Please believe me when I say that I truly hate giving a bad review. I’m not one of those food critics that gets any joy out of demolishing an establishment and I’m not going to do so here. But indulge my philosophical leanings here for a minute. You may have seen this same rant, or a reasonable facsimile of, on one of my blog posts.
I do not, can not, and truly am astonished by the lack of care taken sometimes in a restaurant and the product they put out. By this I mean, that if the end result is truly not appetizing, how can the owner/chef/cooks there NOT know this? Do they taste their own dishes? They’re supposed to according to all the experts. I mean, how can you know what you are putting out there if you don’t taste it first? And of course all that leads into, how do customers “like” an establishment’s food if there are obvious problems with it? What does that say for people’s tastes?? Again, this discussion begs more thought and belongs in a separate blog post, so look for that.
All of that seems to be the case here at Bulls. I ate there once a few years back, before I was a BBQ judge and I remember….not a lot. Maybe enough stored itself in my sub conscious memory to not return?? But since I didn’t remember too much, I knew I would have to go back to give a more honest, and up-to-date review for this blog.
Dry, dry, dry is my all encompassing observation speaking for my tongue and my palate.
I ordered their Bull’s Round Up, which consisted of one smoked Beef Rib, 2 smoked pork ribs, 4 pcs of smoked Andouille sausage, 2 sides and 1 cornbread for $21.95. They put the word smoked before each item on their menu. If you’re going to advertise smoke in the name of the biz, no need to reiterate it on every item, but at least don’t over smoke things, or they’re going to be…yep, dry. Except for the sausage, which was juicy, delicious and full of flavor, the pork ribs were unbelievably dry, dry, dry (I detect a theme here). They were both lacking quite a bit of flavor too. The beef rib fared better, as it wasn’t nearly as dry as the pork. And the number one cardinal sin…the pork ribs fell off the bones as soon as I picked them up…obviously from over smoking/cooking them. Again, this dries the meat out. Not always, as in the case of Cali Comfort’s which fall off the bone but are NOT dry.
And while I found their sauces not bad at all, that is not going to truly save the meats when they were as dry as they were. They make 3 sauces. One was their original, which had a nice spicy vinegar flavor to it along with some sweetness. The sweet sauce was not too sweet and I actually liked mixing it with the original. The third was an Aioli BBQ sauce which had some nice flavor, but wasn’t traditional tasting enough for me. I bet it would be great on their chicken though, which I did not order.
I also ordered their Bull’s Duo, which is two half sandwiches with your choice of meats with one side for $8.95. I went with their pulled pork and their brisket. Can you guess what I didn’t like about these? You’re right if you picked dry….again. Really? Yeah, really. The brisket was way overcooked and just crumbled into the bread. I tried to pick it up to see if my eyes were deceiving me, but nope, there was no picking it up because they were all tiny little pieces. It was pretty much the same with the pulled pork. Not a lot of flavor in either one. Brisket guru, Aaron Franklin and my training in judging teaches us to pick up a slice of brisket and do the pull test. If it comes apart somewhat easily, that is good, but it should not crumble apart, as Bulls (and almost every other place I’ve ordered this) does.
On every piece of meat in my orders there was very little smoke, and no discernable flavor to rescue it. The sauces definitely help with that. But I want to taste my meat!! And this coming from the Saucy Girl!! I love my BBQ sauces, but I’ve learned since I became a judge that the meat needs to be able to stand on its own and scream….”Hey, I am who I am….MEAT!! Come taste my flavorful goodness and revel in that!!” Alas, that is not the case here.
Of all the sides I ordered, the almond cole slaw was really good. I’ve only recently learned to enjoy slaw and everyone’s is certainly different. I hate when they drown it in mayonnaise. I felt this one was good enough that it didn’t need the almonds on it, but they did add some nutty crunch and that was a bit inventive. The mac ‘n cheese with the Cheez Its crumbled on top, lacked flavor and was only enhanced by adding some salt. I’ve yet to have a mac ‘n cheese at any BBQ joint that knocks my taste buds out like the one I’ve had at Mother’s in Ocean Beach (and now a great one at Iron Pig). A must try for both! I also enjoyed their beans. Not a sugary, BBQ flavored dish, but it had some nice spices added to it and some brisket or pulled pork in it. Their corn muffin was really good and moist. Served with a little packet of honey.
Service was lacking. Their one sever they had at lunch when I went during the week (guess they don’t expect it to get too busy??) was sure friendly when I was at the counter ordering (she said they’ll take your order at the table too) but once I sat down on their patio, she kind of forgot all about me. yet there were a few others out there too getting serviced. I ordered water at the counter, and once again with the water when I saw her out on the patio and then again when I asked one guy that seemed to be bussing and he finally brought it to me. Three’s the charm I guess. They weren’t all that busy either.
The dog friendly patio is really cute, large and Western themed as is the inside of the restau (which is rather small inside). They do advertise that they show movies out on the patio and I can see where this would be really appealing to families and would keep the kiddies happy. I’ve heard the owners are super friendly and like to give out ice cream to people.
I did ask the server when I was paying to leave, what kind of wood they smoked their meats with and I guess it’s not exactly a source of pride of any kind, in that she said, “I have no idea, ask that guy over there,” and pointed to the guy I thought was the busser. He said, Apple and Mesquite. I didn’t ask to see the smoker because it just seemed like no one really cared whether I would or not.
They also have a smoked salmon here and, as previously mentioned, chicken. If I was going to return here, I would definitely order that sausage. It still fared well the next day when reheating it. Can’t say as much for my leftover meats, sadly enough.
1127 W. Morena Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92110
Bullssmokingbbq.com (web site is not responsive for small handheld devices)