Burt Bakman, chef and owner of Los Angeles restaurant Slab Barbecue, is trying to spread the city’s barbecue reputation to southern states like Texas. “The BBQ scene in Los Angeles is really in its infancy,” he said. “The type of BBQ culture they have in Texas, they don’t have here. There’s no reason California can’t be its own BBQ area.”
Slab serves all barbecue classics: Ribs, smoked chicken, brisket, brisket burgers, and side dishes like macaroni and cheese. But Buckman embraces experimentation. “In Texas, you go to different places and you see a lot of people doing the same thing,” Buckman said. “We change it, we find a certain spice, we introduce it, we try something here that we like. We’re not married to a thing.”
Slab also deviates from tradition, operating as a steakhouse in the evenings, and one of the standout dishes is the steak with pepper sauce. Bakman covers a piece of Australian wagyu with the same rubbing agent as the brisket, then puts it in the smoker until it reaches about 115 degrees, then puts it on the grill. He then places the steak on the grill above some hot charcoal and cooks it to about 125 degrees until it’s tender. To serve, he put a layer of chili sauce he made, and put the cut steak on top of the sauce, surrounded by french fries.
“This dish is where we want to see our place move forward, play with more fire and play with more meat,” Buckman said.
The next step is to create a unique seasoning for the restaurant’s steak. “We had a lot of different ideas about different things we wanted to do,” Buckman said. “Something different will excite our regulars, our neighbors, our friends, and make them come and enjoy a different experience.”
Barbecue in Los Angeles is not without its challenges, though. For example, the city government doesn’t allow Slabs to have more than one small smoker, which means the restaurant’s chefs are scrambling to put chops into the smoker, then chicken, then brisket, all back-to-back; Begin preparations for 11:30am service around 7am. “We had to take shifts. We only had one little smoker, and that was all we could do together,” Bakman said. “So, either have this or no BBQ.”