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The Early Word on Hi-Lo BBQ in the Mission

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 Hi-Lo's loft.
Hi-Lo's loft.
Photo: Blair Sneddon

Hi-Lo BBQ, the highly anticipated project from Scott Youkilis (Hog & Rocks, Maverick) and chef Ryan Ostler (Broken Record), opened last month with a mission to bring respectable barbecue to San Francisco. They've aimed for a whole new style of 'cue: a melange of Texas and Northern California, with some Asian twists, all fueled by a massive 7,000-pound smoker named "Precious." Have they hit the mark? Will Hi-Lo finally change San Francisco's dismal reputation in the world of BBQ? The Early Word has the lowdown.

The Meat News: Everyone's talking about the brisket, and since Ostler's a Texan, expectations for his smoky beef are high. Mikeh over on Chowhound calls it "without a doubt the best brisket I've had in the Bay Area," and says "the flavor and textures are spot-on." Fellow Chowhound Civil Bear says it has "great color and smoke," but is "perhaps just a tad short of perfect tenderness." SF Weekly's Anna Roth found the brisket "disappointingly dry" on her first visit, but "moister" on her second try. She also notes that St. Louis-cut spareribs seem to be an early hit, with their "good smoky flavor and tender meat." Yelper Eugene P. likes that the meat "pulled off the bone easily and still had a good chew to it." And Chowhound Civil Bear found that the half-rack portion was "generous and the ribs were meaty." [Chowhound, SF Weekly, Yelp]

The Sauce News: Diners are divided on Hi-Lo's Texas-style BBQ sauce. Roth says its "vinegar and ketchup notes" are "the tangy counterpoint that the meat needed," and Chowhound mikeh likes its "nice balance of spiciness, sweetness and tang." Over on Yelp, A.K. found the sauce "very very sweet" while both Nei N. and Dan K. thought it was "too tangy." Lori H. would "love to see more sauce options." [SF Weekly, Chowhound, Yelp]

The Sides News: The fried brussels sprouts with pineapple chili glaze and crispy shallots are an early favorite. The word from Yelp: Gary C. finds them "excellent," Sandy S. says "amazing," Ben N. says they're "fantastic" with "tons of flavor," and Maria M. called them "by far best dish of the night." The cheesy grits were a hit with Yelper Emilia V., who says they're "very, very good," and Aaron W. found them to be one of "the standouts" of his meal. [Yelp]

The Atmosphere News: Yelper Yea A. likes that the "casual yet chic atmosphere" is "good for dining alone, in groups, or even for a date." BarFlySF agrees that it's "casual" and "laidback," but also takes note of the "nicely decorated surroundings." And the Weekly's Roth "liked the room," despite the rest of her companions protesting the "chi-chi surroundings," noting the "airy, cathedral-like atmosphere" and the "visually-striking smokehouse vibe." [Yelp, BarFlySF, SF Weekly]

The Booze News: Cocktail mastermind Scott Beattie has created a list of drinks that "complement the bold flavors of the barbecue," says Roth. BarFlySF tried the Fennel Old Fashioned and Hi-Lo Manhattan and found both "on the sweeter side," but saw how they're "meant to pair with smokey Q." Thrillist checked out the Jerk Mary, "which is actually really nice if you just get to know it," and the 19th Street Style Paloma, which boasts an extra shot of mezcal "that'll make it less 'refreshing' and more 'ohgodwhathappened.'" [SF Weekly, BarFlySF, Thrillist]

The Service News: The hybrid counter/table service doesn't work for Yelper Dan K., who thinks "they should pick one and stick with it," finding the current system "completely confusing." Jo A. agrees that "the whole ordering system is pretty flawed" and noticed that "everyone was confused." The staff gets high marks, though: Sandy S. says the "service was great" and Cherylynn N. gives the "super friendly and eager" workers "5 stars." Chowhound possumspice describes the service as "very friendly." [Yelp, Chowhound]

The Cash News: Most Yelpers seem to find the prices on the high side, especially "given the portion size and for a self-service restaurant," says Cherylynn N. John R. agrees that it's "just a bit pricey for a place where you order at the counter," while S.B. concedes that "the price is pretty high for BBQ," but also notes that it's "pretty fancy stuff." Ben P., however, thinks it's "great pricing for great food." [Yelp]

· All Hi-Lo BBQ coverage [~ ESF ~]


3416 19th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 874-9921 Visit Website


3416 19th St, San Francisco CA