"This is going to make someone's day," Chef Jacob Greene said, grinning proudly while holding a plated slab of baby back ribs.
Next, he showcased a smoked turkey leg and also Da Bugsy sandwich - a half pound of slow smoked pork and a huge mound of coleslaw sandwiched inside a bun that is skewered with a tall spear of fried pickle slices.
My eyes knew this menu (classified as Southern barbecue to focus customers' minds) would live up to recent hype even before my taste buds told me this brisket was far superior to some I devoured at a famous Austin joint a few weeks prior.
Bugsy's BBQ might be a newcomer to the Gaslamp, but it's gunning for recognition as the best barbecue in San Diego.
So much effort goes into each dish that when they're out, they're out. It's simply not possible to make more without sacrificing quality - a move he won't even consider. Beef is prime, and chicken is organic and hormone-free. Neither will ever see common techniques used to speed up the cooking process.
Here's how to spot good barbecue. It should have a little bark or crunch on the outside with soft meat on the inside. You also should see a pink hue in the meat throughout. The meat on my plate at Bugsy's BBQ fit the bill and was so flavorful (the smoke!) that I forgot to take advantage of Greene's five sauce choices - designed with San Diegans in mind - that sit in squeeze bottles on every table. Next time.
Katie Dillon is a lifestyle and travel writer who believes that one of the best ways to explore a city is through its food and drinks. Follow her adventures on social media at @lajollamom and send any tasty ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.