Finding decent, down-home barbeque in Los Angeles can be a tricky proposition as everyone’s notion of what makes BBQ good, bad or ugly is so vastly open to interpretation and bias of one’s favorite style. It’s like arguing the musical merits of Metallica v. Slayer; similar concepts delivered differently. The beauty of barbeque, while similar in concept, is the variety of ways to prep and serve all creatures hooved based upon the region of origin.
In the most general distinctions, the South (think North Carolina and Memphis) tends to favor the flavor of the pig and generally uses a variety of tomato-based, vinegary wet baths at the finish. Kansas City even takes the process an extra mile with a heavier, almost sweet-tangy sauce. And while those BBQ styles will dabble in beef, only Texas, the cattle capitol of the U.S., stands heads and horns above its brethren when it comes to smoking cow.
Smoke City Market on Van Nuys Boulevard just North of Magnolia, serves the best of Texas barbeque in all shapes and sizes, but specializes in beef brisket slow smoked using oak for over 12 hours.
The brisket comes two ways: lean or “moist.” If your doctor has recently scolded you for having low cholesterol, go with the moist. The meat is marbled with flavorful fat and melts in the mouth and arteries. Lean means drier and needs the help of the two homemade BBQ sauces in the buckets on every table.
Since they do dub themselves a “market,” everything is priced by the portion size. You can get a quarter, half or full pound of any item. For the uninitiated, ordering a quarter pound of several things provides a nice sampler.
For those who think everything is really not bigger in Texas, check out Smoke City’s beef rib that would tip over Fred Flintstone’s car at a whopping, one- pound per portion. The problem with paying for a one-pound rib is so much of the serving is bone and, unless you’re super close with your lunch mate, doesn’t make sharing easy. I prefer the sweet smokiness of the bacon-y baby back pork ribs where you can score 10 in the half rack and thus have plenty to share. The succulent swine collapses off the bone and there aren’t enough napkins on the planet to combat the river running down your wrists.
Smoked pastrami is like pink, pliable jerky and, when placed between the complimentary white bread slices with a drizzle of sauce, becomes a sandwich revelation. Toss in a dollop of the free sauerkraut to take the sammy senses even higher.
The links are bought by the foot and boast a sweet snap when biting through the casing. The regular spicy link is preferable to the stuffed jalapeno and cheddar which is just too rich. Chicken also shouldn’t be missed with the oak smoke infusing the bird with a class of character most birds cannot match.
Their sides run hot and cold – literally and figuratively. Cold sides include cabbage and apple slaw (bland), creamy potato salad (dense and dull) and the delicious, “Texas caviar”, a mixture of black-eyed peas and a variety of finely sliced peppers and onions in a tart, vinegar bath. Of the hots, shredded beef chili is a meal unto itself with a sweet finish, pit beans are your basic BBQ legumes and the “longhorn mac and cheese” is so much more mac than cheese that it isn’t worth the space it’ll consume above your belt.
The atmosphere is spacious and sleek with cool vintage knick-knacks and a couple flat screens showing the sporting events of the moment to a twangy George Strait soundtrack. Wooden picnic-style tables inside and on the street patio add to the backyard feel.
With eight beers on tap there’s a variety of ways to wash down the feast and whether you choose a cold Shiner Bock draft (the perfect partner for a side of smoked pig) or a cold bottled Coke pulled from the vintage 1940s Coca-Cola ice box in the center of the room, Smoke City Market is a best bet for Texas-style BBQ in the Valley.
Smoke City Market
5242 Van Nuys Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91401
Hours: Daily 11am-10pm or, as the sign says, “till we run out of meat”
Parking on Van Nuys Boulevard and a handful of spots in the alley behind
To read more of Scott’s savory restaurant reviews, please visit: http://www.examiner.com/restaurant-in-los-angeles/scott-schalin
Tags: baby back ribs, barbeque, beef brisket, beef chili, beef ribs, beer on tap, black-eyed peas, chicken, coke, cole slaw, country music, pastrami, potato salad, sausage links, Texas BBQ