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Joey's Smokin' BBQ review - Tustin

Not to be confused with Joey's BBQ in Pomona, Chino, and Upland, Joey's Smokin' BBQ recently opened up in Tustin, after having opened previous locations in Manhattan Beach, Carlsbad, and Carmel Valley, and is partly owned by LA Lakers basketball player Luke Walton.

I decided to finally check this place out at the Tustin location last week, after reading mixed and average reviews. It's a very casual environment, where you order and pay at the counter, and then the food is brought to you when it's ready. The place was relatively empty when I went at around 1PM, with 2 or 3 other tables occupied. In comparison, the recently opened Lucille's Smokehouse nearby at the District in Tustin was a mad zoo, with a line out the door.

I ordered what's called their "Kobe Long Horn Beef Ribs", which was a 3-beef-rib platter, served with sides of cole slaw and BBQ beans. The ribs had a distinctive dark glaze to them, but were not smother in BBQ sauce as lots of other places do. At first, I wasn't sure if the plastic fork and knife would be sufficient to cut through the ribs, but the meat was extremely tender and cut right off the bone easily. These ribs were amazingly good and rank pretty high for me. Cole slaw and BBQ beans were pretty good, but I wasn't sure if I could substitute some of the sides, like for their sweet potato fries or mac 'n cheese. This combo went for $14, which is about average for BBQ in OC, maybe slightly cheaper than other places that charge $15-18 for a comparable meal.

This positive experience makes me eager to come back and try some of the pork ribs or their sandwiches next time. For beef rib lovers, this ranks among the best that I've found in OC so far. Tulsa Rib is still my top beef rib place in OC, with Ribs on the Run being 2nd, but Joey's Smokin' is 2a, rather than 3rd place. I still favor Joey's BBQ in Pomona/Chino as my favorite beef rib places, but I might visit Joey's Smokin' just because it's a lot closer to home and work.

Their website doesn't seem to be up, but here is the weblink listed on their menu, in case it starts working again:

Joey's Smokin' BBQ
2933 El Camino Real
PH (714)544-4106
Sun-Thu 11AM-9PM
Fri-Sat 11AM-9:30PM

Other locations:
3564 N Sepulveda Blvd
Manhattan Beach

6955 El Camino Real

4645 Carmel Mountain Rd
Carmel Valley

There are also new locations coming in Carmel Mountain Plaza and Chino Hills soon, according to the menu that I picked up.

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  1. Glad to hear the report that their ribs are good. I work near the Manhattan Beach location and sometimes pick up the brisket sandwich for lunch. It's really delicious-- soft shredded meat and a proportionate amount of barbeque sauce-- and I completely devour it in a few minutes. Their menu clains the brisket is "extra lean". I don't know whether that's actually true but I hope so! :)

    Were you served a cornbread muffin with the ribs? The cornbread is on the sweet side, you can eat it for dessert.

    The kids behind the counter are always friendly, too, at least in M.B.

    1. I've had the pork rib combo (3 ways) and my wife and I both really liked it.

      The sweet potato fries are pretty good as well !

      1. We frequent the one in MB and it's usually really good. Love the brisket and the pork ribs, and agree that it's nice that it's not too heavily sauced. Onion rings are good (that nice spongy batter!) but greasy, blot them before you eat! Coleslaw is the only thing that doesn't satisfy -- there's no creaminess to it. But lord, that brisket is yum.

        If they are busy, check your order before you leave because orders seem to get mixed up or dishes omitted when they are trying to move things along.

        1. Had a follow up visit to the Tustin location today a couple of weeks later after my first review. Decided to try the rib plate combo, which consists of two babyback pork ribs in 3 different styles, for a total of 6 ribs. The 3 styles were: sweet ribs with a sweet BBQ sauce glaze, Memphis-style dry rub ribs, and wet ribs with spicy BBQ sauce. I ordered a side of sweet potato fries. Potato salad and a cornbread muffin also came with the combo platter.

          All of the ribs were pretty tender, maybe just a bit shy of fall-off-the-bone tender. They all had good flavor, but I probably enjoyed the sweet BBQ ribs the most of the 3. The Memphis-style dry rub was good, but tasted a little bit better with some BBQ sauce poured on it. I haven't really found a dry rub rib style that I liked anywhere, so I might just avoid dry rubs in the future.

