If summer had a flavor, it would be the sweet juiciness of richly charred BBQ. From June to September, you can find us gathered around a smoky grill on a warm night, firing everything from baby back ribs to sweet corn. During these months, BBQ hot spots across the nation are brimming with guests. Some venture out to discover new and delicious cuts of meat, sauces, and sides. Others travel to their favorite restaurant for a familiar, region-specific style.
Case in point: you’ll be hard pressed to get Texans and Hawaiians agreeing on the best way to smoke a pig, and you’ll have even more of a hard time bridging the gap between the dry rubs of Memphis and the wet sauces used on the grills of Kansas City. One thing’s for sure: no matter what BBQ joint you choose to dine at (or take out), they’re bound to take your tastebuds on a tour of the nation’s most revered craft — the art of barbecue.
Los Angeles, long considered a melting pot of cuisines, represents countless regional BBQ flavors. So whether you’re in the mood for a thin, vinegary Tennessee sauce or a mustard-laden dip straight from South Carolina, you can find what you’re craving in L.A. Not sure where to start your BBQ adventure? Don’t worry. We’ve rounded up five of our favorite spots (complete with menu suggestions) for your tasting pleasure. Consider it our summertime gift.
Bludso’s Bar & Que
SERVES: Texas Style BBQ
GO WHEN: Y’all are craving some Texan cuisine
KNOWN FOR: Its namesake: Pitmaster, Chef, and Owner… Kevin Bludso himself
TRY THE: Brisket. It’s dry rubbed and seasoned overnight, then smoked low and slow over pecan wood for 14 hours. Just the way Texas intended.
Kevin Bludso has always been a BBQ aficionado. He learned how to cook authentic Texas BBQ from his granny, Willie Mae Fields. Famous for her grilling in Corsicana, TX, Bludso would spend summers with her behind the grill. His BBQ is authentically Texan. Bludso’s craft doesn’t stop at brisket — he’s also perfected the pork ribs, smoked chicken, and rib tips. While you’re there, make sure to check out the sausage selection. The Texas Red Hot is a fiery blend of pork and spices that goes perfectly with a tall glass of sweet tea. Order it up with a side of baked beans and fresh-from-the-oven cornbread to complete the Texan experience.
Maple Block Meat Company
SERVES: Texas Style BBQ
GO WHEN: You can’t go one more moment without some legit brisket
KNOWN FOR: Traditional Texas BBQ with California additions, like the use of peachwood in their smoker
TRY THE: Housemade Smoked Sausage. Chef Adam Steffan makes this program a priority, cooking sausages that literally snap open with juiciness from a slight bend.
If you’re looking for a spot that embodies the Texas BBQ experience but also pulls from the seasonal richness of California ingredients, you’ve come to the right place. Maple Block strives to source locally, from the wood used in the smoker to the Mary’s Free Range Chicken. They are famous for their brisket, which is truly Texan. Dry rubs and minimal sauce allow the meaty flavor of each bite to be front and center. The best kept secret, however, is the sausage program. 100% house made, each link is smoked to perfection. Looking to try a different grilled protein? Check out the Faroe Islands Salmon or Wood Smoked Chicken. Order with a side of the Housemade Pickles to add a vinegary crunch. Don’t leave without a stack of the Buttermilk Biscuits, baked fresh daily and slathered in whipped honey butter.
SERVES: Southern favorites
GO WHEN: You’re looking to indulge in some serious Southern cuisine
KNOWN FOR: Being one of the oldest BBQ joints in Los Angeles, EST 1946
TRY THE: Memphis Baby Back Ribs, followed by Fried Chicken and Waffles. With so much Southern flavor on this menu, it’s hard to pick just one!
Gus’s is the godfather of Los Angeles BBQ. Established by relatives Gus, Jack, and Mike in 1946, it has been a staple in Pasadena for over 70 years. Gus’s has abided by the same rule since day one: No Shortcuts. It is their mission to “stay authentic to the craft” of BBQ. Their meats are smoked for up to 16 hours, allowing the natural fatty richness to soak into every bit. Their Southern charm doesn’t stop there. They also boast traditional Southern dishes like Shrimp and Grits, Fried Catfish, Carolina Style Pulled Pork, Cast Iron Cornbread, Smokehouse Chili, and Gumbo. Everything is made in-house, putting the emphasis on quality ingredients served in a comfortable, family-friendly environment.
SERVES: Southern Regional BBQ
GO WHEN: You’re craving BBQ, but you’re REALLY craving all those sides
KNOWN FOR: Mac & Cheese… holy cow, this stuff is good
TRY THE: Baby Back Ribs. Take it to the next level and pair with some Mac & Cheese and Sweet Potatoes.
You can’t talk about BBQ without talking about the sides. Everyone knows that feeling when you visit that restaurant, open that menu, and can’t look away from all the smaller plate options. You want to focus on selecting an entrée… but the sides! Oh, the sides. Holy Cow has had this effect on us. Although they try to tempt us with Carolina Pulled Pork, Santa Maria Tri Tip, and Texas Brisket, our eyes always end up on the section below. House Slaw, Sweet Potatoes, Collards, Kettle Beans… the list goes on. The Loaded Taters are exactly as they sound: fried potatoes piled high with sour cream, smoked bacon, and aged cheddar. Sop up the extra BBQ sauce from your entrée with an order of Texas Toast, cut thick and loaded with butter and house seasoning. Finish it off with Peach Crumb dessert, topped with brown sugar and oat crumb, served perfectly warm.
Baby Blues BBQ
SERVES: Southern Regional BBQ
GO WHEN: You don’t know what kind of BBQ sauce you want, but you know you want a lot of it
KNOWN FOR: Southern hospitality and really amazing sauces
TRY THE: North Carolina Pulled Pork. Slow cooked in Guinness beer, this is one saucy mess you don’t want to miss.
When the founders of Baby Blues BBQ created their perfect menu, they did the same thing we would do. Select your favorite BBQ from each region, make it just the way you like it, and then give five sauce options for customers to douse, slather, lather, and pour as they please. Our favorite pairings? We thought you’d never ask. Let’s start with the king of them all: the Original BBQ Sauce, which goes perfectly with the Smoked Chicken. We like to coat the Memphis Ribs in the spicy Hot BBQ Sauce, contrasted with our love for dipping the Baby Back Ribs in mouthwatering Sweet BBQ Sauce. Consider the housemade Sweet Apple Cider Vinegar the perfect sidekick to your Blues on the Cob. This side is a sweet corn cob coated in buttery cheese and grilled up hot. When it comes to the XXX BBQ Sauce, don’t be shy. We like to dip everything in it from The North Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich to the Tri-Tip.
So there you have it, the definitive summer roundup that is guaranteed to satiate your meatiest of cravings. Now it’s your turn to sample those regional BBQ flavors and create your own opinion on dry rubs v. wet brines, vinegary sauces v. sweet lathers. Bet you didn’t know you could take a trip to the South without ever leaving Los Angeles.
Originally published at www.chownow.com on July 7, 2017.