The Best BBQ Dishes Around LA

By Lesley Balla  |  July 14, 2014
Credit: Kristen Honey/Lucques

Barbecue is so subjective. Some prefer saucy Memphis-style. Others can't live without Texas-smoked meats. And then there's the choice of meat alone: do you go for big beef ribs, pork babybacks, chicken or pulled pork? Regardless of predilection, there's a lot to love in the Los Angeles barbecue scene. Here are 12 dishes no aficionado should do without — from the best brisket to Santa Maria-style tri-tip sandwiches.

  • Credit: Bludso's Bar & Que

    Brisket Sandwich at Bludso’s Bar & Que

    We equally love the ribs, pulled pork and smoked chicken at this La Brea BBQ joint, a spin-off of the original (see slide #8) with co-owners from The Golden State. But now that the restaurant is open for lunch, we can get delicious BBQ sandwiches for only eight bucks. Add a side or two — we always order mac 'n' cheese or slaw — and you’re still getting out for around $15.

    609 N. La Brea Ave.; 323-931-2583

  • Credit: Lesley Balla

    Brisket at Horse Thief BBQ

    Overseen by Texas expats Wade McElroy and Russell Malixi, the menu at this Grand Central Market stand is everything you'd expect: smoked brisket, spareribs, pulled pork and chicken; sides like bacon and blue cheese potato salad, jicama slaw and heirloom beans; plus drop-biscuit cobbler for dessert. Dry-rubbed and smoked over oak for more than 12 hours, the brisket often comes two slices per order, one with the fatty cap on it that makes every bite more luscious than the next. Order at the window and grab one of the tables on the patio to grub down or take it to go. If you stay in, you can now get a beer or glass of wine, and the joint’s open for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

    324 S. Hill St.; 213-625-0341

  • Pulled Pork at Max City BBQ

    If this guy can garner almost 50 grand on Kickstarter to make potato salad, then a hopeful barbecue-joint owner should definitely be able to make it work. And it did with this newish Eagle Rock spot, which features slow-cooked Southern-style ‘cue, especially brisket, ribs, chicken and pulled pork. The latter isn’t mushy as some can be, just really good pork cooked to perfection. Get it on a roll topped with coleslaw or as one option on the Platter of Pork, and order a good craft brew or glass of wine to go with it.

    4729 Eagle Rock Blvd.; 323-254-4227

  • Ribfest Menu at Lucques

    You can only get great BBQ at Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s West Hollywood restaurant once a year, but it's so good we couldn't keep it off of this list. As soon as the reservation line opens (i.e. now), get a table. The family-style menu includes grilled St. Louis-style pork ribs, braised beef babyback ribs, spiced lamb ribs and spicy chicken wings, plus coleslaw and baked beans, collard greens, corn on the cob, tomato-watermelon salad and dessert. It’s $55 per person and worth every penny. Cowboy hats and attire are encouraged for the meaty night, which takes place this year on August 10.

    8474 Melrose Ave.; 323-655-6277

  • Credit: Lesley Balla

    Bacon Sticks at Boneyard Bistro

    For the uninitiated, a bacon stick is a thick slab of house-cured, super-smoky bacon that's skewered, grilled and slathered in a cherry chipotle sauce. This is pure bacon at its finest, eaten as you'd eat any skewered meat, and that sweet smokiness and slightly spicy sauce makes it more like a true barbecued meat. Crazy good. Bacon sticks aside, Boneyard Bistro still does a great job delivering fine ribs, brisket and, our favorite, Santa Maria tri-tip, to the Valley.

    13539 Ventura Blvd.; 818-906-7427

  • Credit: Baby Blues BBQ

    Smokin’ Wings at Baby Blue’s BBQ

    Whether at the Venice original or the West Hollywood barbecue joint, the dry-rubbed smoked meats and housemade sauces are pretty addictive. Tossed in the special dry rub, smoked and then grilled to perfection, you can choose whatever sauce you want on them, from Sweet and Spicy to super-hot XXX.