          Overall the babybacks were good, but I think they were a notch behind the excellent baby backs at Chicago's Best. Might be comparable to the babybacks at Tulsa Rib. Still, it's a good option to have in OC, where the variety of BBQ options we have are spread throughout the region.

          The potato salad was pretty good, the sweet potato fries were excellent, and the cornbread muffin was pretty tasty, if just a little bit cold. Might be the best sweet potato fries I've had, which at most places are often overcooked and are too crunchy like overcooked fries can be. It was excellent today, about as perfect as it can be. Way better than the ones I had a Beechwood BBQ several months back.

          The restaurant was much more crowded today, showing up at around 12:45PM, having to wait behind 4 or 5 people to order, and the restaurant was pretty full as we ate. It did empty out by the time we were done eating at around 1:30PM, so I guess we came in at the same time as the rest of the lunch crowd.

          The website link in my original post is now working again, so if you want to peruse the menu, just click above.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Wonginator

            Nice writeup, and in line with what my wife and I thought as well, glad to see the place is consistent !

          2. Another follow-up post, as I visited Joey's Smokin' again today for lunch. I was the only customer when it opened at 11AM.

            I ordered the beef brisket platter, with side of corn on the cob, and it came with their delicious cornbread muffin. Beef brisket was very good and very tasty, had no problems cutting the slices with the plastic fork and knife. Just kinda had to push down on the beef, and it would just come apart on its own, without having to use the serrated edges on the knife.

            Corn on the cob was the whole piece, not the usual halves of the cob that you get at most places. Sweet flavor to it, although they might have cooked it for a few minutes too long, as those corn ears were a slight bit chewy as when you overcook corn.

            By about noon, the place was pretty packed. It's nice to see this place becoming popular with the locals.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Wonginator

              It is. This site has had quite a few different types of places since the shopping center opened, it seems like Joey's has hit on a winning formula. BTW, I was skeptical at first seeing the sign with "BBQ" on it, because I couldn't smell anything like BBQ smoke from outside. The counter person said that this is because of the regulations imposed on them relating to emissions.

              1. re: mikester

                You didn't smell (or taste) any smoke because their meat seems to be cooked in a convection oven. I work near the Manhattan Beach location, and I felt totally ripped off by this chain. As far as I'm concerned it's not even BBQ, which (to my understanding) is slowly cooked by smoke. BBQ is all about the smoke for me, and this place was a joke. Their sides were even bad, and the lemonade tasted like it was made with that fake, condensed lemon juice that comes in a plastic lemon. It was a big disappointment to me, and a waste of time and money. I will never patronize that place again. I am shocked that you folks are raving about it. It's a travesty.

                1. re: TerriDawn

                  Clearly your experience, at this other location, varied from ours. That happens.

                  1. re: TerriDawn

                    You obviously have your preferences for BBQ being smoked.

                    For some like me, it's more about the quality of the food and how well it tastes when I eat it than how authentic it is prepared with the proper cooking techniques for that style of food.

                    If the food tastes good and I like it, properly smoking the meat for 14 hours is not a major criticism for me.

                    1. re: Wonginator

                      That's exactly right. Nobody's claimed this to be the most authentic stuff around, it's clear that nobody's working through their is no tried and seasoned "pit man" tending a pit of hardwood charcoal, and there's no wood pile out back. This is central OC, not backroads North Carolina.

                      I like "the real deal" as much as anyone, and I've made my share of pilgrimages to a few of the institutions of real BBQ like Sonny Bryan's in Inwood, TX for example (that was really excellent ! ), but even someone like me has to face reality, once in awhile. ;-)

                      1. re: mikester

                        The original (and best) location of Sonny Bryan's is near Love Field on Inwood Rd. in Dallas, not Inwood, Texas. It always had the best, juiciest, and most-flavorful brisket in the state, but I don't know the current status.

                        1. re: sbritchky

                          As of about a year ago, it was definitely underwhelming! The brisket had no smoke flavor and definitely not tender. The ribs tasted parboiled and buried in sauce!

