San Diego, CA

Where to Eat BBQ Right Now in North San Diego County

Mike Peterson

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Good BBQ isn't hard to find if you know where to look.Bao Menglong/Unsplash

Good BBQ isn't always the easiest thing to find. But while San Diego isn't known for being a BBQ hotspot like some other U.S. locales, there are still plenty of great options in America's Finest City.

When it comes to BBQ joints, most of them are located closer to the city of San Diego and its outlying neighborhoods. But up in North County, there are still some excellent restaurants serving top-tier BBQ. Here's my pick for some of the best.

5. Felix's BBQ with Soul

Address (San Marcos): 736 Center Dr #103, San Marcos, CA 92069

Address (Oceanside): 3613 Ocean Ranch Blvd, Oceanside, CA 92056

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day

Felix's BBQ is an excellent BBQ joint with locations in Oceanside, San Marcos, and Carlsbad. The menu is well-packed with tasty Southern and soul classics, from delta catfish to Alabama-style fried chicken. While there are a variety of options to choose from, you can't go wrong with any of them.

The ribs here fall off the bone and the brisket is beautifully cooked and seasoned. The fried chicken has just the right amount of crispiness and juiciness, too. The Po-Boy sandwiches are great if you're looking for a more portable meal on the go.

You'll also find a huge menu of sides -- with all of the favorites included. That includes red beans with rice, Hoppin' John, collard greens, and fried okra. There are even classic breakfast options like biscuits and gravy and chicken and waffles.

4. Up in Smoke BBQ

Address: 925 W San Marcos Blvd # B, San Marcos, CA 92078

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cooking up delicious BBQ in San Marcos since 2021, Up in Smoke is a solid choice if you're looking to get some brisket or ribs further inland. There's a genuinely profound selection of meats here, as well as options for vegetarians or those looking for a lighter meal.

The burnt ends are an absolute must here, but the brisket and chicken are also excellent. You'll also find some menu items you might not expect at a BBQ joint, including burritos and chili made with the aforementioned brisket.

The restaurant in San Marcos features a selection fo beer, wine, and cocktails. Up in Smoke also operates a food truck that travels between some of the county's best breweries, so you can get your favorite local craft brew while eating delicious BBQ.

3. The Wrangler Barbecue

Address: 1644 E Valley Pkwy, Escondido, CA 92027

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day

This humble shop in Escondido, California is nothing fancy. Don't come expecting a fancy gastropub-style establishment. This isn't that. Instead, The Wrangler serves up the best BBQ in the city -- and what's likely among the best in the North County area.

The Wrangler has been around for decades, and it hasn't changed much. You'll find a simple menu of classic Texas-style BBQ items like beef or pork ribs and barbequed meat. The prices are highly affordable, too.

There isn't a lot of complexity here. You'll find simple sides like macaroni salad, coleslaw, and baked beans (each meal is served with dinner rolls, too). But for what The Wrangler lacks in variety it more than makes up for with BBQ that's downright delicious.

2. When Pigs Fly BBQ

Address: 230 Main St, Vista, CA 92084

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10.m. Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday

This award-winning BBQ restaurant is run by a team of competitive BBQ cooks. It's located in downtown Vista, California and the restaurant itself has a simple, industrial-style aesthetic. Don't let that fool you -- When Pigs Fly serves up classic BBQ with soul.

You'll find a selection of delicious pulled pork, riblets, brisket, tri-tip, and other BBQ classics. Coming from a BBQ competition team, you can expect the food to be solid. You can order items a la carte or as part of combo meals or family packs.

There are other items here as well, including steak, BBQ nachos, burgers and hotdogs, and a range of sides from smoked corn to three-bean salad. If you're thirsty, there's also beer on tap at the restaurant.

1. Miss Kim's by That Boy Good

Address: 207 N Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day

If you're craving good, Louisiana-style BBQ in Oceanside, then Miss Kim's by That Boy Good is your spot. It's a rustic joint near downtown that offers up solid BBQ, cocktails, and draft brews. But it's not just good for Oceanside, it's likely one of the best BBQ places in all of North San Diego County.

You'll have classics like mesquite brisket and baby back ribs, although this writer is partial to the fried shrimp and catfish -- both are excellent and a bit lighter. All of the sides, from the cole slaw to the collard greens with housemade bacon, are just as good as the mains.

The drinks here are on-point, as well. The TBG's Famous BBQ Bloody Mary is a delicious drink on its own, but it's also garnished with pickled veggies and a full rib.

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Mike Peterson is a journalist, editor, and yoga teacher based in North San Diego County. He's a fan of indie bookstores, local craft beers, and excellent tacos.

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