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BBQ House Bar & Grill: souped-up Sloppy Joe

All I think is $6, including side, and see it as a small miracle.

My rib tip sandwich, with side of beans. Deal at $8.
My rib tip sandwich, with side of beans. Deal at $8.
Place

BBQ House Bar & Grill

5025 Newport Avenue, San Diego

My neighbor Kevin is a particular guy. Knows what he likes. Right now, he has a sudden urge for OB. We’re on Newport. “In this town,” he says, “they have the best burgers.” He points across the street to Hodad’s. Bunch of guys and gals on window stools jawing away at their piled-high burgers, staring out into the street life of Newport Avenue.

And there’s always plenty of that here. When people sleep on this street, it’s like they’ve plopped themselves down wherever they feel tired. Passers-by say hi or just walk around them.

Catherine: the lady with the tres mares eyes.

“Hey now,” says Kevin. “Look at this!” ’Tis another venerable burger joint. Folks sit facing the street, just like at Hodad’s, but on this side of Newport. For some reason, I have a good feeling about it. Maybe I’ve been here before? Whatever, Kevin’s already in and talking to Catherine, this gal with the tres mares eyes (“Three Seas,” like blue-green. Sigh).

“Most popular?” she’s saying. “I’d say the pork ribs, the house burger. Bano, too.”

“Bano?”

“‘Cubano.’ Our BBQ Cubano. Grilled ham, pulled pork, coleslaw, sauce.”

Me, I’m electrified by her eyes. Specially as the interior here is dark, more woody than colorful, with black furniture.

“D’agh, Cubano? How much?”

“Bano’s $14.”

Kevin and Sloppy Joe: qualms with contents? Maybe. But happy camper? For sure.

“And pawk ribs and house burger?” says Kevin in his semi-New Yawk accent. He’s like me, not ashamed to watch his money in public.

“Ribs are $14 for three with one side, or $12 a la carte,” says Catherine. “Burger’s $14, too.”

I see it on the menu now. Burger looks beautifully messy. Has BBQ sauce, baked beans, cheese, bacon, onion rings. It also comes with a side. Hmm. Fourteen buckeroos seems the average for most dishes. And you can go up to $34 for 3 beef ribs with two sides. I mean, I feel like a cheapskate, but I say it anyway.

“Anything cheaper?”

She doesn’t bat an eye. “Sure. We have Sloppy Joes for $6, and a rib tip sandwich for $8.”

Wow. Six bucks! And, turns out that includes a side as well. Anything from fries to onion rings to garlic toast to corn bread. Or mash and gravy, potato salad, macaroni salad, mac’n cheese, cole slaw, baked beans, jalapeno poppers or even rice. Separately, most of these sides cost $1.50-$2. I can see there’s a generosity thing going on here. I mean, there’s plenty of temptation to choose the more expensive items, things like the sausage and roast sub ($18) with your choice of brisket, pulled pork, grilled chicken, or ham in BBQ sauce on a ham roll; or a whole chicken with two sides for $25; or BBQ nachos for $15. Oh man. So much, including a BBQ combo of 3 meats and two sides for $25. There’s even a “pup menu” for dogs, with bones, ribs and Scooby Snacks.

Woody look defines this OB institution.

So maybe it’s ridiculous, but I’ve just got to see what the cheapest item looks like. “Hey, let’s try each,” says Kevin. “I’ll take the Sloppy Joe.”

“So what’s in them?” I ask Catherine.

“Everybody knows that,” says Kevin. “Ground beef, onions, ketchup. Maybe Worcestershire sauce. Couple of burger buns, ’nuff said.”

“Well actually,” says Catherine, “what we do here is just use up the leftover bits of meat from the other BBQ dishes we make, like the burnt end pieces of brisket and pulled pork. We toss them in our BBQ sauce — which we make fresh every morning — and put them in our toasted bun.” I do a quick search on Sloppy Joe. The history? “Loose meat sandwiches sold in Sioux City, Iowa” in the 1930s. They were usually 10 cents. Some say they originally came from Cuba.”

So Kevin goes for the Sloppy Joe, while I sacrifice two extra dollars to buy the $8 rib tip sandwich, with “slowly roasted and shredded” pork rib tips in a bun, drowning in that BBQ sauce. Just to make it even sloppier, I ask for baked beans as my side. Kevin orders fries.

