Go Eat This Now: The Baked Potato at Pete’s Bar-B-Que

Is there anything humbler in the entire vegetable kingdom?

Fried Chicken. Photo by Ryan Basso

The Mission is famous for great Mexican food, its beautiful street art, and gentrification. One thing the neighborhood isn’t known for, though, is good old-fashioned, home-style barbecue. But the line that often snakes around 20th Street proves that maybe some of us have missed something.

Pete’s Bar-B-Que, which is actually more like a rotisserie restaurant than a proper barbecue joint, has been serving chicken to the neighborhood for more than 40 years. It’s like the original Boston Market, but authentic (and with much better food). Set up like an elementary school cafeteria, guests jump in line and peer through a glass window at hot trays full of ribs, ham, roast beef, chicken, turkey legs, and spaghetti — because why not? Down the assembly line are little mountains of coleslaw, pasta salad, potato salad, bean salad, and sliced roasted beets.

The options are abundant, but the standouts are clear and simple. First of all, the sauce is what it’s all about. Pete’s signature barbecue sauce is tangy and peppery, with a slight sweetness. Unlike other dark, syrupy sauces, it’s translucent with a light viscosity, letting the flavors of the meat shine. Although the roast beef and ribs are tender and lovely, it’s the chicken that cannot be missed. All day long, the rotisserie oven spins, cooking chickens that are then lathered with sauce and quartered or halved.

For $7.79, you can get a juicy quarter chicken, two sides, a baked potato, and a dinner roll. That is a full country-style dinner for less than 10 bucks! Pete’s other chef-d’œuvre is none other than the baked potato. Skewered and roasted in the rotisserie with the dripping meats, it’s a perfectly prepared little spud. This humble treat is roasted until the skin browns to a crisp while maintaining a steamy and soft texture, then sliced down the middle and stuffed with a spoonful of butter. This simple, salty, decadent side dish has become something of a legend around these parts, drawing in as many customers as the barbecue itself.

Everything can be ordered à la carte, from a half chicken or turkey leg for $5 to a plate of spaghetti or salad for $2.50. Owned by its original family, Pete’s regulars come in for lunch every day, and they haven’t changed their style in decades. Mission Street is in flux, but I have a feeling Pete’s is going to be around for a long time, and I doubt much will change. That’s exactly the way it should be.

Pete’s Bar-B-Que, 2399 Mission St., 415-826-1009, no website.

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