What is “San Diego-style” barbecue?

Mark’s Bark does it in Normal Heights

Brisket plate
  • Brisket plate

Mark’s Bark BBQ

3641 Madison Avenue, Normal Heights

So much is (justly) made of barbecue styles. It’s the ultimate sign of a culinary asshat to say, “You can’t get good XYZ-style barbecue outside of XYZ place.” But there’s a nugget of truth in that vile, Trump-like exclusionism.

Thus, I regard Mark’s Bark BBQ’s claim of “San Diego-style” barbecue with skeptical curiosity, admiration for the refusal to dance to the establishment’s tune, and mild dread at the usual failure to reinvent the metaphorical wheel.

But if “San Diego-style” means damn fine brisket (do I detect a hint of carne asada in that spice rub?), friendly people, and a lack of pretension (seriously, the website is a single JPEG and one line of text), then I am 100% okay with it.

Mark’s Bark BBQ

Mark’s Bark BBQ

Carry on, Mark and family, with your near-perfect brisket. While you’re at it, change nothing about that crispy coleslaw or the potato salad studded with chunks of bacon, egg, and cheese. Your barbecue sauce is ideal for brisket, too: sweet, a little tangy, a bit spicy.

Smoked pork shoulder

Smoked pork shoulder

That said, the pork shoulder could be moister and fattier. Since Mark’s Bark seems to have no issues with controlling indirect heat, it makes me wonder if it’s hard to find a good shoulder or Boston butt from our local purveyors. A question for another day.

Also, I’d always rather see spare ribs than back ribs, though the latter are fine on their own.

Mark’s Bark is open only on Sundays, from noon to six, and the ribs don’t usually come out of the smoker till later. I think this is a good thing. It’s better that Mark produce superior product once a week, when people have time to sit down and enjoy some good barbecue, than to be bankrupting Bettina’s Catering (of which Mark’s Bark is part) by wasting good meat during the week when business is slow.

Now, go get some of that brisket.

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