Sate Your Thirst and Appetite at Smokestack
Smokestack at Magnolia Brewing Company in San Francisco specializes in B2B operations.
That’s beer-to-barbecue to you and me.
Think the usual suspects of ribs and chopped pork. But also the out-of-the-norm pastrami. Yes, New York deli-proud pastrami.
The soaring warehouse-like space in the Dogpatch neighborhood sports a bona fide brewery in the back, and a barbecue joint in the front that features an expansive bar complete with shelves of liquor stacked so high, the bartenders need to climb a tall wooden ladder to reach the top ones.
Done up in an abundance of reclaimed wood, exposed concrete walls and steel pipes, it’s a festive spot that draws a crowd, as I witnessed recently when I was invited in to dine as a guest.
You order at the counter, then find a seat among the several communal tables, until your food is brought to you.
Of course, there are plenty of beers on tap. But also wine on tap, and a good selection of whiskey-based cocktails.
The Kalifornia Kolsch is golden-hued, light-bodied, mildly hoppy, and ever-so crisp — a perfect refreshing antidote to all that heavy meat you’re in store for. It’s served in a traditional Stange beer glass that’s small, tall and slender to encourage you to quaff its contents quickly while it’s still at its optimum coldest.
Executive Chef Brandon Korf, late of Hi Lo BBQ and La Trappe, both in San Francisco, took over this year from Chef Dennis Lee, who left to concentrate more on his Namu Gaji restaurant in San Francisco.
Under Lee, the offerings had more of an Asian influence. But aside from the Thai chili cheddar pork sausage ($6) — a tasty, coarse-grind of a tube steak with a satisfying amount of heat — the new menu leans more toward the traditional.
It’s all done quite well, too. The combo is a great way to go. For $24, you can pick three meats. You also get a choice of two sides, as well as sliced bread (plain, but definitely a cut above the supermarket variety) and house-made pickles that aren’t painfully tart, but delightfully fresh tasting.
The spare ribs are so succulent. The meat is tender and juicy, and not overly salty or too charred.
Now back to that pastrami. It’s a must-order. Not just because it’s such a novelty to see at a barbecue place. But because it is fabulous. It’s brined for 10 days, then smoked for four hours. Then, it’s cut unexpectedly into thick slices like St. Paddy’s Day corned beef. It’s sweetly smoky, subtly pickly and peppery tasting, and deeply marbled, producing a melt-in-your-mouth slab of meat that is just irresistible.
For the sides, the mac ‘n’ cheese ($4 for a small; $7 for a large) is rich and creamy with a classic breadcrumb topping. The collard greens ($4 for a small; $7 for a large) are actually cooked with Magnolia’s Stout of Circumstance, a robust malty brew, that balances the inherent bitterness of the collards.
The Tri-Tip Sandwich ($15) is piled with shaved red onions and arugula, and gets a smear of horseradish mayo for satisfying bite.
The Texas Caviar ($4 for a small; $7 for a large) is not necessarily what I would have gravitated to normally, but this spritely mix of black-eyed peas, corn kernels and chopped bell peppers tossed in a sharp vinaigrette is a winner with its pleasing crunch and hit of acidity.
Like most barbecue joints, the food is served directly on metal trays. Even the salads. The slices of avocado, hard-boiled egg, crisp bacon bits and torn shards of tender chicken that make up the Smoked Cobb Salad ($14) are arranged in neat piles over a bed of lettuce on the tray. It actually makes sharing easier, too, as everyone at the table can just dig a fork in.
Beer and barbecue — you know you’re in for a good time at Smokestack.
More: A Visit to Namu Gaji