Sunday, September 25, 2022

BBQ in the Barrio

Republished Courtesy of Crown City Magazine
Original article can be viewed here

Story by Clyde Van Arsdall
Photos by Karina Passos

The “Barn Burner” from Sideyard BBQ. This combo tray comes with four meats, four sides, four sauces and four pieces of cornbread.

Texas troubadour Lyle Lovett once said, “Barbecue sauce is like a beautiful woman. If it is too sweet, it’s bound to be hiding something.” David Kendall, pitmaster of ReBru Spirits, lets everyone know he has nothing to hide by serving his bbq dry.

Pitmaster Dave Kendall of Sideyard BBQ shows a handful of white oak for the smoker.

If you love to see old things repurposed, then you need to head over to Barrio Logan in San Diego. Thorn Brewing Company founder Dennis O’Connor has taken an old factory building and made it a destination for both food and drink. Thorn Barrio Logan occupies a large portion of the building with a production facility and tasting room. ReBru Spirits, a distillery, and their accompanying BBQ-centric restaurant fill the rest of the space, completing a trifecta of beer, booze, and food. There is a lot to unpack in one location, but for me, barbecue always takes center stage — so let’s get our smoke on.

This converted horse trailer serves as a counter at which to order food and cocktails at Sideyard BBQ.

My uncle from North Carolina once told me, “There’s a simple truth in barbecue: If you don’t see wood stacked out back, it ain’t worth stopping for.” No need to worry — as you arrive in the Barrio, you can smell the perfume of the white oak hanging in the air at ReBru. And you can certainly taste it in their barbecue.

Like the iconic lowrider cars of Barrio Logan, ReBru’s BBQ is all about the low and slow. ReBru starts with quality cuts of pork and beef. They then apply a simple rub of salt, pepper, and a few other proprietary spices, allowing the taste of the meats to take center stage. Pitmaster Dave hits all the right switches, making this barbecue bounce. The 12-hour cruise in the old-school smoker produces a brisket that tastes juicy and moist with a deep mahogany bark.

When I bite into the meat, I want to taste the pitmaster’s hard work and smell the subtle nuances of the smoke before trying the sauce. ReBru embraces barbecuing with a dry rub and sauce on the side, a style popular in Memphis, Tennessee. Chef Kenzo Inai, the former banquet chef at the Hotel Del and many other great spots around town, has created a trio of sauces that are refined and far from the norm. The “Chingon Chimichurri” is chunky, more like an Argentinian pico de gallo than a sauce. “Adelita’s Sweet BBQ” is just that, sweet but tangy. The “Smoked Chipotle Lacquer” gets its heat and smoky flavor from chipotle in adobo — not that unusual until you find out Kenzo smokes the jalapenos and makes his adobo sauce in-house. You’re not going to find this anywhere else; the attention to detail can be tasted in everything he touches.

One of the greatest faults of most barbecue joints is that they focus everything on the meat, and the sides are usually forgettable. This is not the case at ReBru, where chef Kenzo is dead set on producing sides that will have you asking for more. The “Crunchy Pineapple Coleslaw” takes a sharp departure from the mundane versions that are sickeningly sweet and drenched in mayonnaise. My favorite side has to be the “Chente Frijoles.” The term chente has a few different meanings and is also the nickname of Mexican mariachi singer Vicente Fernández, also known as El Rey de la Música Ranchera. I have no idea if these beans were named after him, but it would be fun if they were because these beans sing to me. Cooked perfectly, the beans are just starting to break down, making them creamy; some beans remain whole giving them just the right texture. Kenzo then laces the beans with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and chiles. Beans matter when it comes to barbecue, and even more so when that barbecue is served in Barrio Logan. This fact certainly wasn’t lost on Kenzo; he nailed it.

Barbecue isn’t the only thing they do well, the menu at ReBru is eclectic, bordering on funky. “The Rebru BBQ Burger” is fast becoming the talk of the barrio. One-third of a pound of beef, topped with cheese, Tabasco onions, house-made brisket, and BBQ sauce. Rebru pays tribute to Barrio Logan with various taco offerings, a bacon-wrapped “TJ dog” made with a house-made hot dog, and an all-in “Spicy Surf and Turf Burrito.” Did I mention they do pizza?

Chef Kenzo Inai of Sideyard BBQ and Hotmess Wood Fired Pizza.

ReBru uses the spent grains from Thorn Brewery next door to craft their pizza dough. Pizza toppings include some of pitmaster Dave’s barbecue as well as pepperoni and sausages made by Rebru’s own in-house butcher, Daylon Teel. The pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven that uses the same white oak stacked high out back for their barbecue. Wood firing produces a char that adds complexity to the flavor — a nice touch to an already well-thought-out pizza.

Daylon, the butcher, also runs a business called Front Row Meats. Soon you will be able to buy the items he makes for ReBru in addition to other charcuterie from his deli case located inside of the restaurant.

Is anyone getting thirsty? If Thorn Barrio Logan wasn’t enough, ReBru Spirits takes overstocked and expired kegs of beer and repurposes them into whiskey, vodka, and gin. They use the spent charcoal from the BBQ smoker to filter the liquor in the distilling process. All this booze is used to make fun cocktails, like the “East Side Ricky” made with ReBru gin, lime, sugar, cucumber, mint, and soda. The “John Daly” is refreshing and goes great with barbecue. It is made with ReBru vodka, lemon, and sun tea.

Chef and storyteller Clyde Van Arsdall (right) visits with site manager Erne Salgado (left).

Writing about your favorite barbecue is a little like talking about your favorite surf spot. You want to share the love, but selfishly you want to keep it for yourself. Good barbecue joints amass a cult following, and it won’t be long before this place is swamped with devotees. This is unequivocally some of the best barbecue in San Diego. The good news is when it does become a hotspot — and trust me, it will — Thorn brewery is next door so you can have a few beers while you wait. I’ll make sure to save a stool for you.

For hours and information follow ReBru Spirits on Instagram @rebruspirits and for special events like live music in their sideyard go to @rebrupresents.

ReBru Spirits
———– 1735 National Ave, San Diego ———–

Dry rubbed ribs served with sauce on the side and Pineapple Coleslaw.
Pineapple ColeSlaw
Chef Kenzo Inai, Sideyard BBQ
(6 servings)
4 cups green cabbage, shredded
1 cup red cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup carrot, shredded
1 cup pineapple, small diced
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup honey
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
In a medium size bowl mix the cabbages, carrot and pineapple together.
In a separate bowl whisk all of the dressing ingredients together.
Pour the dressing over the coleslaw and toss everything together.
Enjoy it immediately or place it in a refrigerator for up to 24 hours.


Story by Clyde Van Arsdall
Photos by Karina Passos

Clyde Van Arsdall is a chef and storyteller. For more stories and follow-ups to his articles go to

Republished Courtesy of Crown City Magazine
Original Crown City Magazine article can be viewed here



Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani has lived in Coronado since 1996. She is happy to call Coronado home and to have raised her children here. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercising, trying new restaurants, and just walking her dog around the "island." Have news to share? Send tips or story ideas to: