The Best BBQ In LA guide image


The Best BBQ In LA

LA might not be known as a BBQ town, but that’s changing in a big way.

The words BBQ and Los Angeles will probably never be synonymous with each other, but if you still believe LA doesn’t have Texas or Memphis or Alabama or North Carolina-caliber BBQ, you are mistaken. Thanks to a cult-like pop-up ecosystem, Southern California is in a BBQ golden age with inventive, boundary-pushing pitmasters cooking regional specialties out of backyards, trailers, and everywhere in between.

Admittedly, tracking down the best spots in town can feel a bit like solving the Da Vinci Code—with secret locations, hidden menus, and lines that start forming well before opening. This guide is here to help cut through the madness. From Central Texas-style brisket specialists to Santa Maria-style tri-tip, here’s our favorite BBQ in LA.

The Spots

Moo's Craft Barbecue

Even after being open for a few years now, there isn’t a more talked about and sought-after BBQ spot in town than Moo’s BBQ. So what’s all the hype about? Central Texas-style BBQ that rivals the best of central Texas. Think pork ribs, smoked turkey, pulled pork, and the best brisket we’ve ever eaten. That said, the highlights on Moo’s menu aren’t just limited to big slabs of meat. The mac and cheese is crusty on top and properly gooey inside, the dill-heavy potato salad is light and fragrant, and if you show up to your next friend picnic with some of their tres leche pudding bread pudding (they offer pre-orders for large groups), you’ll be the star of the afternoon.

Originally a backyard pop-up, Ray’s BBQ in Huntington Park serves Texas-style smoked meats that rival ones made in the Lone Star state. After ditching his bank job in 2015, owner Rene “Ray” Ramirez flew to Texas to learn from the best, at places like Franklin Barbecue in Austin. What results is a spectacular medley of barbecued favorites, like pulled pork made to order and an extra-fatty brisket that’s encrusted in black pepper and tastes as if it was given a big ol’ smooch by a pillar of smoke. The sides are great too, especially the thick, tangy mac and cheese, plus there’s a small side patio where you’ll see both regulars on their lunch breaks and others subtly undoing a button on their pants.

Alabama and Texas might not meet on the map, but they do in a strip mall in Carson. My Father’s Barbecue has been around since 2014 and is home to our favorite BBQ in the South Bay. The brisket is meaty, sliced thin, and moist enough to have its own skincare regimen. The pork ribs come covered in a pungent, molasses-y bark. And you’d be messing up if you left without trying a chicken or pork link. The sausages are practically ready to burst on eye contact, and when they do snap in your teeth, you’re met with spice and funk that can only come from hours upon hours of careful pit-tending.

Run by Lord Maynard Llera, a former sous chef at Bestia, this pop-up operates entirely out of the chef’s house in La Cañada Flintridge and continues to be one of the most exciting places to pick up food in LA. While the sauteed blue prawns in garlic crab paste and pancit chami (a signature dish from the chef’s hometown of Lucena City) have a lot to do with that proclamation, the BBQ chicken is also a standout. Sweet, salty, and smoky, this is the kind of BBQ that’ll stick not just to your fingers, but also your mind for several days afterward.

The guy behind Slab started out as a secret pop-up in his Studio City driveway (that he called Trudy’s Underground BBQ) and is now operating inside a shiny space on 3rd Street in Beverly Grove. The order-at-the-counter space is casual and straightforward, and the BBQ is certainly some of the best you’ll find in central LA. Most people are here for the brisket, but it’s the spare ribs that keep us coming back. Be sure to throw in a side order of creamy mac and cheese and twice-cooked potato casserole.

One of the best-known restaurants in LA and a place that sits firmly in our city’s pantheon of great BBQ. Originating in Compton, Bludso’s now resides in a large, shiny space on La Brea in Hollywood (with a second location in Santa Monica) that’s become one of the most dependable (and affordable) big group dinner spots in the area. Their party tray feeds up to 15 people and comes with brisket, pulled pork, ribs, chicken, hot links, and a heap of sides for only $360 (or about $24 per person). Now that we’ve done the math for you, all you have to do is sit back, grab a beer off their excellent tap list, and watch whatever sports team is currently imploding on the TV out of the corner of your eye.

Popping up at various locations around Northeast LA, River Street is a tiny operation cranking out excellent Texas-inspired BBQ. We like their peppery brisket a lot, but the standout dish here is without question the pulled pork. Cooked in a simple salt and pepper rub and finished in an apple juice bath, it’s sweet, salty, and profoundly buttery, and is always the first thing cleared from our tray. Also, be sure to keep a lookout on their Instagram for whatever the daily special is, which can range from Tex-Mex tacos to hot chicken.

