Recyclers: repurposed horse trailer is now the bar
“Welcome to Caballero’s Homey Jammmm!” scribbles this gal on a piece of paper. Music’s too loud for talking. We’re sitting right in front of this group of jamming Latin jazz players, playing live to maybe 100 of us scattered around. And, oh yes: I recognize the trumpet player, Bill Caballero, one of San Diego’s top trumpeters. Teaches music at Point Loma High School. The same jam session group that played at Border X pub, also in the Barrio, PC (Pre-Covid).
Wow. So this is like first shoots of spring. People! Together! I see the tables are well-separated, but there’s a lot of milling-about going on. And people are already caught up in the music. Now I’m spotting lots of familiar faces.
1735 National Ave, San Diego
Just think, five minutes ago I was half asleep aboard the 901 bus. Vaguely noticed Thorn Brewing’s big new brewhouse. Then: ulp. Out the window: People! Partying! I yanked the cord. Bus pulls up at Mother’s Nutritional Center. I hopped out, walked back past the main Thorn tasting room, and on towards that scene I saw. The burble of voices and jazz sounds drew me to this slice of spare land between Thorn’s warehouse and a building that said, “Bachelors’ Flat for Model ex-Offenders.” Now here I am.
“Side Yard BBQ,” says another sign. I join people lining a rope between aluminum beer barrels. It leads us to a matte-black horse trailer with a carnival sign that spells out “COCKTAILS” in bright lightbulbs. Its sides have been swung open to reveal a bar. Uber cool!
Bill Caballero revives live performance with his Latin Jazz jam group
This is a discovery. We’re in the belly of the Barrio, and the Barrio’s hopping. Turns out they’re only here weekends. This is Sunday, 3 pm. So I have this inspiration. “Durlin’! Get on down here,” I shout into my cell phone. It’s my Scottish friend, Annie.
I see on the board menu that they’re already out of brisket and pulled pork. What’s left is turkey, pork spare ribs, hot links, and cauliflower. But, ayee! Not cheap. “One meat plate, $20, brisket plate, $25,” it says. Plates come with two sides and two sauces. Actually, the sides look original. Sweet potato and apple salad with honey dressing. Also sweet, the pineapple coleslaw. And this is new: Chente frijoles, whatever they are, come with tomatoes, onions, garlic and chiles. And there’s a jalapeño mac’n cheese. Oh, and also “Chef Kenzo’s famous game night chili” with a fried potato croquette, cheddar cheese, and green onion ($15). So we’re talking comfort food, which I guess is the understandable choice in these stressful days. They’ve also added bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers (3 for $12), and cornbread ($3).
Live music! Safe distance.
So I suck it up and know I’m going to be out forty-odd buckeroos, but that’s for two, so it doesn’t give me quite the same indigestion.
Oh. They’re out of chili, and the poppers. No probbo. I order the ribs, plus an add of hot links ($10), and for the sides, sweet potato and apple salad, and just to see what they taste like, chente frijoles. And for the free sauces, Adelita’s sweet BBQ, and smoked chipotle lacquer. That should be plenty for both of us.
“Hey! Sassenach! Did all your other girlfriends turn you down?”
Annie always comes out swinging. But I’m ready for her this time: got her a “Treading Lightly” lo-carb beer. She’s on a serious diet she calls “Losing It,” and whatever else she’s doing, losing weight she is. Me, not so much. I go next door to Thorn’s regular pub (where you can get draft beers) and purchase a Russian Imperial Stout for $8.75. Oh mama. They have about three stouts on tap, but this is the real thing.
Recycled wooden strakes become art with a message.
But diet or not, both of us gouge into the pork spare ribs like hyenas. They are totally flavor-soaked, and full of juices you could just about drink, but with crisp skin surfaces. The people here are also starting a pizza biz called “Hot Mess.” But I’ve got news for them. The mess is already here.
We agree on one thing: the hot link is the champ of the day. Slightly sweet, slightly hot, so robust, yet delicate, with the garlic and herbs. We had to fight over the last chunk (she won).
What $30 buys: pork spare ribs, hot links, frijoles, sweet potato and apple salad side
The band’s playing riffs on “The Mambo Inn,” a famous Cuban jazz piece. Everybody loves it, kids included. People are dancing through the long slopes of sunlight.
So the afternoon goes by like a reunion, with folks relaxing like this was their club headquarters. You would never know this had been an overgrown industrial lot a couple of months ago. The wall art is terrific, and the more you look, the more you see just about everything is recycled.
Spectacular murals transform this ex-industrial land
“We even recycle our surplus beer,” says Kendo, the chef. “We save the alcohol and turn it into ‘ReBru’ whisky. If we need charcoal, we use our BBQ charcoal. The spent grain from the brewing I use in the pizza dough. It gives it a toothy feel.”
Got to go. I’ve been hanging on to see if Bill Caballero’s gonna strike up with “El Cuarto de Tula,” which was a kind of end-of-evening anthem at Border X. It’s going on a year without being able to join in the famous lines everybody sang:“Ay, Mama! Que paso?”
“Ay, Mama! Que paso?” Guess I must have been singing it as we leave. Annie looks at me. “Could we possibly remember the next line, Jock?” she says.
- The Place: Side Yard BBQ, beside Thorn Brewing, 1735 National Avenue, Barrio Logan, 619-818-0234
- Hours: 11am-6pm, Saturdays and Sundays only. (Pub has occasional food trucks other nights)
- Prices: One plate with choice of BBQ meats, including turkey, pulled pork, pork spare ribs, hot links, roasted cauliflower, $20; (with two sides and two sauces); brisket plate, $25; sweet potato and apple salad side, $5; pineapple coleslaw, $5; chente frijoles, $5; jalapeño mac’n cheese, $5; chili with fried potato croquette, cheddar cheese, $15; bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers, 3 for $12; cornbread $3
- Buses: 901, 929
- Nearest Bus Stops: National and Beardsley (901); Newton and Sigsbee (929)