Here's Our Travel Guide to This Nation of Over 7,000 Islands
When it opened, Maple Block was crowned the king not just of LA BBQ, but BBQ in all of California by a guy who should know: Daniel Vaughn writes about BBQ, and only about BBQ, for Texas Monthly. And he’s still right: the brisket here could not be more perfectly moist, the chicken bursts with flavor, and the creamy mac and cheese, while not exactly traditional, is crave-worthy.
Eagle Rock’s Max City has gained a cult following by crushing Southern-style BBQ for the Eastside, wood-smoking ribs and pork into juicy meat-monsters while sourcing local ingredients for collard greens and coleslaw. Also, they catered one of the best weddings I’ve ever been to, and goddamn if it didn’t help make it one of the best weddings I’ve ever been to.
Venice and West Hollywood
Alright, we'll admit it's divisive: BBQ purists sometimes hate on this beloved-by-everyone-else mini-chain, but we're going on taste alone. They offer a wider range of sauces and sides that're all great, and the meat is also delicious. Haters gonna hate, but uh, the rest of us gonna eat (and drink -- the WeHo location has a full bar!).
Sadly, the OG Bludso’s in Compton is gone, but the fancier LA Brea offshoot lives on, taking Kevin Bludso’s original recipes -- juicy brisket, great pork ribs, amazing pulled pork -- and giving them the love they deserve. The draught cocktails are just an added bonus!
This shack-space -- right where La Cienega and Fairfax meet -- is one of those spots you've probably driven by 1,000 times and never looked at twice. Next time, stop: the family-run business busts out great Memphis-style pulled pork, great ribs, and sweet, succulent baked beans.
Years into its run, this hot-out-of-the-gate East Valley joint’s still always jammed, with Valley denizens diving into Santa Maria tri-tip, Louisana hot wings, and, of course, perfectly fatty brisket with a loud, salty smoke. Also, you've gotta get the hoecake; it's on our list of 50 things to eat in LA before you die, and while it may very well kill you, it’s totally worth it. We promise.
Holy Cow is sort of smothering the Westside, with locations in Santa Monica and Culver City; their menu is more far-reaching than most, with not just the standard brisket, rib, and chicken line-up, but also beef ribs on weekends, fried chicken sandwiches, and an extensive sides menu that includes an insanely great smoky corn chowder as well as kale & quinoa salads, if someone at your table wants to be super-sad.
Don't hit JNJ if you're not into LA's distinctive brand of drenched BBQ; this West Adams stand (which also has one of our favorite off-the-radar burgers) douses its ribs in a sweet, spicy sauce, and we wouldn't have it any other way.
Though this DTLA standby has long been a favorite for the hickory-smoked BBQ they offer, they’re known for more offbeat dishes, too: this is probably the only place in town where you can get a chicken breast stuffed with onions, jalapeños, and cheese, then wrapped in bacon, then pit-smoked. Read that again, then go. Again.
Since the '60s, this Valley staple has been marinating delicious brisket and spareribs in its distinctive special sauce, served in monstrous -- truly, MONSTROUS -- portions. In other words, you're gonna be feasting off the leftovers for the rest of the week.
When this now-staple Texas-style window opened at Grand Central Market a few years ago, it was sort of an Emperor-Wears-No-Smoke situation. Thankfully that’s been remedied, with moist brisket and tender ribs regularly served to lines of their faithful customers, along with craveworthy sides like cornbread and banana pudding. Don’t sleep on the fried chicken sandwich, as well.
The vibe at Pearl’s is just as big of a draw as the food: the owner’s an Austin obsessee, and Pearl’s clearly mirrors that city’s charm, with an airstream serving the smoked meats to an outdoor flat-top covered with picnic tables, and a stage that sometimes sees Americana bands providing a weekend soundtrack. On the menu you’ll find massive smoked short ribs, coleslaw, and, for an otherwise Texas-skewed operation, a very Cali side: half an avocado covered with Pico De Gallo.
Now that Bigmista’s is closed (RIP!), Robert Earl’s can take its place as the BBQ king of Long Beach. Spicy links, monster beef ribs, and killer brisket reign over the meat menu, but the sides -- a very cheesy mac, vinegary greens, and, most notably, his Auntie’s Banana Pudding -- are what keep people coming back.
This classic valley spot’s a little classier than your average BBQ joint, but the meat is totally legit; hits include hand-rubbed, hickory-smoked pork ribs and Santa Maria tri-tip, as well as fried mac and cheese (!!). The non-BBQ menu is full of bangers as well, like kobe beef chili-filled donuts, smoked chipotle buffalo wings, a quesarito with Wagyu beef, nacho cheese, and rice, and much more.
This Filipino-style BBQ joint was a surprise hit right when it debuted six years ago and has been killing it ever since, with interesting flavors -- a bit of coconut here, some front-of-palate spice there -- setting their pulled pork, ribs, and tri-tip apart. Don’t sleep on the fish sauce-spiked coconut beef stew, or the sweet rice-flour bibingka (honestly, the pro-tip is to take some friends, get a six-top, and just order the whole menu.)