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I-Que BBQ: flavors that sing “Yabba dabba do, bite and chew”

The light of La Mesa

A little bit of Georgia on Broadway
A little bit of Georgia on Broadway

When I was a younger man, I wrote up the Chevy Chase apartments, situated on the border between La Mesa and Spring Valley, as ideal bachelor digs. Unfancy, freeway close, but more importantly, bumping up against a strip mall offering Viking Liquor, Calvin’s Cut Barber Shop, Manny’s Cocktail’s & Pool, Nancy’s Taco Shop, Beijing Express Chinese, a laundromat, a bargain grocer, an IHOP, and a Wendy’s. All the basics, except pizza.

Place

I-Que BBQ

8733 Broadway, San Diego

Well, not quite all. Some 20 years later, southern imports Tyrone Hopkins and Naomi Preciabo opened a barbecue joint, making a solid strip into a special one. (The bargain grocery is gone, but the trade is worthwhile.) “Georgia barbecue means sweet and tangy, and a lot of pork,” says Hopkins. “I’ve had to expand a bit for San Diego,” venturing into brisket, burgers, and wings. Preciabo brought sweets from North Carolina — perhaps most notably, a trio of Bundts. But also peach cobbler, as I learned from a gentleman who arrived on Thursday evening asking when it would be ready on Friday. (I-Que is open Thursday to Sunday.)

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Pork and beans, an apotheosis.

“Life is short, eat dessert first” reads a sign on Ms. P’s side of the restaurant’s clean/cute interior — takeout seems the norm here, though there are several tables set up with a view of several TVs — and now that I’ve mentioned dessert first, I may as well write about it. During our initial visit, the place was briefly out of beans; Hopkins slid us a couple of cake slices to ease our disappointment. Both were revelations: damp with syrup but not soggy, not dense, not heavy. The Wife knew I’d want the lemon, so she offhandedly sampled the pistachio. Then it was gone. She was amazed. The flavors sang a similar song: very much present, but light.

That adjective got a workout at I-Que: a paradoxically airy block of cornbread, hovering between biscuit and cake. Melting squares of browned fat amid the meat in my burnt ends. Wispy shreds of pulled pork, fluttering as I raised my fork from the paper tray. The barely crisp coat on the enormous fried wings. Even the sauced-up beans on our second visit: creamy, barely tangy, rich — but light.

A meaty trio, plus slaw.

Heavy? Heavy was the ribs: the mesquite smoke on the meat, the toothsome meat on the bone. “It’s not ‘falling off,’ more ‘Yabba dabba do, bite and chew,’ observed The Wife, pleased. (I didn’t get to the links or the rib tips, but the ribs topped the list of what I did try, followed by the pulled pork.) And heavy was the brisket — peppery and on the dry side, a firm platform for the sweet and tangy (brown sugar and vinegar) sauce. (Not too sweet, though.) I like my brisket a bit more fall-aparty, but this version worked as a sandwich in the spongy (light!) roll. And yes, heavy was the mac ‘n cheese. Not everything was just so — but my disagreements seemed more a matter of personal taste than faulty preparation.

The Wife: “I could not stop eating it.”

Barbecue is not inexpensive — ribs may have been throwaway meat once, but no longer (you can get four for $16, or ribs and two sides for $19 — add $2 for mac ‘n cheese). A pulled pork sandwich, properly topped with slaw, will run you $16 as well. A small baked beans is $5.50, and that amazing pistachio cake is $4.50 a slice. But it’s good food, made with care. The bachelors in the Chevy Chase should count themselves lucky.

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A little bit of Georgia on Broadway
A little bit of Georgia on Broadway

When I was a younger man, I wrote up the Chevy Chase apartments, situated on the border between La Mesa and Spring Valley, as ideal bachelor digs. Unfancy, freeway close, but more importantly, bumping up against a strip mall offering Viking Liquor, Calvin’s Cut Barber Shop, Manny’s Cocktail’s & Pool, Nancy’s Taco Shop, Beijing Express Chinese, a laundromat, a bargain grocer, an IHOP, and a Wendy’s. All the basics, except pizza.

Place

I-Que BBQ

8733 Broadway, San Diego

Well, not quite all. Some 20 years later, southern imports Tyrone Hopkins and Naomi Preciabo opened a barbecue joint, making a solid strip into a special one. (The bargain grocery is gone, but the trade is worthwhile.) “Georgia barbecue means sweet and tangy, and a lot of pork,” says Hopkins. “I’ve had to expand a bit for San Diego,” venturing into brisket, burgers, and wings. Preciabo brought sweets from North Carolina — perhaps most notably, a trio of Bundts. But also peach cobbler, as I learned from a gentleman who arrived on Thursday evening asking when it would be ready on Friday. (I-Que is open Thursday to Sunday.)

Sponsored
Sponsored
Pork and beans, an apotheosis.

“Life is short, eat dessert first” reads a sign on Ms. P’s side of the restaurant’s clean/cute interior — takeout seems the norm here, though there are several tables set up with a view of several TVs — and now that I’ve mentioned dessert first, I may as well write about it. During our initial visit, the place was briefly out of beans; Hopkins slid us a couple of cake slices to ease our disappointment. Both were revelations: damp with syrup but not soggy, not dense, not heavy. The Wife knew I’d want the lemon, so she offhandedly sampled the pistachio. Then it was gone. She was amazed. The flavors sang a similar song: very much present, but light.

That adjective got a workout at I-Que: a paradoxically airy block of cornbread, hovering between biscuit and cake. Melting squares of browned fat amid the meat in my burnt ends. Wispy shreds of pulled pork, fluttering as I raised my fork from the paper tray. The barely crisp coat on the enormous fried wings. Even the sauced-up beans on our second visit: creamy, barely tangy, rich — but light.

A meaty trio, plus slaw.

Heavy? Heavy was the ribs: the mesquite smoke on the meat, the toothsome meat on the bone. “It’s not ‘falling off,’ more ‘Yabba dabba do, bite and chew,’ observed The Wife, pleased. (I didn’t get to the links or the rib tips, but the ribs topped the list of what I did try, followed by the pulled pork.) And heavy was the brisket — peppery and on the dry side, a firm platform for the sweet and tangy (brown sugar and vinegar) sauce. (Not too sweet, though.) I like my brisket a bit more fall-aparty, but this version worked as a sandwich in the spongy (light!) roll. And yes, heavy was the mac ‘n cheese. Not everything was just so — but my disagreements seemed more a matter of personal taste than faulty preparation.

The Wife: “I could not stop eating it.”

Barbecue is not inexpensive — ribs may have been throwaway meat once, but no longer (you can get four for $16, or ribs and two sides for $19 — add $2 for mac ‘n cheese). A pulled pork sandwich, properly topped with slaw, will run you $16 as well. A small baked beans is $5.50, and that amazing pistachio cake is $4.50 a slice. But it’s good food, made with care. The bachelors in the Chevy Chase should count themselves lucky.

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