As with most of the residential districts in San Francisco, the Inner Richmond has multiple sub-neighborhoods. One of them, along Geary Boulevard, is a wide, heavily trafficked street populated by small businesses. Unattractive on its surface, it doesn't look like much of anything is going on from a food standpoint. It's a neighborhood that one usually just passes through.
Like most people, my husband and I often travel by restaurants on the bus or in the car and say to one another, “That looks interesting. We should give it a try sometime.” And then we never do. Last week, however, we broke our dysfunctional pattern to try a place we have passed for over a year.
It came about as I was cruising through the iDine website, looking for a member restaurant. (The best part of the program is that it encourages us to try restaurants we might never have noticed. Many have become our favorites.) Since I searched by my zip code, the program brought up restaurants close by our apartment. Right at the top of the list, was Roadside BBQ. Located on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Geary, this casual, small, and extraordinarily friendly restaurant is a welcome addition to the business-oriented area.
While I realize, BBQ is more of a religion than a food style, and preferences run deep, I can unequivocally recommend Roadside BBQ. In developing the recipes for their restaurant, the owner's traveled the country to experience the great variety of barbecue flavors and styles. Because they sampled the various styles, choosing a flavor from here, a spice from there, it is difficult to categorize this restaurant by barbecue region.
The menu does have the standard barbecue options: brisket, smoked chicken, hot links, ribs, and pulled pork. But there are also some interesting West Coast choices like house-smoked salmon and grilled fresh vegetables. One option that I'm saving for a cold, rainy, foggy San Francisco fall day is the Stuffed Potato. You can choose between the standard butter, sour cream, cheese, and chives, or you can deck your potato with grilled veggies or a choice of barbecued meats.
For lunch, my husband selected the Memphis Pulled Pork Platter. After up to seventeen hours in the smoker, the pork was lean, tender, and juicy. For his sides, my husband chose one of the best macaroni and cheese dishes I have tasted in years, along with Sweet Potato Fries.
As the helpful manager assured me the brisket could be ordered extra lean, I ordered the Mr. Brisket sandwich. Topped with a crunchy coleslaw, a mild BBQ sauce, and served on a soft-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-top roll, this was one heck of a sandwich. The first bite sold it — a satisfying crunch of roll and coleslaw, followed by the savory sweetness of the barbecued meat — yum! My side was the Grilled Corn on the Cob. Where most places give a half-ear, this was a full ear of sweet and tender corn with a tasty grilled char.
The handy sauce bar had the standard flavors, along with an amazing Asian-style garlic/ginger sauce. And the best pickles! Our only disappointment was the small corn muffin that came with everything. It was a little dry and crumbly for our taste.
And kudos for the excellent customer service! In these days of slipping standards, Roadside BBQ bucks the trend. All questions about the menu were handled courteously, and the manager (who was working the counter) offered menu descriptions and suggested which barbecue sauce would enhance each of our dishes. He even suggested some menu tweaks that could save us a little bit of money — very much welcome in these tough economic times.
One thing to note: This area, like most San Francisco neighborhoods, has parking issues. Visitors who are staying downtown, though, can get there via the 38-Geary bus going west ($2, exact change). For those who wish to drive, I recommend visiting during early weekday afternoons, as parking is easier at that time.
3751 Geary Blvd. (at 2nd Avenue)
3751 Geary Blvd. (at 2nd Avenue)