GOOD BARBECUE IN TORRANCE? YES!
- Bill Foss
Tonight my family didn't want to go to any of our neighborhood restaurants, and our children couldn't even agree on a nationality of food, much less a specific establishment. As she drove aimlessly down Artesia my wife suddenly said, "I know where to go!", and drove madly towards the Del Amo Mall. We pulled into the new Lucille's Bar-B-Que, located at 21420 Hawthorne Boulevard (where Houlihan's used to be). Lucille's just opened up three weeks ago, and no one who we knew had tried it. Upon entering I was immediately skeptical, because I couldn't smell smoke - that was a bad sign in a barbecue place. However, we were soon seated next to an enormous mechanical smoker such as I've seen in the South before but never in California, and when one of the servers opened it a welcoming perfume of hickory drifted out. At some places they have a smoker on display but don't actually use it much. This one was in constant operation, and the only reason I didn't catch its aroma on arrival was because of a powerful but quiet exhaust system. The appetizer list was more varied than expected, and the food choices were intriguing - not only barbecued ribs and chicken but Tri-Tip, catfish, jambalaya, and black tiger shrimp (to name a few). I ordered a Caesar salad and one of the BBQ combinations - they have them ranging from $13.95 to $139.95 (don't panic, it feeds ten people). The Caesar salad was small but tasty, and was accompanied by some of the best homemade-tasting biscuits with apple butter that I have ever laid lips on. The service was attentive, and the food came quickly. My "St. Louis" style pork ribs were excellent, although my wife's were slightly too blackened for her taste. She sent them back, and a properly done replacement set was at the table in moments. The ribs had a good smoke flavor, and the sauce basted on them during cooking had a pleasant, if slightly sweet, flavor. The Tri-Tip was tender and wonderfully smoky, and the chicken was excellent. The combination that I just described came with a choice of any two of eleven different side dishes. I chose the garlic mashed potatoes, which were excellent, and the BBQ beans which were too sweet for my taste. My wife chose hot links as an ingredient in her plate, and they had a fine peppery spice to them. I like my hot links coarse-ground and these were fine-ground, but I would cheerfully order them in a future visit. The plates for all of the family had more food than we could possibly eat, and every bit of it was good. The wine list is short but that is in some measure made up by a good beer selection, some dazzlingly described specialty drinks, and a full page of mint juleps...and another full page of martinis. I can definitely see Lucille's as a place for some fine food and drink, even more so since they offer live blues sessions in the nightclub-like area next to the dining room. Pricing on all of this is a bit higher than your average 'cue place, but they have to pay the rent at the mall so I guess a few bucks of my check went to that. I consider it money well spent, and if you want to disprove the old adage that "You can't get good barbecue in a good neighborhood" this is a fine place to do it. My hope is that they keep up the quality, which will be a challenge with the traffic that their location is likely to generate. I will follow up with a report if there any changes, since my family will definitely be going back. Restaurant phone: (310)370-7427 They also have locations in Long Beach and Brea.
Lucille's is owned and run by the Hof's Hut family (a Long Beach upscale coffee shop chain). I'm glad your family enjoyed the meal. On a recent first time to the Long Beach location (at the new Town Center off the 605 at Carson), our meals were disappointingly ordinary, and definitely not as good as other BBQ places such as Wood Ranch. We tried both baby backs and beef ribs. Neither was very meaty, and we found the sauce to be ho-hum, like most bottled brands. Based on the Foss family review, perhaps another visit is in order.
I have visited Lucille's at both the Long Beach and Brea locations.
The Brea location is much nicer - quieter, better ambiance, less crowded and a whole lot easier to park (parking at the LB location is a nightmare).
As far as the food goes, I agree that the ribs are less than stellar. However, I think the tri-tip is AWESOME. I put a little of the Lucille's hot bbq sauce on the side for dipping, but this is not necessary. The meat is great. Also, the smoked pork chops are outstanding. They are served on top of apples and sweet potato pancakes. These two dishes (the tri-tip and pork chops) were excellent in my opinion.
Definitely worth a try - just don't go for the ribs in my opinion.
Merry Christmas chowhounds!
Whoops! I just took a look at my take-out menu and find that the real name of the chain is "Lucille's Smokehouse Barbeque". Leaving out the "Smokehouse" part was inadvertent, but since they actually go to the trouble to run that smoker they ought to get credit for it.