Coaster Saloon (Chef Tim's BBQ) - San Diego, CA
It's been too long since I've had BBQ and I think fate led me to Coaster Saloon. I had met a friend at Sandbar for TacoManiaSD and on our way out, noticed yellow painted signs advertising barbecue, smoked, low & slow.
I snuck a peek through the patio's large glass windows and immediately spotted green hair! It was Mercy from Baron's BBQ Beat at what else... a barbecue spot! I found the timing crazy because this was only my second ever visit to Mission Beach!
I learned Coaster Saloon had been in business for many years. Last year's ownership change introduced a new chef, Tim Eylens Sr. who brought BBQ to the menu. I thought the pig sign perfectly sums up the new vibe: "Eat BBQ. Drink Beer. Be Happy." Mercy officially introduced me to chef that day too!
In the patio, this aluminum toolshed wall has a fun design plus there's a real truck up there! A wall of license plates hangs above the bar. There are several games available: giant connect four, pool, and cornhole.
Smoked Brisket Skillet ($9.99) - 3 eggs, onion, bell peppers, house potatoes, bbq drizzle, biscuit
Two days later, I met Mercy for brunch, served Saturday and Sundays from 8am to 1pm. On the weekends, the barbecue isn't available until 1pm. I opted for a sneak peek of brisket in their Smoked Brisket Skillet. This huge breakfast contained succulent brisket chunks and had multiple days worth of eggs on top! I loved the sautéed vegetables but the potatoes could have been crispier. A little salt helped.
Ginormous Cinnamon Roll ($4.95) - cream cheese frosting, bacon crumble (until they sell out)
Mercy and her boyfriend shared this cinnamon roll with me. The ginormous cinnamon roll was properly named too because it filled the whole plate! I'm not big on desserts but this frosting had just enough sweetness to contrast with the savory bacon bits. Chef Tim cures and hot smokes his bacon similar to the way we make our own smoked bacon. The roll's insides were fluffy and had us floating on cloud nine. The leftovers kick-started a happy Monday for me!
Croque ($8.99) - 2 sunny side eggs, smoked ham, havarti cheese, white cheese sauce, potatoes, texas toast.
If you can't already tell from the egg yolks, this meal was quite massive. I sampled a bite and loved the thick bread and the meaty ham inside. I thought this was the winning breakfast item while Mercy delighted in her Eggs & Biscuits & Gravy.
We ate early so the food came out in a matter of minutes. Business picked up as all the beach-goers got hungry.
I brought Dennis and Robin here the following weekend around 1pm for the full menu. The waitress warned us that the kitchen was slammed and food did take 30-40 minutes to arrive. Poor Robin was HANGRY following a morning bike ride plus he was still getting over a cold.
Barbecue Sampler Plate (24.99?) - 3 meats plus two sides
This option offered multiple meats in one order. We chose the half chicken, baby back pork ribs, and beef brisket for our meats. The other options included pulled pork and skinny CHIX (boneless version of chicken). Our ribs had about three bones with a nice bark. Even though there seemed to be lots of seasoning, it had a mild flavor. The ribs weren't juicy but not quite dry either, so more of a firm, well done feel. Dennis found tender sections but I hit a few drier spots in mine. The smoked chicken was easy to tear off with a fork and had a minimal amount of salt in its seasoned skin.
Our favorite was the brisket, cooked perfectly so that the triangles ripped apart just right with a little tug. I especially love the mouth-watering fatty bits and the nice seasoning on top! Dennis noted little smoke taste (or visible smoke ring) but we enjoyed these two pieces exactly as is. The barbecue meats can also be paired with house BBQ sauce, on the sweeter side with some tang and a hint of spice. The next time we would go straight for brisket. The other San Diego spots that do brisket well are Coops West Texas BBQ and Grand Ole BBQ y Asado.
For sides we chose mac & cheese and baked beans. The mac and cheese had a creamy cheese feel with toasted crumbles on top. The beans had a little meatiness in the vinegar sweet sauce. These were all excellent picks for sides! Bread, baby pickles, sliced pickles and pickled onions came standard with this plate. Dennis munched on all the pickles while I enjoyed the non-instrusive vinegar taste of pickled onions.
Garbage Fries ($7.99) - cheese, pulled pork, jalapenos, pickled onions, bbq
This appetizer ought to be renamed because they are so delicious! I couldn't stop digging into these fries, especially with how amazing the gravy, barbecue sauce, meat and red onions combined in flavor! It was a delicious poutine style sharable plate!
Coaster Beach Burger ($11.99) - bacon, swiss, mushrooms, caramelized onions, 1000 island, lettuce, tomato, onion & pickle
We weren't sure if the first round would be enough so an extra burger was ordered. This entree came out quickly, especially since the crowds had dispersed by late afternoon. This half pound burger was seasoned perfectly, nice crispy char on the outer edge, cooked through but was plenty juicy and greasy as a burger should be. The bread held up well and there were more caramelized onions and thick meatier bacon on top (more of Tim's house-smoked bacon). We chose a different side for this, an eggy tasting potato salad.
Yes, I came back less than a week later to meet up with other foodie friends. My carpool and I hit traffic delays so group appetizers were half gone when we arrived. You wouldn't expect it but the chicken tenders were TO DIE FOR. These were perfectly breaded, crisp and absolutely finger licking good. Sorry no pics... maybe next time!
Big O' ($12.99) - smoked beef brisket, havarti & swiss cheese, caramelized onions, whole grain aioli, grilled texas toast (limited availability)
For the main course, I opted for a sandwich with beef brisket. Yep, I wanted MORE brisket! The buttery crunch of the thick toasted bread complimented how mouthwatering the meat, cheese and onions were! After the apps, I was only able to finish half my sandwich and lucky Dennis devoured the leftovers!
Here are a few of the other sides to choose from. The collard greens taste as if they were cooked in bacon juice, plus the occasional bits of meat mixed in, but were a tad salty. I didn't try the cole slaw but imagine the seeds would be an interesting addition.
I was happy to have run into these fine folks in the last few weeks. Chef Tim has complete control over the revamped menu and has done a fabulous job with Coaster Saloon. The food is hearty and the prices are reasonable though beware the 3% surcharge on the bill! The staff is friendly but I'd avoid the main dining times if you're in a rush. This will probably improve as they adjust to their recent boom in business! I promise you won't go hungry either when you eat here!
744 Ventura Pl
San Diego CA 92109