Best Of SanDiegoVille | Listing Off San Diego's Top Spots For Authentic BBQ

June 17, 2018

Summer is almost here and that means diners will be on the search for San Diego's most delicious barbecue restaurants. From pulled pork and ribs to smoked brisket and chicken, we've listed off our 15 favorite spots in San Diego for authentic American barbecue.

Before people start flipping out - being that San Diego's iconic Phil's BBQ grills their meat rather than smokes it, that technicality excludes them from being on this list, but we still love Phil's and will never turn down an El Toro sandwich or rack of baby back ribs! You don't have to be a pitmaster to know that low and slow is the way to go! Here are San Diego's top BBQ restaurants that do it the traditional way, using meats smoked at low temperatures for long periods of time in a wood-fired smoker.

Iron Pig Alehouse - This Pacific Beach BBQ and craft beer house has been doing it right since opening in Fall 2014. Executive Chef Rick Daniels is a Texas-native with a fine-dining background and he makes some of San Diego tastiest and most authentic 'cue. In addition to perfectly cooked brisket, tender baby back ribs, smokey chicken wings and juicy pulled pork, be sure not to miss daily specials like Fried Chicken Tuesdays, Pastrami Thursdays and Soul Food Sundays. Their annual St. Paddy's Day smoked corned beef is also one of my favorite things in the world, which is why IPA tops this list.

A post shared by Grand Ole BBQ y Asado (@grandolebbqyasado) on
Grand Ole BBQ y Asado - Founded by San Diego native Andy Harris, a longtime pitmaster who learned his trade spending summers in Texas, Grand Ole BBQ y Asado has been lining up hungry patrons since opening its Central Texas-style barbecue hut in Fall 2015. GOByA has teamed up with local hospitality group Social Syndicate (The Local, Wonderland, OB Surf Lodge) for a second outpost, heading out to Flinn Springs in San Diego's East County later this year. Menu highlights include succulent smoked turkey and a delicious tri-tip (be sure to get the chimichurri sauce).

A post shared by Coop's West Texas BBQ (@coopsbbq) on
Coop's West Texas BBQ - Bradrick "Coop" Cooper is a registered nurse by trade, but after selling his "BBQ in a Bag" while working at Kaiser Hospital, friends and patrons urged Cooper to start doing his BBQ full time. Since 2010, Coop has been serving mouthwatering smoked meats in Lemon Grove, with hungry patrons lining out the door to get a taste. He also has a fried chicken restaurant in the same complex called Da Chicken Coop. Don't miss the baby back ribs and the beef brisket!

Cali Comfort BBQ - This Spring Valley gem is the product of Shawn Walchef, who makes "Cali-style St. Louis BBQ". Cali-comfort has an expansive menu centered around meats slow-cooked in the restaurant's Ole Hickory Smoker over various California woods. Get a BBQ combo plate and try a little bit of everything, and whatever you do, do not sleep on the Wedding BBQ Beans!

Coaster Saloon - This longtime beachside sports bar was recently purchased by the Cohn Restaurant Group (Blue Point, Coasterra, BO-beau), who decided to give Chef Tim Eyelens reigns over the kitchen. The result was some legitimate BBQ, including an array of different sandwiches, salads and sides. Head to Mission Beach and get a taste. We love the brisket sandwich and the Kuba - their smoked meat version of a Cubano!

Brazen BBQ Smokehouse & Bar - Before opening their first restaurant in 2011 in San Diego's Hillcrest community, John Bracamonte and Brad Thomas took their craft to 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. Stop in to get a taste of what comes out of their smoker, affectionately named Ms. Regina Ann, a combination of their wives’ names.

That Boy Good - An Oceanside barbecue caterer turned counter-service eatery, That Boy Good is the product of Chef Mark Millwood and his wife Kim, who also operate another location called "Miss Kim's by That Boy Good". Both restaurants serves a menu of Southern-style smoked meats, as well as some interesting small plates and authentic comfort food sides.

Valley Farm BBQ - This small shack is part of a longtime family-run grocery store way out in Spring Valley, but it's worth the drive for the tri-tip alone. While your there, head into the market and pick up some moonshine and you'll really feel like you're in the South. We suggest a tri-tip sandwich plate and a side of brisket. Pitmaster Christopher Cabanilla knows what he's doing - just look at that brisket.

The Smok'd Hog - Owner Chris McCafee mans the smoker at this quaint North Park sandwich shop. Expect an ever-changing menu of smoked meat sandwiches, as well as BBQ ribs on Saturday & Sundays, and fried chicken on Fridays. A favorite is the pit beef sandwich with smoked beef round, 'tiger sauce', white onions and Baltimore BBQ sauce.

Corbin's Q - Last year, Corbin O’Reilly took his catering business from a stand at area farmers markets to this brick-and-mortar College Area spot. The restaurant uses a custom made, open flamed Santa Maria Style BBQ grill and smoker directly in front of the shop. Using dry-rubbed meats cooked over red oak, the menu offers a variety of smoked meats, as well as classic sides.

When Pigs Fly BBQ - After using a BBQ competition as a way to get into the first Stagecoach festival, Dale and Tammy Ginos realized that they had a passion for smoking meats. They opened their original eatery inside a Chevron gas station in a suburban part of Vista that was at one point pick-up only, but expanded earlier this year with a full-scale second outpost in downtown Vista. Stop in for some award-winning 'cue.

Bull's Smokin' BBQ - Opened in 2009 by former Top Chef contestant Frank "Franky The Bull" Terzoli, who recently opened Fishmonger's seafood restaurant and market in Middletown,  this West Morena bar and restaurant offers a menu centered around authentic smoked BBQ. Menu standouts include smoked lamb shank, filet of smoked salmon and smoked beef ribs.

Union Smokehouse BBQ - This College Area eatery offers a no-nonsense menu of meats smoked low and slow using California oak, as well as sides like garlic mac & cheese, bbq beans and creamy corn. Highlights include USDA prime smoked brisket and juicy smoked wings.

Meat Locker BBQ - From Slater’s 50/50 co-founder and former executive chef Brad Lyons, this brand new BBQ food truck now has a semi-permanent location in the SDSU College Area and is lining people up to try the traditional Texas-style, white oak smoked meats. You can also find Meat Locker popping up at local breweries and events.

A post shared by The Pioneer BBQ (@thepioneerbbq) on
The Pioneer BBQ - This brand spanking new spot is a collaborative effort from Carnitas’ Snack Shack founder/executive chef Hanis Cavin, partner/chef Willie DePasquale, consulting pit master Ivan Muñoz and owner David Cohn of the Cohn Restaurant Group. Head in for authentic and untraditional takes on classic BBQ, including items like pulled pork flautas and smoked beef meatballs.

As usual, if we missed any great spots, please let us know by emailing [email protected]. And be sure to check out the map below for all our top barbecue recommendations.