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"I'm from Texas, so I'll get the brisket... it better be good!" is something Richard Park, co-owner of CatHead's BBQ in San Francisco, hears all too frequently. Cooking barbecue comes with all sorts of headaches. It's a comfort food with distinct regional differences, each one passionately defended by the people who hail from those regions. As a Texan myself, I'm familiar with all of this (rarely do I order anything apart from brisket; I judge most barbecue joints on their brisket regardless of style). Living in San Francisco, however, can be tough when the closest thing we have to a native style is Santa Maria tri-tip.
There are plenty of factors working against this city's attempts at good barbecue, from safety concerns around wood-burning pits to the dilution of specific styles in the attempt to please all. But there are a few places doing it right. There are folks here who pour a lot of love into their meat (and non-meat), putting out what I think is some pretty good 'cue —and they aren't even from Texas.
Richard Park and Pamela Schafer have been serving up barbecue since 2008 but have only been in their current location (formerly Big Nates) since January 2012. The duo met in culinary school and after stints in fine dining establishments across the city, they partnered up to create CatHead's. Whether you agree on how how they cook their brisket (it's brined in Coca-Cola) or pull their pork, these two are making some mighty fine barbecue, and I got to spend a day with them to show you just what goes on behind the scenes.
About the author: Wes Rowe is a photographer and eater based in San Francisco who believes there is no such thing as too many burgers, and when given the opportunity, likes to spend the whole day smoking brisket. Follow him on Instagram @wesrowe