Well Over A Decade In, And The Smoke Is Still On Fire At San Francisco's Barbecue Temple Memphis Minnie's

Well over a decade in, and the smoke is still on fire

The sauce stands alone.

No offense to the four different squeeze bottles on every table at the Lower Haight institution Memphis Minnie's, but with barbecue this meticulous, sauce is nearly superfluous.

That, after all, was precisely the goal of owner Bob Kantor when he opened Memphis Minnie's on Haight Street in 1996.

His models: the Texas-style barbecue of the old-guard smokehouses of the South, where smoldering wood is the sole cooking and flavoring source, and sauce is an optional garnish rather than a obfuscating mask.

The resulting meats peal with the intoxicating aroma of white oak. The juicy pork ribs ($15) broadcast their time in the smoker with a deep pink hue, and the Wednesdays-only pastrami Reubens (pictured; $11)–cured for 10 days–could turn you away from every other rendition of the deli staple.

Sides ($2.75 for a small), like pit-smoked beans and tangy vinegar coleslaw, are ideal complements.

Sure, the braised greens have too much mustard for our taste, and a Southerner would mock the barely sugary sweet tea ($2). But Memphis Minnie's is still one of the finest barbecue restaurants in the state.

And yes, even those four sauces, modeled after four regional styles, are plenty delicious–in small doses, of course.

Memphis Minnie's, 576 Haight St.; 415-864-7675 or memphisminnies.com