Brazen BBQ in San Diego (Hillcrest) – First look!

Brazzen BBQ in San Diego – Hillcrest (corner of 5th and Washington)
Exclusive First Look & Review!
I have to say I was super excited when I spotted the banner for Brazen BBQ a few months ago.  Slowly but surely, their building began to take form, as did their website (  They’ve been talking about their grand opening taking place sometime mid-August and it’s finally arrived! 
Welcome Brazen BBQ to San Diego!  I’ve been waiting.  So, while I didn’t catch you yesterday at your official Grand Opening, we did have a chance to check you out today for lunch.  Here’s what I thought.
Inside of the restaurant is very open and inviting.  I was immediately excited to see cages of trophies everywhere and large menus outlining tasty choices of meat and sides.  Just below they have a self-serve bar of specialty sodas on ice, which was cool.  They also have a full bar inside which is nice if you want to simply chill out.  The staff was friendly and we didn’t have to wait too long before getting to the register.
Once there, we decided to split a double bolt combo which includes 3 meats and 3 sides.  At this point, they didn’t have everything on their menu as they continue to iron out the kinks in their systems.  So, we tried ordering the BBQ chicken, Pork ribs, and the beef brisket.  DENIED.  No more pork ribs!  Bummer, we could see other people feasting on them so we must have missed it by minutes.  No worries, the cashier convinced us that the pulled pork was the way to go.  The prices were reasonable.  Overall cost for the two of us for lunch was $24 including T&T.;
Now the waiting game… would it be as succulent as it looked?  Would the meat knock us off our feet?  Only time would give us that answer, but my fingers were crossed!
In the meantime let’s check out their sauces.  Two sauces were on the table, although when we placed our order it sounded like there were a couple other sauce options you could select.  We opt’d for the dry rub and the 2 sauces that came on the table.  The first one was called “B.R.A.G.” and had a very tangy flavor.  The second one was called “Smokey Lace,” which was much sweeter and akin to a more traditional BBQ sauce that you might expect.
FINALLY, the moment of truth.
It smelled good, it looked good!  But, I’m afraid to report, it fell short of expectations.  Here’s why.
Let’s start off with the good things.  The smoked pork was relatively tender and overally pleasant.  However, like most of the items we tried, it seemed to lack a certain depth of flavor which may or may not have been caused by how long these meats were sitting.  It did taste better when adding the Smokey Lace sauce to it.
Of all the meats, the chicken was both our favorite.  Darren had the thigh and I ate the drumstick.  Inside the meat was tender and offered a decent smoky and salty essence.  I used a little of each sauce with this one.
So the beef brisket is where things went wrong.  While it had a bark to it and even a smoke ring, the meat was super dry and overcooked.  To be honest, it was a little cold and I wonder if it was prepared well before we ate it.  My opinion of dry brisket is that you shouldn’t serve it… period.
Closer up you can easily tell just how dry the meat was.
Next up were the fries.  They were barely warm!!  And we were both thoroughly disappointed.
The cornbread was okay.  I enjoyed the outer crust which was sweeter.  Inside was filled with corn kernels and a few other things that gave it some additional texture, but honestly it wasn’t anything super special.
Ironically I didn’t take pictures of the two sides that I felt were the best.  They were the tangy coleslaw and the bbq baked beans.
My conclusion is this.  Brazen has a great vibe and location, but the quality of the food today did not match up.  Overall we were disappointed with the execution, especially given the awards that were displayed.  However, to be fair to Brazen, it’s their second day in business and their processes will likely continue to improve.  So, we’re gonna give them a month and come back to see what they’ve done.  I really hope the next time they have their pork ribs, and the food comes out piping hot.  I’d much rather wait a little longer to get my food, knowing it is prepared to order.  Until then, both Coop’s and Phil’s are still the BBQ kings of San Diego!
Let me know what your experience is… especially if you get to try the pork ribs before me!  Happy eating.
Brazen BBQ Smokehouse & Bar
441 Washington Street, San Diego, CA
(619) 816-1990
*They do have nice late hours on the weekends opening up till 11pm.

Brazen BBQ on Urbanspoon

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About Michael

I couldn't be luckier to call San Diego my home the past couple decades. America's "Finest City" is bursting with delicious eats in nearly every corner. Whether you want savory or sweet, fancy or rustic, you can have it all! I have the awesome job of uncovering some of these gems, and sharing them with you. When I'm not chowing down, I also write about $$$ at Thanks for stopping by!

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One Comment on “Brazen BBQ in San Diego (Hillcrest) – First look!”

  1. I have to agree that I did not have a great experience the first time I was at Brazen. I am going to try one more time! I disagree with your Brisket comment, for me the dryer the meat the better!! I will try the brisket the next time I am there.

    Thank you,

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