Back in September, I shuddered at the thought of what a place with "SD BBQ" in its name was going to make. Well, it turns out I was wrong.......LW's, which opened a couple of months back in the old (and tired) Chinese Garden spot, does BBQ....not something par baked or boiled then slapped over some mesquite and sauced......well, for you hard core BBQ folks, you won't see an ash pile out back....I don't think the owners of the strip mall would take too kindly to that.
Still they actually smoke over hardwood and could easily be the best restaurant within a half mile radius....
OK, before you get to excited, let's hold on there Jethro! There's a couple of things you need to understand, the competition in the area are places like Hometown Buffet, Roberto's, Mountain Mike's Pizza...it's Bay Park, not North Park.
They claim to smoke over hickory....for up to 14 hours. Personally, find that Hickory is a bit too strong to use for some proteins, too much of it can give off a bitter flavor, so I wasn't sold.
I'm also not a fan of the sauces here, kind of powdery, on the bitter side, even though there are 6 varieties all taste like they were made from the same base. The fact that they refuse to serve anything without sauce on it kind of makes me think they may have problems holding their product. When I asked why, I wasn't given an answer.
Still, it's in my neighborhood.......
I first visited when they first opened and decided to get a Beef Brisket Plate ($13.50), no it ain't cheap, but the portion size is generous.
Since I couldn't get this without the sauce, I asked them to go easy. Decent smoke flavor, the beef was a bit too fatty, though this wasn't bad at all. I'd like a bit more bark, but there was a nice smoke ring.
The sides were mediocre, mass produced rolls, bland coleslaw, the beans being the best of the bunch.
Overall, ok......not terrible, there was some potential here.
The same week I smoked a tri-tip, I decided to try the Beef Tri-Tip Sandwich Combo ($8.95).
No, this won't make forget Firestone Grill, but the flavor of the beef was decent (I'm glad they went real easy on the sauce), the beef adequately moist though on the chewy side. It was served a bit too cold (especially with sauce on it) for me.
The potato salad was decent, it had some nice flavor, perhaps a bit too sour and I didn't care for the vegetable mix in the coleslaw.
One night, after getting off from work late, the Missus having already eaten, I decided to drop by and grab a half rack of ribs to go ($15.95). I quietly asked the young man working the counter if I could get it with the sauce on the side....I was pleasantly surprised when he said, "no problem"...... And then I got home.
A bit too "falling off the bone" for me...though the Missus loved it. I ate one piece and that was enough, decent smoke flavor but a bit on the dry side, and too much sauce. I also noticed that it looks like they didn't remove the membrane from the back of the ribs.
Strange thing was, that during this visit I was told that the owner's were from North Carolina....funny, but the sauces didn't seem like any Carolina style sauce I've had. I tried all of them, from the bottles on the table and they are all too sweet for that style. The "KC" style sauce here would make Arthur Bryant roll over in his grave....take my word for it; I've been there.
My most recent visit was a couple of weeks ago.
It was nice to see the place doing some pretty good business.
I went with a Pulled Pork Sandwich which was nicely priced at $6.25.
Tired of begging for no sauce, I just asked them to go easy, which they thankfully did. This was a decent sandwich, though nothing special; the pork was quite cold and a bit tougher than I like, but this wasn't bad. The coleslaw added a nice textural counter-point and being on the mild side, didn't interfere with the flavor of the pork.
I did make one mistake....curious, I ordered the Chicken Wings (6 pieces - $6.95).
Rubbery skin, bitter smoke flavor, lacking in seasoning....'nuff said. I ate two and pitched it...I hate to waste food, but this was terrible.
The folks here are nice, though sometimes a bit confused. I'm glad places like this are finally opening in this area. Though I'm not a "just happy to have something like xxx in my neighborhood" kind of guy. In terms of portion versus price, I think it's a good value. Is it good BBQ? check them out and let me know what you think..........
LW’s SD BBQ
3057 Clairemont Dr
San Diego, CA 92117