Brazen BBQ is Smokin’ Hot in Hillcrest

October 14, 2011

San Diego’s reigning king of barbecue better watch its back, because newcomer, Brazen Barbecue Smokehouse & Bar has made its way from the smoky circuits of national competition to the corner of 5th and Washington in Hillcrest. Based upon the meaty deliciousness being served up, they’re here to stay. 

This past summer, John Bracamonte and Brad Thomas took over the space formerly occupied by Sushi Itto and transformed it into Brazen Barbecue Smokehouse and Bar, marked by an antique wagon wheel out front.

The two young chefs’ journey began in competition on the national barbecue circuit where they earned enthusiastic reviews and, in their first year, earned the Rookie-of-the-Year award, finished in California’s top ten, and the nation’s top 100. This year they received second place overall in the 2011 USA BBQ Championship in Las Vegas. Team Brazen’s trophy collection is on display upon entry.

After being tested against some of the nation’s best, the two-man team decided it was time to bring the award-winning recipes back home by way of Brazen BBQ Smokehouse & Bar and Brazen Catering. Along with their trusty smoker, affectionately named Ms. Regina Ann, a combination of their wives’ names, they returned ready to test their flare for flame against any appetite.

The barbecue at Brazen is spice rubbed, not sauced, then hardwood smoked slowly at low temperatures, using a combination of hickory, apple, and sometimes pecan wood, which they obtain from a North County farm. For those in need of sauce, tables are provided two signature options to choose from: the sweet Smokey Lace and the tangy B.R.A.G, an acronym for its secret ingredients.

Brazen BBQ offers a casual dining atmosphere free of any unnecessary charms--well apart from the picnic style seating, a spacious outdoor patio, and the cast iron sink conveniently centrally located to wash off your meat paws. There is no table service, as orders are placed either at the counter or at the bar. Brazen’s no frills approach is nothing new for barbecue, but the delicious fare is a different story.  

Treats from the smoker include pork spare ribs ($3.29/rib, $12.99/half rack, $18.99/full rack), brisket ($13.99/pound), chicken ($12.99/pulled pound, $6.99/half bird), pulled pork ($12.99/pound), and hot links ($11.99/pound). The pulled pork is juicy and flavorful, but it’s the pork spare ribs and the Texas beef brisket that are the standouts. Both are melt-in-your-mouth tender; the huge ribs bite right off the bone and are sprinkled with a flavorful rub, while the brisket is perfect with the addition of a few dabs of Brazen’s homemade spicy B.R.A.G. barbecue sauce. When ordering the brisket, be sure to specify if you want leaner pieces, and check out that smoke ring!

Brazen’s extensive menu travels well beyond barbecue. For starters, try the smoked wings ($7.99), and be sure to order them dry, or with the sauce on the side (they don’t need it), so you can get the complete experience. These wings are unlike any around, as the method of slow cooking on low heat renders the fat, making for a fall off the bone wing with tons of flavor.

As for sides, the baked beans were the bomb, the mac and cheese is crusty and creamy, and the cornbread with honey on top had me at “Hello!”

Brazen offers other tantalizing dishes that you won’t find at other barbecue spots under varied menu categories like sandwiches, salads, wraps, burgers, chili, gumbo, and an extensive list of specialty entrees like the brisket stroganoff – a combination of tender smoked brisket and creamy mushroom sauce served over whole wheat egg noodles and finished with fresh herbs and “tobacco” onions – ‘cuz they look like chew! There is even a menu for the kids, and take out is presented to you, then bagged, so your mouth will water all the way home.

Brazen BBQ has a full bar and happy hour daily from 4pm to 6:30pm. Brazen also offers catering options where they “embrace culinary challenges and welcome special requests.” Do it up.

441 Washington Street at 5th, Hillcrest
(619) 816-1990


Sun.   11:00am to 10:00pm
Mon:   11:00am to 10:00pm
Tue:   11:00am to 10:00pm
Wed:   11:00am to 10:00pm
Thu:   11:00am to 10:00pm
Fri:   11:00am to 11:30pm
Sat:   11:00am to 11:30pm

Happy Hour:

4:00 to 6:30 Daily

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