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Skip this Gaslamp barbecue

Bugsy’s has had enough time to get better

The $24 meat combo (three meats and three sides) is enough food for two to three people.
The $24 meat combo (three meats and three sides) is enough food for two to three people.
Place

Bugsy’s BBQ

827 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

I give new barbecue joints the widest berth of all restaurant debuts. In my experience, really getting the production schedules dialed in takes a lot longer for barbecue, and the first few months tend to yield dismal results. Thus, it’s been about four months since I got the heads up on Gaslamp newcomer Bugsy’s BBQ.

It’s unfortunate that restaurants such as Bugsy’s continue to embrace a Rat Pack/gangster/macho theme by hanging pictures of Depression Era NYC and Frank Sinatra portraits on the walls. What, exactly, was so great about the middle-third of the 20th Century? The fact that beating up “mouthy” wives was socially acceptable? How cool it was that black people couldn’t drink from certain water fountains? Why such a focus on the least impressive elements of that generation?

Anyway, end of rant. If only there was some good barbecue to ease the burn. Too bad the pitmaster hasn’t been able to sharpen his game. He’s had enough time.

Inconsistent efforts are the bane of barbecue, and Bugsy’s suffers in that regard. The pulled pork lacks character (though at least it isn’t dry) and requires a drenching of sauce, which it should not. Overdone beef ribs and (very slightly) underdone pork ribs carry a burdensome amount of smoky flavor. Side dishes span the spectrum from okay to adequate. Nothing horrible, nothing wonderful. The $24 meat combo (three meats and three sides) is enough food for two or three people, so price is the only thing that isn’t a sticking point.

Bugsy’s sauces are the lone example of truly expressive cuisine.

Bugsy’s sauces are the lone example of truly expressive cuisine, though, like modern art, what they express is not necessarily good. The curious “mustard” sauce, which ought to be a tangy white vinegar and mustard concoction perfect for pulled pork, is more like the honey mustard stuff kids like to put on chicken fingers. The “traditional” sauce tastes strikingly similar to Mott’s cinnamon apple (which is actually impressive). The supposedly spicy “Grim Reaper” could not take on anything fiercer than a kitten.

As a barbecue lover, I appreciate the effort to bring barbecue to the Gaslamp. I wish Bugsy’s were a stronger effort, and perhaps it could be with a lot of tweaking. But right now there are plenty of better options elsewhere.

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The $24 meat combo (three meats and three sides) is enough food for two to three people.
The $24 meat combo (three meats and three sides) is enough food for two to three people.
Place

Bugsy’s BBQ

827 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

I give new barbecue joints the widest berth of all restaurant debuts. In my experience, really getting the production schedules dialed in takes a lot longer for barbecue, and the first few months tend to yield dismal results. Thus, it’s been about four months since I got the heads up on Gaslamp newcomer Bugsy’s BBQ.

It’s unfortunate that restaurants such as Bugsy’s continue to embrace a Rat Pack/gangster/macho theme by hanging pictures of Depression Era NYC and Frank Sinatra portraits on the walls. What, exactly, was so great about the middle-third of the 20th Century? The fact that beating up “mouthy” wives was socially acceptable? How cool it was that black people couldn’t drink from certain water fountains? Why such a focus on the least impressive elements of that generation?

Anyway, end of rant. If only there was some good barbecue to ease the burn. Too bad the pitmaster hasn’t been able to sharpen his game. He’s had enough time.

Inconsistent efforts are the bane of barbecue, and Bugsy’s suffers in that regard. The pulled pork lacks character (though at least it isn’t dry) and requires a drenching of sauce, which it should not. Overdone beef ribs and (very slightly) underdone pork ribs carry a burdensome amount of smoky flavor. Side dishes span the spectrum from okay to adequate. Nothing horrible, nothing wonderful. The $24 meat combo (three meats and three sides) is enough food for two or three people, so price is the only thing that isn’t a sticking point.

Bugsy’s sauces are the lone example of truly expressive cuisine.

Bugsy’s sauces are the lone example of truly expressive cuisine, though, like modern art, what they express is not necessarily good. The curious “mustard” sauce, which ought to be a tangy white vinegar and mustard concoction perfect for pulled pork, is more like the honey mustard stuff kids like to put on chicken fingers. The “traditional” sauce tastes strikingly similar to Mott’s cinnamon apple (which is actually impressive). The supposedly spicy “Grim Reaper” could not take on anything fiercer than a kitten.

As a barbecue lover, I appreciate the effort to bring barbecue to the Gaslamp. I wish Bugsy’s were a stronger effort, and perhaps it could be with a lot of tweaking. But right now there are plenty of better options elsewhere.

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Thanks again for taking one for the team!

July 3, 2016

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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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