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Oct 24, 2013 11:39 AM

Small BBQ roundup

I recently tried a bunch of BBQ around town. Here is my short summary:

Best Brisket: Ugly Drum
It has the perfect smoke ring look, is still moist, and their homemade sauce was by far the best compliment to the meat of any I tried in the last month

Best Collards: Bludso's on La Brea. Cooked to be tender but still toothsome, which for some reason nobody else is capable of. And seasoned just enough to be delicious but still highlight the collard's flavor

Best Cornbread: Gus's in Pasadena. Brown edges, more flavor than all the others

Best Pulled Pork: Bludso's had the right smoke factor but it was dang dry. I know I'm from south carolina, where we mix our pulled pork up with mustard sauce, but dang this stuff was tasty but so dry you had to smother it in sauce or pickles. They did make outstanding pickles there too though, so that wasn't too bad

Other contenders:
Horse Thieves at Grand Central Market: not flavorful brisket with dry, weak sauce; badly seasoned collards; decent cornbread, but a lil too sweet for my taste (pop a jalapeno or something in there bud); moist pulled pork but very little smoke flavor or flavor at all. Seemed like it was dabbed in water or something to keep it moist, weird.

Spring Street smokehouse, Downtown: nothing good in the above categories. the quality of meat they use must be awful. On a positive note, their grilled vegetables are one of the best sides in town: amazing rich grilly flavor. Too bad they have nothing for it to accompany.

Gus's collards were a little too salty, their ketchup based sauces too sugary, but they had a great NC style vinegar/pepper one. Brisket was slightly tough. Pork was well-smoked but dry. Seems like a common issue: how to get enough rich smoke flavor while still retaining moisture.

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  1. thx for the roundup

    question for all: anyone in SoCal do burnt ends KC style? The ones from Kansas City BBQ in NoHo are so not the burnt ends I'm looking for.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ns1

      I'm looking for burt ends also, the issue I've found searching BBQ joints in SOCAL is they don't do the fat. Fat done correctly + burt ends KC style.

    2. Horse Thieves at Grand Central Market: not flavorful brisket
      Off day. Not in any of our experiences. Also, of note, they use far better beef than anyone else on the list (though I do not know what Ugly Drum is using since he's not an actual restaurant).

      6 Replies
      1. re: TonyC

        yes you're right the quality of their beef is very high. which is why i perhaps expected more. but the complete lack of smoke ring was a turnoff as it just looked brown and lunch-line-y. and i didnt mention this, but the two times i've been i have been served pieces that had little to no crust, which is an absolute must imo

        1. re: mr mouther

          Curious case of the disappearing smoke ring?

          July (totally there):

          End of August (totally gone):

          Sept (sorta back):

          This week (better than Sept):

          Don't know what to say... Didn't encounter crust problems, but if you got the August 26th pieces seen above, that would've sucked. Probably always suck more later in the day as well? They were also trying desperately to increase production from end of July til now.

          Hands down, Spring Street is the most inedible of the bunch tho.

          1. re: TonyC

            great stuff, just great. Turnover is my only thought. Either warming up the leftovers - ridding of the ring...turnover being too low or turnover high and not having time to smoke it 18 hours and using other methods. What a hound!

            1. re: CharlesKochel

              Ring and smoke flavor are just correlated with each other; there's not a strict relationship there. I've smoked brisket before and it really is a fickle thing. It's hard to get right and considering the time it takes and the fact that it leaves me with altogether too much brisket means that I basically have to resort to buying it from a BBQ joint. I think you have to have some sympathy for these places; it's not necessarily turnover issues or not having time to cook it the way they want. It's mostly just a matter of no two briskets are alike and even within a single brisket there's a great deal of variation. Yet customers seem to expect it to be just as good every time.

              What you have to do is ask them for the best cuts they can give you off the fattier end. Nobody else asks for that, so they just get the random luck of the draw. If you ask, they'll usually hook you up. Find a place that'll serve you a great brisket when you ask for it the right way, and you've found your spot. When I explicitly ask for the best cut of a brisket and I still get a bum slice, I just write the place off and move on.

          2. re: mr mouther

            I was at Horse Theives last week and while indeed the brisket was extremely moist and tender there was no smoked taste at all.

            1. re: wienermobile

              My brisket from Smokey Fred's, though tender and moist, had almost no smoke ring. It was also nowhere as smokey as the brisket from Bludso's

              Fickle meat indeed.

              Also, Robert Earl's spicy BBQ sauce is my new fave in the city. It leans toward the sweet side though.

        2. mm-thanks for the update...i went on the uglydrum site and i couldn't quite figure out what it was -- is it a restaurant or a truck or where is this fine brisket? the photos on the site echoed your review.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jessejames

            It's a start up... recently popped up at spice table... Twitter is where to keep an eye on them...



            1. re: Dommy

              thanks for that tip Dommy--just looked at it...gotta say im intrigued by the jalapeno and cheddar all beef hot dogs too!


          2. I search the world over for true love of Q. Korean BBQ, although not what Carolina, Memphis (me) and KC are used to, it is the best anywhere west of the Rockies. I found a nice Carolina Style baby back with light mustard and vinegar sauce, just burnt enough to not be a sauce ... I'd a rather had that glazed on burn fat and fresh, quality - but it was good... Willy Jane -

            You will like the flavor being Carolina Sweet and Tangy

            3 Replies
            1. re: CharlesKochel

              But at Willie Jane was the portion size merely enough for one person at about 50 bucks or so ?????

              They doing any beef ribs or sliced beef there ?

              Thanks Kochel.

              1. re: kevin

                Just small bone, baby back pork ribs with a glaze, not a wet sauce. The happy hour price was $10 for 1/2 rack. The portion size really looked skimpy, but when I counted the bones, there were either 5 or 6, which I would consider about a 1/3 rack. Mind you, this did not come with sides, so I was only eating for flavor. The dinner portion was $18, same as the fried chicken. They also sliced them and presented stacked, not like I'd want I'd rather them just slice a full slab in half, as the pulling apart is half the fun of evaluating the Q. No sliced beef or beef ribs.

                1. re: CharlesKochel

                  Got it, my bad. I mistakenly thought they were supposed to be big plates.