When the Texas Monthly BBQ editor declared Maple Block’s brisket the best in California in 2015, it arguably kicked off the modern BBQ craze that’s only getting bigger in this city. Today, this Culver City spot still ranks among our favorite. The brisket will forever be the star of the show, but what we love about Maple Block is how well-rounded it is as a restaurant. You can come here for an after-work drink and some wings at the bar, throw a big group birthday on the patio, or execute a date when getting sauce on your face is a deal-maker, not a breaker.

For all the regions of American BBQ that you can find in LA, Memphis-style is still a bit underrepresented. And that’s why when we first saw chef Manu Aka appear on KTLA in summer 2020 talking about his new Memphis Grill brick-and-mortar in North Hollywood, we were excited. And then when we tried his cooking, we were really excited. Memphis-style BBQ leans heavily on pork that’s been smoked in a signature dry rub and served with a tomato-based sauce on the side, so when you’re at Memphis Grill, every meal needs to start with the pulled pork and baby back ribs. The meat here is sweet and zesty with a pronounced tanginess you can’t often find in LA BBQ. At $24, the 2 meat + 2 sides BBQ meal is a fantastic value for how much food you get.

Handy Market

Handy Market is a fantastic local grocer in Burbank and a place you can come to any day of the week for craft beer, wine, and regular pantry items. Come on Saturdays though, and you’ll be treated to an all-out BBQ wonderland in their adjacent parking lot. Rows and rows of tri-tip, ribs, turkey legs, corn on the cob, and sausages all wafting their smokiness through the neighborhood. It’s a sight to behold and a great place to take out-of-towners who can’t fathom anything local ever taking place in LA. This is a pick-up-and-go situation only, so everything you want in the adjacent little building, and then eat it alone in your car like the rest of us.

This 50-year-old Van Nuys institution doesn’t have the most elevated BBQ in town, but who cares? That’s not why you’re there. You’re at Dr. Hogly Wogly’s because of the famous sweet and smoky BBQ sauce, gigantic spare ribs that might’ve come from a T-Rex, and the feeling that you’ve fallen into a 1960s time warp and never want to leave.

Max City is an all-around solid BBQ spot in Eagle Rock with a big menu filled with everything tri-tip to brisket sandwiches to chicken wings. But what makes this tiny spot unique to LA are its St. Louis-style ribs. Smaller and fattier than baby back ribs, these are ideal to put out during a backyard BBQ when you simply aren’t in the mood to stand around at the grill all day. Depending on the size of your crowd, spring for one of their “Feed The Crowd” platters that feed anywhere from four to fifteen people and come with a variety of meats and sides.

Much like our style in the eighth grade, A’s BBQ refuses to adhere to any one label. Masters in craft BBQ, smash burgers, and fried chicken sandwiches, you’ll find them slinging ribs that taste like tamarind one weekend, then super-thin patties injected with birria consommé the next, with Chicano flavors at the heart of all of it. This is Los Angeles cooking at its peak.

L.A. Brisket

This casual order-at-the-counter operation, which has locations in both Artesia and Chinatown, specializes in Texas-style brisket. You’ll find their Chinatown outpost on N. Broadway St., housed in the same barebones building as sandwich legend Wax Paper and newcomer Katsu Sando. Their brisket is cooked nice and slow, first rubbed in a house-made sauce then smoked overnight. They serve it in all sorts of ways—on fries, over garlic jasmine rice, with truffles, etc.—but our favorite is the #5 sandwich. Topped with salsa verde, chipotle cream, and a few tomatoes and peppers, it’s a simple, hearty dish, perfect for a work-from-home lunch or an eaten-in-the-car meal.

Phillips Bar-B-Que is all business. The sign out front at the Southern-style spot reminds you that it’s to-go only (although there’s a spare table in the parking lot, if you’re lucky). Ordering and pick-up lines are separated, the former is organized by an efficient divider. Which is all to say, expect things to get busy. Very. Around mealtimes, the entire Mid-City community pours in for their excellent smoked meat, like succulent pork ribs and rib tips smothered in a thick, glistening sauce. Everything can be served either a la carte, in a sandwich, or combined with a few sides, but the sleeper hit here is their chicken links. The sausage is sliced into puck-like rounds, with spice and grit from the ground meats. Order this by the pound.

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photo credit: Andrea D'Agosto

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