Here in L.A., when we invite someone over for a barbecue, what we are really doing is grilling. There are some intrepid pit masters among us who smoke low and slow, but for the most part we don’t get as serious about our ‘que as some places do. And they get real serious. Last Sunday the back lot of Grand Park was full of giant smokers and cement block pits for the L.A. Times’ Night Market All-Star BBQ. Jenn Harris welcomed pit masters from all over the country as well as local favorites.
We were most excited about getting to try Franklin Barbecue from Austin, Texas. It is one of the most-loved Barbecue places in Texas, and people are known to pay kids to wait all morning in line for their brisket. We asked for a fatty slice on Sunday, and it was truly the best goddamned brisket I have ever had in my life. There was a restrained but delicious seasoning on moist and tender beef. An Austin transplant’s mind was blown when he saw James Beard award-winner Aaron Franklin there hand-slicing the brisket himself.
A number of our fellow barbecue enthusiasts were lauding the prime rib from LA local Adam Perry Lang (APL), who helped to curate the event. It was a gorgeous cut of meat, its fat glistening in the sun. I chose a big rib, because who wouldn’t, but there was a little too much bark for its bite. I can’t handle a lot of salt.
Another exciting participant was Burt Bakman, who left his popular underground Texas-style barbecue (Trudy’s Underground BBQ) to go legit with Slab BBQ on West 3rd last year. His colorful and unusual slider contained brisket, brie, and a touch of pastrami, filled out with a confetti of cole slaw. It was the perfect bite with a soft sweet roll, tender meat, and a nice crunch from the cole slaw.
A trippy favorite was Pastrami Bacon from Billy Durney of Hometown Bar-B-Que, in New York. His Pastrami Bacon Roll contained sweet and sour cabbage, deli mustard and “Everything Bagel” seasoning in a split top bun. You can’t get much more New York than that. Horn Barbecue took the road less traveled and served a rich and unctuous oxtail atop collard greens. It was one of the best bites of the day.
In a more traditional vein, Sam Jones of Skylight Inn & Sam Jones BBQ went whole hog and served a traditional Eastern-style North Carolina barbecue basted in a vinegar-based sauce. Unfortunately the hog was being smoked behind a fence, so I couldn’t request the cheeks.
Also serving pigmeat was Dave Marin of East LA Barbecue. His pulled pork sliders topped with housemade pickles got an L.A. edge with pink pickled onions and a choice of mango habanero or chipotle BBQ sauce. Andrew and Michelle Muñoz from Moo’s Craft BBQ served up an entire tray with Verde Sausage (made with fire-roasted poblano peppers and stuffed with cheese), a brisket taco with rajas and crema queso, and a little cup of esquites.
Valerie Confections delivered a sweet an gooey dessert of Sticky Toffee Pudding, replacing the traditional whiskey with Mezcal for a nice kick. Thirsts were quenched by several beer companies and Suntory Whisky Tonics with a nice spray of grapefruit.
Outside of the VIP BBQ Party, Night Market was grooving, with two grassy areas full of food tents and songs spun by KCRW DJ Although we were too full to take advantage of delicacies from Commerson, The Crack Shack, Bling Bling Dumpling, Tacos 1986, and Bludso’s BBQ, we couldn’t resist the crunchy duck fat fries from Gwen and my new favorite ice cream flavor–Japanese Neopolitan from Wanderlust Creamery. Door Dash had a lovely lounge providing a respite from the sun, and you could order food from the various tents delivered right to your table.
I am so grateful to The L.A. Times for bringing together such an esteemed group of pit masters. It was a fantastic way to explore the country while enjoying all of the luxuries of home.