L.A.’s food reputation has never really gotten over its Annie Hall treatment. Outsiders presume that living here is all about getting super skinny and eating sprouts atop everything, sipping your green juice along the Venice boardwalk and asking your waitress about the macrobiotic special of the day. The truth is that when you move here you get kind of fat—at least temporarily—especially if you make the cross-country leap from New York, as so many of us do. You trade walking for driving, swap being so insanely busy that you forget to eat for grazing all day long because life here is just, like, super chill, and you’re probably home a lot since you’re totally “self-employed.” Also? Taco trucks. There are a lot of them, and they’re open late.
The point is, yes, you can get a smoothie or juice on any given corner and yes, there are restaurants where the whole menu is made of nuts, but don’t sleep on the fact that L.A. is all about real, down home, make-you-look-horribly-over-indulgent food. We’ve got the best Chinese, Korean, Thai, Ethiopian, and Mexican food outside of China, Korea, Thailand, Ethiopia, and Mexico, and we pretty much invented fast food. And guess what else? We’re super into meat.
L.A. has a long history of smoking meat, and in the past few years our fair city has undergone a bit of a BBQ resurgence. Old haunts such as Phillips Bar-B-Que and Dr. Hogly Wogly’s are still churning out the classics, but new outposts all over town have been jumping in to shake up the standard. Herewith, a few worth checking out.
Tucked away on a nondescript corner of Eagle Rock, Max City BBQ opened quietly this summer to not much fanfare, which makes little sense, as the food is killer. Ingredients are locally harvested, meat is slow-cooked, and the results provide a delicious meal that will leave you feeling oddly light in the stomach, but not the wallet. The space itself is bright and brick-lined, and the bar offers beer from local breweries and wines with a low environmental impact. Eat well, feel good.
4729 N Eagle Rock Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041
The two guys behind Ugly Drum got their cooking chops at high-end spots such as Mozza and Campanile, but their current motto is Garage to Table. Hell yes. They’ve yet to open their own brick-and-mortar, but keep your ears peeled—and your stomachs empty—for one of their pop-ups around town. They’ve been known to serve their mouth-watering sausages alongside the weekly wine tastings at Silverlake Wine as well as lend their killer pastrami to the sandwiches at Mendocino Farms. In fact, you can still grab this tasty collaboration (in limited quanities) at Mendocino’s Sherman Oaks location and during lunch at their proper restaurant, Blue Cow.
785 Bay St, Los Angeles, CA 90021
This Bludso’s outpost brings a little old school Compton smoke to WeHo, and, quite frankly, everyone wins. Speaking of winning, if you’re a sports fan, search no further, as this is the perfect place to chow down on some serious brisket and ribs while watching your team on one of the (too?) many TVs. We prefer to hang here on an off-day to sip their delish cocktails alongside a shameful amount of mac ‘n cheese. And if you end up overly full, no sweat—they offer shots of chilled Fernet on tap.
609 N La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Grand Central Market is the hot spot these days, and the barbecue here is one of the reasons to make the trip downtown. Just don’t show up too famished, as you’ll probably have to brace some sort of line. The draw is three-fold: smoky, moist brisket and tasty pulled pork; a newly launched craft beer and wine list; the sun-dappled patio packed with picnic tables that might make you wanna sit outside all day long.
324 S Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90013
This mini Mid-City spot does away with the standard BBQ combos in favor of the build-your-own model. Start with a sandwich, salad, or plate, then pick from the common proteins—chicken, pulled pork, brisket—and top with uncommon slaws made up of kale, brussels sprouts, or, um, ramen? Folks go nuts for the bacon jam and the smoked chocolate chip cookie, the latter of which is good enough to order two. Plus, they don’t have any booze, so you basically earned it.
From the mosaic tiles to the walls of windows, Maple Block Meat Co. isn’t your average BBQ joint. The restaurant serves juicy slabs of succulent meat between bread or on plates measuring in pounds. As if you needed more, the plates come with two sides of your choice, pickles, BBQ sauce, and bread—white, of course. Maple Block might be changing a few things, but it’s not going to get silly and introduce wheat bread into the program.
3973 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230
Prefer your meat with a set of wheels? Head to the Burnt to a Crisp truck, a veritable roving Texas Smokehouse. Wherever they go, BTAC brings very un-L.A. dishes like Frito pie (basically its own food group) and chili cheese fries (served “Texas sized”). The sandwiches (sliced brisket, chopped brisket, pulled pork, sausage) are served on a pillowy bun and stacked high with pickles and onions.
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