Up until very recently, LA had almost no stake in America’s barbecue game. Even the mention of slow-cookers or above-average brisket was met with sniggers and eye rolls from anyone who had eaten barbecue anywhere else. Sure, California’s central coast has a rich barbecue tradition that dates back centuries and local spots like Maple Block and Slab have garnered some acclaim, but the notion of LA proper being a harbinger for great smoked meat was simply not taken seriously.
However, those back-handed giggles are suddenly nowhere to be found - and Moo’s Craft BBQ is a big reason why.
LA’s current barbecue scene is unique not just for the vast array of meats you can get, but for the culture of the community itself. It’s a largely underground and somewhat secretive network of backyard cookouts, brewery pop-ups, and Instagram drops. To be a real LA barbecue enthusiast is to also be a master of spreadsheets, push notifications, and dumb luck. This is the wild world that Moo’s came from - it just now has a colorful new space and taproom to show for it.
When Moo’s Craft BBQ first opened in Lincoln Heights in July 2021, the order-at-the-counter space was a madhouse. Lines started forming hours before opening, and by early afternoon, they were sold out. The first time we lined up, we waited over two hours to get our food, but frankly, we would’ve waited for three. That’s simply how good everything is here. The good news is the fervent crowds have died down somewhat (you can even pre-order online now), making a quick lunch at the best barbecue place in LA, and arguably on the entire West coast, very doable.
Moo’s specializes in central Texas-style barbecue, meaning brisket is king. And let’s not mince words - this is the best brisket I’ve ever eaten, bettering even most of the big-name Texas spots I’ve experienced. The rub is a simple salt and pepper mixture and the tender meat has been slow-roasted to mind-boggling perfection in the massive smoker out back. You can certainly accompany it with their tangy house BBQ sauce, but this is meat that deserves to be left alone. From there, fill out your platter with equally excellent pork ribs, spicy house-made sausage, and smoked turkey that’ll have you rethinking your opinion of turkey.
But at Moo’s, the standout menu items aren’t limited to just the smoked meat. Chef and owners Michelle and Andrew Muñoz are East LA natives, and through dishes like the creamy, smoky esquites, dill-heavy red potato salad, and a tres leches bread pudding that’s among the best new desserts in town, they’ve incorporated countless elements to make Moo’s feel like a truly unique LA experience. And that includes the great barbecue, which after all, is now synonymous with this town.
Rubbed with a simple salt and pepper mixture and slow-roasted in a massive cooker, Moo’s brisket is so unfathomably tender, you almost forget that chewing is still probably necessary. This is some of the best brisket you’ll find anywhere and it’s the first thing you should order here.
Whatever superlatives are given to the brisket, the same needs to be said for the pork ribs. They are massive, perfectly cooked, and seasoned with the exact right amount of salt to draw out the naturally sweet flavors of the pork.
Even great barbecue spots sometimes treat their sides like menu fillers, but not at Moo’s. Whether it’s the fragrant, dill-covered potato salad or the mac and cheese that’s crusty on top and properly gooey on the inside, the sides here are all standouts in their own right and need to be prioritized.
Moo’s currently only has two desserts on their menu, and while the key lime pie is solid, the tres leches cake is special. It’s warm and cinnamony, with a creamy, gooey texture that’ll immediately make whatever’s bothering you that day feel obsolete. Outside of the brisket, this might just be the best thing on the menu.