To find one of Morro Bay’s newest hot spots, just follow the wafting smell of barbecue — your nose will lead you right to Brickhouse BBQ on Morro Bay Boulevard.
The former gas station still has a big garage bay door that can be thrown open on sunny days, but for chilly days, there’s a small fireplace inside the cozy dining area.
Place your order outside at the window, where your “ticket” will be the same brown paper bag in which you’ll get your food. In a further effort to save paper, if you pay with a credit card, your receipt will be emailed to you.
Owned and operated by two generations of the Fennacy family, the eatery just opened its brick-and-mortar operation in June 2013, but it’s been “Smokin’ Hot Since 1997.” That’s when a family tradition of grilling hot dogs for the Cayucos Fourth of July celebration really caught fire, and the Fennacys started catering and ’cueing up all manner of meats for family, friends, fundraisers, etc. Not long after, they really turned up the heat and started going to regional barbecue competitions and winning!
“We’d always win for our sauces,” said (mother) Meredith Fennacy. However, as fun as those victories were, “we realized that you’re really only cooking for the judges and the other competitors.”
The effort began to seem not worth the reward, but when they realized they had all the needed equipment and know-how, the Fennacys and their three children began grilling for festivals and fairs.
Last year, a friend suggested they establish a more permanent setup at the Morro Bay Boulevard address. At the time, it was “my husband’s law office,” said Fennacy, and “the idea was to just put up a tent and have a walkup sandwich place, but it just took off.” Within a short time, they were able to remodel the building to include a commercial kitchen and the dining area.
For the menu, the family relied on all that competition experience, “taking all the best barbecue ideas, but making them in more of a California style — freshly made, healthier, with less fat and with better quality meats,” said Fennacy. That eclectic approach has resulted in ribs seasoned with house-made dry rub, pulled pork smoked low and slow over hickory, and chicken and tri-tip grilled over red oak.
You can get sandwiches with any of the meats (except the ribs), or order the generous combo plates with either two meats/two sides or three meats/two sides.
Among the choices of sides are Parmesan green beans — and they’ll quickly become a favorite. They’re hand-cut and blanched before being tossed in butter and Paso Robles olive oil and sprinkled with garlic and cheese. Other choices include grilled garlic bread, hearty ranch-style beans with chunks of tri-tip, and coleslaw that’s lighter than the typical sweet, mayonnaise-y Southern style.
As far as those award-winning sauces, they’re served up on the side because “we want the meat to stand alone, we don’t want to cover it up,” said Fennacy. The sauce flavors are original, spicy, apricot mango and strawberry chipotle, and all are very purposely made gluten-free and with no high-fructose corn syrup.
Given that Brickhouse BBQ is now serving about 20 racks of ribs a day and 180 tri-tips a week, it certainly seems to have lit a spark under the taste buds of locals and visitors alike. However, despite its growing popularity, “we just want to keep it small,” said Fennacy. “We’re committed to the consistency of the food and to Morro Bay, and we’re just really having a blast spending a lot of time together. Most people don’t get that opportunity.”