Monday, September 8, 2008

Beachwood BBQ

Beachwood BBQ
131 1/2 Main St
Seal Beach, CA 90740

Beachwood BBQ is another one of those places that gets all the little details right but seems to miss the big picture.

First, the good stuff. They have perhaps the best beer selection I have ever seen in a restaurant. Most bars don't even have this good a selection: New Belgium Eric's Ale, Russian River Pliny The Elder, Moonlight Brewing Death & Taxes, Sierra Nevada Harvest, and at least a dozen more. Having stated my preference for drinking Budweiser with barbecue, I have to admit that this beer selection is phenomenal.

Almost as exciting, they have four homemade sauces on each table for you. A sweet sauce, spicy sauce, mustard sauce, and vinegar sauce. I did not try the sweet sauce, but the spicy was great, although, curiously, not at all spicy. The mustard was unique - it was made with dijon and tasted like Grey Poupon mixed with vinegar. It tasted good but I doubted it would be good on a sandwich (I was wrong.) The vinegar sauce, made with red wine vinegar and chili flakes, was great; other than Johnny Rebs', it was probably the best North Carolina-style sauce I have had in Southern California.

Now, the not-so-good stuff. The pulled pork on my sandwich was dry and tasted like it had been smoked a couple days earlier. After three or four bites I put a lot of sauce on the pork just so it wouldn't taste so dry. And the pretzel bun it came on, while tasty, had no business being served with pulled pork. If you are proud of your barbecue, I don't understand why you would want to serve it on a hard roll or a fancy roll, and this was both. I also ordered a side of their "tangy" coleslaw. Not only was it not tangy, it did not seem to have any dressing on it at all. It literally tasted like cabbage and nothing else (I poured some of the vinegar barbecue sauce on it, though, and it tasted better.)

Still, overall I do like the place. My friend got the pulled chicken sandwich and I took a bite: it was much better than my pork. The fries were great, and even though the place was packed (noon on a hot Saturday) the service was great and everybody in there seemed to be having a good time. Do you know that atmosphere in September at a bar or a backyard barbecue where the summer is obviously slipping away but everyone pretends not to notice? That's what it felt like in Seal Beach and Beachwood BBQ on Saturday.

I am not a big fan of the beach (it took us 20 minutes to find a parking space several blocks away) so I don't know if I will be going back to Beachwood BBQ anytime soon. But if they were closer to me I would definitely try them again to see if maybe they were just having an off day with the barbecue. There are enough other things about the place that I like to deserve me giving them another try.

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