3302 32nd Street, North Park
The San Diego restaurant scene is vast in terms of dining options, but in its own way it is also small and many chefs and restaurateurs are friends in what is, for the most part, a community filled with mutual respect and admiration. So when it came to deciding where to go for dinner one night, friends Sara and Hanis (chef/owner of the pork-centric restaurant Carnitas’ Snack Shack) selected Grand Ole BBQ y Asado to jokingly “check out the competition.” But it turned out Hanis had already been there and approved of the offerings enough to recommend it as our destination for the evening.
We arrived shortly after 6pm — an early dinner, but, according to Hanis, necessary if we wanted to ensure a varied tasting. Dinner starts at 6 until the food is sold out. The same goes for lunch, which starts at noon from Wednesday through Saturday. This is why the meat masters at Grand Ole BBQ encourage patrons to check their Twitter account before heading over. To visit their Twitter page is to see not much more than a series of the same tweets at various times announcing that lunch or dinner is “SOLD OUT!”
The picnic-table dining area is all outdoors, and the menu is written in black marker on a large sheet of brown paper affixed to a wooden plank with blue masking tape. We smelled the savory smoked selections from where we’d parked a block away. Meats are offered by the sandwich or the pound. For example, brisket is $12 by the sandwich or $22 by the pound.
I ordered the pulled pork sandwich ($10), and at Hanis’s insistence, we also got the Texas Turkey ($18/pound). We ended up getting a bunch of things so we could taste around, sending the plentiful leftovers home with Sara and Hanis.
I was surprised to hear Hanis — a perpetual pork pusher — suggest the turkey, something I assumed he considered an inferior white meat. At a glance, it looked like it might even be dry. But on our first bite, all became clear. In all my years of Thanksgiving feasts, I can’t recall a time that I tasted such a tender and flavorful cut of the big bird.
Despite the terrific turkey, I was all about my pulled pork sandwich. The pork, like the turkey, was tender, juicy, and flavorful and the bread was pleasantly soft, with a subtle sweetness. To this I added the vinegary/sweet/spicy BBQ sauce, one of five different sauces David had put into the plastic cups provided at the sauce station. The sandwich was so satisfying in texture and flavor that I only let David have half a half instead of an entire half.
The Texas Hot Links were as advertised, with a lot of kick. Had I not been so busy with my sandwich I would have gone for more slices of sausage. The only bite of meat I tried that I didn’t care for were the ribs. They weren’t bad, but they didn’t stand up to my benchmark, the ones I get at Brazen BBQ.
After tasting the turkey, sausage, and sandwich, the sides seemed superfluous. I wasn’t interested in the potato salad (not a big mayonnaise fan) or Texas bean salad (too much cilantro for me), but I did have a few bites of the white Peruvian beans. Though they look unappealing — brown slop in a paper tray — they’re like a rich gravy, creamy with a bit of chew and just enough salt to encourage another bite. And they went great with the turkey.