              2. Inspired by this thread and lack of something for dinner for my petite famille, I headed there last night. Arrived at 6pm and was served immediately. Ordered a full rack of babybacks and 1/2 pound of beef brisket along with coleslaw, mac'n'cheese, sweet potato, baked potato and cornbread. With lemonade it came out to $40 even.

                I took it all to go and it was ready in about 10 minutes. It stood up well to the 15 minute drive home. Meat was delicious - not perfect, but certainly satisfying. Other sides were good possibly with the exception of the baked potato which was undercooked.

                Overall a good family takeout option in the Tustin area and just as good and cheaper than Lucilles in my opinion.

                3 Replies
                1. re: ausfrench

                  Unbelievable. This board has been my most trustworthy source for local restaurant information for years, but this thread is KILLING me. I just don't get it. It's just not BBQ. It's meat that's been cooked in a convection oven. The whole back wall at their M.B. location is side to side convection ovens. I could cook some meat in the oven and put BBQ sauce on it, but that won't make it BBQ. I'm not complaining about the quality of the meat, and the cooking method would be less important if the food tasted any good to me. And the sides were bad too. The macaroni was just terrible, and the cole slaw was dry...but I'll never forget that "fake" lemonade. I guess I'm just getting old because I don't have any tolerance for the crap they served me. It wasn't cooked right, and it didn't taste right. The place was clean and cute, and the service was fine and friendly, but it is not BBQ. I'm just tossing my opinion out here because I am still shocked at the positive response to this place that I'm reading, but I'm mostly posting as a warning to the true BBQ Hounds (and there are quite a few here) to give this place a wide berth.

                  Sorry, but I'm entitled to my opinion,

                  1. re: TerriDawn

                    Sound like you have a true passion for BBQ which is awsome, but after reading the this thread I don't think you have to worry about a true BBQ fan getting the impression that they should run down there at any cost. I think Wonginator gave a well written balanced review. I took away enough information that if I was in the area looking for lunch I might try Joey's Smokin BBQ instead of Chipotle or Subway and I would get a nice lunch or like Ausfrench said a nice take out dinner. I would not be expecting award winning you gotta drive 50 miles to try this place. If that's what I was looking for I would look to see if you had any posts on the subject and listen to them. So see this thread was usefull to me in two ways.

                    1. re: chris2269

                      Glad the info is useful to you, Chris2269.

                      It's been awhile since I've done an update. I visit Joey's at least once every couple of months, sometimes once a month. I've been able to sample many of the items on the menu, which has expanded a bit with some added items.

                      I've tried their chili bowl, which is pretty good (and large, maybe 10-15 oz., which may be too much food when getting it with a platter, but may be OK with a sandwich). The BBQ brisket, which I've had in their sandwich and by itself, is pretty good. It is very tender, but on occasion is slightly plain in taste, so I usually dab a bit of BBQ sauce on it. The pulled pork is very tender and juicy, not requiring any BBQ sauce at all.

                      Tried their crawfish po'boy, a new addition to the menu. Not many opportunities to get po'boys in OC, so I had to try it. Pretty good, as the crawfish is breaded, with a slight amount of spice to it, as the description says it's breaded with cajun flour and then deepfried.

                      Only things I haven't really tried are the burgers, which are pricey at $9, but are 1/2 lb. I will likely eventually try it. Haven't tried the ham or hot links yet either.

                      Just a note about their cornbread. On my last visit, the cornbread was fantastic. I might be slightly exaggerating, but it was almost as soft as a Twinkie. It was as soft and tasty like a spongecake. I haven't had cornbread that often, but enough times where it is usually harder on the exterior, and then the inside is soft. On some occasions, the exterior is hard, and then the interior somewhat crumbles, like I distinctly remember one time at the Memphis Soul Cafe in Costa Mesa. I'm not sure what the proper texture of a perfectly baked piece of cornbread is supposed to be, but the last one I had at Joey's was perfect to my tastebuds, slightly soft on the exterior and very soft in the interior.

                      I like Joey's for what it offers. It's not spectacular BBQ, but it is good tasty food that is a slightly cheaper alternative to chains like Claim Jumper or Lucille's, and there's enough variety that I can find something different to get on every visit and not get tired of the menu. I think it's way better than Beach Pit BBQ, which I haven't tried the Tustin location but have been to their Costa Mesa location several times, but none recently since Joey's Smokin' opened.