bbq

Questions to ask about BBQ

by Michael Alderete on 11/17/2001

When you’re searching for the perfect BBQ, there are two questions you need to ask the cook behind the counter. If you get good answers, buy something. If you get the best answers, program their Take Out number into your mobile phone.

Here are the critical questions, and possible answers, with the “Best” answer provided by Bob Kantor of Memphis Minnie’s, when we interviewed caterers for our wedding.

Question: How long do you smoke your brisket?

  • Wrong Answer: Eight hours or less.
  • Good Answer: 12 hours.
  • Best Answer: 18 hours.

Explanation: Brisket is a tough, extremely flavorful cut of meat. It takes many hours of smoking to break it down until it’s tender, and for the smoky flavor to penetrate fully. Anything less than 10 hours and it’ll likely be tough, and boring. Most BBQ joints can’t commit to the full 18 hours, so when you find a place that does, you know they’re special.

Question: What is your philosophy of sauce?

  • Wrong Answer: Huh?
  • Wrong Answer: Baste early, baste often.
  • Wrong Answer: Slather it on, baby!
  • Good Answer: Served on the side.
  • Best Answer: Sauce is to hide your mistakes.

Explanation: BBQ that doesn’t taste great without sauce is not good BBQ. Sauce should enhance the flavor of the meat, not hide it. BBQ that’s coated with sauce is probably hiding something.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

I like BBQ!

by Michael Alderete on 11/17/2001

When Rochelle and I were planning our wedding reception, we wanted a Texas-style summer BBQ (Rochelle is a transplanted Texan). Among other things, this required us to serve real Texas BBQ, which turned out to be hard.

Rochelle started by reading restaurant reviews and other reference sources, looking for places that were considered “good”. We organized a taste test of four of the Bay Area’s “best” BBQ, literally driving 100+ miles to pick up all of our samples.

Brothers In Law, regularly voted the “Best of SF”, was so awful we fed it to the dog. I’m not kidding. Some samples were the favorites of others at the tasting, but were more Southern-style BBQ, coated in sauce with too much sweet for our tastes. In the end, none of the four satisfied us.

A fellow Texan told Rochelle about Memphis Minnie’s, but we quickly learned that the restaurant had lost its lease, and was no longer open. So Rochelle tracked down and called Bob Kantor, the owner, and asked about catering.

There are two critical questions to ask someone about their BBQ, and Bob answered both correctly. Further conversation suggested that Bob was a BBQ Master, but of course, the proof is in the tasting. We arranged to try a sample of his brisket, the quintessential Texas BBQ meat, and said we’d be in touch.

One bite into the beautiful hunk of brisket and we knew we’d found our man. 10 minutes later, there was nothing left of the smoked meat, or of the BBQ sauce he’d given us on the side. Memphis Minnie’s was hired, and did a wonderful job catering our wedding, where we received nothing but compliments about the BBQ (we served Bob’s brisket, ribs, and hot links).

And then we pined away for Minnie’s for months because, with the restaurant closed, we had no way of satisfying our cravings.

Then one Sunday I was laying in the bathtub, soaking in water too hot for Rochelle’s taste, relaxing, when Rochelle started screaming. I literally thought the house was on fire. She ran into the bathroom with the newspaper in her hands and tears in her eyes, and asked me what was the best possible thing to happen to the (then closed) restaurant across the street from us, what was the best possible new place that could open there?

Memphis Minnie’s, of course!

So now we’re regulars. You should be, too. 576 Haight Street, between Fillmore and Steiner. Fire engine red, you cannot miss it. Just look for the Sign of the Pig.

And tell Bob that Michael and Rochelle say hi!

{ Comments on this entry are closed }