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Brother-in-Law's lost a BBQ Trial
versus Memphis Minnie's

Brother-in-Law's Bar-B-Que
705 Divisadero Street /Grove St., SF
Map This Restaurant

Pretrial hearing at Chances


In a barbeque trial, there are many reasons to favor Brother-in-Law's over Memphis Minnie's: old beat-up sign; wood stacked in shopping cart around back; flies circling; Wonder bread in baggies; no neon; uninformative menu; better name; lack of seating; never took over a dining landmark (Spaghetti Western). Unfortunately, little of this has much to do with meat. And that's where I think Minnie's prevails.

Out front. But first, let me say I loved this meal. The four-way combo served in a big tinfoil platter (like the thing you cook Thanksgiving turkey in) should awe any barbeque fan. Filled with ribs, chicken, hot links, and brisket, the four-way is the right way for a hungry party of three or four. You'll surely come out under 10 bucks a person, and that beats Minnie's, which I've always found a bit overpriced. (Note of caution: If you're dining solo, you might not make out so cheap.)

This indomitable collection of meats was slathered and bathed in a decidedly red barbeque sauce. (You can choose hot, medium, or mixed -- we got the mix.) The sauce has a decent kick and tasted admirable but we found the pre-slathering a bit suspect. At Minnie's they serve your meat straight-up, letting it make its own opening argument. If you don't quite buy what it has to say, you can sauce to taste. And Minnie's seasoning and smokery is so thorough that many a diner won't even use the sauce. To me, that signals serious, religious barbeque, and I don't think Brother-in-Law's takes meat that extra mile. Which actually works in their favor on the brisket. When I have Minnie's brisket I wind up burping smoke at my desk the next day. That's impressive, but...overly so. (Not to mention, it makes me feel kind of sheepish at work.) Brother-in-Law's brisket is not as seasoned or as smoky, but I think I'd pick it over Minnie's.

Platter O' MeatThe chicken was kind of dry, even when soaked in the sauce. It was fine but nothing to do The Chicken Dance over. The links had a nice spice to them and I really enjoyed those. I've always shied away from them at Minnie's but these inspired me to give them a go next time. The ribs were quite good but again a shade weaker than Minnie's, and well, that covers the meats.

The sides were a bigger problem. Greens lacked flavor and were a bit overcome by water. The beans were just beans and the muffins were not good at all. (We got the last two of the night, which might explain something.) Again, this may be where others would say, "Ah, but it's bare bones, it's basic and right." Well, maybe. But I like how Minnie's goes for a little extra with their sides -- and wins.

Sure, Minnie's seems to be things a barbeque joint should not be: Ostentatious and new, primarily. But keep in mind it's been around much longer than it's been on Haight Street. As for the décor, I say: Hate the uniform, not the player. In any case, try them both for yourself. The great thing is I now know of two barbeque joints in San Francisco I'll recommend to anyone.



Some sides.Oh, who doesn't enjoy a little barbeque. Well if that's the case, don't pop on over to Brother-in-Law's 'cause you'll get a lot. Your options in combo-land are: 2 meats/$16; 3 meats/$20; 4 meats/$25, a treat. You can fill those combos with your choice of ribs, short end ribs (both pork), chicken, beef links, or beef brisket.

We opted for the 4-meater and we chose the ribs, links, and brisket with baked beans and spaghetti. We added some greens just to fill out the meal. Also available is your potato salad and coleslaw.

I gotta say it's not the tastiest BBQ I've had. The brisket was good but a little fatty for my liking. It had some of the smoky flavor you might be looking for but not quite enough. The links were also good with a thick puddin'-like texture and a nice flavor. The chicken was, eh, nothing special, almost too chicken-y, maybe it was pheasant. The ribs were a bit disappointing, not bad, but lacked any sort of BBQ/smoke taste sensation. They seem to rely on saucin' 'em up to get the flavor. The sauce was yummy though and I had no problem sopping it up with a few slices of white bread.

The sides were there but not much going on with them. The beans coulda used some action, maybe some bacon or spices to get them going. The greens were bland but since I don't eat greens maybe they're meant to be. The spaghetti was nice and I recommend it for the change of pace. So if you're in the mood for BBQ I'd have to say head on over to Haight Street and enjoy.




To some people, Barbecue is a religious issue, not a legal issue. Myself included. So, perhaps the Court should not be meddling in such affairs. But, what the hell. It's been a long time coming, our trip to Brother-in-Law's BBQ. They seem to be the only challenger to Memphis Minnie's in town. Which isn't saying much, perhaps, as we all know that SF is a virtual BBQ desert. But that's another rant. When I was a young lad just landing in San Francisco, they called it Dolph's BBQ, in the same location. At some point Dolph morphed into Bro-in-Law's. Go figure. Maybe this is Dolph's brother-in-law. Then there was a charming establishment down the street called Do-City BBQ, where they served the cue from behind Plexiglas through a drawer. Anyone else remember that?

Out back.Bro-in-Law's has a nice down-home feel to it, shack-like, with some evidence of real wood lying around, and smoke billowing. You can smell it blocks away, as it should be. Making it in just before the dinner rush, we were able to get one of the two tables. We settled on a four-way combo platter of brisket, pork ribs, chicken, and hot links. That comes with two sides -- we took beans and spaghetti. We also added greens to the sides, and got the last two corn muffins. All that and a Coke for me, plus tip in the jar, and I got out of there for 11 bucks! That's cheap barbecue, brothers and sisters. Big portions on that four-way platter, too. I suspect you get less bang for your buck on single meat orders, but who knows?

Now, some people's religious beliefs hold that one does not slather sauce on one's BBQ before serving, because that implies there is something to hide. The sauce does not make the cue, they say. I tend to agree, and prefer to control the sauce myself. Bro-in-Law's pre-slathers, generously. Fair enough. It's good spicy-sweet sauce, all right, but you might ask for the sauce on the side. And, see, I think their meat kind of needs the sauce. I think it's not in the smoke chamber as long as it might be, and needs flavoring. Don't get me wrong, it's good, it's been exposed to smoke, but nothing like the "low and slow" method that I worship.

Let me say now that barbecued chicken is a waste of time unless you make it yourself and eat it immediately when it's done. That covers that. The ribs were not bad, but again, not really well-smoked. Without the sauce I think they'd be even more so-so. Fairly tender, however. The hot links were good sausage, and as I don't think they rely on smoke so much, I'd recommend them. The star, though, was the beef brisket. That was some real soft, juicy, greasy, smoky brisket. "Fatty brisket," perhaps. I wonder if they don't treat the brisket right, cook it in smoke at a lower temperature for a longer time than the rest. Anyway, get that brisket. Memphis Minnie's serves up an excellent, thoroughly smoked brisket, but I suspect they use a leaner cut. Bro-in-Law's brisket is greasy as heck, and that's good.

I'd pass on the sides, for the most part. The beans tasted like canned beans with some Tabasco and catsup added, or something, and the greens were just kind of bland. Hard to get good greens. The spaghetti was all right, also with some hot sauce in there. The corn muffins I suspect were pretty old, so I can't recommend those either.

So, what you have is some pretty good BBQ meat for some pretty low prices. I'd still give Minnie's the nod for quality and commitment to BBQ religious principles, but Bro's will do in a pinch, or if you're short on funds.

I guess this means we have to head over to Everett & Jones or something.






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