SF Gaurdian

Sunset Mag

EATING BARBECUE all last weekend and then eating barbecued beef rib soup all week while thinking and writing about barbe cue put me in the mood for barbe cue. So right afterI turned in my bar becuesauce article (editor’s note: see next week’s Summer Living section), I walked over to Memphis Minnie’s barbecue place for some barbecue for lunch. And then on the way home I stopped and picked up some charcoal for dinner.

No kidding. It was the one-year anniversary of my first date with Crawdad de la Cooter, my grillfriend, and we celebrated’ with grilled sir- loins on the grill, and taters and arty chokes and salad and three kinds of bread.Bob KantorYou can’t just go into a meal like that on an empty stomach, so I got me a three-meat combo for lunch. It’s called Minnie’s Taster and it’s any three meats and two sides and corn- bread for $8.50, which is way, way cheaper than anyone else’s three-way. I got the idea from this Lisa who wrote and told me Minnie’s Taster was “more than enough” for her and her boyfriend, put together. Well, I cleaned my plate no problem, and usa.s boyfriend. wasn’t there. (Or if he was, he wasn’t helping.)

She also said, though—andthis is what got me – that Memphis Minnie’s was better than Brother-in-Law’s. I didn’t believe her, of course, because people are always telling me that some place is better than some other place, and 5 times out of 10 they’re wrong. That’s because unless you read it in the Bay Guardian, it’s nothing but pure, unadulterated conjecture.

My piss smells like smoke. I swear to you, I just went and it was liquid smoke in motion. Pretty cool, huh? And 100 percent true. More facts are as follows: Memphis Minnie is a dead old-timer blues singer. Her namesake restaurant, on the other hand, is a restaurant. It’s a cavernous, antisymmetrical, converted warehouse space in a very nice brick building, 20th and York. All the tables are church basement-style six-seaters with red-and-white-checked cloths and a roll of paper towels for a centerpiece. The walls are decorated with aprons and posters from various BBQ-offs and food festivals and such down south.

Atmospherically, Minnie’s seems exactly right for what they call “swine dining.” There’s plenty of room to spread out. In fact, you almost feel like you’re outside behind the barn. Part of the dining room is corralled by a wooden fence, and there are wood piles allover the place. I wasn’t fooled, however, by the wall-hung cutouts of chickens and pigs and cows.

Except for the outside brick walls, the big windows, the plastic chairs, and the food, everything Bob Kantorabout the place is wooden. The ceiling, the floor, the animals, the wood … So, what with the nature of their business, I hereby designate Memphis Minnie’s the Most Likely to Burn Down restaurant in town. Knock on wood? No problem.

But you’d probably. like to hear about the food, huh? ‘OK. Well, they don’t have chicken every day, which is a problem. Other than that, I’ve got no complaints.

The side orders were especially remarkable. The pit-smoked beans, for example, were amazing, and meaty as hell; and the greens were sweet and juicy as heaven, if not juicier. Not to mention the cornbread, which was good and moist and great. I also asked for and received a small taste of Minnie’s spicy barbecue slaw, which wasn’t spicy, but was delicious.

Barbecue slaw, you see, has no mayo in it, which is exactly how slaw should be-so I can eat it too. I’ve eaten barbecue slaw all the way across the barbecued state of North Carolina, and Memphis Minnie’s was better. Crisper, fresher, simpler. It’s just shredded cabbage and red onion and some light, zingy dressing.

The meat? I sampled half of Minnie’s six slow-smoked specialties. My favorite was the Memphis Sweet Smoked Pork-big, succulent chunks of pork I’ll be seeing in my dreams, I know, for some time. The Texas Beef Brisket was also great, and the pork ribs, though not very meaty, were just fine. The sauce, which is do-it-your- self, was as flavorful as it needed to be, considering the mega-smokiness of the meat. Not too spicy, but spicy.

Now that’s a lot of food for $8.50, and you can get by with asandwich for five. So – was It better than Brother-in-Law’s? Hell yeah. Are you kidding me? It’s walking distance!. –Dan Leone

– Dan Leone | The San Francisco Bay Gaurdian • May, 1997