I’ve always heard good things about this place, and finding great BBQ in LA is an elsuive beast at best. On Election Night ‘08, I stopped by to just check the place out and it was a very light crowd. I soaked in the ambiance, which was basically a run down, and old and weary BBQ restaurant. Many of the seats had rips on the cushions and the fixtures just weren’t eye catching. The wooden floor was bare. It would have benefited from a daily sawdust application. I’m guessing most diners come here for the food, not the ambiance, because it felt like a hole in the wall. I didn’t eat there though since I already had dinner plans elsewhere.
Last night I returned with a friend and the place was packed. We couldn’t find street parking, so we probably did what most other patrons do and parked in the Smart & Final parking lot. Normally I’d feel guilty doing so, but I justified it since I am a regular S & F shopper.
When we arrived at the restaurant, the place was jammed with people and all the inside tables were filled. There was some outside seating but 1) it was a bit chilly by SoCal standards and 2) I don’t like hearing the noise of cars whizzing by on a busy street like Lincoln. I asked the waitress how long the wait would be for a table for 2 and she said 15 minutes. I looked at my friend and although I could tell he wasn’t exactly thrilled about waiting since we were both hungry, he could tell that I really wanted to give this place a try.
It seemed like forever waiting, but about 15 minutes later, a table did clear for us and we were seated. I ordered the 1/2 rack Baby Back ribs Platter with mashed sweet potatoes and mac & cheese ($19.50) and my friend had the Kings platter, which was a trio of BBQ chicken, brisket and baby back ribs. He also ordered the mashed sweet potatoes and the beans for his sides ($21.95). Both dinner platters come with corn bread. My friend also ordered a Diet Coke ($2.00).
It took at least 30 minutes for the food to arrive and by that time, the larger table behind us was seated with a group of about 6 guys who spoke in a loud volume (i.e. shouting). It was almost defining. I could tell my friend was not enjoying the sound of his loud neighbors and it affected his appetite.
I thought the Memphis style baby back ribs I had was good, but not the best I’ve had in SoCal. That honor goes to Phil’s Texas style BBQ down in San Diego. My friend liked the ribs the most. He barely touched the chicken and we were both surprised that the brisket was served almost like spaghetti. I had a sample of the brisket and it was tough, chewy and dry – not the type of texture I want in the meat that I eat.
For the sides, I thought the mac n cheese was okay, but my taste buds have become accustomed to sharper cheeses and truffle oil, which their mac n cheeps lacked. The cornbread was a little on the dry side and it wasn’t as sweet as I would have liked it. I sampled my friend’s beans, and they tasted okay, but nothing out of the ordinary. Finally, there was the mashed sweet potatoes. Its basically mashed yams, but I have to give credit to Blues for doing justice to this side dish. It was absolutely delicious.
The total damage was $47.03, not including tip. Service is friendly, but the wait is a bit long. If you don’t like small, crowded and noisy places, then this is not the place for you. Honestly, I think the ribs are just on par with Johnny Rebs in Long Beach, but the ambiance at Johnny’s is way better.
Baby Blues BBQ is okay for a neighborhood restaurant, but I would never describe it as a must visit BBQ destination. Its still worth the 2 hour plus drive to head down to San Diego and eat to Phil’s.