I judge the quality of life in a city by the quality of its barbecue and the number of chocolate stores within or close to the city limits. I haven’t checked all the candy stores yet, but I’ve had some mighty good BBQ, and so far my favorite is Baby Blues.
WHERE: 444 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, 90291: (310) 396-7675.
WHEN: I like a BBQ that’s open every day of the week so I go as soon as I get the hankerin’! Monday — Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sundays, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Too bad they’re not open for breakfast.
BEST DISHES: That’s pretty easy here because everything is so good. The ribs are great. I prefer the Memphis, a bit more dry and spicy. The pulled pork is just right. Even the shrimp are exceptional. But the unexpected treat is in the side dishes: real okra and whipped sweet potatoes like Ida Mae used to make back home. Macaroni and cheese on the side and, of course, corn bread.
PRICES: The platters run from $13 to $25, and it’s plenty for two. A whole chicken is only $12.95. You can eat well for under $15, but I usually order too much and take enough home for a couple of meals.
BEST FEATURE: The food, the service, and the three great BBQ sauces: one full of vinegar, one slightly sweet (good with the shrimp) and one pretty hot and spicy (especially good on the pulled pork).
WORST FEATURE: Clearly the pictures on the wall, all of which are for sale and, I suspect, always will be.
WHAT TO DRINK: They have a special sweet iced tea, and now I heard that they serve beer, but I didn’t see any last time I was there.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s worth a visit once a week or so, after several days of dieting.
Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.