This post has been a long time coming. I'm surprised it took me this long to get it up. But alas, in all its glory, Phil's BBQ. For many Southern Californians, Phil's needs no introduction. The 2 hour waits to get in testify to that. However, if you are not familiar with this San Diego institution, it was founded in 1998 by owner, Phil Pace. BBQ in California? Barbecue purists are probably calling heresy. Calm yourselves, perhaps this isn't "real," but this is good stuff. Really good.
On a side note, there's some great BBQ in SoCal. There's always Bludso's Texas style BBQ in Compton.
Whenever we make a trek down to San Diego, it's usually for our pilgrimage to Phil's. As I mentioned before, the lines get long. However, if you get there before the rush, say, around 4 pm, you'll get your food in no time (relative to the typical 2 hour wait). Just remember, they are closed on Mondays. If you're at Phil's for your first time, you'll have plenty of time to wrestle with your heart in regards to what you'll order. My typical order is the half rack baby back dinner with fries and slaw. Some swear by their sandwiches, beef ribs, or chicken, but I stick to the tried and true baby back ribs. Also, don't you ever dare forget to order onion rings. Just do it.
If you survive the wait, successfully procure a table, and wait a little longer for your food, you'll be greeted with something like this. As I said, this is my typical order. And it's perfect. You have your mesquite grilled baby back ribs, fries, and some sort of vegetable, if you want to call it that.
The cole slaw is essential. You need some cool, creamy veggies to cleanse your palette between mouthfuls of tangy, slightly spicy meat and fried potatoes. The slaw is actually not too heavy like some other slaws you'll have. It's light and refreshing. Perfect. The fries are the quintessential carbohydrate. They aren't particularly crispy at Phil's. They kind of remind me of thicker In-n-Out fries. Don't let that drive you away, I know some people hate In-n-Out fries (I don't). The fries are perfect for sopping up all that extra sauce. Oh, and the portions. Dear lord, the amount of fries and slaw you get is almost scary. You'll be more than happy.
You didn't forget those onions rings, now, did you? These are some of my favorite onions rings. Ever. They have a light, crispy crust with a sweet, tender onion on the inside. Absolute perfection (I'm using that big word quite a bit here). Maybe I've developed some unhealthy affection toward Phil's onion rings, but I don't care. They are some of the best I've had. Please do dunk these in the buttermilk ranch they serve them with. Moving on.
Here is the main attraction. These are the tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs you hope to have when you eat BBQ. Yes, great. But do you know what's better? The sauce. The sauce really brings these ribs to life. It's definitely a unique sauce in the world of BBQ. It has the viscosity of a Kansas City BBQ sauce, but with a flavor akin to a North Carolina BBQ Sauce. Thick, vinegary, and a slight bit spicy. Oh, and Phil created this sauce when he was 15 years old... You have to try this. It's really that good.
On our trip in December, the table we were sitting at had these awesome sticker labels on the malt vinegar. The Korean in me was proud and a slight bit embarrassed. Who even thinks of doing this?
Anyway, there you have it. If you live in San Diego, are visiting San Diego, or don't live anywhere near San Diego, you have to go to Phil's. Please. For me.
Phil's BBQ 3750 Sports Arena Blvd San Diego, CA 92110 (619) 226-6333 www.philsbbq.net