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Iron Pig Alehouse
Iron Pig Alehouse
Bradley Schweit

Where to Eat Barbecue in San Diego Right Now

A pro weighs in on 10 essential spots

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Iron Pig Alehouse
| Bradley Schweit

San Diego might not be a hotbed of barbecue, but there are still enough dedicated barbecue practitioners in town to satisfy your need for sweet smoked meat; just ask a barbecue judge — we did.

Four years ago, local blogger and barbecue fanatic Mercy Baron was certified as a barbecue judge by the Kansas City Barbeque Society; since then, she's judged competitions around the world, from festivals and county fairs to prestigious competitions including the Sam's Club Regional and the World Food Championships. In addition to co-hosting the radio show 'Food for Thought' on KNSJ, 89.1, Baron reviews San Diego barbecue on her blog, Baron's BBQ Beat.

Here, in her own words, are 10 worthy pit spots in the local barbecue landscape.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Iron Pig Alehouse

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Their chef is from Texas and he makes the Lone Star State mighty proud with his succulent and fatty brisket. Try it as a sandwich on their thick, Texas toast. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention his excellent smoky collard greens and his grandma's key lime pie recipe. Some tender smoked chicken wings here round it all out.

Grand Ole BBQ y Asado

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At this Central Texas-inspired spot, the meat shines here because nothing is drowned in sauce (on the side please!). The beef short ribs served on Saturday nights only are the best I've ever had — they melt like butter in your mouth with a smoke-kissed salt and pepper bark that will make you want to slap yo momma! Their smoked turkey is also unlike anything I've had, it's as far from dry as white meat could possibly get. Meats sold by the pound and when they run out, they're out!

Cali Comfort BBQ

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I'm a rib girl. I'm not an easy-to-please rib girl. Cali Comfort does a 5-pound rib rack while all others only do a three and a half pound one. Theirs are fall-off-the-bone delicious — meaty and tender with a caramelized glaze on them. They are not to be missed. Also tasty is the moist jalepeno corn bread.

Coop's West Texas BBQ

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Another spot that rightfully claims Texas as their influence, in this case West Texas. Basically, Texans do NOT like sauce on their beef and want the meat to shine, and here it certainly does. It's another great place to get brisket, but Coop's pulled pork should also be on your plate — tender and juicy in a sandwich or all on its own with a dash of sauce. His ribs and fried chicken rock too.

The Deck at Moonshine Flats

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Though this East Village spot is more known lawn games and line dancing, their barbecue also kicks up its heels. I've had some pretty delicious, smokey sweet ribs here and their sausage had a spicy punch — corn pudding is a must side dish. Eat some great 'cue and then work it off on the dance floor!

Brazen BBQ Smokehouse & Bar

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The competition team here has won many awards on the barbecue circuit and their trophies are displayed right in the front when you walk in. Must-orders are the smoked Pig Candy and their tri tip. The pig candy is slices of bacon sprinkled with a "Barnyard Dust" that made me want more with each bite and tri tip, which can be a tough cut of meat if not sliced just right, really stood out here too.

BBQ House

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Reveling in a recent remodel after so many years of being a "joint", this Ocean Beach staple is hitting their stride these days with a fabulous rip tip sandwich. The meltingly tender tips blend so well with their homemade barbecue sauces in mild, medium and spicy. Try their housemade potato chips too.

Ranchwood BBQ & Catering

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Still a mainstay at several local farmer's markets, they opened a brick and mortar place a couple of years ago, Ranchwood is known for their BBQ parfait, a cup which has several layers of perfectly mashed potatoes with pulled pork or brisket and some sauce thrown in between; it's so satisfying and lip-smacking good. They recently dealt with a kitchen fire and should be back open soon.

Abbey's Real Texas BBQ

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Abbey's is one of the only places that serves Burnt Ends. If done right, they are crispy, fatty, smoky hunks of beefy pleasure that will make you want to pop one after another into your mouth.

Big Front Door

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BFD isn't specifically known as a barbecue place but it should be. Meats, including turkey, meatloaf and ribs are smoked here. The baby back rib (bones removed) sandwich and the turkey with smoked cheddar mousse are both unforgettable.

Iron Pig Alehouse

Their chef is from Texas and he makes the Lone Star State mighty proud with his succulent and fatty brisket. Try it as a sandwich on their thick, Texas toast. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention his excellent smoky collard greens and his grandma's key lime pie recipe. Some tender smoked chicken wings here round it all out.

Grand Ole BBQ y Asado

At this Central Texas-inspired spot, the meat shines here because nothing is drowned in sauce (on the side please!). The beef short ribs served on Saturday nights only are the best I've ever had — they melt like butter in your mouth with a smoke-kissed salt and pepper bark that will make you want to slap yo momma! Their smoked turkey is also unlike anything I've had, it's as far from dry as white meat could possibly get. Meats sold by the pound and when they run out, they're out!

Cali Comfort BBQ

I'm a rib girl. I'm not an easy-to-please rib girl. Cali Comfort does a 5-pound rib rack while all others only do a three and a half pound one. Theirs are fall-off-the-bone delicious — meaty and tender with a caramelized glaze on them. They are not to be missed. Also tasty is the moist jalepeno corn bread.

Coop's West Texas BBQ

Another spot that rightfully claims Texas as their influence, in this case West Texas. Basically, Texans do NOT like sauce on their beef and want the meat to shine, and here it certainly does. It's another great place to get brisket, but Coop's pulled pork should also be on your plate — tender and juicy in a sandwich or all on its own with a dash of sauce. His ribs and fried chicken rock too.

The Deck at Moonshine Flats

Though this East Village spot is more known lawn games and line dancing, their barbecue also kicks up its heels. I've had some pretty delicious, smokey sweet ribs here and their sausage had a spicy punch — corn pudding is a must side dish. Eat some great 'cue and then work it off on the dance floor!

Brazen BBQ Smokehouse & Bar

The competition team here has won many awards on the barbecue circuit and their trophies are displayed right in the front when you walk in. Must-orders are the smoked Pig Candy and their tri tip. The pig candy is slices of bacon sprinkled with a "Barnyard Dust" that made me want more with each bite and tri tip, which can be a tough cut of meat if not sliced just right, really stood out here too.

BBQ House

Reveling in a recent remodel after so many years of being a "joint", this Ocean Beach staple is hitting their stride these days with a fabulous rip tip sandwich. The meltingly tender tips blend so well with their homemade barbecue sauces in mild, medium and spicy. Try their housemade potato chips too.

Ranchwood BBQ & Catering

Still a mainstay at several local farmer's markets, they opened a brick and mortar place a couple of years ago, Ranchwood is known for their BBQ parfait, a cup which has several layers of perfectly mashed potatoes with pulled pork or brisket and some sauce thrown in between; it's so satisfying and lip-smacking good. They recently dealt with a kitchen fire and should be back open soon.

Abbey's Real Texas BBQ

Abbey's is one of the only places that serves Burnt Ends. If done right, they are crispy, fatty, smoky hunks of beefy pleasure that will make you want to pop one after another into your mouth.

Big Front Door

BFD isn't specifically known as a barbecue place but it should be. Meats, including turkey, meatloaf and ribs are smoked here. The baby back rib (bones removed) sandwich and the turkey with smoked cheddar mousse are both unforgettable.

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