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Grand Ole BBQ is worth the geography lesson

Take a little road trip to Flinn Springs for brisket

A busy weekend in the yard at Grand Ole BBQ Flinn Springs
A busy weekend in the yard at Grand Ole BBQ Flinn Springs

When I heard a popular North Park restaurant was opening a location in East County, I imagined something in the La Mesa vicinity. Maybe El Cajon or Santee. Even when told Grand Ole BBQ would be expanding to an area called Flinn Springs, I heard it described as near El Cajon.

Place

Grand Ole BBQ Flinn Springs

15505 Olde Hwy 80, El Cajon

Well, it’s as near to El Cajon as North Park is to La Mesa. Flinn Springs is actually much closer to Alpine than anywhere else. To get there, I had to drive a few miles on Old Highway 80, once known as the Dixie Overland Highway, which started in Savannah, Georgia and finished here in San Diego.

Point is, it was a longer drive than I thought, veering into unincorporated territory that the modern interstate highway system thought fit to bypass. Grand Ole BBQ is great, I thought, but who wants to drive all the way out here for it?

On a Saturday afternoon, apparently, the answer was hundreds of people, myself gladly included.

Smokers stretched like limousines

It’s on a ranch-style property sitting at the base of a boulder-covered butte. Several dozen may find seating in the dining room or bar, which offers televised sports amid rustic décor including cowhides and mounted deer trophies. But under blue skies, the best choice is clearly the enormous, partially covered patio out back.

On one side you’ll find a view of the impressive ranks of oak filled smokers fueling the restaurant’s Texas style BBQ ribs, turkey, and signature brisket. They look like the stretch limos of drum smokers, long and sleek with four doors running the length of them for high volume BBQ.

A scrumptious Texas brisket

And high volume it was. The place was bustling, at least as much as the Phil’s BBQ in Point Loma. People of every age and lifestyle seemed to constantly be moving through the yard, only stopping long enough to sip a beer, take a shot, or gorge on food. Families, small groups, and couples filled up the outdoor bar and a grid of picnic tables stretching across the venue. In the back of the yard, there’s a small stage, the site of weekly live music.

I bellied up to the outdoor bar and started ordering meat by the quarter-pound (the minimum order on per pound pricing). Spare ribs were $19 a pound; smoked turkey and brisket were each $23 per. Here at mid-afternoon, the place had already sold out of hot links, which come to think of it, probably saved my pants from splitting.

A BBQ joint at the base of a butte

If we’re talkin about Texas BBQ, the brisket at Grand Ole BBQ has to be the best in the city — or in this case, 25 miles outside the city. Its blackened crust and rendered fats make it flat-out scrumptious. You can get it in North Park too, but not til sometime in the spring, as it’s currently closed for renovations. So is Phil’s in Point Loma, come to think of it.

And that’s all the excuse any of us needs to make the drive to Flinn Springs, soon and often.

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A busy weekend in the yard at Grand Ole BBQ Flinn Springs
A busy weekend in the yard at Grand Ole BBQ Flinn Springs

When I heard a popular North Park restaurant was opening a location in East County, I imagined something in the La Mesa vicinity. Maybe El Cajon or Santee. Even when told Grand Ole BBQ would be expanding to an area called Flinn Springs, I heard it described as near El Cajon.

Place

Grand Ole BBQ Flinn Springs

15505 Olde Hwy 80, El Cajon

Well, it’s as near to El Cajon as North Park is to La Mesa. Flinn Springs is actually much closer to Alpine than anywhere else. To get there, I had to drive a few miles on Old Highway 80, once known as the Dixie Overland Highway, which started in Savannah, Georgia and finished here in San Diego.

Point is, it was a longer drive than I thought, veering into unincorporated territory that the modern interstate highway system thought fit to bypass. Grand Ole BBQ is great, I thought, but who wants to drive all the way out here for it?

On a Saturday afternoon, apparently, the answer was hundreds of people, myself gladly included.

Smokers stretched like limousines

It’s on a ranch-style property sitting at the base of a boulder-covered butte. Several dozen may find seating in the dining room or bar, which offers televised sports amid rustic décor including cowhides and mounted deer trophies. But under blue skies, the best choice is clearly the enormous, partially covered patio out back.

On one side you’ll find a view of the impressive ranks of oak filled smokers fueling the restaurant’s Texas style BBQ ribs, turkey, and signature brisket. They look like the stretch limos of drum smokers, long and sleek with four doors running the length of them for high volume BBQ.

A scrumptious Texas brisket

And high volume it was. The place was bustling, at least as much as the Phil’s BBQ in Point Loma. People of every age and lifestyle seemed to constantly be moving through the yard, only stopping long enough to sip a beer, take a shot, or gorge on food. Families, small groups, and couples filled up the outdoor bar and a grid of picnic tables stretching across the venue. In the back of the yard, there’s a small stage, the site of weekly live music.

I bellied up to the outdoor bar and started ordering meat by the quarter-pound (the minimum order on per pound pricing). Spare ribs were $19 a pound; smoked turkey and brisket were each $23 per. Here at mid-afternoon, the place had already sold out of hot links, which come to think of it, probably saved my pants from splitting.

A BBQ joint at the base of a butte

If we’re talkin about Texas BBQ, the brisket at Grand Ole BBQ has to be the best in the city — or in this case, 25 miles outside the city. Its blackened crust and rendered fats make it flat-out scrumptious. You can get it in North Park too, but not til sometime in the spring, as it’s currently closed for renovations. So is Phil’s in Point Loma, come to think of it.

And that’s all the excuse any of us needs to make the drive to Flinn Springs, soon and often.

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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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