14 Essential Barbecue Joints in Los Angeles

Indulge with smoky ribs, brisket, wings, and more.

There are cities that are known for their barbecue and bring tourism based on their smoked meats alone. Los Angeles usually isn’t one of them. But just because LA is not (yet) world renowned for our baby backs and briskets, doesn’t mean we don’t have a slew of stellar spots worth staining your shirt for. Turns out our fine city’s barbecue history actually runs quite deep, especially in the Black community, which became a melting pot for a wide variety of styles beginning more than six decades ago.

“LA is never mentioned when people talk about barbecue. Never. But they don’t understand that from the 50s to the 80s, we had the best BBQ around,” says Kevin Bludso, owner of Bludso's Bar & Que in Hollywood and a handful of other outposts. “We were the Mecca of barbecue back in those days. LA has such a rich barbecue history because of the Black communities that migrated to LA.”

Bludso points to the mom-and-pop BBQ stands that opened throughout South LA, Compton, and Watts during those decades including fabled restaurants like Woody’s Bar-B-Que, which still operates today. That influx of new residents from around the country made for a melting pot of regional BBQ styles—from Kansas-style burnt ends to slaw-topped Carolina-style pulled pork sandwiches—that still define the LA BBQ scene.

Though Bludso was raised in Compton, he spent summers in Corsicana, Texas, with a great aunt he called Granny, getting schooled in the art of barbecue at an early age. “I remember learning how to cook brisket at 9 years old: Iow and slow. It would take 10 to 15 hours. She would make runs to the store and I was a little kid minding the pit.”

The future pitmaster eventually mastered more than just brisket, later running a successful side catering outfit before opening his first restaurant Bludso’s BBQ in Compton in 2008.

“When I was catering people kept saying how good it was. Twenty years ago people weren’t even doing brisket here. Barbecue is bigger now, but it’s been getting even bigger and more respected as a major cuisine. People realize the art. People weren’t talking about barbecue during the Julia Child era. They were talking about gourmet cooking, which they thought everybody wanted to hear about,” he explains. “Now, they realize people are interested in backyard barbecuing and barbecue stands and I think that has a lot to do with food tv getting so big and the internet creating so many foodies. And I just think my timing was just right.”

After closing the Compton location in 2016 due to a landlord issue, Bludso’s since opened a new flagship venue in Hollywood, along with outposts at food halls in Banc of California stadium and Proud Bird near LAX, in addition to a bar and restaurant at a casino in Melbourne, Australia, while becoming a bona fide celebrity chef along the way.

But no matter how much fame he gets, Bludso says he always makes time to chat with up-and-coming pitmasters, especially in the LA barbecue community, and even hits pop-ups when he can, including earlier this month when he spotted a chef he knew only from Facebook smoking meat in his front yard.

“I stopped by and he was so happy,” says Bludso. “There are a lot of young ones, a lot of caterers. I didn’t start with a silver spoon so if anybody wants to talk to me, I don’t mind talking. If people didn’t help me, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now.”

Below are some of the best places in LA to grab ribs, brisket, hot links, and whatever other smoky, saucy dishes will bring you a dose of comfort on a plate.

Woody's Bar-B-Que

Multiple locations

One of Los Angeles’s most legendary barbecue joints was the brainchild of the late Woody Phillips, who opened his first venue on Slauson in the mid 1970s and gained a loyal following spanning generations. The multiple no-frills locations serve up slow-cooked Southern-style platters of saucy beef and pork ribs, chicken links, and simple sides of coleslaw, macaroni and potato salads, and BBQ beans.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Ragtop Fern BBQ

Rampart Village

Ragtop Fern isn’t your traditional barbecue restaurant, but rather a weekend pop-up on the stoop of self-taught pitmaster Fernando Carrillo’s home. The full-time UPS driver spends his Saturdays BBQing under a tent with brisket and beef ribs that would make Texas proud, as well as finger-licking pork ribs, all cooked on a smoker that the owner welded himself. The only way to order is to slide into those Instagram DMs and hope you get lucky. 
How to order: via Instagram.

This two-plus-year-old collab between Horse Thief’s Anthony Chin and Houston chef John Carrizales touts all-day brisket-stuffed breakfast tacos and burritos along with other Tex-Mex treats like BBQ sauce-doused nachos, and pulled pork-and-pepper jack quesadillas. Also look for hefty plates of tri-tip, hot links, and half-chicken, plus an array of sandwiches and sides of street corn, BBQ beans, Mexican rice, and cornbread with honey butter.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Though the OG Bludso’s in Compton is gone, the newer La Brea location is still going strong, taking Kevin Bludso’s original Texas-inspired recipes—juicy brisket smoked low and slow for 14 hours, great pork ribs, amazing pulled pork, rib tips, even smoked jackfruit for the vegan set—and giving them the love they deserve. With the return of real-deal gatherings, you might also consider some of Bludso’s large-format trays that come with a mix of meats in addition to multiple sides, pickles, cornbread, and some of that beloved BBQ sauce. And don’t forget the banana pudding. 

