Where To Eat Authentic BBQ In San Diego | 15 Spots For Smokey Summer Goodness

June 6, 2019

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 favorite spots in San Diego for authentic American BBQ.

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

Guy Fieri, Andy Harris, & Ami Cisneros at Grand Ole Flinn Springs
Grand Ole BBQ Flinn Springs - After a few years with lines out the door of his North Park location (which is currently closed for renovation), San Diego native and longtime pitmaster Andy Harris partnered with local restaurant group Social Syndicate to launch a BBQ playground in San Diego's remote East County town of Flinn Springs. Grand Ole BBQ Flinn Springs has a full kitchen helmed by Executive Chef Ami Cisneros, and a much-expanded menu of eclectic dishes that are so good Guy Fieri recently featured them on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. Menu highlights include succulent smoked turkey and a delicious tri-tip (be sure to get the chimichurri sauce).

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!

The Small Plate from Coop's West Texas BBQ
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 sleep on the baby back ribs and the beef brisket!

Miss Kim's by That Boy Good - An Oceanside barbecue caterer turned counter-service eatery, Miss Kim's by That Boy Good is the product of Chef Mark Millwood and his wife Kim. The couple also operates another location called "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.

Sampler plate from Bowlegged BBQ
Bowlegged BBQ - This music-themed Mount Hope restaurant offers a chalkboard menu of delicious barbecue classics like smoked baby back ribs, smoked spare ribs, rib tips, brisket, and even beef and chicken hot links. Don't miss out on the fresh-baked corn bread!

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 you're 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 Valley Farm team will also be opening a 5,000 square-foot outpost in La Jolla this summer.

A BBQ platter from The Deck at Moonshine Flats
The Deck at Moonshine Flats - Chef Ivan Munoz has been quietly churning out some of San Diego's best BBQ for years. In addition to manning the kitchen at downtown country western bar The Deck at Moonshine Flats, he is also the consulting pitmaster for Pioneer BBQ, which is also on this list. Don't miss out on unique menu items like the smoked kielbasa, pulled pork potato skins, or the smothered brisket fries. 

Corbin's Q - In 2017, 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.

Tri-tip taco and bourbon baked beans from The Pig's Gig BBQ
The Pig's Gig BBQ - From the team behind Mastiff Sausage, The Pig's Gig is a new stand serving Texas-style BBQ in Liberty Public Market. The restaurant serves a menu of smoked meats sliced to order and available in sandwich or taco form. Don't miss out on the beef brisket!

Buckboard's BBQ - Opened earlier this year in San Diego's East County neighborhood of El Cajon, Buckboard's is owned by Fadi Shihadeh, who calls his product "California smokehouse barbecue." Unlike most spots on this list, Buckboard's uses a Santa Maria-style grill to get that smokey, char flavor in the meat.

Ranchwood Catering & BBQ - Once an area farmers market staple, Ranchwood is now operating out of a brick-and-mortar location in San Diego;'s Spring Valley.You probably know them from owner Tony Coronado's signature BBQ Parfait, a layered BBQ platter served in a clear cup. Don't miss out on the St. Louis style ribs.  

Pulled pork sandwich from Iron Pig Alehouse
Iron Pig Alehouse - This Pacific Beach BBQ and craft beer house has been doing it right since opening in Fall 2014, offering a menu of 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 sandwich is also one of my favorite things in the world.

The Pioneer BBQ - This East County spot is a collaborative effort from Carnitas’ Snack Shack founder/executive chef Hanis Cavin (who is now running The Porchetta Shack in North Park), 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.

Del's Hideout - San Diego's prolific Cohn Restaurant Group (Blue Point, Coasterra, BO-beau) purchased Coaster Saloon in 2017 and gave Chef Tim Eyelens reigns over the kitchen. The result was some legitimate BBQ, including an array of different sandwiches, salads and sides. Earlier this year, Chef Eyelens opened Del's Hideout restaurant out East and replicated his BBQ menu. We love the prime rib dip sandwich and the ribs!

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.