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Famished: The Best Things I've Eaten This Week

San Francisco's food editor on what's eating S.F.

 

 

Ribs, greens, slaw, brisket and bread from Wexler's Back.

You know how things seem to come in waves? Suddenly there are a million superhero movies, suddenly neon is in again, suddenly barbecue joints are everywhere.

The latter is particularly notable if you live in San Francisco, a place hardly considered a barbecue capital. Barring places like Da’ Pitt in what used to be called The Western Addition (a better name for a barbecue neighborhood than Nopa, I’d say) and a few out in Bayview such as Smokin’ Warehouse Barbecue—the city has been lacking in pure barbecue spots.

But in the past year, a smattering of newfangled spots have popped up, from CatsHead to Cedar Hill to Southpaw to Wexler’s Back. Soon, there will be Hi Lo Barbecue from Scott Youkilis of Hog & Rocks sporting some crazy bazillion pound, $37,000 dollar or such J&R smoker.

I made it to Wexler’s Back yesterday. It rolls up in the form of a truck parked on Commercial Street downtown, right behind Wexler’s restaurant, which opened a few years back doing an intellectualized take on barbecue. Or at least smoke. Or the intellectualized idea of smoke as applied to food. Wexler’s was really good the last time I was there (which I’ll admit was a while ago).

So it was no surprise that the ribs and the brisket and the hushpuppies from Wexler’s Back are really good too. The hushpuppies are made like a cornmeal pate au choux, which makes them light and fluffy—the opposite of the leaden fried balls I grew up eating in Louisiana. (Tasty leaden balls, I might add.) Chef Charlie Kleinman’s light-as-air puppies have been a big hit. “It speaks to the palette of San Franciscans,” he told me. “They’re really into what’s different.”

I brought back a rack of ribs (tender but not too; sauced but not too much), a bunch of juicy brisket, some white bread, and collard greens back to work. With the office infused with the smell of barbecue, some very grateful editors and art directors and I sat in the conference room and pretended we lived somewhere else for a moment—styrofoam plates (courtesy of our own office, should an environmentalist blame it on Wexler’s Back) and all.

Though Wexler’s makes a classic Texas barbecue, my favorite sauce is the North Carolina, which is vinegar-based and sharp, a nice contrast to the fatty meat. As I poured it over the ribs, I thought of my friend who moved from here to Durham where it’s 86 degrees with a chance of thundershowers today. Something that San Francisco will never have, even if it now has some barbecue worth writing about.