BBQ Rib Smackdown
Okay, a bunch of foodies got together on Sunday and did a BLIND TASTING of ribs (and only ribs) from the BBQ joints below. We used the standards of the Kansas City BBQ Society which I learned from their class to be certified as a KCBS Judge. We graded on Appearance, Taste and Tenderness on a scale of 1 - 9. We ordered the ribs with sauce on the side and judged them naked first, then spooned on the sauce. This was a rather daunting task to organize, but way too much fun to not do over again next year. I figured our fellow Chowhounds would be interested in the results. So here it is.
1st place – Mom’s
2nd Place - Woody’s
3rd Place Mr. Cecil’s which is surprising, because they do not smoke their ribs.
They were selected by recommendations from this site, Yelp and word of mouth from the 16 participants. To receive a score of “9” it had to be a rib you want to drive miles to eat. A “5” was a rib that is a block from your house and you don’t feel like cookin’. Less than that meant they were barely acceptable. None of the places were real duds. All of them were at least “good”.
See the scores below.
Mom’s BBQ Score 272
1050 W Imperial Hwy L.A. (323) 756-8405
3446 Slauson L.A (323) 294-9443
Mr Cecil’s 247
12244 W Pico Blvd, 310-442-1550
15915 S. Avalon Blvd (310) 532-1064
Adams & Crenshasw 323-292-7613
JnJ Burger Shack 223
5754 W Adams Bl (310) 532-1064
Rib Nest 218
1766 W. El Segundo Blvd. Gardena 310 329-6378
Abby was there to take photos which will be posted in a day two.
To bad you didn't include the Kansas City BBQ Company in North Hollywood. I think they blow Mr. Cecil's away. Really good burnt ends.
I hate to quibble -- maybe I'm just jealous about being left out:
You skipped my favorite, Porky's. Also omitted JR's down on south La Cienega near Jefferson.
More important, did you test St. Louis-style spareribs or baby backs? Important distinction. And when places had a choice of sauces, did you go with the medium or the hot? Finally, I have a problem with "tenderness" as a criterion -- to me, fall-off-the-bone ribs are insipid and usually denote steamed or baked then grilled ribs rather than smoked. A rib shouldn't be tough, but it should have some bite.
We tasted St. Louis ribs, not baby backs. We used the KCBS Standard for judging. Tenderness is definitely an attribute for judging BBQ, meat, chicken or pork ribs. "Falling off the bone" is an old-time phrase. It is not necessarily considered a good thing in judging competition BBQ. Pork ribs should not pull away from the bone and leave you with a chunk of meat with cartilage and grizzle in the middle. Tenderness means being able to sink your teeth into the rib without the feeling you're chewing on a hunk of stringy leather.
J.R.’s was omitted because they didn’t make the cut. There were limitations as to how much to buy and how many places could participate and our number of judges. I wasn’t too surprised about Philip’s. Remember those ribs came from the Crenshaw location and not the original on Leimert Blvd. which is closed on Sundays.
All the 'Q was smoked on the premises with the exception of Mr. Cecil's. After all is said and done, almost all the ribs were good. However, having judged at festivals around the state, including the California Championship in Modesto, I must say that competition BBQ ribs are the best. I urge anyone who is really into ribs to go to one of the festivals and check out the offerings.
sassille, can you clarify which of these places do smoke their ribs? Was Cecil's the only one you tried that didn't?
I agree with nosh about the "tenderness" criterion -- for the same reason.
After just returning from a month-long driving trip around Texas and the South, I can tell you that if Woody's is truly number 2 in Los Angeles, we're doomed. Doomed, I say!
I greatly appreciate the efforts of Cecilia and team and hope this kind of investigation eventually helps spotlight the great BBQ that has to be lurking out there somewhere. Don't it, Gomer?
I love Porky's. At first it was the pulled pork sandwich. Then the brisket. I've enjoyed their ribs -- the St. Louis style more than the baby backs. (The spareribs are a cheaper cut but have more of a meat-to-bone ratio, babybacks are shorter, more uniform, and I even buy them on occasion when I can't do as long a cook.)
I like Baby Blues, but it is definitely a bit more expensive with a Venice vibe. Really like their pulled pork and the subtle-crusted english muffin-like grilled roll they serve it on. Their brisket is also pulled into strings rather than sliced or chopped, which I don't think works as well. I'm pretty sure I've only seen baby back ribs there.
It was a really good, very well organized tasting. And so much fun. Good job Cecilia!
If more than one sauce was available, we tried them both. Most of us, I think, tried the 'que sans sauce first, then tried w/ sauce(s). That really made a big difference for me. For some of the ribs, I gave good marks, but then hated the sauce.
Unfortunately for me, there was no clear winner. I liked diff aspects of the diff ribs. I was hoping to come out of this with my chosen 'que heaven, where I can go for bbq forever after, but alas that was not to be. So for me, the search still continues. But this was a really terrific way to taste so many different ones without having to go to each place myself, and without pre-conception biases.
I def need to try Porky's. But I am so glad JR's did not make the cut, they are so horrible all around. Mediocre bbq, and big fat attitude.
Guess I'm going to have to make a sacrifice run for Porky's. I've eaten at Baby Blues several times and I like their rub a lot. Their Memphis style rib is fine, but they didn't do well on tenderness for me. One thing I should point out is that any dedicated BBQ lovin’ chowhound can do this on their own –days or weeks apart. Each rib is judged on its own merit on a scale of 1 – 9, not on a comparison taste-test
I've been waiting for this post! Now I'm really sorry my eating calendar was already filled. I didn't know you were such an expert, I should pick your brain so I know how to judge the food when I'm next visiting the South. Hope I can be in the right place to catch an invite next time! Thanks!