The story: Magnolia Brewing Co. is a landmark in its corner spot in San Francisco’s Haight neighborhood, but it’s outgrown its basement brewery and last year brewer/owner Dave McLean moved into a large facility in the industrial Dogpatch area. Along with brewing his beer, the spot includes a huge bar and BBQ restaurant called Smokestack.
Why I went: I initially went for afternoon drinks with my friend Craig, who lives near Dogpatch, and I fell in love with the whole vintage lived-in vibe of the decor, and didn’t realize it had the BBQ restaurant attached. I returned recently with my niece who was visiting town to explore more the food side of things.
The vibe: Part saloon, part backyard BBQ picnic, the space has a lived-in feel despite the fact that the decor was developed from scratch by Nothing:Something:NY of Brooklyn. The bar anchors one end while the BBQ counter anchors the other. In the middle are communal picnic tables and booths and two-tops on the sides. While the exterior looks non-descript (there’s no real sign but you can find it since it’s right next door to the popular Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous ice cream shop), the inside allows the sun to pour in like discovering a speakeasy. The crowd is a mix of singles and young families, all dressed colorfully like the room.
The menu: Smokestack is headed by Chef Dennis Lee of Namu Gaji, and it’s a blend of BBQ styles from Texas, Carolina and Kansas City. You get Lee’s Korean-American influences with his kim chi sides and kim chi BBQ sauce at the tables. There’s a large chalkboard menu hanging from the top as you enter, and you order at the counter. The meats are sold by the pound, and the popular items include the brisket (which was sold out when I went) and pork belly. There are lots of hot and cold sides typical to pair with BBQ, including dirty rice, cole slaw, macaroni salads and beans. There are also specialty items such as pickled pig skins and smoked mac and cheese. Because everything is pre-made, the wait isn’t that long for the food, and you carry it to your table on a tray like a picnic.
The booze: The beer, of course, can feel overwhelming but the bartenders are friendly and patient in explaining each one, even giving you a taste if you want. There’s about 12-15 beers on tap from Magnolia, but there are also a few other specialty beers from other makers as well as a large selection of whisky and cocktails. When I drink beer, I mostly stick with IPAs, so I enjoyed Proving Ground IPA ($8) and Atlas Double ($9) on my first visit. While you can get more selection on the Magnolia side, Smokestack does offer a few beer on tap for convenience when you’re ordering at the counter.
My favorite dish: I enjoyed the house-cured pastrami that had just the right amount of fat and tender meat. It came with complimentary house sauerkraut to help cut into the richness.
The last bite: While not all the food was a hit (the cream of broccoli and potato seemed odd to me and the chopped pork is just another way to say pulled pork), they make it up in quality and service. For an unusual dining experience, you can’t beat the new Magnolia Brewing Co. + Smokestack in the Dogpatch. The casual decor and easy-going nature of the staff totally fits in with the brews and BBQ served up. The interestingly designed space creates a fun gathering spot for a couple of beers or a meal.
The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Magnolia Brewing Co. + Smokestack, 2505 3rd St., San Francisco. PH: 415.864.7468. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to midnight (bar stays open till 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday). No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. magnoliapub.com/dogpatch
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