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Jay's Southern Café brings BBQ and soul food to the outskirts

Finally looking past the IPAs to see what's cooking in Alpine

Huge pork ribs, smoked in Alpine
Huge pork ribs, smoked in Alpine

Driving around Alpine, it starts to dawn on me that there are a lot more restaurants out here than I thought. Chalk that up to a decade-plus of only going up that hill for beers brewed by the McIlhenney family, I guess. Whenever I take the Tavern Road exit off the 8-east, I might as well be one of Pavlov’s dogs, drooling at the thought of a decadently hopped IPA.

Place

Jay's Southern Cafe

2169 Arnold Way, Alpine

Finally, with food on my mind, the blinders have come off and I can see there are just enough options to be choosy. In addition to a bevy of taco shops, I pass an Italian restaurant, a sushi spot, and noodle bar. But how am I going to say no to Jay’s Southern Café, a restaurant promising BBQ and soul food, out here, a half-hour east and a third-of-a-mile above sea level?

Apparently, it’s been around since 2015 or so, and just hasn’t been on my radar. It also managed to be left off those support black-owned restaurants lists, passed around a couple summers ago. The counter shop is owned by a local bishop and his wife, and appears to be a family affair: their kids were the ones to bring food and drinks out to our table. Every ten minutes or so, the young daughter would reappear, to rather sweetly ask whether everything was to our liking.

A well put together sort of rustic

Most of it was. The dining room has a rustic look, only better organized. It’s got wagon wheel chandeliers and a checkerboard tile floor. Framed posters from the New Orleans Jazz Festival line walls of stained wood, and there’s maybe a half-cord of chopped oak, stacked in one corner, just outside the kitchen.

That would be fuel for the smoked BBQ side of the menu, which covers chicken, brisket, pulled pork, and hot links. For $17.59, I ordered a plate of the largest pork ribs I’ve ever seen, each some 9 or 10 inches long. Coated in a tasty dry rub, they didn’t need any BBQ sauce, so it proved a wise move that I’d requested it on the side.

Coleslaw and a brisket sandwiched smothered in BBQ sauce

The same can’t be said about the chopped brisket sandwich ($14.50), which boasted juicy, flavorful meat, while eating more like a sloppy joe due to loads of sweet BBQ sauce that spilled out onto the plate from a brioche style bun. In hindsight, I would have preferred the spicy version of the sauce, which subdues the sweetness with a fair amount of kick.

Sides available with each order include coleslaw, baked beans, and potato salad. I can personally recommend the collard greens, and so can my dining companion, who finished mine when I wasn’t looking.

I couldn’t rightfully call these Alpine-smoked meats the best example of San Diego county BBQ, but the soul food side of the menu might make a case. My most memorable order turned out to be a basket of chicken wings (8 for $12.99). Southern fried, they come out superbly seasoned and crispy as can be.

Crispy, southern fried chicken wings at Jay's Southern Café

Again, I didn’t make much use of the spicy sauce on the side, and that crispy batter crust left wishing I had taken the counter clerk’s advice to try the fried sea bass — served with fries ($14), on a sandwich ($10) or over grits ($12 from 11am-2pm). It’s something I’ll think to do next time I make it to Alpine. Because it’s not just for beer anymore.

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Huge pork ribs, smoked in Alpine
Huge pork ribs, smoked in Alpine

Driving around Alpine, it starts to dawn on me that there are a lot more restaurants out here than I thought. Chalk that up to a decade-plus of only going up that hill for beers brewed by the McIlhenney family, I guess. Whenever I take the Tavern Road exit off the 8-east, I might as well be one of Pavlov’s dogs, drooling at the thought of a decadently hopped IPA.

Place

Jay's Southern Cafe

2169 Arnold Way, Alpine

Finally, with food on my mind, the blinders have come off and I can see there are just enough options to be choosy. In addition to a bevy of taco shops, I pass an Italian restaurant, a sushi spot, and noodle bar. But how am I going to say no to Jay’s Southern Café, a restaurant promising BBQ and soul food, out here, a half-hour east and a third-of-a-mile above sea level?

Apparently, it’s been around since 2015 or so, and just hasn’t been on my radar. It also managed to be left off those support black-owned restaurants lists, passed around a couple summers ago. The counter shop is owned by a local bishop and his wife, and appears to be a family affair: their kids were the ones to bring food and drinks out to our table. Every ten minutes or so, the young daughter would reappear, to rather sweetly ask whether everything was to our liking.

A well put together sort of rustic

Most of it was. The dining room has a rustic look, only better organized. It’s got wagon wheel chandeliers and a checkerboard tile floor. Framed posters from the New Orleans Jazz Festival line walls of stained wood, and there’s maybe a half-cord of chopped oak, stacked in one corner, just outside the kitchen.

That would be fuel for the smoked BBQ side of the menu, which covers chicken, brisket, pulled pork, and hot links. For $17.59, I ordered a plate of the largest pork ribs I’ve ever seen, each some 9 or 10 inches long. Coated in a tasty dry rub, they didn’t need any BBQ sauce, so it proved a wise move that I’d requested it on the side.

Coleslaw and a brisket sandwiched smothered in BBQ sauce

The same can’t be said about the chopped brisket sandwich ($14.50), which boasted juicy, flavorful meat, while eating more like a sloppy joe due to loads of sweet BBQ sauce that spilled out onto the plate from a brioche style bun. In hindsight, I would have preferred the spicy version of the sauce, which subdues the sweetness with a fair amount of kick.

Sides available with each order include coleslaw, baked beans, and potato salad. I can personally recommend the collard greens, and so can my dining companion, who finished mine when I wasn’t looking.

I couldn’t rightfully call these Alpine-smoked meats the best example of San Diego county BBQ, but the soul food side of the menu might make a case. My most memorable order turned out to be a basket of chicken wings (8 for $12.99). Southern fried, they come out superbly seasoned and crispy as can be.

Crispy, southern fried chicken wings at Jay's Southern Café

Again, I didn’t make much use of the spicy sauce on the side, and that crispy batter crust left wishing I had taken the counter clerk’s advice to try the fried sea bass — served with fries ($14), on a sandwich ($10) or over grits ($12 from 11am-2pm). It’s something I’ll think to do next time I make it to Alpine. Because it’s not just for beer anymore.

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Comments
2

BBQ and soul food. Yum Yum!!

Aug. 7, 2022
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
Aug. 8, 2022

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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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