Pitmaster Alan Cruz imbues his slow-smoked meats and his tortas, smashburgers and sides with “East Los soul,” underscoring one of Southern California’s biggest and best BBQ movements: Latin flavor woven into classic briskets, ribs and more—a true reflection of L.A. and an evolution of the art of the smoker. A’s BBQ can be preordered online and picked up at Cruz’s home in East L.A., or found at pop-ups such as Wednesday night appearances at community kitchen Lokels Only in Chinatown. Look for dishes such as spare ribs coated in a tamarind braise; mac and cheese with roasted poblano peppers; and some seriously flavorful al pastor pork belly burnt ends.
There’s BBQ and then there’s BBQ—you know, the kind that leaves you licking your sauce-coated fingers as a pile of ribs picked clean is all that remains on your plate. Die-hard BBQ fans will argue for days on end about why Memphis has the best pulled pork over Texas, or why Kansas City makes better brisket than the Carolinas. But here in Los Angeles, we have a great mix of all of the above (not to mention stellar Korean BBQ and our own regional spins).
Despite the noticeable influx of BBQ spots in L.A. the past few years, there’s still seemingly a debate as to whether this city has legitimately great barbecue—of course we do, and all without breaking the bank. Some of the best affordable eats in the city are hole-in-the-wall BBQ spots, where you can wolf down a plate of ribs, baked beans, mac and cheese and a slice of Key lime pie for less than $20. From Compton to South Pasadena (and even a road trip to San Juan Capistrano), here are our picks for L.A.’s best BBQ spots.