A few years ago I took a summer job selling educational books door-to-door in Connecticut with the Southwestern Company; as such, my fellow UC Berkeley salespeople and I drove all the way across the country, first to Tennessee for a week-long sales camp and then up to the Constitution State.
This cross-country drive was a very significant moment for me: I passed through more than twenty states and saw parts of the United States that had been little more to me than pictures or words. The only bad thing about this trip was that it was done at breakneck speed: we went from Berkeley to New Haven in the equivalent of about five days, which meant we drove about 18 hours a day.
Needless to say, we couldn’t eat very much more than fast food. For instance, I now love Sonic, which is not really in the Los Angeles county area. But we couldn’t sit down for a nice meal or really interact too much with the inhabitants of most of the states through which we passed.
This was not the case for my Berkeley friend, James, who made it a mission to drive around the South and try as many different iterations of pulled pork BBQ sandwiches as possible. His trip is documented on his blog, The Eaten Path: you should really read his extremely entertaining account of his magnificently cholesterol-laden trip, which you access by clicking here.
James and I had opportunity to meet up yesterday for some BBQ here in California–specifically, Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach, of all places. He had written about Beachwood BBQ in The Eaten Path (here), and I was feenin’ it for a while. Of course, Seal Beach is 30 miles away from South Pasadena, so it was a bit too far for a casual visit. Well, the 710 to the 5 to the 605 fixed that, and I was sitting across the booth from James, waiting for our fried green tomato sandwich with sweet potato fries to arrive.
That was our appetizer. I’ve never had a sandwich as an appetizer before, but I was glad we ordered it: it was a few slices of deep-fried green tomato with smoked mozzarella and lettuce on a French roll. It was heartbreaking; it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life. I would have been tempted to order more, except we had ordered a three-meat combo plate as well.
The three meats on the combo were pork ribs, beef brisket, and hot link sausage. The plate also came with tangy slaw and some sort of sliced carrot dish, though there were also almost a dozen other sides from which to choose.
The pork ribs were delicious: substantial yet tender, well-seasoned. They weren’t saucy but were either in a marinade or dry rub or something (I’m not a BBQ expert!); the spicy vinegar and different sauces at the table added a little bit of extra kick. The beef brisket was tender but not very special otherwise–bland and a bit dry, actually. The hot link was indeed hot and very satisfying.
To wash it all down, James had a black lager which I found to be a bit flabby. Luckily, I had the Stone Ruination Ale which had good body and almost a chewy texture. It was hoppy but was well-balanced with a good malty character. It also had this herbaceous aftertaste that I still can’t put my finger on.
I also had the “Hop It” from the Urthel brewery in Belgium. I wanted something even hoppier than the Ruination; in fact, I asked the server for the hoppiest thing on the menu. She recommended the appropriately named Hop it. My first sip was disappointing: “This isn’t hoppy at all, James!” I exclaimed to my eating partner. He tried it and said, “Joon, this is pretty hoppy.” I refused to believe him until I took
another sip. My God: this thing was the hoppiest thing I’ve ever had in my life (except for the whole dry hops I tasted at a hospitality convention). However, it wasn’t crazy: it was mouth-puckering but had a refreshing citrus profile. I don’t know if it was the best match for all the spicy sauces we were eating.
Overall, I would recommend Beachwood BBQ if you’re already in the area. It has great pork ribs and a pretty extensive beer selection. They have some wines but not many: their corkage is $5.00.