A BBQ take out order, including smoked chicken, brisket, pork ribs, mac and cheese, coleslaw, macaroni salad, and jalapeño corn muffins.
If your pandemic bingo card has restaurants re-opening in response to a judge declaring strip clubs can not be shut down by the state’s stay at home order, well congratulations! — you might win 2020. At this writing, enforcement of dining restrictions has been halted as the county tries to make sense of the ruling, meaning the small number of restaurants that already defied the shutdown are off the hook, and a larger number of restaurants have now joined them in resuming on-premise, outdoor dining service.
8910 Troy Street, Spring Valley
But while our entire metropolitan sprawl seems to be living out some dystopian Phillip K. Dick sci-fi, count me among those greeting the apparent public safety loophole with a shrug. I know very well that restaurants doing take-out only risk going out of business, and I want to support them. But I know our region’s ICU capacity is threatened.
I will be picking up meals from spots like Spring Valley’s Cali Comfort BBQ. The East County mainstay started this year eyeing an eventual expansion into Barrio Logan, but instead has diverted its attention to transitioning to an all take-out and delivery model.
A popular Spring Valley BBQ restaurant, hoping to expand to Barrio Logan next year
As a result, Cali Comfort operates like a case study in how to operate a restaurant during these tough times. The home page of its website offers well defined buttons to order take out, order delivery, order catering service, and to purchase gift cards — the latter day currency of foodies. It features a link clearly laying out its option for family meals, which bundle enough food for four or five people into a single, discounted order.
The pick-up area set up in back of Cali Comfort BBQ in Spring Valley
In this case, $75 conjures everything you could want in a BBQ feast: brisket, tri-tip, rib tips, pulled pork, smoked chicken, a handful of side dishes, and the restaurant’s celebrated pork ribs. It’s terrific BBQ done right, slow and low, on a wood fired smoker fired up when it’s still dark out. A sweet but not too sweet Kansas City-style BBQ sauce is applied to the chicken and pork, while the brisket has a trimmed ledge of rendered fat and that satisfying black bark charred from a well-seasoned rub.
A half rack of slow smoked pork ribs, with light sauce
Beyond the family meal, there are other ordering options. Any individual meat is available by the pound for $11-30, as a sandwich for $12-16, or as a combo plate with side dishes for $14-30.
When ordering and pre-paying online, Cali Comfort’s ordering system makes it clear how many drink options the place offers. In addition to sodas, there are bottles of wine ($10) growlers of beer ($10-12) and even growlers filled with cocktails ranging from bloody mary to mai tai ($20-38).
Smoked brisket, with a satisfying black bark
Pick-up is likewise smooth. A well-structured payment and pick-up window is set up at the rear of the restaurant, found in the back of a small parking lot. If you’ve pre-paid online, you may skip the first window, and grab your packed up food at the second.
This place is doing everything right, and my food was still warm and succulent as can be after my fifteen-minute drive from Spring Valley. Even the kids raved about it.