Here in Los Angeles with our beautiful weather, we can pretty much grill outside every day of the year if we want to. But grilling a nice piece of salmon is not the same as good ‘ol fashioned BBQ and sometimes you need to go to the experts. When it comes to great barbecue, these are the top 5 BBQ restaurants in L.A.
Silver Lake’s savvy spot for modern Kansas City barbecue, bourbon and craft beer is Charcoal BBQ. A hipster honkytonk vibe is lent by wooden beams, saddles and stacked firewood, juxtaposed with a big chandelier and red leather banquettes. Chef Jeremy Zimmerman (Sunset Marquis) imported a 1,700-pound smoker to cook up the likes of pork back ribs and dry-rubbed brisket. The meats are smoked slowly and come lightly glazed with just the right balance of tangy and sweet in a tomato and molasses sauce. He also fashions barbecued pork loin into a very pleasant banh mi with smoked cola aïoli, and serves a pulled pork sandwich with greens and a fried egg. Fresh coleslaw and young heirloom potato salad shouldn’t be missed. The bourbon program (with more than 80 brown liquors) specializes in small batches hailing from numerous states, including Angel’s Envy (Kentucky) and Breckenridge (Colorado). The beer line-up focuses on Belgian ales, and the cocktails are enticing. For folks stopping in for drinks at the bar, there’s a bucket of bacon and handcrafted pickles for snacks.
Barrel & Ashes
Restaurateur Bill Chait collaborated with chefs Timothy Hollingsworth (The French Laundry) and Rory Hermann (Bouchon), as well as mixologist Julian Cox, on Barrel & Ashes, an haute barbecue spot, in Studio City. Smoked meats include pulled pork from Salmon Creek Farms, brisket from Double R Ranch, and smoked sausage from Electric City butchers. There’s a smoked beef tongue Reuben, as well as “snacks” like smoked beets with pistachio and sorrel, grilled blue prawns and frito pie.
Bludso’s Bar & Que
Owner-chef Kevin Bludso grew up in Texas and is the most recent member of his family to cook barbecue professionally — it started with his great great grandfather. After opening his first restaurant in Compton — a beloved neighborhood joint — he acquired partners to launch an outpost on trendy La Brea Avenue, offering a short, hearty menu of classic ’cue along with a full bar. Choose from brisket, pulled pork, rib tips, pork ribs, chicken or hot links in quarter-, half-, or full-pound servings. Though all are tasty, it’s the pulled pork that wins in execution. Next, there are the ubiquitous sides like mac ‘n’ cheese, collard greens and coleslaw, among others. And don’t miss the homemade cornbread. Traditional desserts include red velvet cake, banana pudding, and a standout peach cobbler. It’s best to skip the wine and beer and go straight to the heavy-hitter cocktails, like the zingy and smoky “Jalisco Honey” made with gin, mezcal, Campari and Punt e Mes. A specialty of the house: Fernet Branca on tap.
The Horse Thief
Craving Central Texas-style barbecue? Find it in downtown L.A. at the Grand Central Market. This lunch-only eatery offers meats from beef brisket to pulled pork and daily changing sides like apple-fennel slaw and heirloom beans. Desserts, which rotate as well, might include a drop-biscuit cobbler or banana pudding.
Baby Blues BBQ
This Lincoln Boulevard eatery serves ribs in two styles: Memphis and dry-rubbed, both slowly cooked for 12 hours. Sandwiches layered with barbecued chicken, pulled pork or beef brisket are also available, while seafood lovers can enjoy tiger shrimp and catfish in a po’ boy sandwich, or grilled or blackened à la carte. Don’t miss the corn-on-the-cob covered with cheese, pork and beans, and the collard greens. Banana pudding and Key lime pie are options for dessert. A small selection of wine and beer is offered to complement the rich barbecue.