Minnie’s Taster: Pork Ribs, Smoked Brisket, and Smoked Chicken; BBQ-Seasoned Fries with Three Types of BBQ Sauce: Texas Red, North Carolina Vinegar, and South Carolina Mustard; Scratch Pecan Pie
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Memphis Minnie’s Barbeque Joint and Smokehouse
Reviewed Memphis Minnie’s Barbeque Joint and Smokehouse: Thursday, July 13, 2006
This was my fifth visit to Memphis Minnie’s, and as usual, I was as happy as could be. This is my comfort food in San Francisco, and by far the best BBQ I have had in the Bay Area. My companions and I started with the BBQ-seasoned, hand-cut fries; get the “small,” which can feed a small army. We did not so much eat these as an appetizer, but along with our dinners instead. My companions and I got all four main meat dishes, and the unanimous favorite was the brisket. Smoked on-site for eighteen hours, the beef develops a perfect crust, yet maintains a surprising tenderness given this tough cut of meat. The flavoring is perfect, and the smoke from the white oak is subtle but flavorful. The Memphis sweet pork was a close second. The sweetness is surprising, and no one could identify its origin, save for a long, sweet brine. The meat is cooked to perfection and is fork-tender. The ribs received a mixed bag of comments; some were used to sauce-covered ribs, or even ribs cooked with sauce on them.
As with all of Memphis Minnie’s meats, they do not get cooked with sauce; instead three varieties of sauces are on the table to use at one’s own discretion. This is my favorite aspect of the BBQ joint; no masking poorly smoked meat with sickly sweet sauces. As for the sauces, the Texas Red has a wonderful hint of cinnamon-clove, and is not overly sweet. Reserve these for the ribs, if you must. The South Carolina mustard sauce is savory and spicy, and went very well with the sweet pork. The North Carolina vinegar sauce is unique to those of us not familiar with that part of the country; although not my favorite, it is not overly acidic or pungent, and has a good deal of flavor. We thought this was perfect for the fries.
We chose four of the sides that are always done not as an afterthought but are given the same attention as the meats. The macaroni and cheese was declared “the best ever” by two authorities at the table; my favorite side is the crisp and vinegary slaw. No mayo here. The pit-smoked beans are done just right, while the potlikker greens have hints of mustard and vinegar that stand up to the BBQ. All meals come with a homemade organic cornbread muffin that was used by all to “mop-up” the bottom of the plates. Finally, we split two desserts. The fried peach pie is a version of a turnover. Fried to order, it is then dusted with powdered sugar — all “loved it.” The three of us who are pecan pie fans relished Memphis Minnie’s version, served with homemade whipped cream. It was not too sweet, and had hints of spice with a flaky crust.
I highly recommend this authentic BBQ joint for those seeking some cozy comfort food: go hungry, leave the meat to the smokers, and save the sauces for the fries.
Name: Mary Joan
Occupation: Consultant – Architectural Engineering
Favorite Restaurant: Ovation at the Opera
Reviewed Memphis Minnie’s Barbeque Joint and Smokehouse: Sunday, July 16, 2006
We had the Southern Star Sandwich, which was half Texas brisket and half Memphis sweet pork and Minnie’s Taster (any three meats and choice of two sides).
The three meat choices were brisket, pork shoulder, and beef rib.
The brisket was fall-apart tender with a wonderfully redolent smoky aroma, so did the shredded pork shoulder. The beef ribs proved to be dry and lacked the zesty taste of the brisket and pork.
Along with the meats, three BBQ sauces are served: Texas Red, North Carolina Vinegar, and South Carolina Mustard. There is a fourth called Beelzebub’s Breath (hot), which I refrained from indulging in. All the sauces were hearty and, from what I hear, a staple of the region they hail from. I found the spice rub, with which the meats are flavored (and, in the case of the brisket, barbequed for eighteen hours) really tasty, and moist, and just a touch of the sauce was desired. I preferred to taste the flavor of the meat, rather than it being drowned in sauce.
