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Winner
Barbeque Trial
Versus Brother in Law's and Everett & Jones

Memphis Minnie's
576 Haight Street/Steiner, SF
Map This Restaurant

Pretrial hearing at Toronado
10/7/00

Guest Judge Aus

I've feasted on the best BBQ throughout our land, including Texas, Kansas City, Memphis, and the Carolinas. In all fairness to Bob Cantor, I have to remind myself that his rejuvenated pork palace is called Memphis Minnie's, and not Midland Minnie's. Admittedly, I bring a strong Texas bias when judging 'cue -- so be it.

Guest judge Aus breaks it down for you: Meat. MM has plenty of meat choices to satisfy any carnivore. I chose pork ribs and sweet-smoked pork. Friend, you haven't had pork 'til you've dined on this succulent ambrosia. (Only experience that comes close is the fine pork steak at the Farmer's Lounge, in Campbell, NE -- but that's another story). MM's is everything that pork BBQ should be: rich, smoky, flavorful, falling off the bone, fork-tender. I got two-thirds of the way thru mine before I even thought about using some sauce. Speaking of sauce, the red, smoky, spicy blend is a delight. The yellow, mustard, vinegar, smells-like-salad dressing sluice is not worth the plastic it's bottled in. Stick with the red and you'll be fine. I had planned to taste beef, too, but Bob had neglectfully run out of brisket by 6 p.m. on Saturday -- an unforgivable sin in my book, unless you're, say, one of the Mikeska Bros. The beef rib I tasted was indeed tasty. Smoked turkey breast was flavorful, but decidedly dry -- why bother? Sadly, the only sausage offered up was Cajun andouille -- totally inappropriate.

Sides. MM serves up a nice selection of sides. The truly addictive beans are loaded with pork and fire, possibly the best I've had, in their own unique way. Greens are sweet-n-sour, a shocking variation on an old classic, but may have roots in some German-Czech-American cooking. Mac-n-cheese plates up nicely to round out your weekly RDA of lipids, studded with bits of tomato and a bread-crumb crust. On the downside (get it? down-side?), the cole slaw rates only one notch above Colonel Sanders.

Bread. MM serves one of the worst versions of cornbread it has ever been my displeasure to partake of. Apparently, all dining patrons agreed, because every clean plate was marred by the appearance of a large, flat, dense, dry, flavorless slab with one corner meekly nibbled upon. Advice to MM: skip the corn bread, and go for what true BBQ fans know is right -- a sleeve of good ol' fashioned, USA-style white bread. Rainbo, Wonder, Bunny, Mrs. Baird's -- whatever you please. Just pick one. Thank you.

Overall. Four corn dogs. MM is hands down the best BBQ in the Bay area. On the one hand, this isn't saying much, because the competition has little to offer (sorry, B-I-L's fans). On the other hand, MM is a quantum leap above what anyone else is serving. Too many oversights hold me back from giving 5 corn dogs. On the Saturday night we visited, they were out of beef and out of Coca Cola. There's no lemonade, and they serve only that god-awful sweet tea (what is this, Georgia?). Such lack of attention to detail spells trouble ahead, yet once again, for this long-beleaguered joint. Let's hope they can work out the kinks so we'll all be in bidness for a long time to come. --- David Aus

 

Vardigan

Some people have been chasing Memphis Minnie's smoky barbecue smell around town like a carrot on a rope for many years. I'm one of them. On two occasions I went to taste the famous barbecue, and both times I found hasty signs saying stuff like "We closed. We'll try to open again but there is no telling where. Or when. This is a wayward operation." All that remained: the faint scent of woodsmoke, and some tear-streaked poems taped to the window by forlorn seekers.

This past weekend, I finally caught Minnie's -- it's touched down for the time being on Haight Street, in Spaghetti Western's former (sniff) location. First off: Bob the owner smokes the brisket for 18 hours! Unfortunately, they'd just run out. (But I've tasted it, illegally, and I can vouch...after 18 hours it just falls apart in your mouth -- incredible!) I had the two-way, with beef ribs, sweet pork, and two sides: greens and beans. The beef ribs were great and I even liked them better than the pork ones everyone else got. The sweet pork is similar to the brisket -- very soft and of course shot through with that smoky flavor. The Texas Red bbq sauce available on every table is delicious, with a spicy kick of an aftermath.