Kevin takes his first chomp. Uh oh. He complains that the bits and pieces are not all beef, and not ground, like in the recipes he’s used to, the ones he ate back east. Me, all I think is $6, including side, and see it as a small miracle. Same with my rib tip sandwich at $8. And our crisp buns are super savory, toasted golden domes, framing the picture.

“Mmm,” is all my buddy says.

“So Sloppy Joe’s okay after all?” I venture.

“No. It’s the fries. They are da bomb. Right kind of tough. Right kind of crunch. Right kind of savory.”

But most of the time, we’re heads down. Only sound is Kevin taking regular sucks on his pink lemonade ($2.75). Me, I have a Bud Light ($5). So he has spent $8.75 total; me, $13.75. I remember now, the last time I came in here, how these two brothers, Davin and Melvin, held the fort. Their dad had started his tiny BBQ place in a store on this street that had been sold to developers. Thanks to fellow OBecians, he was finally able to find this spot, and get back into his specialty, barbecuing. I’m definitely coming back. Kevin too, even though he’s not done complaining.

“Still think Sloppy Joes should be ground beef, and only ground beef,” he says.

“Yeah buddy,” I say. “But look around. This ain’t Nebraska any more. Ask Catherine.”

“You mean Katherine?”

“No, I mean Catherine.”

“OK, Lay a Bano on it. Winner eats.”

“Let’s go check with Katherine.”

“You mean Catherine?”

Gonna be a long afternoon.

  • The Place: BBQ House Bar & Grill, 5025 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach, 619-222-4311
  • Hours: 11am-9pm daily (till 10pm, Friday, Saturday)
  • Prices: Sloppy Joe with one side, $6; rib tip sandwich with side, $8; 1/4 chicken, $9 (with one side, $11); 1 beef rib, $11; sloppy Joe burrito, $9; chicken tender basket, (4 tenders, fries), $10; BBQ Parfait (mash, gravy with brisket, pulled pork, grilled chicken, or ham), $13; veggie Joe (plant-based meat, BBQ sauce on bun, $13; romaine wedge salad, $5; rib tip plate, one side, $13; 1/2lb BBQ (brisket, pulled pork, grilled chicken, ham, hot link or bratwurst, $18; BBQ nachos, $15; house burger, baked beans, bacon, $14; 3 pork ribs, $12
  • Buses: 35, 923
  • Nearest Bus Stops: Cable Street and Newport
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My rib tip sandwich, with side of beans. Deal at $8.
My rib tip sandwich, with side of beans. Deal at $8.
Place

BBQ House Bar & Grill

5025 Newport Avenue, San Diego

My neighbor Kevin is a particular guy. Knows what he likes. Right now, he has a sudden urge for OB. We’re on Newport. “In this town,” he says, “they have the best burgers.” He points across the street to Hodad’s. Bunch of guys and gals on window stools jawing away at their piled-high burgers, staring out into the street life of Newport Avenue.

And there’s always plenty of that here. When people sleep on this street, it’s like they’ve plopped themselves down wherever they feel tired. Passers-by say hi or just walk around them.

Catherine: the lady with the tres mares eyes.

“Hey now,” says Kevin. “Look at this!” ’Tis another venerable burger joint. Folks sit facing the street, just like at Hodad’s, but on this side of Newport. For some reason, I have a good feeling about it. Maybe I’ve been here before? Whatever, Kevin’s already in and talking to Catherine, this gal with the tres mares eyes (“Three Seas,” like blue-green. Sigh).

“Most popular?” she’s saying. “I’d say the pork ribs, the house burger. Bano, too.”

“Bano?”

“‘Cubano.’ Our BBQ Cubano. Grilled ham, pulled pork, coleslaw, sauce.”

Me, I’m electrified by her eyes. Specially as the interior here is dark, more woody than colorful, with black furniture.

“D’agh, Cubano? How much?”

“Bano’s $14.”

Kevin and Sloppy Joe: qualms with contents? Maybe. But happy camper? For sure.

“And pawk ribs and house burger?” says Kevin in his semi-New Yawk accent. He’s like me, not ashamed to watch his money in public.

“Ribs are $14 for three with one side, or $12 a la carte,” says Catherine. “Burger’s $14, too.”

I see it on the menu now. Burger looks beautifully messy. Has BBQ sauce, baked beans, cheese, bacon, onion rings. It also comes with a side. Hmm. Fourteen buckeroos seems the average for most dishes. And you can go up to $34 for 3 beef ribs with two sides. I mean, I feel like a cheapskate, but I say it anyway.

“Anything cheaper?”

