Saturday, November 24, 2012

Phil’s Has Come to Santee…

and we couldn’t be happier.

Via e-mail, our cousin Karen told us that Phil’s BBQ—one of our two favorite barbecue spots in the country (with 2Paul’s in Lafayette, LA)—was planning to open another restaurant. And one that is no more that ten minutes from our RV park in Santee, CA.
And we don’t seem to be the only ones who are excited. “The excitement outside the restaurant was as overwhelming as the odor of barbecue coming from inside. Friends Jason and Rob showed up hours before the official opening to be the first in line. Both are long-time fans of Phil’s, regularly making the trek out to the Point Lomas location. Asked why being first in line was so important to him, Jason simply replied, ‘Because I’m hungry.’ ‘We definitely have to support Phil’s for coming out to East County,’ said Rob. ‘It’s been a long time coming. He’s finally out here and we’re glad to be the first ones in to eat.’

“Darrin and Jacquelyn had arrived ready to wait, bringing a pair of folding chairs with them. For the couple, it would be their first time ever at Phil’s. ‘We’re pretty excited because we've heard nothing but good things about it,’ said Darrin. ‘We've heard all the other locations get pretty busy with lines wrapped around the corner, so we wanted to get here early today so we didn't have to wait too long, other than sitting.’ Later on, inside the restaurant, the couple was enjoying their first taste of Phil’s, and the experience was clearly worth the wait…” (Stephen Prendergast at
“’We had been eyeing a spot in East County for quite some time,’ said Phil Pace, owner of Phil’s BBQ. ‘We’ve had overwhelming support and enthusiasm from so many during the build-out.’

“The new restaurant saw more than 2,500 applicants apply for 140 available positions on staff over a five day period. The line to eat remained out the door for the entirety of the opening festivities” (Steven Bartholow at

We knew better than to arrive during what one would think was the lunch hour rush. But still the line was at least twenty persons long. (For those waiting in line, the Santee Phil’s offers a walk-up drink window.)

But what appears to be controlled chaos is actually a fairly efficient system. You order at the counter,
are given a buzzer, and find a seat.
When the buzzer sounds, you retrieve your food. Since Chuck had three trays to juggle, Phil’s provides staff members to help transport the heaping portions of deliciousness.

We had a plan. We would order one pulled pork sandwich, one tri-tip sandwich, a large order of fries, and—for me—a side of cole slaw.

These sandwiches are as big as they look in the photos. I estimate that 40% of the meat can’t fit inside the bun but is there to be eaten with fork or fingers—whatever floats your boat. You’ll note that neither of us likes a lot of sauce. It just obscures the smoky flavor of the meat. So we asked for the sauce on the side so that we could self apply.

Chuck started with his half of the pulled pork or BBQ Broham—a mountain of luscious and juicy pork that hadn’t been over smoked, so you taste meat first and smoke later.
If I have any criticism of Phil’s pulled pork it would be the lack of bark—those dark, somewhat dry, and intensely flavored bites on the shoulder’s exterior. But I am way more into bark than is Chuck so this was no problem for him.

It was time for me to dig into my half of the tri-tip—otherwise known as the El Toro. And a famous sandwich this is. It was featured on an episode of Adam Richman’s Man v. Food on the Travel Channel. And, during the past year, was again highlighted on Richman’s new show—Best Sandwich in America—where it was the winner of the West Coast region (one of ten regions).

The sandwich is prepared by thinly slicing the smoked tri-tip and then throwing it on the grill with a bit of sauce. The high heat begins to caramelize the sugars in the sauce and gives the beef a slightly sweet flavor.
And look at the dark bark on this meat. Just what I like. But half of the tri-tip with some fries and cole slaw was all I could manage. My half of the BBQ Broham came home for my dinner that night along with some fries.

A note to self—next time a small fries will be plenty. These were obviously house-cut, but I would have liked them a bit crisper.
The slaw was wonderful—cold and crisp and a mix of green and red cabbage with some shredded carrot for good measure. The light cream dressing was neither too sweet nor too tart. This was so good that Chuck—who is somewhat ambivalent about cole slaw—when seeing me starting to get full, asked “I’ll finish that if you aren’t.”

Before trying the Santee outlet, I read some reviews on I was concerned that the new restaurant couldn’t match the Point Loma one that we enjoyed so much. Well, judging by the reviews, everyone loves the new 5.0 Addie Phil’s as much as the original. And I mean everyone.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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