Two reasons I can't give this five dogs:
1. out of brisket
2. not cheap: $12.95 for two-way, all sides included ($9.95 for one-way...two-way hard to resist but you may not walk out of there after it.)

The jeans I'm wearing still smell of Minnie's smoker. Which might tell you I better do laundry, but it tells me I better not. You never know when she'll up and disappear again, leaving these pants as my only link to the wandering Minnie.

 

McClure

That Memphis Minnie's sure is good eatin'. Once again, not a cheap meal, but also once again well worth every penny. We had a large group this time around -- friends of Judge Turners from Switzerland. The Honorable Guest Judge Aus joined us as well and I have to thank him for finding Minnie's for us. It's my understanding that it comes and goes. I wouldn't sit around thinking about it. Get out there and eat some tasty barbecue while you can. It's a find a table and order at the counter sorta place. You may want to ask if they are out of any of their fine choices of meats before you get your taste buds set. Two of my beef choices, brisket and tri-tip, were nixed by the friendly man behind the counter. I had the combo plate which ran me about 15 bucks. Luckily they had my first choice, the pork spare ribs and I settled for the barbecued turkey to go along with them. Oh my, were those ribs great. Fallin' off the bone, melt in your mouth, yummy. Easy as 1, 2, 3 to clean that bone. The turkey was good but a little dry. I do believe that turkey is not the easiest meat to 'cue. The bird was saved, though, by the most incredibly spicy, zesty, tangy barbecue sauce that you must try, one way or another. The ribs didn't need any help but if for any reason you aren't getting the flavor you want, sauce it up. My sides were winners as well. The beans were beans, good. The Mac & Cheese was nice and creamy with bread crumbs on top for a little crunchy texture. They also sell meats by the pound to take home. Sounds like a good idea for the off-barbecue season.

So I say again, get to Memphis Minnie's while you can, you'll leave there a happy and meat-filled diner.

 

Turner

First of all, let me say that Mr. Bob Cantor is a true culinary artist, and I heartily applaud his mission to bring true BBQ to the otherwise forsaken desert that is San Francisco. He gets BBQ in a serious way, and it's obvious from the first bite. I only had one Memphis Minnie's meal before this one, but when I did I was struck dumb by the sublime smokefication of the tender ribs. No sauce needed. And that, brothers and sisters, is the mark of true BBQ. Finally, the king has returned.

I chose a two-way, pork ribs and pork, which amounts to pulled pork for you Carolina 'cue fans. I too was deeply disappointed that there was no brisket available, as a properly smoked brisket can beat the best filet mignon. But great gosh amighty what fine ribs! Perfect. As good or better than the ribs I had at Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, and loads better than the Rendezvous in Memphis. Top notch, excellent. The pulled pork was perfect as well, and on par with my personal favorite, The Georgia Pig, around Brunswick, GA. I also recommend the red sauce on the table, if you really need it, but I don't think you do. This is real BBQ as it was meant to be, and if you like a good piece of smoky meat you had better get the hell down there before they move again.

On the side front, those beans they serve are very, very good. Smoky, chunks of meat, spicy but not painfully hot...order the beans! I noticed some similarities between the beans and red table sauce, I think cinnamon or nutmeg or cloves or something. The greens, my second side choice, were a little disconcerting. Not at all what I'm used to for greens in BBQ/soul food joints. Sweet and sour. Frankly, they are not to my liking, but I think they are well conceived and probably authentic in some way. So, you be the judge. The cornbread, I'm afraid, left me dry. As it was kind of dry...and it seemed a little stale, maybe. But then, I'm not the biggest cornbread fan, and it really can vary from place to place. I'd go for a fresh corn muffin....or some of that fine white bread as guest judge Aus suggested.

All in all I must stress that Memphis Minnie's is serving up the serious barbecue, and all non-vegetarians must go there immediately. I've been tortured to decide whether or not the absent beef, the lackluster cornbread, and the freaky greens would cost a corn dog in the rating. I say NO! That meat, shining brightly in BBQ perfection, makes up for the shortcomings of this fine eatery.

Thanks to guest judge Aus-in-the-house for tipping us off that MM was back. And thanks to Andi and the Swiss contingent for diving in with us.

I can't wait to try the brisket.

Read about the judges follow-up visit to Memphis Minnie's

Check out Memphis Minnie's neato Web site here.

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