    444 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, 310-396-7675; 7953 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, 323-656-1277

  • Credit: Lesley Balla

    BBQ Beast at Smoke City Market

    Smoke City is the real deal. It's super-casual with picnic tables, wax paper instead of plates and napkins from pull-down dispensers on the wall. The smoke you smell when walking up is incredible, making every taste bud stand on end. For anyone who's a fan of real Texas barbecue joints — the kind of place where the smoke ring is purty and pink, where the rubs accentuate the natural flavor of the meat and where both beef and pork ribs are king — this is the place for you. The BBQ Beast sandwich is what to get when you can’t decide — a hot link, pulled pork and brisket are stuffed between a bun with cabbage-apple slaw and hot vinegar. If it’s busy, they might run out of more popular items like ribs. But a few tips: whatever you do, don't miss the pastrami, and always get more napkins than you'll think you need.

    5242 Van Nuys Blvd.; 818-855-1280

  • Credit: Bludso's BBQ

    Texas Sampler at Bludso’s BBQ

    For the original taste of Kevin Bludso’s Texas barbecue, head to Compton for some of the best smoked meats in town. It’s impossible to choose what to get, so the sampler is a perfect place to start: you get a pile of ribs, sausage links, brisket and that sweet homemade barbecue sauce plus sides like potato salad. Bludso hails from a family who’s been working smokers and grills for generations, and we’re slaphappy he’s brought that flavor to SoCal.

    811 S. Long Beach Blvd.; 310-637-1342

  • Credit: Lesley Balla

    Barbecued Pulled Pork Nachos at Gus’s Barbecue

    When you go to a barbecue joint, there is no reason why you should need a heaping pile of homemade tortilla chips, topped with two kinds of beans, a bunch of cheeses and giant shreds and chunks of smoky pulled pork. But at Gus's, there's a good chance you'll want them. Seriously. The chips are thick and super-crispy. They need to be to hold everything in that cast-iron pan. Even doused in a creamy four-cheese sauce, they're sturdy enough to pick up a big piece of succulent pork laced with just enough smoke and spicy BBQ sauce, some pickled jalapeños and a big dollop of guacamole. They don't take things lightly at Gus's. You'll need at least two or three others to finish that pan.

    808 Fair Oaks Ave.; 626-799-3251

  • Credit: Bigmista's

    Pig Candy at Bigmista’s BBQ

    Since 2008, Neil and Phyllis Strawder have been serving up tasty ‘cue at farmer's markets around the greater Los Angeles area. The brisket, ribs and pulled pork are all stars, but the pig candy has had everyone talking since day one. Strips of bacon are glazed with down-home sugary, spicy flavor and smoked to perfection. You can’t have just one. Find the Strawders at Pershing Square on Wednesdays, Century City on Thursdays and at Atwater Village on Sundays.

  • Credit: Handy Market

    Tri-Tip Sandwich at Handy Market

    Every Saturday afternoon (9 AM to 6:30 PM), the Handy Market in Burbank sets up giant rigs to grill beef and babyback ribs, chicken, terrific tri-tip, sausage, turkey legs and corn over mesquite. Most is sold by the pound, and it's a great bargain for what you get. Anyone within a half-mile radius can smell the smoke; it takes an incredible amount of willpower not to stop. The Santa Maria tri-tip sandwiches are a bargain at around $8: big enough to feed two, and easier to eat in the car then, say, a turkey leg. If you get there too late and the fire is out, head inside to the meat counter to see what’s left. You might find a saucy tri-tip sandwich or two.

    2514 W. Magnolia Blvd.; 818-848-2500

  • Beef Ribs at JNJ Burgers and Bar-B-Que

    On one side of this West Adams shack, you can get big messy burgers; on the other, Louisiana-style pork and beef ribs, hot links, brisket, chicken and more. The beef ribs are the way to go, smoked to perfection and smothered in an addictive sweet-hot sauce that makes just about anything taste great.

    5754 W. Adams Blvd.; 323-933-7366