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Roadhouse in the city


Courtesy Spring Street Smokehouse

Cognitive dissonance. That’s probably going to be your first reaction while trying to find Spring Street Smokehouse. Okay, you ask yourself, I’m looking for a barbecue restaurant. What am I doing on a dodgy side street in Chinatown? I guess this is another “only in L.A.” moment.

Actually, meat seeker, the block is a little less dodgy than it was a few years ago. The Thai restaurant and Filipino restaurant across the street have both spruced up. It looks like there might be some activity at the long shuttered Chinese movie theater reputedly owned by Quentin Tarantino (a peek through the window reveals tantalizing stacks of film reels in canisters–what could they be?!).

And there it sits on the corner, painted with bright bands of red and sporting a large unmistakable sign: Spring Street Smokehouse. Once you enter the small space, you see that the management has done what a lot of new places serving barbecue do: they went for a faux Southern roadhouse feel, with corrugated aluminum and old license plates nailed to the walls and neon beer signs everywhere. Even the proper music is blasting out of the speakers: classic rock along the lines of AC/DC, CCR, and other groups not known by a set of initials. It’s nice, but frankly, I’d go eat at a place that looked like Granny’s quilting bee if the ‘cue was tasty enough.

On this count, Spring Street Smokehouse does deliver. I tried the Combo platter, so I got very generous portions of pork ribs (huge), chicken breast pieces, brisket, and a giant hot link. Meats were all done properly to my palate: a small but notable bit of char on the outside, redolent of smoke, and just a bit of toothsome chew to the meat on the inside. I ordered the mild sauce. They use a Carolina style vinegar-based sauce, which I do enjoy when it’s done properly, and this one is. Puckery and astringent, providing a great counter-note to the gaminess of the meat. I finished everything but the hot link (I am a bit of wimp when it comes to spicy). A side order of corn bread was actually a small muffin, but, like most Southern BBQ joints it was a savory thing, closer to bread than cake. Unfortunately, it had a few bits of jalapeno in it, a nice Texas touch. Not my thing though. A cream soda helped to cool my jittery throat, through a large variety of wines and beers are available, both bottled and on tap. Probably next time. Nothing like a cold beer and some ‘cue on a hot summer day at a roadhouse, even if it is in Chinatown, a few blocks down from the subway station.

FOOD: 4 out of 5
ATMOSPHERE: 4 out of 5
SERVICE: 4 out of 5
VALUE: 4 out of 5

Spring Street Smokehouse, 640 North Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90012 (213) 626-0535