I have actually been remotely acquainted with the owners of When Pigs Fly BBQ in Vista, CA for some time. Having worked along side of Dale and Tammy during a couple of the annual Valley Center Music Festivals, their BBQ event helped blend the sampling of terrific barbecue (BBQ) with excellent music to benefit the music programs for the Valley Center/Pauma School District. These events have in the past featured up to 50 BBQ competition teams, musical artist from around the globe, local musicians and bands from the San Diego area and the Valley Center High School Jazz Band. During one of these festivals, Dale came by the “green room” one day to sample my signature menu items of Teriyaki Chicken skewers and Native Oak Grilled Leg of Lamb. I remember Dale telling me my food was excellent and that most people don’t usually know how to cook lamb, and that mine was perfect. Well today, it was my turn.
A couple years back, they had extended the gas station they owned to accommodate a larger kitchen for catering BBQ. The wife and I had always just passed by thinking, “I wonder” as we would claim that the Picasso-like contrasting colors of the building were going to set off political alarms and building code violations in that area of town. Recently one day, I had wondered why we have never stopped by to check out the joint, say hello to Dale and sample their cuisine. We figured, there were other favorite BBQ places and restaurants in town that we frequented, why not check it out. I am, of course, a customer first . . . and everyone deserves a fair CritDicks review.
Immediately upon exiting my vehicle I noticed an area near the self-serve automated drive-through car wash with a nice little spot to enjoy a rest and/or your BBQ. The area had both a ceiling fan and a gas heater for those chilly California evenings (something like that) but the area was right next to the car wash entrance so I don’t know if that would be loud. I didn’t stick around to wait for a car to enter and test the noise level. I did make my way into the store and was immediately served by a very knowledgeable young man that provided a good overview of the menu selections, how it was to be ordered, and any additional options that were to my liking. The inside of the restaurant/food mart was clean and well maintained. The back of the house was all very brand new and had a slight smoky odor of the BBQ process that they had established here. I questioned the two staff members as to their operation and they gave me quick knowledgeable answers and I received my food promptly and without delay. I didn’t stick around too long as I had to fight my way back through traffic so I could get home to try some of this BBQ before it cooled off too much.
My full-rack order of pork ribs were meaty and delicious as were the three-bone 1/2 rack of beef ribs. I ordered my meats with the sauces on the side so I could taste the spices and rub. I thought the beef ribs were very tender and some of the best I had ever had, but not fall-off-the-bone as if they had been sitting in BBQ sauce all day. I like mine a bit al dente. We had also tried their coleslaw that my son thought it to be very good; and we also tried some of their mac & cheese that has a hint of smoky flavor that struck me as unusual since I have never tasted a mac like that before. It was good, but different. I did ask one of the staff members if they served a grilled chicken because their menu didn’t offer chicken other than a pulled chicken for sandwiches. The answer was that their grilled chicken is only served as a catering option. Not a big deal to me because I usually avoid BBQ chicken from such establishments because it usually results in a poor experience. A poor experience was not on the menu today as everything was fresh and delicious when I got it home.
Now I’m not going to tell you these are the best damn ribs anywhere, because I am not a big BBQ dude with years of grillin’ experience on an open pit or something stupid like that. What I will tell you is that BBQ is often times as personal as salsas, spaghetti sauce, BBQ sauces and pizza. This is some great food within a very short distance from my home and there are not many, if any, to choose from; and When Pigs Fly has a stout history of winning competitions – BIG competitions – that has allowed them to establish themselves amongst the top of the BBQ playing field. They’ve been doing right for several years and they finally brought it home to us here in Vista.
So I gotta ask you, “What’s in your gas station?”