There’s only one time a grown man (or woman) should wear a bib, and that’s for some good ole BBQ. From dry rubs to sweet and spicy blends of sauce, BBQ is a staple in any foodie’s diet. So, it’s only fitting that for this year’s RESTAURANT ISSUE we bring you a sampling of all the best BBQ the IE has to offer.
Bobby Ray’s Bar-B-Q
Family-owned since 1973, this hole-in-the-wall joint serves up a mean plate of Texas-style barbeque with a sell-out sweet potato pie made by the restaurant’s resident octogenarian or centenarian, and all in abundant portions good enough to split between two and all done the old fashioned way. Legend has it that Sugar Ray and a host of other celebrities have made their way down to the ’hood for Bobby Ray’s delectable meats, which is hot, tender and spicy, heavily sauced, and mouth watering down to the bare bone. Bobby Ray’s specialty, its tender and juicy ribs, retain a smoky fruitiness that is the direct result of slow-cooking meats an apple and cherry wood lined grill parked in front of the shack.
The Sauce: Bobby Ray’s uses a mild, smoky sauce that is light on vinegar and spice. (Nancy Powell)
Bobby Ray’s Bar-B-Q, 1657 W. Base Line St., San Bernardino, (909) 885-9177.
Buckboard BBQ & Grill
One of the few outfits in Southern California and maybe the only one near the Inland Empire (sadly, its Upland location closed recently—though it still caters to the IE) to dish up Santa Maria-style barbecue, dry-rubbed meat that is slow-cooked over a low-burning fire fueled by red oak. The restaurant’s claim to fame resides in its sirloin tri tips, which offers plenty of well-seasoned flavor sans sauce because in true Santa Maria tradition, sauce is more an afterthought than a necessary evil. The Pony Express, Buckboard’s tri tip sandwich, arrives at the table as a mountain of carnivorous envy enclosed in a hefty buttered roll that soaks up the juices nicely. Eat this with a side of potato salad or pair up a salad with a hearty bowl of chili loaded with chunks of tri tip, beans and tomatoes.
The Sauce: Buckboard makes a house BBQ Sauce as a courtesy to customers who need the sauce, although most prefer the mild Santa Maria style salsa as the condiment to compliment the already well-seasoned meats. (Nancy Powell)
Buckboard BBQ, 626 Shoppers Ln., Covina, (626) 974-9991, (909) 608-7363; HYPERLINK “http://www.buckboardcatering.com” www.buckboardcatering.com.
Chef Tim’s with Spices
Chef Tim Hanson likes to describe his stuff as “food for the soul,” and his Southern staples of ribs, pulled pork, fried chicken, shrimp and grits, catfish, black-eyed peas and po‘ boys definitely fit the bill. Chef Tim cooks his meats in an oak and mesquite-filled drum that sits outside his restaurant. Pork ribs accompanied by a side of mac and cheese or hush puppies bring a nice warmth to the belly, and Tim’s chicken and waffles—tender, juicy bits of chicken served with a light and crispy waffle—is even better. Barbecue may be the name of the game, but Chef Tim is definitely da master of Southern soul food, with a big personality to match his big flavors. That’s southern hospitality for ya!
The Sauce: Chef Tim’s BBQ Sauce starts with a base of ketchup, tomato paste and vinegar that combine with other ingredients for a sweet and spicy counter punch. (Nancy Powell)
Chef Tim’s With Spices, new location will open Dec. 11 at Foothill Boulevard and Ramona Avenue, Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 466-8211; www.cheftimswithspices.com or www.facebook.com/pages/Chef_tims_Spices/117196241632195.
SWEET AND SPICY
Dickey’s BBQ Pit
When you crave something you want it right away, but most BBQ restaurants take a while to heat up your meaty indulgences. Well Dickey’s solves this problem by providing BBQ at its best in a fast food environment. This ain’t no crappy McRib sandwich, it’s the real deal! Originally started in 1941 over in Texas, Dickey’s has been slowly popping up in SoCal, providing the best of the messiest dishes available within moments. From smothered meat plates complete with home-style sides to the simplest heavenly BBQ meat sandwiches you’ll find multiple choices to pick from. With the extra aim to please, Dickey’s offers free ice cream every day to balance out those flaring tasters of yours. Hmm, I wonder if BBQ sauce might be as good on that as everything else?
The Sauce(s): Dickey’s offers both a sweet and spicy sauce that will make any meaty meal a wonder to behold. (Ashley Bennett)
Dickey’s BBQ Pit, 9670 Haven Ave., Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 477-4555; www.dickeys.com.
Famous Dave’s BBQ
This is no time to think about the age-old saying “you are what you eat” as you take a seat in the “Swine Dining Area” over at Famous Dave’s. There you’ll get your chance to dive into multiple meats and sauces. Famous Dave’s is a place where you definitely don’t have to worry about gettin‘ a bit messy. The best meats are smoked for up to eight hours and are given the best tender lovin‘ before appearing before you, my fellow Swine Kings and Queens. Each dish, from the restaurant’s delectable Beef Brisket topped with pepper and brown sugar to the Texas Manhandler (a spicy hotlink dish—yes, be afraid), is undoubtedly a new craving waiting to happen.
The Sauce(s): Famous Dave’s has a few special sauces that will turn your head with bold names such as “Rich and Sassy” to the most dangerous of all: “Devil’s Spit”—all of which say to you “I’m going to give your taste buds the time of their lives.” (Ashley Bennett)
Famous Dave’s BBQ, 27500 W. Lugonia Ave., Redlands, (909) 792-4151; 11470 4th St., Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 481-2271; www.famousdaves.com.
