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Friday, January 27, 2012

Cathead's BBQ: Smoky Brisket and Stellar Sides

Posted By on Fri, Jan 27, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Cathead's Coca Cola-smoked brisket and hot slaw are early signature items - ALEX HOCHMAN
  • Alex Hochman
  • Cathead's Coca Cola-smoked brisket and hot slaw are early signature items
After three weeks in action as a brick-and-mortar operation, former pop-up favorite Cathead's BBQ is settling nicely into the old Big Nate's space. Shortly after an inaugural visit, SFoodie was magnetically drawn back, with nothing but brisket on the brain. Marinated in Coca Cola, peppers, and spices for two days, Cathead's brisket ($7 as a main, $8 as a sandwich) heads to the smoker for nine hours over a pile of cherry and hickory wood, rendering the beef fork-tender, faintly sweet, and, rare in San Francisco, overwhelmingly, beautifully smoky. Watching the pitmaster hack the beef up with a cleaver all axe-murderer style and then dump it into a pie tin (i.e. your plate) only enhanced the experience. Also tender was a trio of St. Louis pork ribs ($7,) but they suffered from being drenched in an overly sugary BBQ sauce. We would have preferred the ribs served dry, allowing us to add a few squirts of sauce with the bottle provided on our table.

Sides (all $4) are clearly a strength, as highlighted by top-notch collard greens that tasted so beefy, we were shocked to learn that they'd been amped up only by onions. An intense "hot slaw" of red cabbage, red peppers, carrots, and habaneros left the tongue buzzing, and a breadcrumb-dusted pimento macaroni and cheese offered a sharp tang and a hefty crunch. Only bland vegetarian baked beans disappointed as they cried out for the addition of brisket drippings or pork bits.

During both visits, several old-timers entered Cathead's and quizzically asked, "What happened to the old place?" with an expression of confusion and disappointment. We suspect that after a few bites of brisket and a couple of forkfuls of greens, they'll forget that the old place ever existed.

Cathead's BBQ: 1665 Folsom (at Division), 861-4242

Follow Alex Hochman at @urbanstomach. Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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