Bludso's BBQ
Bludso's BBQ is the best around Credit: Merv Hecht

I love BBQ. I grew up in a big family in Freeport Illinois that got together for outside BBQs in the summer, presided over by our cook, Ida Mae. Ida Mae was from Mississippi and boy did she know how to barbeque. For me, as it was for Ida Mae, BBQ is a culture, not just a product. This is why I sometimes say that the typical BBQ baby back ribs in local LA restaurants are not real BBQ. For one thing, they are not smoked. For another, they don’t come with the right side dishes. Not to mention that usually the sauce is too bland and not properly applied to the meat. There is an art form involved that can easily escape the untrained BBQ expert.

There are few authentic BBQ restaurants on the Westside. There is Holy Cow on 26th Street, but it’s become more of a take-out place and doesn’t have the culture that really makes a BBQ place shine. It wasn’t even mentioned in the big review of BBQ restaurants in a June edition of the LA Times. The only really authentic BBQ on the Westside to my mind is Maple Block on Sepulveda in Culver City. Now, that’s a good BBQ joint.

Many people felt very excited when Bludso’s opened in Santa Monica. In fact, it’s been packed with customers since it opened. I love their La Brea restaurant. Contrary to what I preach, I went there right after it opened instead of waiting for it to mature a few weeks. What a mistake that was! It was way too crowded, and they were out of beans, okra, and — can you believe it? — BBQ sauce! Nevertheless, I had a pretty good dinner, including their famous dinosaur beef bone.

I went back after a couple of weeks for lunch. This time I got everything (sadly, they don’t serve the dinosaur bone at lunch), but it took about 45 minutes for the food to arrive, apparently they were experiencing “a computer glitch.” That happens, and the wait was worth it. The food was delicious despite these minor glitches.

In time, I think this will become the best BBQ around town even if it’s not quite there yet. The pork ribs were good, but the ratio of meat to fat is not exactly fine-tuned the way I like it yet. The brisket — their specialty — while moist, smoky, and tender, also has a very high ratio of fat to meat so the actual cost, since they charge by the pound, is high. Still, I have to admit, it is the best BBQ brisket that I’ve had in a long time. I trimmed the fat off and put the tender meat on a bun and thoroughly enjoyed the full cultural experience.

I will also mention that their baked beans are excellent, and while they have fried okra, there was too much breading over the pieces of okra for my taste. The two sauces they served were also delicious and flavorful.

Even though they don’t have a smoker on the premises, causing them to rely on getting the meats from their La Brea location, I will have to call this place a “real BBQ restaurant” with plenty of good dishes to choose from and you’ll probably see me there on a regular basis.

Bludso’s BBQ

1329 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica


Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3d edition” is available on Amazon. He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally. Please send your comments to: