811 South Long Beach Blvd.
Compton, CA 90221
For months I have read reviews about Bludso's, always with a mix of skepticism and excitement. Reviews were, quite simply, the best of any new barbecue place I have seen in Southern California. Part of me was reluctant to head down there, afraid that the restaurant could not possibly live up to the hype. (Another part of me felt no need to go down there, perfectly content with eating every barbecue meal from now on at Perdue's - the most authentically Southern BBQ joint I have found in the San Gabriel Valley.)
And, as evidenced by the fact I have not posted in three months, I don't usually eat barbecue in the winter. It's not that I enjoy it any less, it's just not what comes to mind when I'm considering what to eat. But there was a bit of a break in the rain, pitchers and catchers report in less than a week, and my thoughts started turning to spring, to baseball and barbecue and Bludso's.
Last week was the final straw: Jonathan Gold reviewed Bludso's, calling it (in an article entitled Monet's Briskets): "what all of us imagine a Los Angeles barbecue joint should be." I emailed the review to my friend Zach, who I knew was going to be up this way for a few days, and he immediately suggested we go there.
We headed out on the early side, getting down to Compton about a quarter after 11. (We were the only ones there while we waited for our food; by the time we left a half hour later there was a line spilling out of the building and down the street.) The look of the place was simple and familiar, an unintentional copy of many of my favorite unpretentious barbecue joints around the country: a narrow hallway, a window for ordering and another for picking up, and a simple menu board above the windows.
We considered getting the Texas Sampler - all of their meats with a couple of sides, but Zach remarked that he'd read it was way too much food. So I ordered a pulled pork sandwich with a side of cole slaw, and Zach went for the chopped beef sandwich. We both requested hot sauce rather than mild. The food was ready in fifteen minutes. There is a tiny counter inside but it was a nice day so we opted to take the food and sit in the bed of Zach's truck.
"I'm sticking in some forks and lots of napkins," the friendly woman behind the window said. "You guys will need them."
I pulled my foil-wrapped sandwich out and sat it on the bedliner. It was roughly the size of the plush football I keep next to the couch to toss around while watching sports (or hurl at the wall while watching Lamar Odom brick layups.) I unwrapped it carefully and studied it, trying to decide how to approach it. The sandwich was massive and sauce and stray pieces of pork poked out of the sides. I picked it up delicately although it made no difference: I dripped the innards of the sandwich everywhere, a perfect porcine piñata.
The pork was beautiful - tender and juicy with almost no fat. I'd read several reviews complimenting the beef and brisket and disparaging the pork, calling it dry. But this was certainly not the case with this sandwich. The sauce was great. Although it is thicker than I usually like (I am a big fan of vinegar and chili flakes with nothing else added) it was the perfect amount of heat: plenty spicy, but not so much that it stings your lips for the next half hour (my one complaint about Perdue's.)
The cole slaw was unremarkable. There was almost no dressing on it, which I suppose is preferable to being drenched in dressing, but it mostly tasted like cabbage and nothing else. I added some to my last few bites of the sandwich.
I tried some of Zach's chopped beef. It was even better than the pork. Smoky and tender and almost melting on the tongue. While I am from the Carolina school of barbecue - only pork, very little sauce - Zach prefers the Texas style: beef. He was very pleased with this.
If the line hadn't been so long I absolutely would have ventured back and tried a couple hot links. Oh well, there is always next time. There most definitely will be a next time.