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Lucille's in Lake Forest provides down home barbecue in an upscale atmosphere

Fried Green Tomatoes at Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que
Fried Green Tomatoes at Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que
Edward Simon

Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que restaurant


Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que is certainly a home-grown barbecue, having started in Long Beach and spread through Orange County. They do the meats correctly, smoked in a huge smoker for many hours. Constant blues music fills the place, adding to the atmosphere of a southern barbecue roadhouse. The Lake Forest location is constantly busy and offers not only a nice outdoor patio but a dedicated window for ease with take out orders. On occasion, they have live music in their “Flying Pig Lounge”.

Double Smoked Pork Belly with Southern Grits and Green Tomato Chutney
Edward Simon

It is hard to beat starting a barbecue meal without a nice drink to enjoy. Besides the usual list from their full bar, Lucille's has a specialty list that is interesting to try. The Rye Berry splash came in a large glass. The berry flavor was nice and bright, making it drinkable even by someone at the table who did not like whiskey. That said, it seemed much too muted, creating a drink that was refreshing but seemingly devoid of the rye whiskey it was based upon. For a non-drinker, it is a really good choice, but if you appreciate a good Tennessee whiskey, you may just want to order a glass of something special like their Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Whiskey.

A must to order is the Fried Green Tomatoes. This popular Southern dish is done extremely well at Lucille's. The crispiness of the crust against the tanginess of the green tomato, all contrasted by the slightly spicy-sweet roasted red pepper sauce, make this a dish of nice contrasts to share as an appetizer. It is easy to see why this dish has inspired even books and movies. Using their fresh-baked biscuits to sop up the rest of the red pepper sauce is highly recommended.

All the main dishes are available in several sizes. One of the people at the table ordered the rib standard, the baby back pork ribs. These are one of Lucille's signature dishes, and comes either in a half rack or full rack. The ribs were tender, cooked just to the point of extreme tenderness while avoiding the cliché 'falling off the bone' point that true rib aficionados abhor. Instead, there was just enough chewiness to take a bite and leave the rest on the bone. This is how they look for it in the BBQ contests and it is safe to say that Lucille's has gotten the timing down for great pork ribs. They are also available St. Louis style, not as tender but larger and definitely flavorful. Kudos has to be given for the fact that they are more than willing to accommodate guests who for one reason or another want the ribs 'dry', without sauce.

Part of Lucille's specialty Bourbon Street menu, a limited time menu, is the Double Smoked Pork Belly with Green Tomato Chutney and Southern Grits. If this dish does not wind up on the regular menu then many people will be disappointed. Pork belly, one of the pork fan's favorite cuts, is smoked in their huge smoker. At serving time, the tender pork belly is char-grilled before serving. This resulted in a slightly chewy-tender piece of pork with enough fat for flavor and a delicious char-grilled crust. Taking the humble pork belly, basically an uncured slab of bacon and elevating it like this makes for an extremely satisfying dish. The sliced pork belly is served on top of a bed of grits and surrounded by a homemade green tomato chutney, it's sweet-tart flavor a perfect way to cut the richness of the pork belly. This was easily the best dish of the dinner.

Beef ribs are popular more in the Texas region than anywhere else. Platters are available with 3, 5 or 7 ribs plus sides. The beef ribs were a let down, dry and lacking meat. A few bites and one was done. In Flatonia, Texas, there is a place called Joel's BBQ that makes great beef ribs, but these tend to be the prime rib bone size with lots of meat. Lucille's might be wiser to get ribs that are meatier, both to ensure that they stay juicy and not dry and also to give their guest a more tender piece of meat. The beef was tough, not exactly an appealing dish. Five bites and a rib was done, the stringy, chewy meat very unsatisfying.

No trip is complete to Lucille's without walking over to see their huge smoker. Lucille's certainly is good at what it does, offering good barbecue in a fun atmosphere. As opposed to most barbecue places in Orange County as well as across the country, they offer a nice, upscale and fun experience for everyone. Having the full bar just adds to that experience. Considering that all across the country, some of the best barbecue places such as the Brick Pit in Mobile, Alabama and Franklin's Barbecue in Austin, Texas offer great barbecue, served to eat on picnic tables and with nothing more than beer and sodas and you will find that Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que certainly provides good barbecue in an excellent atmosphere.

Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que

23760 El Toro Road

Lake Forest, CA 92630

Ph: (949) 581-7427

Other locations in Long Beach and Orange County