You’re gonna need a bigger brisket.
This is what's going through my head as I peer out at the crowd swiftly forming in front of The Rib Whip, the latest sensation to hit what seems like the endlessly growing food truck scene. Parked in an empty lot on Ritch Street in SOMA, the truck serves up Midwest-style barbecue to a city that’s clearly been deprived. By 11:15 am, there’s already 10 people in line, and they look really, really hungry.
With Labor Day fast approaching (although not fast enough), we’ve got our minds on something that quite honestly does not pair well with labor: beer. And in a city where there’s about as many brews as there are foggy days, there’s no excuse to be caught drinking a Bud. This year, use the holiday as an excuse to celebrate your taste buds and kick back with a cool one.
It happened like this: Ryan Ostler and Katharine Zacher started serving their version of Southern food from the kitchen of an Excelsior bar called Broken Record. But just as we were falling in love, they up and left us. The duo—who met at Boulevard and between them have worked at some of the city’s finest kitchens, including Range, Quince and Campton Place—packed up their knives and left for a tour of barbecue joints and regional restaurants throughout the South, beginning in Ostler’s hometown of Austin. Says Zacher, “I was struck by how great the barbecue was and how terrible the sides were. Loaves of Wonder bread, bland beans—just because it’s traditional doesn’t mean it’s good. The Californian in me cringed.”
Midway through my meal at Wexler's, I joked with the server that I wanted to start a new drinking game: every time he said the words "smoke, smoky or smoked" I was going to drink. Had I done so, however, my one touch-too-sweet but ice-cold mint julep would hardly have been enough to sustain me through the course of the meal. Because this restaurant so staunchly resists categorization, I'm going to go ahead and call it a smoke restaurant, with elements of Southern and Texas-style barbecue, along with a hefty dash of—you won't believe it, I know—farm-fresh California.
There are few things that I like more than finding great food in unexpected locations. That's why I'm a shameless promoter of street food, of fluorescent-lit strip mall restaurants serving great Sichuan food, of granny carts piled high with tamales. So I just had a feeling when I first heard about Broken Record that I would be into it. Great food, inexpensive, served from the back of a bar on Geneva Ave. in Excelsior? Yes, please. Now my only regret is that it took me so to make it out there.