Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hot Tamales!

See amateurish video evidence of an East coast tourist eating tamales in Balboa Park, San Diego.

Fast forward to the 3:00 mark of this one:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Restaraunt Review: Phil's Barbeque of San Diego!

When I travel, I only take the best in rental cars.
So recently having had the pleasure of visiting beautiful San Diego, I thought I would check out Phil's Barbecue, which every website in town said was the best around. I was dead set on it, even though my local expert Frank D. tried to steer me elsewhere. More on that later. 

For those of you who are Seinfeld fans, Phil's has a kind of organizational structure reminiscent of New York's infamous Soup Nazi (more on him here), though the staff was much more cordial. There were two lines. Take-out on the left, dine in on the right. The right line led to a counter where you would order fast food style and then get whisked away with a number for servers to bring you your food. I have to admit this place was quite the hit with the locals. They had to stagger the right line so that seating space could keep up with people coming in. By the time we left there was literally a line snaking around the building, so they must be doing something right.   

Word to the wise: next time you visit Phil's, go in through the take-out line, hang a left to the bar, and some lovely bartenders will take your order which gets you out of the dine-in line, which could literally save you a couple of hours and reward yourself with a drink or two in the process.

Thus was the spread for our party: baby backs, beef ribs, 'boneless ribs' whatever they are, awesome onion rings,  slaw, beans, fries.

Now to get the critical piece out of the way. Frank D. had this 'I told you so' look when I discovered this. I dug into a sizable slab of baby back ribs doused in sauce. The picture you see above is the bottom half rack with less sauce. Your eyes do not deceive you - you see evidence of direct grilling on these baby back ribs, which leads to all kinds of questions. Were the boiled? <> Any way you slice it I cannot give Phil's high marks for these ribs. Though they had no natural pork flavor, they were tasty and filling and good for a solid meal, though they lacked that barbecue magic that makes me bother typing blogs at midnight in the first place. I am by no means a purist or barbecue snob, and I do like sauce, but if these ribs ever made it to my back yard I would have a hard time deciding whether I should slingshot them onto the Garden State Parkway on one side or the cemetery on the other. Should have listened to Frank. All is not lost though, keep reading.
Frank's full dish of lovely beef ribs
The sides were nothing spectacular. The beans were tasty but probably from a can. Slaw was fresh and fluffy but otherwise unremarkable. See a picture above for some great 'real onion rings' as my dad would say.
And now moving forward. The beef rib has been the elusive white rhino of my barbecue adventures. Below you see one beef rib which they serve a la carte, which I think is a great menu idea. These things were GOOD. It figures that after all my inquiries at supermarkets, meat markets, restaurants, that I can't get my hands on real beef ribs without having to place special orders weeks in advance for something frozen, only to come to California to find an abundance of luscious beef ribs falling from the sky.

These things were great and definitely absolved Phil of all his sins. Of course while I was experimenting with a little bit of this and a little of that, Frank went straight for a full order of about 6 beef ribs, about a pound each. While I tasted charcoal I did not taste a whole lot of wood flavor so I cannot say they were smoked to perfection, though they were definitely cooked indirectly. Why the difference from the charred pork ribs? Were the beef ribs less delicate? Different chefs? If so, the Jedi master on the beef pit has a lot to teach his young apprentice on the other side of the kitchen.
These ribs were very good. They had great texture, great beef flavor, were not greasy at all, and were HUGE. Any Flintstones fan would drool at one of these.
So now I am home. I am in the dead of winter and I am thinking about snow blowers a lot more than any of my grills, which by the way are under a foot of snow. When the weather breaks, I will go back to finding a source of beef ribs in Northern New Jersey. Maybe I will go to places like the Iron Bound and Market Street in downtown Paterson, or maybe I will find some holes in the wall and review them like my friend the Mad Meat Genius. In any event, I will find some beef ribs by the summer. In closing, Phil's was a good, casual eatery with a ton of local support and I'd go back in a heartbeat. More updates from the SD trip on the way!