O.C.’s Best: Southern-Inspired BBQ

Along with the rest of the country, Orange County embraces the low-and-slow revival

Blessed with great weather year round, O.C. always has been a hot spot for outdoor grilling. And barbecue defined by slow-and-low smoking has been brought to the culinary forefront, as evidenced by Franklin Barbeque of Austin, Texas, recently winning a James Beard Award. So this weekend, put down the burger flipper and head to one of these six local restaurants doing justice to the Southern tradition.

1 Lillie’s Q
Pound for pound, smoker for smoker, link for link, it’s hard to argue that there’s a better barbecue restaurant in Orange County. The tri-tips are smoked to medium rare, still carrying a hefty dose of pink in the center, and you’ll find 11 sauces to pair them with. The beef-pork house sausages convey no curing-salt aftertaste. Even better: Lillie’s Q carries moonshine cocktails—available even at lunchtime—and some house beers are custom-made for the restaurant by partner Taps Brewery. $7 to $21. 240 S. Brea Blvd., Brea, 714-482-2001, lilliesq.com

2 BT’s Southern BBQ
Co-owners Brad Taylor and Dave Block’s fast-casual restaurant has a lot to offer, including some memorable sauces. We especially love the Spicy Chipotle and Chinese 5 Spice, available in the sauce bar. The smoky pulled-pork plate is the most popular option and serves as the ideal meat base for sauce sampling. Thursday’s special of smoked corned beef evokes pastrami and is a fun alternative to the also-popular tri-tip sandwich. BT’s has some sides beyond the usual suspects, including tomato-cucumber salad and spicy black ranch beans, a house-made version of the Ranch Style Beans found in a can. $1 to $12. 7144 Edinger Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-841-7016, bts-bbq.com

3 Smoqued California BBQ
While locals love the sandwiches, Smoqued absolutely excels in the Central Texas brisket tradition. Be sure to ask for the deckle (also called the point), the fattier part of the brisket, as opposed to the leaner section (the flat). The well-smoked, but not over-smoked, deckle brisket arrives moist, thanks to intramuscular fat. With a great spice rub, it needs no sauce. For sides, opt for the crunchy green beans or the hearty bean-less chili. $4 to $18. 128 N. Glassell St., Orange, 714-633-7427, smoquedbbq.com

4 Blake’s Place
Both locations of this favorite are fast-casual, serve beer, and provide a special three-rib meat plate of spare ribs, baby back ribs, and pork loin. For a solo diner, a chopped brisket pile is a fantastic serving of juicy beef. Chef Gene Hobel’s culinary school training shows up in the meaty smoked-then-fried wings, best ordered with the slightly spicy Sweet Chili, and the supremely buttery peach cobbler, both made in-house. $3 to $25. 11105 Los Alamitos Blvd., Los Alamitos, 562-431-1111; 2905 E. Miraloma Ave., Anaheim, 714-630-8574; blakesplacebbq.com

5 Hickory BBQ
Two things make pitmaster Amanda Cho’s place stand out. One, she smokes beef chuck. Two, the rolls are crusty, chewy, and delicious, unlike the typical Wonder bread found at many barbecue spots. This strip mall gem, formerly called Mike’s, serves a mean 3 Meats sandwich with chopped beef chuck, pulled pork, and sausage links. Weighing in at 1 pound, the sandwich offers the best of Hickory’s smoked meats between toasted bread. Eat it deconstructed, with a fork. $9 to $11. 11513 Knott Ave., Cypress, 714-799-6222, hickorybarbque.com

6 Smokey Fred’s Backyard BBQ
This strip mall meat haven features all four major U.S. regional barbecue styles (as defined by pitmaster-owner Fred Rea). The rib tips, which offer crunchy cartilage to complement the slightly crispy chunks of pork, often run out. The beef brisket evokes central Texas, which means it’s moist and bouncy, though it’s often topped with a sprinkle of dry rub. Make sure to order a side of sticky-sweet baked beans, the best you’ll find in O.C. They carry no thickener, but contain chunks of tender smoked meat. $1.75 to $15. 129 E. Collins Ave., Orange, 714-393-4900, smokeyfredsbbq.com

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