When something is simply referred to as "the beast," there's probably a good reason. In the case of Blake's Place BBQ, The Beast refers to a monster of a sandwich: slow-smoked pulled pork, pulled barbecue chicken, chopped beef brisket, coleslaw, sliced red onion, and a dousing of Blake's BBQ sauce. All those ingredients teeter between an over-sized bun, and as a whole, The Beast weighs in at 2.5 pounds. If you devour it in 20 minutes or less, you earn a T-shirt and food challenge immortality, and if you make it disappear behind someone's ear you earn lots of attention for your party-magician business.
Of course, plenty of people come to enjoy the food, not just to defeat it. The original Blake's opened in Anaheim in 1996 and has since filled the bellies of more than one million customers. A second location in Los Alamitos was added in 2012. At both, chefs use high-tech wood-burning barbecue pits that are big enough to smoke more than 3,500 pounds of meat at one time?some for as long as 16 hours. The resulting menu features entire plates of baby back ribs, hot sandwiches, and even smoked wings. Homemade desserts round out the Southern-style selection, including peach cobbler and bread pudding. And none of this goes unnoticed: Blake's was voted The Best of Orange County and Best Barbecue in Orange County by the Orange County Register, as well as Zagat-rated in 2013.
Despite their restaurant's moniker, the chefs at Johnny Rebs' Southern Roadhouse aren’t averse to local ingredients. In fact, all their produce comes from California growers. But rather than recreate Southern flavors, they prefer going straight to the source, relying on Virginian and North Carolinian farms to send country hams and Delta farms to send catfish. Said catfish simmers beneath mountains of slaw in po’ boys, one among Johnny Rebs’ many housemade Southern staples, which range from creole shrimp over cheddar grits to pulled pork slow-smoked up to 12 hours.
Though steeped in traditional Southern cooking, Johnny Rebs’ critically acclaimed culinary team puts its own twist on Southern and American staples alike. To wit: grilled cheese made with pimento and jalapeños, as well as deep-fried apple pie, which bubbles in a deep fryer stolen off a Georgia windowsill. Complemented with “suds” and “squashed grapes”—Johnny Rebs’ speak for beer and wine—feasts unfold amidst a rustic dining space made to resemble a cozy, wood-paneled home. Before the table fills up with smoked and fried meats, guests can snack from a bucket of peanuts. They're free, but any quarters diners donate in return go straight to charities such as the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
With a name like "The Rib Trader," you can expect to find meat on the menu. And the restaurant more than delivers on that promise, grilling up their signature ribs in baby back, beef back, or St. Louis styles, all served with house barbecue sauce. Other hearty options include pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, as well as tri-tip steaks and hickory-roasted aged prime rib. On weekends and holidays, diners can dig in and practice on their rib-marimbas while watching the entertaining illusions of Merlin's Magic & Comedy Dinner Theatre.
Pegged as an "adorable hidden gem" by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Blue Fire Grill is a local hot spot for barbecue, seafood, and even pizza. The diverse menu is the brainchild of Michael and Melinda French, the husband-and-wife team whose influences come from nearly three decades of restaurant experience and the cities they once called home (Michael's Baltimore background is responsible for the popular jumbo lump crab cakes, for one). But like any room a puppy is in, the barbecue here is an instant show stealer. All Blue Fire's meats are smoked onsite in a state-of-the-art Southern Pride oven, and all the ingredients?right down to the dry rubs and sauces?are made from scratch. Spirits and cocktails fall under Melinda's stewardship, with huge margaritas and other cocktails that pair with meals or keep festivities lively when live bands play on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
For many, a love of barbecue begins and ends at eating it. But Johnny Walker took his love a step farther by creating his own signature brand of sauces. They add an extra kick to pulled pork, rib tips, and turkey, all of which Johnny slow-smokes at J & J's BBQ & Fish alongside fellow pitmaster Joe Draper. They let diners pair their southern-style barbecue with sides such as slaw, potato salad, and hush puppies, so named for the quiet passion with which dogs eat them. The Louisiana natives also draw from the flavors of their home state to create seafood specialties that include po’ boys made with shrimp, oysters, or tilapia, as well as platters centered on fresh catches of red snapper and catfish.