Everyone has to eat when they’re traveling, right? My family loves to try local restaurants as a way to get a feel for the city we are visiting. Imagine our surprise when we discovered southern BBQ in California. We were skeptical, but pleasantly surprised!

Great Southern BBQ in San Diego?

Who knew you could find good ol’ southern style BBQ in California?! During a San Diego vacation, my family was surprised to learn about Brazen BBQ Smokehouse & Bar, located in the eclectic and trendy Hillcrest area close to downtown.

As a former South Carolina resident, I have a deep love of mustard-based barbecue, so I can be tough to please. Brazen BBQ restaurant, which specializes in Texas BBQ, rose to the challenge!

Co-owner and Chef John Bracamone explains that because so many people who live in San Diego are from elsewhere, the restaurant owners hope to provide residents with some of the food they remember from home. Who doesn’t love BBQ?

Brazen BBQ San Diego

Dining Al Fresco

The rustic, yet modern San Diego restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating. We chose to dine outdoors on a lovely, mild San Diego evening while enjoying some people-watching.

We were all happy to relax in the fresh air, after spending the day at LEGOLAND California, which had left us pretty exhausted and starving.

Hillcrest Restaurant

Our Menu Picks

In order to taste different options, we started with a sampler platter of a jalapeno poppers, corn fritters and brisket sliders. All were delicious, though my favorite was the corn fritter — a bit like a hush puppy but filled with sweet corn and drizzled in a maple glaze. We did not get to try the Pig Candy, which is thick bacon slices smoked and dusted with a mix of sugars, though that sounds yummy, too!

I chose the Smoke Me Tender Pulled Pork, though they also have chicken, brisket, spare ribs and hot links. Brazen’s barbecue is served without sauce, so you can choose which of their sauces you’d like to add. My favorite was the BRAG sauce, which was just tangy enough to please my palate. It also came with sweet cornbread — yum!

But the BEST thing I ordered? THE MAC AND CHEESE! I am quite the mac and cheese connoisseur, and Brazen’s Crusty Macaroni and Cheese side is one of the best I’ve ever had. I could have easily eaten that for my entire meal. It’s made from a variety of cheeses with a crumbly, crunchy topping that is killer. Bracamone verified it is indeed one of their more popular menu items.

My husband ordered The Big B, the restaurant’s signature sandwich with smoked brisket, sliced ham, lettuce, pico de gallo, queso fresco, avocado and mayonnaise served on a brioche bun. He gave it two thumbs up!

We always look for family-friendly restaurants, as our kids are not adventurous eaters, and this one fit the bill. Plenty of delicious choices for Mom and Dad with options for the standard kid fare for our boys.

For the Next Time

Other menu items you should consider:

  • Brisket Stroganoff
  • Atomic Buffalo Poppers
  • Baby back ribs
  • Cajun hot links
  • Red beans and rice

Brazen also offers catering in San Diego, and Bracamone said one of their more popular options is a whole hog roast for weddings and other events.

Read more about what to do in San Diego.

Note: My family received a complimentary meal in exchange for an honest review of the restaurant.

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