You might not think of Orange County as being a hotbed of barbecues like Memphis or Texas, but there are more than a few highly regarded establishments in Southern California that do smoked meat the right way. If phrases like “dry rub” and “basting sauce” get your mouth watering, read on for our recommendations of the best barbecue restaurants, Orange County visitors.
We have to start with Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ, in Orange. This is a small chain with a handful of locations, but you can expect excellence at any of the ones you care to visit. Some of the standouts include the Nashville Fried Chicken, with a spicy kick that leaves your tongue tingling. A sweetened iced tea is the beverage of choice to wash it down. The beef brisket and tri-tip are also carnivorous perfections, but the slabs of pork ribs bigger than your plate are the real star. There are all the sides you might expect, but the dirty creole rice and the collard greens get top marks from us.
Bad to the Bone, in San Juan Capistrano is next on our list. They’re a casual establishment, but they’re serious about their meats, which are pit-smoked for at least eight hours over a low flame, to seal in their succulent juices. Start with the fried pickle chips or the BBQ nachos with chopped brisket. It might be sacrilegious to suggest getting a burger in a barbecue place, but when you’re eye-to-eye with a half-pound blend of brisket, short rib, and ground chuck on a brioche bun with all the trimmings, you feel like you’ve made a smart decision.
Last is Grasslands Meat Market Barbecue and Churrasco, in Anaheim. Rather than straight-up barbecue, this is more of a combination of steakhouse and South American cuisine, but they’ve got adventurous cuts you shouldn’t miss. The pork flat iron churrasco is the star, marinated with garlic, olive oil, basil, cracked pepper, and lemon. The skirt steak with sea salt and chimichurri sauce gets honorable mention.
There’s nothing better than dining out with family and friends, and with culinary experiences like this waiting for you, you’ll be glad you visited Orange County. We’ll be back next time with more of our favorites. Till then, bon appetit.