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Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

Trudy’s Underground Barbecue gets a full-service restaurant—and lines out the door

Written by
Stephanie Breijo

Burt Bakman never set out to be a professional pitmaster, but we’ll be damned if he isn’t one of the best L.A.’s ever seen. The real estate agent turned Trudy’s Underground backyard BBQ star began smoking brisket as a hobby, dropping off slabs of rich, fatty beef to his friends and clients on a lark. Over time, the cooking consumed him, and he began to not only perfect, but experiment as well.

Eventually realizing his brisket would transport better in sandwich form, Bakman began topping slices with brie, apple and slaw on King’s Hawaiian rolls. Not even his 40,000-plus Instagram followers tracking his roving pop-up could get their hands on one. But starting this week, at Bakman’s first brick-and-mortar restaurant, you can. 

Slab, West Third’s new star, is already gathering crowds. Bakman’s BBQ restaurant—in partnership with L.A. nightlife juggernauts the h.wood Group—threw open its doors on Tuesday to a line down the block, and began slinging smoked chicken, brisket, spare ribs, beef ribs, sides and the pitmaster’s own brie-and-brisket sandwich (“The Trudy Special”) in assembly-line style. By 2pm, they’d sold out.

That’s part of the business model: Slab opens each day at 11am, and keeps going until the food is gone—so get there early. Simply grab a tray and approach the counter, where Bakman and his team will pile sliced-to-order brisket, oozing grease and seasoning, onto a scale and serve it by the weight. Order half a chicken or a whole one—another item unique to Slab and new to Trudy’s fans—or piles of pulled pork. Tony LaPenna, one of the restaurant’s partners, even offers his own take on baby-back ribs, sticky and caramelized and tender (“Tony’s Ribs”). There’s also slaw and mac and cheese and rich baked beans and an elote-inspired corn on the cob, and a volcano of beef and cheese and green onions on the Frito pie. 

The Trudy Special
Photograph: Courtesy Slab

Is it a carbon copy of Trudy’s? Absolutely not, but what Bakman’s lost in the exclusivity of his Instagram-based ordering system, he’s gained in accessibility and expansion: seating, a range of sides and a whole team to help him, even if he’s still figuring all of that out.

“The process has been a challenge because I went from a one-man show to having multiple people—literally too many cooks in the kitchen—so that’s been an adjustment,” Bakman says. “And the production amount has been a challenge we had to figure out, too: holding temperatures, knowing the order and when beef ribs go on, when the chicken will go on, the ribs go on—but we’re working on it, and we’ll nail it down.”

Luckily, it doesn’t seem those tribulations affected the food.

And for those with a sweet tooth, there’s another new addition to Bakman’s BBQ roster: pecan-pie bars and other treats, which wait under glass cloches at the register. The robust red velvet cupcakes might catch your eye, and with good reason—they’re clownishly large, and a signature item from Doughboys, the former resident of 8136 W 3rd. Seems like a sweet consolation prize for those too sleepy to get to Slab at 11am. See you all in line.

Slab is now open at 8136 W 3rd St, selling barbecue daily from 11am until the restaurant sells out.

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