Los Angeles BBcue, Deelicious.

BBQ may just be one of the sweetest words in the English language or any other lingua franca for that matter. At least, among people who think nothing of driving a hundred miles or so outside of town just to receive a few bites of gastronomic authenticity. Others have delved so deeply into and whole hog into the lexicon of bbq that they have no choice, but to devote their entire doctoral dissertations on the topic. But here the point is American BBQ whether a regionality unique to Memphis, Central Texas, Kansas City, Oakland, North Carolina or even Los Angeles. It can take on the guise of shredded, pulled pork (from the pork shoulder, of course) with a pungent proprietary vinegar cue sauce slapped all over it and sidled into a squishy hamburger bun. Or perhaps beef brisket smoked over hickory logs for hours on end until the mahogany smoke ring is just so. Or maybe it’s a slab of hefty pork ribs smoked and slathered in a sweetish, molasses-tinged sauce to rival the intricate mole sauces of Oaxaca.
We are blessed with BBQ of substance in Los Angeles no matter how vehemently the ex-pat Southerners will decry it. The message here is not the Lucille’s or Tony Roma’s that have colonized shopping centers and fashionable thoroughfares throughout the heart of the Southland and continue to multiply, but rather the individual mom-and-pop operations who go about their business quietly through the merest of take-out windows and plastic utensils.
One such place is Phillip’s BBQ, which actually started with one location in Leimert Park, near the Crenshaw District and has continued to a total of three outfits, a veritable mini-empire. (Though we will not think of it as a chain in the usual sense of the word.) The original along Leimert Park, barely much larger than a telephone booth, is sandwiched between a liquor store and a hair salon. Cue fans are usually huddled three-deep in a queue that stretches throughout the narrow vestibule and outside across to the salon. The chimney lets out gusts of thick hickory smoke which perfumes the air like nothing less than heaven. You wait in line patiently take a look at what you want usually either short-end pork ribs, gargantuan beef ribs, hot links (beef or chicken, from locale links purveyor Pete’s Homemade Louisiana Links along Jefferson Blvd), sliced beef, or bbq chicken. Your sides will usually be either homemade potato salad or macaroni salad or the stupendous sweet though spicy bbq baked beans. Once you have ordered take your tiny numbered receipt and wait patiently or rather impatiently for your bag of food to arrive. Perhaps it’s time to strike up a conversation with your fellow citizens. If you happen to need something stronger than Diet Coke to go with your bbq, then take a short jaunt to the liquor store for some beers. As a note, Phillip’s only does take out so everything is wrapped up to go. You can munch on your beautiful ribs sluiced with hot peppery bbq sauce with dried red chile peppers swimming on top the ribs in your car or the nearby namesake shoebox park if happen to lack the will power and self-control to trudge on back home.
Plenty of napkins are a necessity (make sure you specifically ask for extras, which are served gratis though extra sauce is not) and if your vehicle escapes unscathed from the heavy sauce stains then you may just be an artist worthy of a retrospective at the Guggenheim. The two other locations are in Inglewood and an easy access one on Crenshaw Blvd, catty corner to the I-10 Fwy off ramp.
If you have happened to stumble upon the Compton-Gardena corridor after a few too many hands of Texas Hold ‘Em at the Hustler Casino, there is surely no better place for bbq than Jay Bee’s BBQ, a teensy almost triangular island in the middle of what apparently seems to be nowhere. The stand looks like it could pop up off a dirt road in a rural, back roads tour of central Texas. Blink and you’ll surely miss it. The proprietors of Jay’s seem to have a certain familial relationship to the long-standing Jim Neely’s Interstate BBQ in Memphis, which is always a welcome sign. The take-out menus sport the logo of Neely’s famed anthropomorphic porcine cartoon. Little does he know that the hungry hordes are about to descend upon and devour him and his brethren. Jay Bee’s set itself apart from Phillip’s due to actual available seating on the premises. The seating is limited to a few token wrought-iron tables on the outside patio where you bus the tables and wipe off excess sauce on your behalf. The menu comprises the usual delicious suspects of pork or beef ribs, links, chicken, and a pulled pork sandwich. The beef ribs drowning in bbq sauce takes on more sweetness than the intricate sauce doled out at Phillip’s across town. But it will suffice in a pinch.
Another shack that reinforces it’s old participation in the lumber business back in rural Louisiana is J n J Burger and BBQ, on Adams near Culver City, but situated more in the southern reaches of the Fairfax district. The proprietor houses a takeout burger counter on one side of the stand and a bbq operation on the other. Others also swear by their chili and pastrami burgers, but we can only attest to the greatest of the cue side of the deal. Just tap the bell on the counter, and usually Jay will appear and take care of you. BBQ is served here with a thin, though spicy sauce. The sauce lacks the complexity of a Phillip’s or Jay Bee’s, but the wood smoke embedded in J n J’s ribs makes itself known. He also prices his meals considerably below the competition so please do make use of an extra side of collard greens or mac ‘n cheese or one of his mom’s crushingly beautiful slices of sweet potato pie. That is when she’s still up to the challenge of meeting Jay’s demands. Staring at the logs of wood, chopped, and stacked over a story high, there simply can be no better place to contemplate the virtues of some woodsy cue. It doesn’t hurt that Jay’s lays claim to some of the best baked beans in all of South LA too.


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