There’s a story around all great food. And there’s a place in L.A. that tells a whopper.
It’s called Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, and the story goes like this:
Homemade comfort food made by people who are truly excited about what they offer.
When telling their story, the folks at Lucille’s don’t hesitate to say they are the best. In fact, here’s the tale they’ve created around themselves and their 13 locations.
The best bar-b-que in the County. Or maybe the State. Or maybe the whole South. That’s what folks said about the barbecue Lucille Buchanan grew up eating in her Grandma’s lunch shack, a tiny little nothing of a place on a back road in a small town way outside of Greenville.
As soon as Lucille was tall enough to clear tables, Granny put her to work during summers and on weekends. She shared her secrets with Lucille on how to make the best bar-b-que . . . special spice rubs and savory wet 'mops’ and sauces Lucille had to swear she’d never share with a soul.
Most of all, she showed Lucille how to cook bar-b-que nice and slow, for hours on end in the gentle smoke of hickory wood, until the meat became sweet and succulent and so tender it would fall off the bone if you so much as looked at it.
Drawn into the romance of it all? That’s exactly the point. Who cares if there really was a Lucille or not (we’re not telling). Her legend is enough to have created a memorable taste and comfort experience for anyone who loves food.
Craig Hofman is the owner and president, who works with Paul Williamson, VP of Operations, and Executive Chef Chris Ferrell to make the legend come alive every day. “We started out wanting to get into more upscale dining,” says Ferrell, “and when we looked at what was missing, bar-be-que was right for the picking.”
The did their research, too. “Craig spent several years traveling the South,” says Ferrell. “My own background was as a chef with bar-b-que as a hobby. If you came to my house, most likely you were going to get some sauce, some ribs, some chicken.” He adds, “It’s like fishing or golfing. Only better.”
He’s translated that passion into the menu at Lucille’s. “When I got the phone call from Craig, I was excited,” he says. “To me, the best thing was that he was focused on his vision for authentic bar-b-que.” And then the passion takes over, as Ferrell launches into just a taste of what he knows about bar-b-que.
Definition of Bar-B-Que
“There is great confusion in the world over what bar-b-que is,” he says. “It’s the oldest form of cooking. It’s about the meat. It means cooking it low and slow, with an indirect heat source, for a long period of time.”
Grilling Versus Bar-B-Que “Hamburgers and hot dogs—technically, that’s grilling. Smoking and bar-b-que are different than grilling. It used to be you bar-b-qued a lower cut of meat to tenderize and flavor it. Now we use certified Angus beef, and the finest ingredients from top to bottom.”
It’s About the Meat
“Another really common mistake is, they think it’s more about the sauce than the meat. For us, it’s a sin to cover up the naturally flavored smoke taste. We’ve spent days preparing a piece of meat. We don’t want to put a smoke flavored sauce on it. We’re purists.”
Meat for the Masses
“Traditionally, most bar-b-que is made by Mom & Pop places, meaning smaller quantities. Our challenge is to create authentic southern style bar-b-que for the masses. Our smoker holds 1500 pounds of meat, and we use hickory wood. We smoke 10-15,000 pounds of meat per week. We go through a million pounds of tri-tips and a million-plus pounds of baby backs in a year. And we’ve figured out how to easily replicate what we do in multiple kitchens.”
Cooking from Scratch
“We are a scratch kitchen. Homemade biscuits. Apple buttter. Salad dressings. Dessert sauces, like caramel and whisky. Lemonade. All homemade. Our guests can discern the difference—they know our food quality is higher.”
“We have three kitchen managers per location, who are responsible for production and quality. We have something called a 'taste plate,’ where we take all of our products twice a day and ensure all key ingredients are where they need to be in quality and freshness.”
“We only add sauce in the last 10 minutes of cooking, just to finish the bar-b-que. The sauce is made with our signature recipe. We don’t use liquid smoke. Our original sauce is a Carolina style. We have a mustard-based Memphis style, and a Hot and Spicy that is souped up with garlic, red pepper, and more. We use molasses, honey and pure ingredients.”
We have smoker cooks, and all they do is prep, rub and smoke—they are specialists. We smoke our own hams. We smoke jalapenos, tomatoes—anything we can put in our smoker, we do. We’re hard core.”
Ferrell ties it all together by saying, “American food never got the respect it deserves. Just think about pork chops, and macaroni and cheese. It may not be on the culinary map, but it’s good eating!”
At Lucille’s, that eating includes appetizers such as pork rib tips, fried dill pickles, onion straws, fried green tomatoes, Dixie egg rolls (with diced BBQ chicken, andouille sausage, grilled corn, Southern braised greens and jack cheese), fried okra, chicken strips, and tri-tip quesadillas—all served on a big appetizer platter if you can’t decide on just one!
It includes great salads and sides, like Flame-Roasted Sweet Corn, Creamy Cheese Grits, Honey Roasted Peanut Slaw, and Macaroni and Cheese.
And, of course, the meat. You can get Blackened Catfish, BBQ Shrimp, Fried Pork Chop, Jambalaya, Southern Fried Chicken, Baby Back Ribs, Spare Ribs, Beef Brisket, Tri Tip . . . or go for Lucille’s Super Feast and feed the whole family with racks of ribs, BBQ chicken, pulled pork, rib tips, and more.
You can get sandwiches, burgers and soups, like the Corn Chowder, served with hot biscuits and apple butter. And, of course, desserts, like Chris’s Bread Pudding, a true comfort food phenomenon.
“In troubled times, people fall back to Mom’s mac and cheese, or Grandma’s fried chicken and gravy,” says Ferrell. “I’ve been watching the emergence of comfort food. Everywhere it’s mac and cheese, and country gravy. Real food that for many years you could only get in “ethnic” restaurants.”
He pauses, and adds, “Butter is much healthier than manufactured substitutes. Diet is about portion control.”
That’s his story. And he’s sticking to it.
See our video from Lucille’s here.
Read Executive Chef Chris Ferrell’s path to Lucille’s, here.
Want to see us happily over-indulge? Check out this video of the Lucille’s Feast.
See our blog from the Los Angeles tour, Passion, Pride & Pleasure.
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