I consider myself lucky. Though I’ve gone too many years without discovering the joy that is burnt ends, once I’d learned about this delicacy of BBQ brisket, only 30 minutes passed before I was trying it for myself. Burnt ends are prepared from the fat end of a cut of brisket. They’re cooked longer to ensure the fat renders, and as a result they’re charred to a crisp on the outside, and all but melted in the middle. There’s a new BBQ joint, I was told, “You have to try the burnt ends.” Fortunately, I was in the neighborhood.
925 West San Marcos Blvd, San Marcos
In the neighborhood of San Marcos, that is. A food truck started in Escondido, Up in Smoke BBQ has been serving meaty sandwiches outside of breweries, office parks, and events since 2012. As of September, the food truck and catering business has opened its own brick and mortar spot, just across from the Old California Restaurant Row. It’s a small dining room and bar, with a large covered patio that provides most of the charm.
Its BBQ menu includes a ten-hour smoked brisket, pulled pork, braised chicken, and with the arrival of the restaurant, ribs. The house BBQ sauce is honey bourbon, so it’s like Memphis BBQ by way of Kentucky. Sandwiches, sliders, and BBQ meats heaped atop potato chips are carried over from the food truck menu. Even served outside of bread, such as with the 18-dollar Up In Smoke Sampler, the brisket, chicken, and pork are served chopped and mixed into that sauce. Which is all good, though some of us prefer sauce on the side, or to sink our teeth into the superior chew of a good, sliced brisket.
That’s less a concern with burnt ends being an option ($10). Eating them presents a far different experience than sliced brisket, but one I expect to repeat many times the rest of my life. Cooked with the same dry rub as the brisket, they’re served without sauce — or sauce on the side. The savory rub is meant to pair with sauce, so it’s not exceptionally flavorful. But it likewise doesn’t need to add much the smoke and beef fat of the burnt ends, and I appreciated the restraint in letting things pop with the flavors cooking gave them.
On their own, burnt ends added to the Up In Smoke menu makes the move into a restaurant space a winning decision for both the food truck and San Marcos. Factor in things like ribs and sweet tea, and the place is off to a pretty good start. There are even vegan meatballs available for non-meat eaters who want to try the sweet bourbon BBQ sauce. You might ask for them burnt, but somehow I don’t think they’d work quite the same way.