After 21 years on Folsom Street, Big Nate's BBQ has closed. The website currently mentions some renovations, but we're familiar enough with that ruse. The kids over at CatHead's BBQ have already announced that they are taking over the small but well equipped space (1665 Folsom Street) and they're in the process of remodeling it themselves. Co-owner Richard Park tells Grub Street that he and partner Pamela Schafer are making some quick work of giving the place a facelift, complete with reclaimed wood from a recently demolished barn in Petaluma, and they're hoping to have a soft opening on January 4. But loyal fans of Big Nate's have been a little miffed about the sudden closure. "People keep coming to the door and seeing it's closed and we can hear them cussing all the way back to their cars," says Park.
San Francisco may have seen a boom in new barbecue in 2011 (see also Sneaky's, Southpaw, Tupelo, and Cedar Hill to name a few), and that only encouraged CatHead's to snap up Nate's turnkey operation after being approached by the owners including former Golden Gate Warriors basketball star of the 60s and 70s, Big Nate Thurmond, who opened the restaurant in 1990. The place comes with two smokers and a full kitchen, which is quite a change for CatHead's after spending three years as a catering and pop-up outfit, making regular appearances earlier this year at The Corner before that closed, and then doing a two-month stint at The Doctor's Lounge in the Excelsior. "We've just had a small electric smoker," says Park. "So all this time, we've still had hair on arms. Now we're back to having some real fire."
Among their signature main dishes are their Carolina-style pulled pork; sweet tea BBQ chicken; and bacon-wrapped jalapenos. But Park says they're hoping to get a leg up on the competition by offering more vegan and vegetarian options especially with Rainbow Grocery right around the corner some of which have been on their menu for a while, like their Maker's Mark-marinated portobello mushroom, and their cornmeal-crusted BBQ tofu. (Their greens and baked beans are also vegan.) SF Weekly's Jonathan Kauffman is especially fond of their side dishes, particularly their "mac and cheese and cream-soaked scalloped potatoes flecked with spring garlic and country ham, which almost merit their own food truck."
Park also mentions a BBQ bean burger in the works, and a roasted broccoli and pimiento cheese sandwich. They're planning to do some grab-and-go, pre-made sandwiches for the lunch crowd. And eventually, after they get up and running, they'll be going after a liquor license to serve beer and wine something Big Nate's hasn't had for some time.
We're looking forward to seeing what CatHead's can do with two big, well seasoned smokers at the ready. Stay tuned for more on the opening as it approaches, and look for a big grand opening event sometime in the second or third week of January.
Earlier: Big-City Barbecue: 101 Places to Satisfy Your Urban Cue Craving