Available for Delivery/Takeout

The meaty pop-up launched by spouses Andrew and Michelle Muñoz quickly became a cult favorite when they began dishing up Texas-style barbecue out of an East LA backyard and later at Sunday food fest, Smorgasburg. For the last several months, the couple has been offering curbside pickup on Sundays in the Arts District. You can pre-order items like pulled pork and brisket by the pound, racks of pork spare ribs, and packs of jalapeno-cheddar sausage along with sides and key lime pies to ensure a decadent weekend. 

Slab BBQ

Beverly Grove

Israel native Burt Bakman made a splash on the LA food scene a few years back with his literal backyard barbecue at his Studio City home known as Trudy’s Underground Barbecue, where he created Texas-style specialties in his giant custom-built smoker. Since then, the pitmaster has opened his very own brick-and-mortar spot to plenty of fanfare. Right now, his menu includes brisket, smoked chicken wings, the ridic “Ooh” brisket sandwich, beef ribs that are only available on weekends, and sides like cole slaw, collard greens, and corn.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Since the 60s, this Valley staple has been marinating delicious brisket and spare ribs in its distinctive special sauce, served in truly monstrous portions. Expect your leftovers game to get a serious boost after dining in or taking out an order from this joint. Dinner plates of hot links, baby backs, and pulled pork all come with two sides and a half-loaf of bread, and you might as well throw in some of that sweet potato pie while you’re at it.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
APL Restaurant
Photo by Isauro Mercado, courtesy of APL

Adam Perry Lang’s upscale steakhouse rolled out a daytime menu in 2019 that put the renowned meat master back in the pit doing what he loves most: barbecue. Right now, you can still get to-go combo plates, “TV dinners,” and family meals including his low-and-slow brisket and pulled pork by the half pound, half and full racks of pork ribs, a pulled pork sandwich topped with a mustardy slaw, and BBQ Cornish game hens, plus sides of dirty rice and beans, braised greens, and mac and cheese.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Max City BBQ

Eagle Rock

Eagle Rock’s Max City has gained a cult following by serving up Southern-style barbecue, wood-smoked St. Louis ribs and pork, and sourcing local ingredients for their collard greens, coleslaw, salads, and seasonal pies. Order up mixed meat plates of ribs, brisket, smoked chicken, and sides in addition to sandwiches (there’s a housemade butter bean veggie burger on offer, too) and “Feed a Crowd” platters. The crew asks that you call before ordering through an app to make sure they haven’t sold out of what you’re looking for. Not a bad idea.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Bartz Bbq

Hawthorne

The South Bay food truck and catering outfit specializes in Central Texas-style eats (owner and chef Dustin Bartz spent years in Austin), smoking its meats over white oak and mesquite wood for ten-plus hours and churning out his own specialties like pastrami beef ribs, wagyu brisket and pork belly bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers. He’s put an end to his Saturday pandemic pickup menu, but you can still hire Bartz for catering gigs or get in on his monthly weekend BBQ classes that will not only turn you into a pro at the pit, but also send you home with plenty of ‘cue to enjoy from the comfort of your own couch.
How to order: Call 424-327-8587 for catering orders. Sign up for classes online

JR's Barbeque

Culver City

This shack-sized 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. Now’s the time to try it out and take home great Memphis-style sandwiches of pulled pork, brisket, and housemade chicken sausage; slabs of pork, beef, and baby back ribs; and sweet, succulent baked beans. There’s a bevy of burgers and dogs on the menu, too. 
How to order: Via walk-up window or by phone at 310-837-6838 for takeout. 

The hidden standby near Union Station is best known for its hickory-smoked barbecue with vinegary Carolina-style sauces. Look for smoked and pulled pork and honey bacon chicken sandwiches topped with unorthodox add-ons like ranch dressing and Muenster cheese, plus plates of tri tip, brisket, burnt ends, Louisiana hot links, and slabs of beef and baby back ribs. You can mix and match meats for larger family-style platters (which you can order for dine-in or takeaway) that come with a variety of sides like slaw, mac and cheese, corn bread, and baked beans. 
 

Available for Delivery/Takeout

This modern barbecue joint on the Westside serves up wood-smoked Texas-style meats and elevated sides (plus two types of coleslaw to satisfy those craving creamy or the vinegar-based kind). On-site seating expanded during the pandemic with a new parking lot patio where you can order from the extensive a la carte menu in addition to rotating nightly specials that include brisket tacos, Wagyu ribs, and burgers. For takeout, pick up pork spare ribs or beef brisket by the pound or a family platter centered around a whole free-range chicken. 

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Available for Reservations

Horse Thief

Downtown

This Texas-style window opened at Grand Central Market a few years ago and is known now for its moist brisket and tender ribs, along with craveworthy sides like cornbread and banana pudding. The spot’s current to-go menu is full of meat plates, and a few classic sandwiches on glossy brioche rolls, including a killer fried chicken option.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Lizbeth Scordo is a food and lifestyle writer. Follow her on Instagram @modlizbeth and Twitter @lalizbeth.