Bacon has had quite a privileged run over the last few years, a point of pop-culture obsession going far beyond the limits of our collective carnivorous indulgence. But, in this new era of specialty strips and cured meats, a new wave of restauranteurs and culinary wizards have taken hold of this cultural phenomenon and, through developing their own unique approach and offerings, created a mouth-watering evolution of the meat-lover ecosystem that’s taken the entire concept to a new level of deliciousness.
In sunny San Diego, S&M Sausage and Meat is one such cured-meat utopia. Founded by Scott Slater, a Southern California native best known for his Slater’s 50/50 chain, S&M Sausage and Meat offers a wide range of exotic game meats, as well as chef-conceived sausages, bacon and charcuterie through a dining experience that’s equal parts casual and revolutionary; waitstaff is cued by flip-cards at your table, illustrating your need for service and eliminating the need for refill-rubbernecking.
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Keep the mind and tastebuds open as you make your way through a menu that includes Venison Lasagna, Antelope Andouille, Kangaroo Sausage, Pulled Rabbit Poutine and so much more. The lineup of exotic meats and house-made sausages is in constant transition, with local availability dictating an ever-evolving variety of menu options. If you don’t know your way around the world of charcuterie and cheese boards, small portion options allow you to sample without serious commitment.
Such inspired menu designs undoubtedly come from a passion for the source product. “I thought of doing a bacon bar where there’d be 50 different styles of bacon in a 600 square foot little spot,” explains Scott Slater. “That morphed into charcuterie, which evolved into sausages, and became a creative outlet for myself.” It scratches an itch of its own delicious eccentricity.
Mark Youngren is an executive chef, an expert at curating meats, as well as making sausage & bacon. His palette for exotic game meats, house-made sausages and bacon of all varieties is unmatched, with a personality flare you can taste in every bite.
S&M goes local whenever possible, sourcing their antelope, alpaca, llama, beaver and beyond from a ranch in nearby Riverside. Their high-fat content pork relies on the same vendors as they do for the Slater’s 50/50 burger chain, but the menu changes so often, there are always surprises in store. To keep up and stay informed, you can “meat the animals” as well as source their source farm, diet and more.
“What’s unexpected is that we’re pulling a host of demographics that I didn’t expect, but the general core are hyper-local neighborhood individuals – adventurous foodie hipster types, 25-45 and the like.”
Their tasting dinner series, held once a month, pairs a particular spirit, with crafts from Journeyman scotch and beyond. Looking ahead, a local brewery will likely be the next hosted dinner pairing. “I love ‘em, I love going to ‘em, and the ones that we’ve done have been so successful that we’re going to try to do them every month,” Slater explains with audible enthusiasm. “It’s a great creative outlet for the chef and myself. Because we’re in the community that we’re in and the demographic that we serve, having those communal dinners are so indicative of our concept that it just makes sense for us to do these kinds of things. It brings together people, it feeds our culture – it’s very conducive to what we’re doing.”
For first-timers, Scott recommends you start with the deviled eggs, as well as a couple strips of the garlic rosemary bacon, and the Sriracha bacon – a truly phenomenal item. Slater is often surprised by the concoctions that come out of his own kitchen, matching my enthusiasm to try a new menu item: kangaroo curry. “The wild boar and bison sausages are awesome… but the CBJ – it’s one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. It’s a PB&J using cashew butter, jalapeño jam, fried plantains and brown sugar bacon. It’s almost like dessert.” A stoner’s dream come true? Absolutely. But glossy eyes aren’t a prerequisite for the heavenly bounties that await the adventurous carnivore at S&M.
Believe it or not, there are greens to be found at S&M. This veggie hater hasn’t touched broccoli since my mom force-fed it to me thirty years ago, and the broccolini was my very first attempt at a return. The experience was well worth the risk – not a bite was left at the end.
As for future ambitions, Scott says he’d love to open a location in North County, “as long as people keep coming in and wanting it, we’ll find a way to get it to ‘em,” he says with a chuckle.
Heading down to San Diego anytime soon? Embrace your wild side with a little S&M – your belly won’t ever forget it.