Few things in the world can beat the taste of proper barbecue. Taking a bite right off the bone of a perfectly smoked rack of ribs speaks right to the heart of our primal senses. No fork. No knife. No inhibitions.
Of course, good ‘cue takes many forms. Smoked over wood or charcoal; cooked in large brick ovens; roasted or braised, the technique may vary with each region yet somehow barbecue always remains this ubiquitous, universal food.
We’ll be the first to admit Los Angeles might not be at the top of many ‘best BBQ in the nation’ type lists, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a few gems to choose from.
With this is mind here is a list of 11 excellent local barbecue joints (in no particular order) worth getting your hands dirty for.
Kevin Bludso’s revered bbq joint in Compton opened it’s doors in 2008 and L.A. has never been more grateful. Drawing from the Bludso family’s traditions dating back to his great great grandfather’s plantation days. Kevin has learned to smoke some fine Texas bqq using a multi-smoker that also includes his grandmother’s! Perfectly smoked brisket with red oak is caramelized around the edges. The pork ribs, chicken, hot links, are all smothered in a dark tangy bbq sauce. If you come on the weekends, you might just a chance to try the Angus beef ribs. The Compton location is the OG spot. The line can get long and they do run out of certain menu items on busier days, plus there’s really no where to sit, but it’s darn good and you won’t complain once you take a bite so order to-go. Want to dine out instead? The spin-off location on Fairfax (separately owned) is set up as a hip restaurant and bar and probably won’t run out of ribs. Unlike Bludso’s BBQ in Compton, pitmaster Noah Galuten serves meats unadorned, with sauce on the side.
2. Dr. Hogly Wogly’s Tyler Texas BBQ
Open since the 60’s this Valley BBQ joint has a secret sauce they marinate their brisket and ribs in. Slow smoked in-house in their very own brick pit oven all meats are seasoned with a special blend of spices. The Texas style BBQ comes in Texas sized portions so come hungry.
3. Holy Cow BBQ
Chef Glenn Walton began his BBQ career at Tillman’s Roadhouse, Smoke in Dallas, Lonesome Dove in Forth Worth and North End Grill in New York where he mastered cooking techniques for charcoal ovens and woodfire grills. Seems to me Glenn has perfected his BBQ skills in all ways imaginable. Order the baby back ribs and slather them in a mixture of the sweet and spicy que sauce. Also of note, the Culver City location has a bar with a solid beer selection.
4. JNJ Burger Shack
Operating out of a shack in the West Adams neighborhood JNJ serves up burgers and BBQ. Make sure to stand on the BBQ side of the shack and order up some Louisiana-style pork and beef ribs, hot links, brisket, pork belly and chicken they load on the sauce here so prepare to get your hands sticky. Mix the hot and mild sauces together and order yourself a lemonade it’s got a great tartness to it. Cash only.
5. Maple Block
This Culver City BBQ joint is deep-rooted in traditions of American barbecue. With Adam Cole (The Langham and Bazaar) at the helm it’s no wonder this place has already gained recognition from L.A. foodies all around. Adam serves up wood-smoked meats like brisket, pork ribs and turkey with chef heighten sides like pickled okra, cauliflower and radishes. Don’t miss out on the banana pudding with bacon for dessert. You’ll thank me later.
6. Baby Blues BBQ Venice
Baby Blues describes themselves as a hybrid of Memphis and North Carolina style barbecue. This mini-chain offers a range of sauces, tasty sides, to go with their delicious meat. The Memphis-style ribs are a popular item. The dry-rubbed baby back, brisket and pork are all slow-cooked in Guinness beer. For sides order the savory mac n cheese made with five cheeses and mashed sweet potatoes.
7. The Hungry Pig
The Hungry Pig is Eiddy Pennson’s (The Rustic Spoon) BBQ baby with a Asian flair. The first three items on the BBQ menu are Thai and the rest are American. Try the chicken satay it’s a local favorite and for American BBQ the juicy pulled brisket and tender baby back ribs are a must. I strongly urge you to order the curried potatoes, this creamy dish has just the right amount of spice and its delicious. Spicy and mild BBQ sauces are on the table, service is fantastic and prices are reasonable.
8. Phillips Barbecue
Phillips in South L.A. is considered a old school bbq joint, it’s been here way before bbq became a trend in our city. Now with several locations to it’s name, Phillips is known for their ribs and rib tips. The flavors have plenty of spice, meat is tender and the sauce is finger licking good. Seating might be scarce so grab your que to go.
9. Gus’s BBQ
South Pasadena’s Gus’s BBQ, is almost 70 years old and it’s still going strong serving some of the most scrumptious tender meats in the city. The pit style BBQ is seasoned overnight and smoked low and slow over pecan logs on the daily. Order the Texas brisket, smoked for 16 hours, they also have amazing cornbread, glazed with sugar that arrives in a cast iron skillet. The braised greens are top notch and the mac and cheese is made with truffle oil, bacon and four different types of cheese.
10. Hambone’s BBQ and Po’Boy Sandwiches
Southern style bbq, Po’Boys and soul food are all served at Hambones. This Bellflower establishment feeds their smoker with avocado wood (brisket and tri-tip) and red oak wood (pork ribs) and the results are finger licking good. Their que sauce is well balanced- sweet and tangy with a bit of spice. Fan favorites are the brisket tacos which are just a $1 on taco Tuesdays. Make sure to order the Swamp Water a sweet tea they make fresh daily.
11. Max City
Max City likes to let people know BBQ doesn’t have to be bad for you. They serve theirs slow-cooked, southern-style combine with locally harvested ingredients. Specialities include the wood-smoked ribs and pulled pork. Max City raised money for their brick-and-mortar through Kickstarter in 2014 and now Eagle Rock folks have some killer Southern-style bbq in their hood. Seating is limited in the cozy joint but the food is more than fine. Share the Spence’s Platter of Pork, which includes baby back ribs, spare ribs, pulled pork, and a choice of two sides and cornbread. They also have an impressive drink menu highlighting local breweries.
Where do you get the best BBQ in Los Angeles? Let us know in the comments below!