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Los Angeles’ Best BBQ by Jason Parker
You don’t need candles, tablecloths or perfectly perched square cut steak to fill your insta frame – it’s BBQ time.
BBQ can mean different things to different people around the world, but to me US BBQ is the best of meat – tender, succulent ribs, brisket, steak and more with that familiar yet always subtly different aroma and mouth watering taste.
It’s my comfort food and I want it to be yours too, so let me take you on a tour of Los Angeles BBQ that no one else could.
Remember, I don’t care what the ambience is, and I don’t care about presentation. A slab of choice meat in foil banged on the table is fine because it’s all about the BBQ taste baby.
And believe me I’ve tasted plenty in out of the way places, and this list I’ve pulled together is the Best Places for BBQ in LA:
For me barbecue in Los Angeles really starts when two cousins opened Woody’s and Phillips, establishing the first family of southern California BBQing with the Phillips family. The two created extremely consistent mini BBQ chains south of the 10 freeway. Great ribs and brisket, and the tip here is to make sure to ask for sauce on the side. Then you can apply yourself to get the balance right instead of the slathered delivery they may hit you with.
I love finding places like this. In a grocery store parking lot in Pasadena on Lake & Lincoln, tucked away on the side, you’ll find a small cart with “Rodney’s Ribs” emblazoned on the side. It may be a small cart but Rodney is big on flavour. Plenty of options here in the Brisket, Pork Ribs & Rib Tips department. Regulars tip: Ask for the brisket to not be chopped as much to give you fatter chunks of beef.
Near Pasadena is Eagle Rock, and while not as hip as close neighbor Highland Park, at least they have absolutely killer slow and low cooked meats at Max City BBQ. Max City brings in the ethos of fresh locally grown products which always seems to raise the bar noticeably. The BBQ is just top notch and the staff love to talk about whatever the big show on Netflix is. Settle in for this one.
In Hollywood, beef pioneer Adam Perry Lang opened his super fancy steak house APL. Strangely, you may have heard about APL because of their cutlery as they were famous in part for having $900 dollar knives. Knives they counted however, leave with one in your purse and you’ll get charged for that for sure. Great knives aside, for lunch they really do have the Best Short Rib in LA, shit, I’m calling it. In the world. The other cool thing is they serve sandwiches out of an old school window right off of Hollywood & Vine. Cruise by for a world’s best experience.
In North Long Beach is the best down home family BBQ spot around. Robert Earl’s BBQ. gives you that full experience. While I said at the top of this piece that ambience doesn’t matter, sometimes it kind of does give you something extra, and you get the full experience at Robert Earl’s. The meat is all award-winning, and the family environment gives the restaurant a fun energy even if you’re just taking out. Must visit.
You can have Splash Mountain, that’s not the top attraction at Disneyland for me. The SmoKING Ribs is my favorite reason to head out there, and it makes the drive totally worth it. You always hope that if a company features something in their name they better make a damn good version. The ribs at SmoKING Ribs live up to the hype, they look beautiful and I find myself staring at the photo once a week and remembering that meal. Maybe it is the happiest place on earth after all? They also add a blueberry cornbread on the side for a tasty extra treat.
SLAB started as Trudy’s Underground BBQ and for years did backyard parties to much success. A few years ago they opened their Texas style BBQ brick and mortar in the most unlikely of places – uber cool 3rd street. They haven’t left their roots behind though, with their brisket confirmed as the most moist thing you will find in LA. Brisket Breakfast tacos on flour tortillas are pretty amazing also if you miss Texas in the morning.
A brisket I just love to eat comes from a strip mall in Redondo Beach, 20 miles south of Downtown LA. John Willingham was a multi-awarded winner including being crowned Grand Champion several times. The Bae family runs this BBQ paradise and patriarch Phil was Willingham’s apprentice who clearly was taught all there is to know, so they are truly putting out world champion level smoked meats.
For a long time Kevin Bludso ran the pit at his name sake BBQ spot in Compton, now he’s known from his reality TV roles in Great BBQ Showdown & Bar Rescue. Fortunately, before he closed his Compton location he teamed with the Prime Pizza group to make the same bomb BBQ on LaBrea just south of trendy Melrose. Get there to check out where it all began.
Located on Crenshaw blvd is Brothers Bar-B-Que. Now this feels like old school BBQ. I genuinely love going to Brothers Bar-B-Que, easing into their parking lot and then eating while relaxing on the trunk of my car and watching their pitmaster cook in the back. Life feels good. This is also a great spot to order catering for Thanksgiving or the big game.
The Brisket sandwich at Ray’s Texas in Huntington Park is probably where I would go for my last meal. The sandwich is stuffed with thick chunks of Texas Smoked Beef, and make sure you take a photo so you can admire the smoke ring later. BTW they close by 2pm (Sunday & Monday also) so don’t play around when it comes to Ray’s. Breakfast burrito & pulled pork sammies are a good choice also.
Wow, Smokin’ Jonny’s Pork Ribs are up there with my other fave The SmoKING Ribs. I don’t know who Johnny is but this guy kicks ass when it comes to smoking ribs. What a great reason to pull off the 405.
In Chinatown is the ultimate Dodgers tailgate spot – Spring Street Smokehouse BBQ. The BBQ is good and it has been consistently over the last fifteen years I’ve been getting combo platters. The bar has a lot of tasty imported and craft beers to match up. Confession though, the real reason I like it is the unlimited bags of sliced white bread to mop up the bbq sauce. Closed Monday & Tuesday.
Meme’s Smokehouse is the spot your dad would run if he opened a BBQ spot. Unlike most things in LA and the surrounding neighborhoods you get more than you paid for at Meme’s. I’ve even yelled at the owner for giving me too big of a brisket sandwich. If you’re looking for a smoked wings spot for a football game order them from Memes. Cash only btw.
Final tip: If you don’t like sauce on your meat, always ask for it dry or sauce on the side when ordering so you don’t have any issues. If you like sauce on your meat always tell them to mix the sauces, mild & sweet create a great flavor.
I’m making myself hungry again, so it might be time to head out and discover the next Best Place. If you know of any more that I should try, please comment below or add them to the site yourself.
In the meantime, check out my list here as I may be adding to it tomorrow!