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Smoked meat sandwiches overflow at Valley Farm's BBQ Shack

Put aside any doubt that East County sets the tone for regional barbecue

A brisket sandwich, and then some
A brisket sandwich, and then some

There’s an aisle of shelves in Spring Valley grocery Valley Farm Market almost entirely devoted to barbecue. It carries sauces, seasonings, wood chips, pellets, and a litany of accessories for the wannabe backyard smoker. I’ve spent a fair amount of time browsing it of late, and it’s inspired a handful of home barbecue attempts, usually with meat purchased from the butcher counter found at the back of the shop.

Place

Valley Farm Market BBQ Smokehouse Shack

9050 Campo Rd, Spring Valley

Sadly, you can start your day with the best rub, a fine cut of meat, and the best intentions, yet still make a mess of dinner. Let’s just say I won’t be entering my brisket in competition anytime soon.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Fortunately, the market offers a plan B for us amateurs who fall short, and it’s found in the parking lot. Size-wise, the BBQ Smokehouse Shack doesn’t take up more room than three parking spaces might. But in terms of flavor, it’s bigger than places many times the size.

A small BBQ shack stands in front of a grocery parking lot.

The best place to start would be the shack’s Sampler plate. For 20 bucks, it’s packed with enough smoked meat to introduce you to most of the menu, including three baby back ribs, a house-made sausage, a quarter pound of tri-tip, a slider stacked high and thick with pulled pork, and a one side (coleslaw, beans, potato salad, or mac & cheese).

Unlike my own results, each of these meats come out tender, savory, and worth sharing, with or without the brown sugary, Kansas City styled BBQ sauce. My top pick would be the ribs, of course, but in each case the smoke flavor proves complementary rather than overbearing — a trick I’ve yet to learn.

Baby back ribs, just a small part of the $20 sampler

The sides, too, mainly err on the side of subtlety. Featuring chopped rather than shredded cabbage, the coleslaw goes easy on mayo, and is a touch sweet. Whereas some mac & cheeses swim in a creamy roux, these elbow noodles bear a light coat of dairy. The most indulgent side dish has to be the BBQ beans, bathed in a creamy stew with fatty pieces of pork.

The Shack’s best offering, though, is only offered Friday through Sunday, and I finally made a weekend trip so I could try it: the brisket.

Probably the toughest cut of beef to master, a brisket takes more than six hours of low and slow smoking to keep it from being one of the toughest cuts of beef to eat. You can order portions at $30 per pound, but to get a single serving, go for the $15 sandwich. As with the pulled pork slider, this features way more meat than can fit inside the bread provided. Essentially, it’s a plate of cubed brisket with brioche bun if you need it.

Way more pulled pork than can fit on a slider bun

Which suits me just fine. It boasts an admirably black bark, pull-apart tender beef, and just enough rendered fat to keep things interesting. According to the Valley Farm website, they use prime meats for a lot of this stuff, which would put this beef quality above most of what you’ll find around town.

That said, this shack just adds more evidence that East County is home to San Diego’s best BBQ. And I don’t need to learn to use my backyard smoker at all.

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A brisket sandwich, and then some
A brisket sandwich, and then some

There’s an aisle of shelves in Spring Valley grocery Valley Farm Market almost entirely devoted to barbecue. It carries sauces, seasonings, wood chips, pellets, and a litany of accessories for the wannabe backyard smoker. I’ve spent a fair amount of time browsing it of late, and it’s inspired a handful of home barbecue attempts, usually with meat purchased from the butcher counter found at the back of the shop.

Place

Valley Farm Market BBQ Smokehouse Shack

9050 Campo Rd, Spring Valley

Sadly, you can start your day with the best rub, a fine cut of meat, and the best intentions, yet still make a mess of dinner. Let’s just say I won’t be entering my brisket in competition anytime soon.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Fortunately, the market offers a plan B for us amateurs who fall short, and it’s found in the parking lot. Size-wise, the BBQ Smokehouse Shack doesn’t take up more room than three parking spaces might. But in terms of flavor, it’s bigger than places many times the size.

A small BBQ shack stands in front of a grocery parking lot.

The best place to start would be the shack’s Sampler plate. For 20 bucks, it’s packed with enough smoked meat to introduce you to most of the menu, including three baby back ribs, a house-made sausage, a quarter pound of tri-tip, a slider stacked high and thick with pulled pork, and a one side (coleslaw, beans, potato salad, or mac & cheese).

Unlike my own results, each of these meats come out tender, savory, and worth sharing, with or without the brown sugary, Kansas City styled BBQ sauce. My top pick would be the ribs, of course, but in each case the smoke flavor proves complementary rather than overbearing — a trick I’ve yet to learn.

Baby back ribs, just a small part of the $20 sampler

The sides, too, mainly err on the side of subtlety. Featuring chopped rather than shredded cabbage, the coleslaw goes easy on mayo, and is a touch sweet. Whereas some mac & cheeses swim in a creamy roux, these elbow noodles bear a light coat of dairy. The most indulgent side dish has to be the BBQ beans, bathed in a creamy stew with fatty pieces of pork.

The Shack’s best offering, though, is only offered Friday through Sunday, and I finally made a weekend trip so I could try it: the brisket.

Probably the toughest cut of beef to master, a brisket takes more than six hours of low and slow smoking to keep it from being one of the toughest cuts of beef to eat. You can order portions at $30 per pound, but to get a single serving, go for the $15 sandwich. As with the pulled pork slider, this features way more meat than can fit inside the bread provided. Essentially, it’s a plate of cubed brisket with brioche bun if you need it.

Way more pulled pork than can fit on a slider bun

Which suits me just fine. It boasts an admirably black bark, pull-apart tender beef, and just enough rendered fat to keep things interesting. According to the Valley Farm website, they use prime meats for a lot of this stuff, which would put this beef quality above most of what you’ll find around town.

That said, this shack just adds more evidence that East County is home to San Diego’s best BBQ. And I don’t need to learn to use my backyard smoker at all.

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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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