It seems like there has been a spate of BBQ places that have opened in San Francisco over the past few years. But for some reason not all of them have been successful, either closing or changing course with new chefs (as was the case at South Paw and Hi-Lo BBQ). Whether BBQ can be transformed into a fine dining concept is open to debate; however, Baby Blues BBQ in Bernal Heights has stayed the course since opening in 2009, offering a hybrid of traditional styles of BBQ. Baby Blues is our go-to spot when we have a hankering for smoked and grilled proteins, available by the platter or by the pound.
Friendly and welcoming owner Paul Fischer explained to us that Baby Blues is a family micro-chain of four restaurants all owned by the Fischer brothers. Two of them are located in Southern California (the original Venice location opened in 2004), the one here in the City and the newest one in Philadelphia, from where the family hails. All four locations share the same name, recipes and the sources of their premium proteins such as Angus beef, Mary’s Chicken and artisanal sausages made from grass-fed pigs from Sonoma. The hybrid BBQ derives from Texas, Memphis and North Carolina styles with various dry-rubs and sauces from the many American regions. This is the place to go if you want to watch sports teams from Philadelphia (Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers) since Paul’s loyalty firmly remains with the City of Brotherly Love.
Occupying the space that was once the Rexall Drug Store, Baby Blues kept the signage and the layout of the store intact, preserving the neighborhood history:
The rustic interior features a great wooden bar, several mismatched tables and a couple of communal tables with high chairs:
Their license is for wine and beer only, which is just fine with us since we like to drink beer with BBQ. Several beers are available by the bottle, and tap beers by the glass or pitcher. We like the clean refreshing taste of Trumer Pils, an Austrian lager from Salzburg now brewed at their sister brewery in Berkeley, to drink with the smoky and spicy meats. They also have offer four different house-made sauces to go with the meats, from mild to spicy:
We started with a basket of spicy wings that were really good. The wings are smoked, grilled, then sauced to perfection:
Choices of many different proteins such as brisket, baby back ribs, Memphis ribs, chicken, pulled pork, shrimp and beef ribs are available to order as platters which come with a choice of two side “fixins.” We opted to get the Bones and No-Bones platter with a half-rack of Memphis pork ribs and a half pound of brisket. Both of the proteins were excellent, and the rib meat easily separated from the bone. We chose the tasty okra stewed with tomatoes and chicken-smoked rice as our sides. The platter also came with a sweet corn bread generously studded with corn kernels:
Most of the proteins mentioned above, along with house-smoked salmon and hot links, can also be ordered a la carte or by the pound. The one item that isn’t available by the pound, and has an up-charge of $4 when ordered as part of a combination platter, is the colossal Texas Beef Rib. We had to try it since we had yet to find anyone that can do beef ribs right in the Bay Area. This might be the meatiest beef rib we have ever had, with the smoky flavor deeply penetrated throughout. Because it was made with the short- and not back-rib cut, it had no gristle at all, and the tendon easily separated from the bone – there was no gnawing required here. We can truly say that it is worth every penny ($16.95/rib):
Now whenever we are in the mood for great BBQ, Baby Blues is our go-to place. Service is super-friendly and welcoming, and the food is always great. We haven’t made our way through all of the protein choices yet, but it’s really hard to move on from their great ribs and pulled pork.