She doesn’t bat an eye. “Sure. We have Sloppy Joes for $6, and a rib tip sandwich for $8.”

Wow. Six bucks! And, turns out that includes a side as well. Anything from fries to onion rings to garlic toast to corn bread. Or mash and gravy, potato salad, macaroni salad, mac’n cheese, cole slaw, baked beans, jalapeno poppers or even rice. Separately, most of these sides cost $1.50-$2. I can see there’s a generosity thing going on here. I mean, there’s plenty of temptation to choose the more expensive items, things like the sausage and roast sub ($18) with your choice of brisket, pulled pork, grilled chicken, or ham in BBQ sauce on a ham roll; or a whole chicken with two sides for $25; or BBQ nachos for $15. Oh man. So much, including a BBQ combo of 3 meats and two sides for $25. There’s even a “pup menu” for dogs, with bones, ribs and Scooby Snacks.

Woody look defines this OB institution.

So maybe it’s ridiculous, but I’ve just got to see what the cheapest item looks like. “Hey, let’s try each,” says Kevin. “I’ll take the Sloppy Joe.”

“So what’s in them?” I ask Catherine.

“Everybody knows that,” says Kevin. “Ground beef, onions, ketchup. Maybe Worcestershire sauce. Couple of burger buns, ’nuff said.”

“Well actually,” says Catherine, “what we do here is just use up the leftover bits of meat from the other BBQ dishes we make, like the burnt end pieces of brisket and pulled pork. We toss them in our BBQ sauce — which we make fresh every morning — and put them in our toasted bun.” I do a quick search on Sloppy Joe. The history? “Loose meat sandwiches sold in Sioux City, Iowa” in the 1930s. They were usually 10 cents. Some say they originally came from Cuba.”

So Kevin goes for the Sloppy Joe, while I sacrifice two extra dollars to buy the $8 rib tip sandwich, with “slowly roasted and shredded” pork rib tips in a bun, drowning in that BBQ sauce. Just to make it even sloppier, I ask for baked beans as my side. Kevin orders fries.

Kevin takes his first chomp. Uh oh. He complains that the bits and pieces are not all beef, and not ground, like in the recipes he’s used to, the ones he ate back east. Me, all I think is $6, including side, and see it as a small miracle. Same with my rib tip sandwich at $8. And our crisp buns are super savory, toasted golden domes, framing the picture.

“Mmm,” is all my buddy says.

“So Sloppy Joe’s okay after all?” I venture.

“No. It’s the fries. They are da bomb. Right kind of tough. Right kind of crunch. Right kind of savory.”

But most of the time, we’re heads down. Only sound is Kevin taking regular sucks on his pink lemonade ($2.75). Me, I have a Bud Light ($5). So he has spent $8.75 total; me, $13.75. I remember now, the last time I came in here, how these two brothers, Davin and Melvin, held the fort. Their dad had started his tiny BBQ place in a store on this street that had been sold to developers. Thanks to fellow OBecians, he was finally able to find this spot, and get back into his specialty, barbecuing. I’m definitely coming back. Kevin too, even though he’s not done complaining.

“Still think Sloppy Joes should be ground beef, and only ground beef,” he says.

“Yeah buddy,” I say. “But look around. This ain’t Nebraska any more. Ask Catherine.”

“You mean Katherine?”

“No, I mean Catherine.”

“OK, Lay a Bano on it. Winner eats.”

“Let’s go check with Katherine.”

“You mean Catherine?”

Gonna be a long afternoon.

  • The Place: BBQ House Bar & Grill, 5025 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach, 619-222-4311
  • Hours: 11am-9pm daily (till 10pm, Friday, Saturday)
  • Prices: Sloppy Joe with one side, $6; rib tip sandwich with side, $8; 1/4 chicken, $9 (with one side, $11); 1 beef rib, $11; sloppy Joe burrito, $9; chicken tender basket, (4 tenders, fries), $10; BBQ Parfait (mash, gravy with brisket, pulled pork, grilled chicken, or ham), $13; veggie Joe (plant-based meat, BBQ sauce on bun, $13; romaine wedge salad, $5; rib tip plate, one side, $13; 1/2lb BBQ (brisket, pulled pork, grilled chicken, ham, hot link or bratwurst, $18; BBQ nachos, $15; house burger, baked beans, bacon, $14; 3 pork ribs, $12
  • Buses: 35, 923
  • Nearest Bus Stops: Cable Street and Newport
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