Before the local barbecue craze took hold, there was Frankie the Bull’s BBQ, which opened nearly eight years ago on an inconspicuous frontage road that runs along West Morena Boulevard. It was launched in part by Frank Terzoli, the vivacious contestant from Bravo’s “Top Chef” (season two), who eventually bailed to pursue other endeavors locally and abroad.
After a name change to Bull’s Smokin’ BBQ, the establishment still endures in the same modest structure that visually transports you into cowboy land when passing through its saloon doors.
Bull horns and other Western bric-a-brac abound throughout the main dining area and dog-friendly patio. Canines are afforded free rib bones while humans enjoy the perks of a generous happy hour featuring pints of craft beer and wines by the glass for $4, meaty sliders for $2 sliders, half-sandwiches for $3, and french fries smothered in pulled pork for $5.
A chalk board encircled by photographs of customers drinking and sinking their chops into smoked meats shows about a dozen rotating craft beers on tap. Amid the usual suspects such as Stone Delicious IPA and Stella Artois Pilsner was the gently malted Eye of the Hawk amber ale by Mendocino Brewing Company.
Familiar with its moderate sweetness and buzz-worthy alcohol content (8 percent), I chose it specifically to augment the smoky essence of pulled pork on my sandwich made with a halved, grilled sub roll. (Other meat choices include beef brisket, chicken and andouille sausage.)
The ale was expectedly crisp and slightly creamy, and without the raging hops of a San Diego-brewed IPA, which would have competed aggressively with Bull’s three barbecue sauces I applied along the way.
The “aioli” version outperformed the “sweet” and “original” recipes with its peppery notes that complimented the fruity tasting malts in my pint glass. So delightful, I squirted some of it onto a side of fresh coleslaw ($3) topped with slivered almonds.
My only complaint was that the sandwich could have withstood another ounce or two of the juicy pork. Although after visiting this time-honored barbecue joint a few times over the years, I can attest that what’s lifted from the smoker and tapped from the beer handles never disappoints.