Tuesday, May 28, 2024

A Unique BBQ Experience at The Hotel Del

There is a Laundry List of Reasons to Go

Republished Courtesy of Crown City Magazine
Written By Clyde Van Arsdall IV

If you have driven or walked past the Del lately, you may have noticed a lovely perfume of smoke emanating from the historic laundry building. I recognized it immediately as mesquite. What’s cooking?

When asked to write about the new Smokehouse & Bar, I felt like a kid waiting for Christmas; the excitement was palpable. I am the current board president of the Coronado Historical Association, so the historic location had my interest piqued. I am also a chef and a lifelong barbecue fan, as my family hails from the South with roots in the Carolinas, Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Texas. The Van Arsdalls know and love BBQ, and I have written about it extensively, so strap in. I am about to tell you what a gem of a BBQ joint we have right down the street. My only regret in experiencing the Smokehouse was that I didn’t arrive in the vintage Hotel Del laundry truck we currently have parked in the lobby of the Historical Association Museum.

Photo Courtesy of Hotel del Coronado

Chef Matthew Crawford of the Smokehouse serves up some high-end BBQ that pays homage to several regions nationwide. The chef is not imitating but borrowing, then giving each step of the process some California flair.

First, he starts with high-quality meats, prime brisket and Kurobuta pork. You should familiarize yourself with Kurobuta, a specialty pork from heritage pigs. This cut is the Cadillac of pork, and you can taste the difference. The quality of the products the Chef uses is second to none.

Chef Matthew cooks the meats in a West Texas style with a simple rub, letting the flavor of the meat stand out. The fuel is where he adds a regional touch with his choice of hardwoods. He departs from white oak in favor of mesquite, cherry, and apple woods, locally sourced from Fallbrook. These hardwoods add a distinct flavor to the BBQ, like terroir for wine grapes.

Photo Courtesy of Hotel del Coronado

The sauces are where the chef gets a little playful, taking us on a journey through the most famous BBQ regions and then making each sauce his own, tying them to Southern California. The Coronado Sauce pays homage to a traditional North East Carolina-style BBQ sauce with local hints of coriander and cumin. The West Coast BBQ Sauce gives a nod to Memphis as it is sweet and tangy with notes of peach. The Apple Mop sauce takes me to South Carolina with mustard, but the chef adds a touch of home with smoky mezcal. Finally, the Padres Hot Sauce delivers with fermented Fresno chilis if you want a little heat. There is a guide on the menu pairing sauces with the various meats which is fun to follow but truth be told, they all work with everything; just choose your favorite and dig in.

The sides are what you would expect from Hotel Del: exceptional quality and beautifully executed. The slaw was a standout — for me, the slaw is always an indicator of the caliber of a BBQ place. Crawford knocks it out of the ballpark with his take on this simple side using a grilled apple vinaigrette. The bits of green apple in the slaw just add to the crunch and tartness of the slaw. The vinegar cuts through all the barbecue’s marvelous fattiness, adding to the experience. A side of this is a must with your BBQ.

The Brisket had a beautiful bark and melted in my mouth. The ribs fell off the bone; they were so tender. The flavor was heavenly with just the taste of the rub, but you have to try the sauces. The pulled pork was moist and flavorful, with tender pieces mixed in with the crunchy bark. I couldn’t get enough of the sausage, a jalapeno cheddar link, smokey and exotic with just the right amount of heat. I used up nearly all my Apple Mop sauce dipping these sausage bites.

As if the great food wasn’t enough, the bar we posted up at to enjoy this meal was, simply put, gorgeous and period-appropriate. The Del found the bar in an old hotel in Pennsylvania and brought it back to its original glory for all of us to enjoy. At the helm of this old gem was bartender extraordinaire Andy Allen. When I commented that I liked his use of real smoke to impart a kiss of flavor rather than heavily smoked liquors, he told me he took a “Gestaltish view on mixing drinks where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  An old-school bartender spouting German psychology behind a vintage bar in a historic building. All this while I take on some of the best BBQs I have had in San Diego? Sold, I will be back!

Don’t let the fact that this is the Hotel Del keep you from bringing the family; they are kid-friendly and have an enormous space, games, wide-screen TVs and an outdoor patio.

The Del refers to this specifically as a “public” Smokehouse. I asked what they meant by that. They told me while many of the Del’s venues are geared toward the hotel’s guests, this space was designed with locals in mind.

The Smokehouse is not a special occasion space, even though it is very special. It’s an everyday space where you can get great food and drink. The building is fancy, but you don’t have to be; come as you are and treat yourself to a truly fantastic experience. There is something on the menu for everyone, and they serve brunch.

The Laundry building is very accessible on foot or by bike. Approach from the beach and enjoy the view, or simply walk down Orange Avenue. Just follow your nose; the smoke will tell you where to go. You need to experience and enjoy this space. Bring some good conversation and your appetite, and I will meet you there.

Clyde Van Arsdall IV is a third-generation Coronado local, chef and storyteller. For more stories and follow-ups to articles go to oliveavenuesupperclub.com.

Written By Clyde Van Arsdall IV
Republished Courtesy of Crown City Magazine


Smokehouse & Bar at The Historic Laundry



Managing Editor
Managing Editor
Originally from upstate New York, Dani Schwartz 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: [email protected]

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