The sides were perfection. There was delicious, tangy, fresh, fresh, fresh coleslaw and a hearty macaroni and cheese that was baked and nothing like our childhood pasta. My friend said the test of a true barbeque place is the potato salad, and this one surpassed our taste expectations; not overrun with creamy dressing. There was also yummy, solid cornbread.
For dessert, my companion ordered Scratch Pecan Pie and he said it was the best pecan pie he had ever had in his life — no small compliment, since part of his family has lived in the Ole South. We also had the Fried Peach Pie, which we ordered because of the novelty of the name. It was bubblin’ hot and lush and peculiar looking.
The walls were plastered with “Que” posters from all over the South, the music was jumpin’ southern country, and the place had dinette, homey, comfort about it. The place has self-serve, energetic, and informative counter service. The place was small and pleasingly packed with the splendid diversity that so represents the Haight. Parking was really no problem. The portions were sizable and required a doggie bag, because I couldn’t bear to leave it.
If we were in the neighborhood, we would most definitely return. Our visit was summed up by a placard on the wall: “Barbeque is like sex, the worst I ever had was good!”
Occupation: Cab Driver / Actor
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Café Gratitude
Reviewed Memphis Minnie’s Barbeque Joint and Smokehouse: Thursday, July 6, 2006
We got in to the rhythm and heard some blues at Memphis Minnie’s BBQ Joint in Lower Haight in San Francisco, but what we felt were fireworks. As I waited for my friend Howard outside — reading the glorious reviews and hearing James Brown blaring out of the speakers in the restaurant — I came near to dancing in the street, but hey, it’s Lower Haight. Probably no one would pay me any mind. You walk in and you’re immediately taken into the scene. Garnishing the walls are various posters depicting the South and Texas, as well as photos of some of the great Rhythm and Blues musicians of our time. Various accolades that the restaurant received over the years also adorn the walls, they are well-deserved, mind you.
Is it apparent where I’m going with this…? Okay, well…work with me. So let me just say it: the food at Memphis Minnie’s is simply flat-out fantastic! We had what is called the Minnie’s Taster, which is your own selection of three meats and two sides. The brisket, pulled pork, and chicken is what we went for — all smoked of course. We also ordered the Fried Catfish Platter. Our sides were cornbread, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and their coleslaw. All our meats were succulent and all had that wonderful smoky flavor, while being distinctive from each other. The catfish was fried in a batter, but not consumed with oil, which can be the case with battered fried fish at times. This was the real deal, and with all due respect to my Eastern European Jewish roots, this is really the way brisket should be done. Smoked, yet juicy with a somewhat spiced and slightly burnt crust. Oh, so good!
All the sides were delightful as well. The collard greens and the slaw had an unexpectedly sweet taste I liked. The macaroni and cheese was unusual in the sense that I found out they add cornbread to it, giving it a new twist. The corn muffins had a bit of a grainy feeling to them in the sense that you could taste the cornmeal they were prepared with. I like a different version with softer texture, but they were still good. Desserts were the Fried Peach Pie and Banana Puddin’, as it’s called. The peach pie comes as two little empanadas with an oh-so-sweet filling. This Banana Puddin’ should be given to all leaders of the world — maybe then we’d get somewhere. Just so creamy, with chunks of banana without being overbearing.
Memphis Minnie’s also has a fantastic selection of premium sakes, which is a great complement to the food. Who knew? The service is very simple: walk up to the register, look up and the menu’s all there, order, they call your name and you go pick it up. The staff was also very accommodating with all my questions and knew their food. Bob Kantor, a graduate of our own culinary academy who really did research before taking on this venture, is the man behind it all. Hats off to you, Bob for bringing authentic barbeque with all the fixin’s to San Francisco. It’s always amazing what a real chef with a bit of talent in their back pocket can do.