Gram’s Mission B-B-Q Palace
Far too many BBQ restaurants feature the same old BBQ sauce and meals so maybe it’s time to literally spice up your regular dining habits and try a genuinely new experience with southern influenced BBQ and Cajun dishes at Gram’s. With a tinge of North Carolinian accent and a massive amount of sauce you’ll be struggling to choose which new experience to test (this place has traditional BBQ as well as seafood and soul food; talk about multiple items). In our own state filled with restaurants claiming to be original, Gram’s is definitely one-of-a-kind as the only location in California. So, grab your favorite meat rubbed with that Cajun-newness that you’ve been looking for. Dine-in, take-out or grab a catering deal; whatever you want, Gram’s is prepared to give you a spicy new experience. Heck that’s what Cajun style food is about!
The Sauce: Unique to this Southern-styled joint, the Cajun BBQ sauce adds quite a kick to your traditional BBQ meals. Everything else is “weak sauce” in comparison. (Ashley Bennett)
Gram’s Mission B-B-Q Palace, 3527 Main St., Riverside, (951) 782- 8219.
THE WEEKEND WARRIOR
I don’t get the grinder in the title here and I didn’t ask but it’s no great matter. No, what’s important is simply this: Grinder Hut Southern Style Bar-B-Q is barbequelicious, so delectable and serious a Southern barbeque that the ribs are awesome without sauce. The restaurant’s red beans and rice can make a guy feel like he’s getting over a rough night in the Quarter at Mama’s, and its minute yet marvelous cornbread muffins serve up the hospitality. And as to the pork sandwich, bring a fork, hell bring two forks, and a heaping of napkins to help your way through the gooey, slathered in B.B.Q. sauce, succulently porky, pulled pork grinder. Just make sure you come on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, as those are sadly the only days the Grinder Hut is open. Then sit down at one of the two tables (the Hut is not cavernous) and enjoy the ribs, pork and tri-tip, subtly slathered in the secret and oh-so-sassily-delicious sauce.
The Sauce: With hints of vinegar, lemon and just enough heat, it’s a sauce you’d drink if you thought you could get away with it. (Bill Gerdes)
Grinder Hut Southern Style Bar-B-Q & Catering, 2462 Hamner Ave., Norco, (951) 737-7141, Catering (909) 214-8536; www.grinderhutbbq.com.
Hickory Joe’s Smokehouse BBQ
Hickory Joe’s is so easy. Walk in, order at the front, grab the latest edition of this here Weekly and sit back and watch football on one of the joint’s strategically located televisions. The place looks great and is so clean I began to worry, thinking that I’d encountered some soulless rib joint, serving overly sweet sauce with a smile but nothing to back it up. But I needn’t have worried. My pulled pork sandwich took me to my own slice of hog heaven, especially due to the tender pork and the way it interacts with the crunchy coleslaw at the bottom of the bread. Even the fries rock, all heat and fresh potatoes and just the right amount of salt.
The Sauce: Hickory Joe’s signature #12 B.B.Q. sauce, a smoky, tangy mysterious blend that makes eyes water and meat lovers put miles on their odometers. (Bill Gerdes)
Smoky Joe’s Smokehouse BBQ, 120 Hidden Valley Pkwy., Norco, (951) 273-7427; www.hickoryjoesbbq.com.
PORTUGUESE HAWAIIAN STYLE
Hogg’s Gourmet Grill
After watching the swine-induced pandemic film Contagion a man next to me turned to his wife and said, “I’m never eating pork again.” Well, this guy’s never been to Hogg’s or he might reconsider. Hogg’s is nirvana for pork lovers but also features a slew of awesome burger options, great kid’s meal portions, green bean fries and an amazing variety of sausages, including a the rare and elusive Portuguese Hawaiian version. Better yet go for the Hogg’s fries, chili-fries with a choice of what sausage gets layered on top. They’re great and so is the peach or apple cobbler. So, you get the idea—it’s a place to load up on calories for the week, take the kids, have a beer with some friends or just plain enjoy some delicious barbeque in a chill, fast-food-ish type environment.
The Sauce: The sauce runs the gamut of relaxed to high energy, mild to spicy, all yummy and your choice. Take that, loud, annoying movie guy. (Bill Gerdes)
Hogg’s Gourmet Grill, 12625 Frederick St., E-9, Moreno Valley, (951) 653-1353; www.hoggsgrill.com.
Radcliffe’s Royal Ribs
Radcliffe’s Royal Ribs believes in smoking anything it can lay its chain-mail armored hands on. From the Cornish game hens to the rib tips, from the artichoke hearts to the pulled pork sliders and sandwiches (a top seller), if owner David Radcliffe can season it and put it in his twin smokers, he will—to good effect. Seriously, the meaty offerings here are truly a decadent pleasure from the tender-as-Bambi’s-behind pork loin (brined wonderfully with apple juice, salt and brown sugar, among other choice ingredients) to the grilled Cajun shrimp. Even the side dishes have a twist to them. There’s the mac and cheese with its not-so-secret ingredient: cream corn. And the potato spuds, lightly seasoned with a side of homemade dill ranch. Both perfect for snacking or along side a rack of ribs. The food here’s definitely fit for a king! Or at least Sir Drinksalot.
The Sauce: Radcliffe’s Dragon’s Breath is exactly as it sounds: a sauce that unlike others seems like a dragon breathed some heat into it. While not overwhelming, the sauce does have a bit of a kick to it. (Matt Tapia)
Radcliffe’s Royal Ribs, 304 N. Main St., Corona (951) 549-8819; www.facebook.com/royalribs.