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What's New in San Francisco's BBQ Scene

San Francisco has never been known as a barbecue town, but that seems to be changing with pitmasters turning up the heat. 

HRD Smokin’ Grill is an offshoot of HRD Coffeeshop in SoMA that opened in January. While the original location is open for breakfast and lunch, HRD Smokin’ Grill, located in North Beach, is open only for dinner. Both menus sport Asian fusion and straight up Korean food, but the grill offers very traditional barbecue–chicken, spareribs and pulled pork. The huge portion of spareribs is nicely spiced and smoky, so barbecue sauce isn’t really necessary. Also recommended are the Asian-influenced sides of Kimchee Smashed Buttery Yams and the spicy Wasabi Apple Coleslaw. The massive portion of ribs and two sides are a bargain at $14.75.

Bitters, Bock and Rye is a bar on the lower part of Polk Street where there seems to be something of an endless cocktail crawl going on. It opened the end of March, and the menu is “pan-Southern” with barbecue in the form of meaty sandwiches. While they offer Carolina pulled pork and Alabama rubbed chicken, the top pick is definitely the Texas-style brisket sandwich, served on a housemade brioche toasted bun with sliced jalapeños and red onions. It’s juicy, with plenty of tasty, crusty bits. 

Sneaky’s BBQ has been around a while, but since April has been operating as a weekly pop-up at Vinyl offering sandwiches and sides every Wednesday evening. The focus is squarely on Carolina-style barbecue, which means pulled pork dressed in a thin, vinegar-pepper sauce. Sneaky’s also smokes ribs, chicken, pork belly, and brisket. The sides are also traditional, featuring shells and cheese, collard greens, baked beans and coleslaw. The only thing not so traditional is his vegan version of barbecue, which comes in the form of smoked jackfruit. 

Richard Mainzer of The Boneyard BBQ says his concept is inspired by backyard barbecues, but it's taken up a notch by Chef Drew Volpi, a culinary school grad who has worked at Michelin starred restaurants. Crowd favorites include Texas brisket and Carolina pulled pork sliders. Mainzer is tweaking the menu and pursuing different partnerships and venues, but you’ll find his truck next at the Bluxome Street Winery Dine In the Drive dinner series on May 17. 

Hi Lo BBQ opened in February and the smoke-scented air is downright intoxicating. Their smoked and sake braised pork belly might not sound or even taste exactly like barbecue anywhere else, but in this case, that’s a good thing. Just when you thought pork belly had jumped the shark, their sweet and smokey slab of yumminess makes you remember why it was so popular in the first place. Hi Lo’s popularity has led to the hours of service being extended from noon to 10 pm daily.

On the horizon is Magnolia Brewery’s new brewing facility–a 10,000 square-foot space in Dogpatch that will also be home to Namu's Dennis Lee version of barbecue, opening sometime in June.