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Grand Ole BBQ’s return to North Park

A multi-year remodel brings changes, but most important stuff remains the same

An undressed tri tip sandwich from Grand Ole BBQ y Asado
An undressed tri tip sandwich from Grand Ole BBQ y Asado

Most of the time, I hunt around for new or under the radar eateries to highlight for Feast. If a restaurant already attracts long lines, or a has a dozen articles about it this week, I’d only be telling people what they already know.

Place

Grand Ole BBQ y Asado

3302 32nd Street, San Diego

Well, you probably already know Grand Ole BBQ. I mean, I hope you do. Somebody’s been standing in perennially long lines at its restaurants the past seven years, and a lot of somebodies megaphoned its praises as a caterer five years before that. If you’re only now hearing about the place that finally brought a culture of central Texas-style smoked brisket to San Diego, consider yourself notified. Maybe try to get out more.

The reason I bring it up: the original, North Park location of Grand Ole BBQ y Asado hadn’t been available to us for years. The original outdoor restaurant at 32nd and Thorn Street closed for a remodel back in 2019, and some combination of global and local events conspired to keep it closed til this spring.

A remodeled outdoor BBQ restaurant, now open once again in North Park

Which isn’t to say we’ve gone without. Just before North Park closed, Grand Ole BBQ opened a second, and much larger, location out in Flinn Springs, East County. It launched a Petco Park concession during the 2021 Padres season. Meanwhile, the influence of its pitmaster, Andy Harris, emerged elsewhere in town, as former Grand Ole BBQers moved on to create brisket-headlined menus of their own, at spots such as El Barbecue and Sideyard BBQ.

But there was always more to the North Park restaurant’s charm than terrific, smoked meats. Its outdoor seating and BYOB policy made it more social than your average food service establishment, at times feeling like an ad hoc beer garden where you might always bump into old pals.

One result of the Grand Ole BBQ remodel: the open air Toro Islander Bar, named in tribute to Grand Ole friend and fan Nate Soroko

That vibe remains — more so on Wednesdays, when the BYOB policy remains in effect. However, a major aspect of the new-look Grand Ole BBQ is the installation of an open-air bar. Loaded with draft beer taps, it blends seamlessly with the outside seating — there are even a few picnic tables in there — while bringing a little country class, with what look like bronze ceiling tiles, and a crystal chandelier.

What has not changed is that Grand Ole popularity. There was a line to order when I showed up for lunch on a Wednesday; a longer one on Sunday afternoon. But give credit to management here: not only does the line move quickly, but the bar sends out servers to tend to the thirsty, meaning you can order a beer to sip on while you wait.

Choripan: a simple South American sandwich of chorizo (Chori-) and bread (-Pan)

A less outwardly visible result of the remodel is an expanded kitchen, and new menu items. Now there are burgers, frito pie, dirty fries, and three kinds of chili. I got a kick out of the “Lockhart TX charcuterie,” a $15 meat-and-cheese board that’s a sliced hot link surrounded by pickles, jalapeños, hunks of American cheese, and saltine crackers. An amusing way to make the spicy sausage shareable. Perhaps the most startling move is the presence of a plant-based menu. It’s not much: a meatless taco, burger, and chili. If I were better at my job, I might have ordered all the plant-based items and let vegans know what to expect.

But to stand in this line is to be consumed by the aromas of pork and beef, which hang in the air like a spiritual possession. I couldn’t bring myself to order anything that hadn’t required animal sacrifice.

A short distance from Grand Ole BBQ's central Texas-style smoker sits a central California-style Santa Maria Grill, ideal for cooking tri-tip.

Then, I couldn’t come back with yet more photos of that sensational brisket. Though Texas barbecue remains the chief influence here, Argentinean BBQ has long been a part of the menu, available on Sundays. They weren’t serving the Argentinean-style lamb or skirt steak when I showed up, but they did offer choripan: a South American chorizo sandwich. It’s a less spicy sausage than the Texas hot links, and goes well with the house chummichurri.

There’s California BBQ to be found as well. While in line, I found myself standing beside a Santa Maria grill, a central California-style cooker equipped with a wheel that can raise or lower the grill over the wood burning beneath. On the grill sat tri-tip steaks with bark as black as the brisket. They told me that the counter that this tri-tip is often the first to sell out, even before the smoked brisket.

Like all meats, it’s sold here by the pound, or on a simple sandwich ($16). Sandwiches here are essentially meat and bread, leaving it up to you to dress with one of several BBQ sauces, or more of that chimichurri. Even bare, it’s an impressive sandwich. But you probably already knew that.

