rule out Hillcrest restaurants because the hunt for a parking spot sours my mood. Fortunately, Brazen has its own lot. Since we first discovered the joint in 2011, it has been our go-to spot for take-out for casual gatherings with friends. On rare occasions (maybe 3 or 4 times in as many years), we pull up a seat and enjoy a meal on site.

A closer look at the crusty macaroni and cheese

I was (and remain) disappointed when my favorite beans (ancho-spiced baked beans that were sweet, savory, and spicy) were removed from the menu. Neither the “cowboy beans” or the “red beans and rice” options fill this empty spot on my BBQ platter. David likes them fine, but I’m still holding out for some version of the baked beans to return.

Though barbecue aficionados often beeline to brisket, our meat of choice is the baby back ribs ($14.99 for half rack, $22.99 full). I have tried and enjoyed the brisket and pulled pork, and sometimes, to shake things up, we'll get a platter with both ribs and pulled pork, but most often we keep it simple with just the ribs. Two people could easily split a half rack, which comes with two sides, and be more than satiated. On our most recent visit, David and I ordered a full (more meat, still two sides), primarily because he wanted to have some leftovers for the following day.

Platter with ribs and pulled pork

On this occasion, we opted to try the “crusty macaroni and cheese,” which is considered a side upgrade, for an additional $1.49. It was a dollar-fifty well spent. The bubbly browned cheese atop the creamier version within was indeed crusty, and pleasantly crispy.

House-made sauce options.

There are two BBQ sauces on every table, both made in-house: Smokey Lace and B.R.A.G. The latter, my favorite, is sweet and tangy with a kick. The acronym represents the sauce's secret ingredients, and conveys the confidence that comes with winning as many awards as these guys have. Inevitably, even with the slow-cooked ribs, there are some fatty bits. Fortunately for me, my permanent dining companion doesn’t mind those. So I pick the parts I like, and give him the rest. My perfect bite? A tender chunk of rib and a drizzle of B.R.A.G. sauce atop some Texas toast. For so long we’d been getting our ribs to go, so I’d forgotten how delightfully crispy the toast could be. Next time, instead of swinging by and picking up food for friends, we’ll bring the party to Brazen.

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Full rack of Baby Back ribs with two sides and Texas toast.
Full rack of Baby Back ribs with two sides and Texas toast.
Place

Brazen BBQ

441 Washington Street, San Diego

Exterior of Brazen BBQ

When it comes to meat, I like it lean — no chewy gristle, no greasy globules of fat, I just want that succulent muscle. Meat-wise, I’m a bad foodie — I prefer filet mignon over marbled rib-eye cuts, and pork tenderloin over oleaginous pork belly. When meat is slow-cooked (for a long time at a low temperature), most of the fat melts away, a process that increases tenderness and concentrates flavor. It’s important to keep the temperature low so that the meat doesn’t dry out. When this process is executed well, you’re left with tender, juicy meat, minus the bits I don’t care for. I’ve yet to find a restaurant in San Diego that slow-cooks better than Brazen BBQ Smokehouse & Bar.

When David and I choose to head out for lunch, I often rule out Hillcrest restaurants because the hunt for a parking spot sours my mood. Fortunately, Brazen has its own lot. Since we first discovered the joint in 2011, it has been our go-to spot for take-out for casual gatherings with friends. On rare occasions (maybe 3 or 4 times in as many years), we pull up a seat and enjoy a meal on site.

A closer look at the crusty macaroni and cheese

I was (and remain) disappointed when my favorite beans (ancho-spiced baked beans that were sweet, savory, and spicy) were removed from the menu. Neither the “cowboy beans” or the “red beans and rice” options fill this empty spot on my BBQ platter. David likes them fine, but I’m still holding out for some version of the baked beans to return.

Though barbecue aficionados often beeline to brisket, our meat of choice is the baby back ribs ($14.99 for half rack, $22.99 full). I have tried and enjoyed the brisket and pulled pork, and sometimes, to shake things up, we'll get a platter with both ribs and pulled pork, but most often we keep it simple with just the ribs. Two people could easily split a half rack, which comes with two sides, and be more than satiated. On our most recent visit, David and I ordered a full (more meat, still two sides), primarily because he wanted to have some leftovers for the following day.

Platter with ribs and pulled pork

On this occasion, we opted to try the “crusty macaroni and cheese,” which is considered a side upgrade, for an additional $1.49. It was a dollar-fifty well spent. The bubbly browned cheese atop the creamier version within was indeed crusty, and pleasantly crispy.

House-made sauce options.

There are two BBQ sauces on every table, both made in-house: Smokey Lace and B.R.A.G. The latter, my favorite, is sweet and tangy with a kick. The acronym represents the sauce's secret ingredients, and conveys the confidence that comes with winning as many awards as these guys have. Inevitably, even with the slow-cooked ribs, there are some fatty bits. Fortunately for me, my permanent dining companion doesn’t mind those. So I pick the parts I like, and give him the rest. My perfect bite? A tender chunk of rib and a drizzle of B.R.A.G. sauce atop some Texas toast. For so long we’d been getting our ribs to go, so I’d forgotten how delightfully crispy the toast could be. Next time, instead of swinging by and picking up food for friends, we’ll bring the party to Brazen.

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Comments
3

Do you like everything you eat to be blackened (i.e., burned)? I don't like burnt meat, but I know it's commonly accepted on BBQ meat cuts, unfortunately; perfect browning during cooking makes for a delectable taste, whereas going beyond that into a blackening yields an unpleasantly bitter taste. The other elements of your meal are also burnt (the cheese is not brown - it's black, and the toast is burntin one corner). Burnt toast and cheese, as seen in your photos, are never desirable or tasty. Burnt toast can be used as an emetic and is unpleasantly bitter; burnt cheese proteins lose all of their natural texture and flavor. To achieve a crisp topping on mac/cheese requires use of a buttery crumb mixture.

Feb. 26, 2015

Coops BBQ is better!

Feb. 27, 2015

Coop's doesn't offer baby back ribs! So I'm going to give Brazen a try. Baby backs must be getting expensive because Costco used to offer them alongside the rotisserie chicken. Now Costco is using spare ribs.

On another note, if you read this Barbarella. You, or whoever is photographing, is capturing some excellent pics.

April 6, 2015

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