Phil’s BBQ- a San Diego cultural institution
Forget Seaworld, Phil’s BBQ is what Makes San Diego Famous
Every major city in America has that one restaurant which its citizens get collectively dreamy-eyed about. For San Diego, that restaurant is Phil’s BBQ. For anyone in San Diego reading this, you probably said, “ahhhhh I love that place”, like you were talking your childhood poodle.
While waiting in line, typical conversations revolve around gastronomic foreplay
When we pulled up into Phil’s BBQ parking lot, we discovered a line around the building. The energy in the line was anxious and a little giddy, just like a teenage boy in the backseat with his new girlfriend. They actually have a line cam online.
What I soon discovered is that Phil’s BBQ isn’t just a popular restaurant; it is a San Diego cultural establishment. Eating at Phil’s is more than about the food, it is a social experience. Waiting in the long line forces social interaction among friends and family.
Typical conversations revolve around food. I heard a group of young women discussing what kind of bbq they were looking for and how they were going to polish their bbq down to the bone. All the men around the women seemed interested in this conversation.
There is no table service at Phil’s BBQ. When you reach the front of the line, you place your order at the register. You are given a pager to signal you when your food is ready.
THOU SHALL NOT squat at a table until you place your order!
This rule is strictly enforced at Phil’s BBQ. Unless you have a pager or a table full of food, they will kick you out of the table. Their system is in place for a reason and it works! We were able to place our order and easily find a table. Phil doesn’t mess around with table squatting shenanigans, so don’t try it.
The menu is fairly basic with BBQ items like ribs, chicken, awesome sides and sandwiches. By far, the most popular item is their baby back pork ribs. My brother, Mark, and his lady friend, Stacy, told me that we could not leave without trying the pork ribs and the colossal onion rings.
Baby Back Pork Ribs
Everyone has experienced good BBQ in their time and you probably have your favorite. For me, Phil’s BBQ no pre seating – Don’t even try it. ranked #2 on my all-time BBQ Baby Back Rib hall of fame. My #1 baby back ribs pick goes to Corky’s in Memphis. If you live in the L.A. Area, I say they are way better than the chain Lucille’s.
Why are Phil’s BBQ ribs so good? Three reasons:
First, the ribs are extremely meaty. Phil obviously found a high quality pig farmer.
Second, the meat is VERY fall-of-the-bone tender.The meat still has a bite to it, but it also slides down your throat like butter.
Third, I think Phil’s sauce has the right blend of sweetness, tang and spice. The result, I was still craving more of the sauce even eating a full rack of ribs.
The ribs comes with two sides, I recommend you try their potato salad, macaroni salad and cole slow. They perfect compliments to the ribs. Don’t order the vegetables, you can make these when you get home.
Colossal Onion Rings
My local guide, Stacy, insisted we try the colossal onion rings. At first I was skeptical, thinking that I had enough county fair style food recently to last me until next summer.
When I tasted the onion rings, I quickly understood the fascination. They were made with thick-cut onions and battered with a medium coating of batter, creating the right blend of fried goodness and onions. She insisted that we have to try the rings with ranch, she was right. The onion rings are a must have addition for the table. The order is huge.
My Final Thoughts about Phil’s BBQ
One of my favorite activities when traveling to another city is discovering what the local population considers to be “good food.” My experience at Phil’s BBQ speaks to the culture of the San Diego; laid-back and lovers of food. If you are in San Diego, I highly recommend that you make Phil’s part of your visit, your stomach will thank you.
The only issue I had with Phil’s BBQ is that they are using the same pig graphic that is part of my logo . Let me call it out, I have been using for the past 3.5 years as part of my blog, they only been using it for the past two years.