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An undressed tri tip sandwich from Grand Ole BBQ y Asado
An undressed tri tip sandwich from Grand Ole BBQ y Asado

Most of the time, I hunt around for new or under the radar eateries to highlight for Feast. If a restaurant already attracts long lines, or a has a dozen articles about it this week, I’d only be telling people what they already know.

Place

Grand Ole BBQ y Asado

3302 32nd Street, San Diego

Well, you probably already know Grand Ole BBQ. I mean, I hope you do. Somebody’s been standing in perennially long lines at its restaurants the past seven years, and a lot of somebodies megaphoned its praises as a caterer five years before that. If you’re only now hearing about the place that finally brought a culture of central Texas-style smoked brisket to San Diego, consider yourself notified. Maybe try to get out more.

The reason I bring it up: the original, North Park location of Grand Ole BBQ y Asado hadn’t been available to us for years. The original outdoor restaurant at 32nd and Thorn Street closed for a remodel back in 2019, and some combination of global and local events conspired to keep it closed til this spring.

A remodeled outdoor BBQ restaurant, now open once again in North Park

Which isn’t to say we’ve gone without. Just before North Park closed, Grand Ole BBQ opened a second, and much larger, location out in Flinn Springs, East County. It launched a Petco Park concession during the 2021 Padres season. Meanwhile, the influence of its pitmaster, Andy Harris, emerged elsewhere in town, as former Grand Ole BBQers moved on to create brisket-headlined menus of their own, at spots such as El Barbecue and Sideyard BBQ.

But there was always more to the North Park restaurant’s charm than terrific, smoked meats. Its outdoor seating and BYOB policy made it more social than your average food service establishment, at times feeling like an ad hoc beer garden where you might always bump into old pals.

One result of the Grand Ole BBQ remodel: the open air Toro Islander Bar, named in tribute to Grand Ole friend and fan Nate Soroko

That vibe remains — more so on Wednesdays, when the BYOB policy remains in effect. However, a major aspect of the new-look Grand Ole BBQ is the installation of an open-air bar. Loaded with draft beer taps, it blends seamlessly with the outside seating — there are even a few picnic tables in there — while bringing a little country class, with what look like bronze ceiling tiles, and a crystal chandelier.

What has not changed is that Grand Ole popularity. There was a line to order when I showed up for lunch on a Wednesday; a longer one on Sunday afternoon. But give credit to management here: not only does the line move quickly, but the bar sends out servers to tend to the thirsty, meaning you can order a beer to sip on while you wait.

Choripan: a simple South American sandwich of chorizo (Chori-) and bread (-Pan)

A less outwardly visible result of the remodel is an expanded kitchen, and new menu items. Now there are burgers, frito pie, dirty fries, and three kinds of chili. I got a kick out of the “Lockhart TX charcuterie,” a $15 meat-and-cheese board that’s a sliced hot link surrounded by pickles, jalapeños, hunks of American cheese, and saltine crackers. An amusing way to make the spicy sausage shareable. Perhaps the most startling move is the presence of a plant-based menu. It’s not much: a meatless taco, burger, and chili. If I were better at my job, I might have ordered all the plant-based items and let vegans know what to expect.

But to stand in this line is to be consumed by the aromas of pork and beef, which hang in the air like a spiritual possession. I couldn’t bring myself to order anything that hadn’t required animal sacrifice.

A short distance from Grand Ole BBQ's central Texas-style smoker sits a central California-style Santa Maria Grill, ideal for cooking tri-tip.

Then, I couldn’t come back with yet more photos of that sensational brisket. Though Texas barbecue remains the chief influence here, Argentinean BBQ has long been a part of the menu, available on Sundays. They weren’t serving the Argentinean-style lamb or skirt steak when I showed up, but they did offer choripan: a South American chorizo sandwich. It’s a less spicy sausage than the Texas hot links, and goes well with the house chummichurri.

There’s California BBQ to be found as well. While in line, I found myself standing beside a Santa Maria grill, a central California-style cooker equipped with a wheel that can raise or lower the grill over the wood burning beneath. On the grill sat tri-tip steaks with bark as black as the brisket. They told me that the counter that this tri-tip is often the first to sell out, even before the smoked brisket.

Like all meats, it’s sold here by the pound, or on a simple sandwich ($16). Sandwiches here are essentially meat and bread, leaving it up to you to dress with one of several BBQ sauces, or more of that chimichurri. Even bare, it’s an impressive sandwich. But you probably already knew that.

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