Next to jazz, barbecue is America’s greatest invention. But amateurs have sullied its hallowed reputation by throwing the word around like it means nothing. Barbecue is not just tossing a slab of meat on a hot metal grate. Calling that barbecue is like calling Keyboard Cat a successor to Mozart. True barbecue, barbecue worthy of its name, must be primed, pampered and placed over indirect heat until slow-cooked to tender perfection.

At South Winchester BBQ in San Jose, owner Eric Ingram continues the legacy his family began at Trail Dust BBQ in Morgan Hill. Every morning, pitmaster Brent Neault oversees the dry rubbing and oak wood smoking of each premium cut of meat. This multi-hour process imprints a distinctive pink ring, a flavor-laden lipstick stain from the smoker’s long kiss. The most popular items of the daily batch of beef, pork and chicken start disappearing around 7pm.

They serve two-meat ($19), three-meat ($23) and four-meat ($27) combo meals that come with a side of homely beans, potent garlic bread and a lightly dressed minced coleslaw that surpasses the usual mayo-soaked variety. I split the four-meat and a half-rack of ribs ($19) with a friend and left with a serious case of the itis.

The tri-tip and brisket both boast thick pink ridges and succulent flavor well worth the extra seconds of molar-gnashing. The pulled pork offers rich, fall-apart strands that smack of carnitas. The chicken breast is tender, massive and benefits greatly from a dunk in their signature “hogwash,” a spicy, vinegar molasses dressing. But the St. Louis-style ribs are the magnum opus of this establishment. The hours of smoking cultivate a thin mahogany crust around the pliant pork. The meat comes loose with a gentle tug and satisfies primal bone-cleaning urges without hassle.

Inside, there’s a marble bar, sheet metal ordering/pick-up windows and a long central table for communal dining. They offer a rotating cast of 10 on-tap beers bought directly from top-notch California breweries like Societe, Hess and Fieldwork. If none of those tickle your fancy, their fridge is stocked with ritzy brews from around the world.

South Winchester also serves large sandwiches filled with hot links or any of their meats ($15). And given two days notice, they prepare “Big Packs” like “The Reunion” that features roughly 15 lbs of all their meats, 320 oz. of their sides and enough food to feed 90-100 people ($1450).

South Winchester BBQ
1362 S. Winchester Blvd., San Jose.