Barrel & Ashes

Restaurants , Barbecue Studio City
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 4 out of 5 stars
(2 user reviews)
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 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Spare ribs, sausage, pulled pork, and braised greens at Barrel & Ashes
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
1/2lb spare ribs plus sausage at Barrel & Ashes
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The Best Damn Chick'n Sandwich Ya Ever Had at Barrel & Ashes
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
1/4lb pulled pork at Barrel & Ashes
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Horses Neck at Barrel & Ashes
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Braised greens at Barrel & Ashes
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Hoe cakes at Barrel & Ashes
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Banana cream pie at Barrel & Ashes
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Barrel & Ashes
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Barrel & Ashes
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Barrel & Ashes
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Barrel & Ashes
 (Photograph: Jakob N. Layman)
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Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Barrel & Ashes

Despite the noticeable influx of BBQ spots in LA the past few years, there is still an ongoing debate as to whether this city has legitimately great barbecue. This, of course, is as subjective as what real barbecue should taste like and what region delivers the best of it. Maybe what is happening in LA, then, is that BBQ is becoming more inclusive—not sticking to a Carolina or Texas style, but instead encompassing all of the dominant ‘cue regions, adding craft cocktails to the menu and serving it all in a rustic-chic setting. At least, that is what’s happening at Barrel & Ashes, the new Studio City restaurant from Bill Chait, chefs Timothy Hollingsworth and Rory Hermann, and mixologist Julian Cox.  

It can be perplexing to read the menu at first, only because it includes sides, snacks and starter categories that all seem to feature both larger (grilled blue prawns) and smaller (braised greens) dishes. One particular “snack,” called The Best Damn Chick’n Sandwich Ya Ever Had, comes pretty close to living up to its name. These are prime picnic sandwiches—crispy fried chicken and dry coleslaw, jalapeño, and pimento cheese clasped within a poppy seed bun. A bite of fried chicken, a forkful of braised greens—sweet, and with chunks of flavorful pork rinds—and you’re set. Skip the ambrosia salad, a citrus-heavy plate featuring coconut flakes that look like a light dusting of snow—pretty, sure, but it doesn’t do a whole lot for the dish.

What you really want to know, though, is, How is the smoked meat? Our neighbors sitting next to us at the communal table were already going nuts over their hefty links of smoked sausage from Electric City Butchers, so we opted to give the pulled pork and a half rack of spare ribs a try. The results were mixed. The spare ribs are sauce-drenched, tender and fatty in all the right places, quite possibly some of the best ribs I've tried this year. It’s a heavenly cut, and so unlike the pulled pork piled up next to it. Here, the shredded meat is oversmoked and incredibly dry, and I wish it had been given a heavier dose of spices to combat the bland impression that it left.

Being underwhelmed by some of the smoked meat at a place that is supposed to specialize in smoked meat isn’t the greatest sign, but the hoe cake, a variation of cornbread, helps make up for it. This is the dish that everyone talks about after they visit Barrel & Ashes, and I’m not an exception. What’s in it? Butter (lots of it). More specifically, maple butter, but all you need to know is that it is thick and rich and sticks to your bones the way cornbread should. You could almost finish with the hoe cake as a dessert, skipping over the silky smooth banana pudding topped with toasted meringue. Then again, I'd order the pudding, too.

What to Eat: The best damn chick’n sandwich ya ever had ($9). The spare ribs ($19-$37). The braised greens ($6). The hoe cake ($6).

What to Drink: Julian Cox designed the cocktail program, because of course he did—lately, it seems like Cox has a hand in just about every new restaurant or bar that pops up in LA. Not that we’re complaining. The drinks here, both cocktails and craft beer, are expertly tailored to accompany the smoked meats found on the menu. Take the Horse’s Neck ($12), a smooth mix of bourbon, housemade ginger ale and Angostura bitters. Paired with a bite of that chicken sandwich, and you feel like you’re at a (well-curated) summer picnic in the South. For tequila drinkers, the Oaxacan in Memphis ($13) is a refreshing, nose-tingling blend of tequila, Campari, grapefruit, lime and Saison Dupont.

Where to Sit: On a recent weeknight, Barrel & Ashes was packed, and so the only open seating was at one of the communal tables in the middle of the room. This isn’t a bad option—you can peer over at what your neighbors have ordered (which we did) and ask if they liked it (which we also did). It does make for some difficult conversation though as you lean across the table and shout at your dinner companion. Try the tables instead, both inside and outside (a rear patio also holds a Texas style food trailer); if you want a front seat to the action, there’s also a kitchen counter with minimal seating.

Conversation Piece: Further proof that the face of BBQ might look a little different in LA than it does elsewhere: chef Hollingsworth was once the chef de cuisine at the incomparable French Laundry, and will be the chef at the Broad Museum's upcoming restaurant opening in the spring. Hollingsworth was born in Texas, though, so he knows a thing or two about barbecue.

Venue name: Barrel & Ashes
Contact:
Address: 11801 Ventura Blvd
Los Angeles
90603
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11am-3pm, 5-11pm; Sat, Sun 9am-2:30pm, 5-11pm
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Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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LiveReviews|2
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Hillary Freedman
1 of 1 found helpful
tastemaker

So I want to give this place 5 stars because their food is amazing, but I can't bring myself to do it. I've been here twice, once for dinner and once for brunch. The dinner experience was fine. We had a table inside and received a fair amount of attention from our server. We didn't have any complaints though because the bbq was amazing. The brisket was to die for and I loved the hoe cake. I dreamt about that damn hoe cake! So since that experience was great, I decided to take a big group there for brunch this past weekend. And honestly, I will never go there again. The service was horrible. They sat us outside and didn't come out to check on us again for 20 minutes. It was hot and we wanted the shades to be brought down so no one would melt and we had to ask 4 times... It took them 43 minutes to bring someone coffee. We ordered bottomless mimosas and basically just told them to leave the bottle of champagne on the table because they were taking so long. There was a couple in front of us that was finished eating and paying before we even got served. It was absolutely horrible. So bad that now "barrel and ashes time" is a joke in our friends group. It's honestly a shame because the food is so good, I just can't handle that bad service anymore. Maybe I'll give it another shot in the future but as of now, I'll find barbecue somewhere else.

Jakob N. Layman
moderator

You guys, their friend chicken sandwich and their burger are out of this world. That alone makes Barrel & Ashes a destination. Their BBQ is solid as well, but trust me, go for the burger.