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El Barbecue is especially best and new on Saturdays

Will this finally be the restaurant that sticks at 25th and Market?

Available Saturday only, the El barbecue brisket is something worth adding to your calendar
Available Saturday only, the El barbecue brisket is something worth adding to your calendar

Honestly, I thought the matter had been settled: that the parade of restaurants rolling through the corner shack at 25th and Market Street had come to an end. Following half a dozen ill-fated concepts in ten years, Sister Ray’s moved in and kept it simple, offering burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken sandwiches, and my late night favorite, chili cheese fries. It felt like a good fit for what had become a cursed Sherman Heights location, and might have made it two years — longer than its predecessors — if not for the pandemic.

Place

El Barbecue

549 25th Street, San Diego

History suggested the restaurant property was due to slip back into mediocrity, or worse. Except, it didn’t. Instead, a couple of smoked meat fanatics brought their BBQ concept into the building. And now — with apologies to a couple of Mexican eateries down the street — El Barbecue serves the best food in Sherman Heights. And neighboring Golden Hill, for that matter. This won’t be news if you helped vote it Best New Restaurant in The Reader’s recent “Best of 2021” issue.

Many restaurant concepts have opened and closed within this corner shack at 25th and Market.

Freshly married chefs, Brandon Standafer and Ami Cisneros Standafer, opened their shop over the summer. Both have history cooking at Grand Ole BBQ, which is precisely why I’ve put off covering El Barbecue til now. I know and love the Grand Ole brisket, so I didn’t want to address El Barbecue til I tried its own take, currently available only on Saturdays.

I could not be more happy I did. Simply put, Standafer’s Texas-style, oak-smoked brisket is flawless. It’s got all you want in a smoked brisket: a crusty, black bark surrounds a pink smoke ring, which surrounds the tender texture of slow cooked meat, and a ribbon of fat so beautifully rendered it melts on contact to provide a burst of flavor with every bite. At $14 per half pound, this thing should be selling out every single Saturday, and shame on all of us if it doesn’t.

That said, the last thing I want to do is give the impression El Barbecue is a one-trick pony. There are more than enough dishes on the menu to get us through the rest of the week, and, much like Grand Ole draws on Argentinian barbecue traditions as well as Texan, El Barbecue brings global influences to bear.

The Santa Natalia sandwich puts Santa Maria style tri-tip on a Mexican bolillo roll with South American chimmichurri.

As the name suggests, one of these is Mexican food, easiest to spot in the restaurant’s brisket birria quesadillas, smoked chicken tortilla soup, and Sunday smoked pork pozole. I find myself drawn to one of the shop’s collection of homemade sauces: Holy Moly BBQ sauce, which combines the tangy punch of Kansas City style BBQ sauce with the sweet depths of black mole. I recently tried the brisket birria served in beef broth with udon noodles, revealing an Asian influence that likewise shows up in a sandwich inspired by Korean fried chicken.

But arguably the best item other than brisket starts with a California BBQ tradition: Santa Maria tri-tip. On its own, El Barbecue’s tri-tip is tender, smokey, peppery, and top rate. Tri-tip doesn’t get better in San Diego. And when these El Barbecue kids throw it on a bolillo roll with a combination of mayo and chimichurri to make the sandwich they call Santa Natalia ($15), several culinary traditions sing together in beef sandwich harmony. I find myself once again re-thinking my list of San Diego’s best sandwiches, and once again convinced this is going to be the restaurant finally to buck the trend, and survive at 25th and Market.

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Available Saturday only, the El barbecue brisket is something worth adding to your calendar
Available Saturday only, the El barbecue brisket is something worth adding to your calendar

Honestly, I thought the matter had been settled: that the parade of restaurants rolling through the corner shack at 25th and Market Street had come to an end. Following half a dozen ill-fated concepts in ten years, Sister Ray’s moved in and kept it simple, offering burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken sandwiches, and my late night favorite, chili cheese fries. It felt like a good fit for what had become a cursed Sherman Heights location, and might have made it two years — longer than its predecessors — if not for the pandemic.

Place

El Barbecue

549 25th Street, San Diego

History suggested the restaurant property was due to slip back into mediocrity, or worse. Except, it didn’t. Instead, a couple of smoked meat fanatics brought their BBQ concept into the building. And now — with apologies to a couple of Mexican eateries down the street — El Barbecue serves the best food in Sherman Heights. And neighboring Golden Hill, for that matter. This won’t be news if you helped vote it Best New Restaurant in The Reader’s recent “Best of 2021” issue.

Many restaurant concepts have opened and closed within this corner shack at 25th and Market.

Freshly married chefs, Brandon Standafer and Ami Cisneros Standafer, opened their shop over the summer. Both have history cooking at Grand Ole BBQ, which is precisely why I’ve put off covering El Barbecue til now. I know and love the Grand Ole brisket, so I didn’t want to address El Barbecue til I tried its own take, currently available only on Saturdays.

I could not be more happy I did. Simply put, Standafer’s Texas-style, oak-smoked brisket is flawless. It’s got all you want in a smoked brisket: a crusty, black bark surrounds a pink smoke ring, which surrounds the tender texture of slow cooked meat, and a ribbon of fat so beautifully rendered it melts on contact to provide a burst of flavor with every bite. At $14 per half pound, this thing should be selling out every single Saturday, and shame on all of us if it doesn’t.

That said, the last thing I want to do is give the impression El Barbecue is a one-trick pony. There are more than enough dishes on the menu to get us through the rest of the week, and, much like Grand Ole draws on Argentinian barbecue traditions as well as Texan, El Barbecue brings global influences to bear.

The Santa Natalia sandwich puts Santa Maria style tri-tip on a Mexican bolillo roll with South American chimmichurri.

As the name suggests, one of these is Mexican food, easiest to spot in the restaurant’s brisket birria quesadillas, smoked chicken tortilla soup, and Sunday smoked pork pozole. I find myself drawn to one of the shop’s collection of homemade sauces: Holy Moly BBQ sauce, which combines the tangy punch of Kansas City style BBQ sauce with the sweet depths of black mole. I recently tried the brisket birria served in beef broth with udon noodles, revealing an Asian influence that likewise shows up in a sandwich inspired by Korean fried chicken.

But arguably the best item other than brisket starts with a California BBQ tradition: Santa Maria tri-tip. On its own, El Barbecue’s tri-tip is tender, smokey, peppery, and top rate. Tri-tip doesn’t get better in San Diego. And when these El Barbecue kids throw it on a bolillo roll with a combination of mayo and chimichurri to make the sandwich they call Santa Natalia ($15), several culinary traditions sing together in beef sandwich harmony. I find myself once again re-thinking my list of San Diego’s best sandwiches, and once again convinced this is going to be the restaurant finally to buck the trend, and survive at 25th and Market.

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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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