For Sweet and Saucy Downtown BBQ, Head to The Original Texas Barbecue King
I’m beginning to learn that there is no shortage of good BBQ in Los Angeles, provided you know where to look and are willing to drive. The Vendy Awards introduced me to Big Mista’s BBQ back in May (their pig candy is possibly the greatest use of bacon ever invented), last week Ed Levine from Serious Eats took me to Phillip’s in Jefferson Park (totally worth the ride south!), and Bludso’s in Compton is high on my list of places to try. But what if you work… say… Downtown. And don’t have two hours to trek over to Compton, or down to the Torrance Farmer’s Market on a Thursday. What then?
Answer: The Original Texas BBQ King. Located on 7th Street btw. Grand and Olive, the OTBBQ King is one of those places that you could drive by a million times and never notice (even if you were looking for it.)
I don’t know the full story of the Original Texas BBQ King, but here’s what I’ve come to understand… since 1994 they were located on Sunset and Fig, until a couple of years back they moved their operation down to South L.A. (on Vermont and W. 53rd) and opened this tiny outpost in the heart of Downtown.
The best part about the lunch menu is that almost everything is under $10. There’s Texas style ribs (beef or pork), baby backs, rib tips, chicken, brisket (or tri tip), boneless pork loin, ham, turkey and sausage. Want a bit of everything? They do a $12 sampler basket, which can be doubled up for $18… the perfect order if you’ve got a friend to bring along with you.
The sampler basket for one comes with one rib of your choice (two if you want baby backs), chicken, a slice of brisket and a sausage, plus two sides (choose between mac and cheese, collards, beans, potato salad, cole slaw or a garden salad.) Now here’s where it gets messy. The whole plate gets covered in this shockingly sweet and tangy BBQ sauce, which will be a huge shock to anybody expecting real Texas bbq (which is usually just perfectly smoked ribs, brisket and sausage- no sauce necessary.) The pork rib was nice and tender, and the chicken leg in the middle came off the bone real good, but in the end all you really taste is the sauce.
The Texas style beef ribs were the same. The lunch order ($9.50) came with four ribs, also covered in that sauce. I think I liked the pork ribs a bit more… but that’s just a personal preference. The side dishes were all just ok. Nothing great, but nothing terrible either. In contrast to the bbq, the mac and cheese wasn’t saucy at all (if you like it that way) and tasted like cheese, and the beans were tasty enough. The collards were collards, and the cole slaw provided a nice cool contrast to the heavy BBQ sauce. If anything they provided a welcome break from the sauce.
Don’t bother with the cornbread. Dry and terrible.
The biggest issue with the Original Texas BBQ King is the wait time. Even when the place is empty, the food takes a while which is kind of weird for BBQ since everything should already be ready. (It ain’t smoked to order…) The reason for the wait is probably because they don’t actually make the food on 7th Street. It’s made at their location down in South L.A. and brought up to the Downtown location in the morning. So, there is clearly some kind of heating up process that happens once you place your order…
In the end, it really comes down to how much you like super sweet BBQ sauce. If you’re a Texas BBQ purist you’re going to find a lot wrong with the OTBBQ King. If you’re a Downtown office worker who loves it saucey and super sweet… this is going to be your new favorite spot. (Or old favorite spot for those of you who are longtime fans of the king!)
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Barbecue… Downtown… for under $10? Yes please!
- I love my ribs covered in BBQ sauce…
- … and I love that sauce to be super sweet
- Love that you get two sides with your barbecue
- Ever since their original location closed, I’ve been wondering where this place ended up!
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I can’t stand by BBQ sauce that is sickeningly sweet
- Can’t taste the meat, there’s way too much sauce…
- Texas BBQ shouldn’t have sauce on it at all.
- I don’t mind the sauce, but they should at least give you wet naps! This place is a mess
- Waaaaay too slow. I could probably drive to Compton and back in the time they serve up lunch.
- They don’t make the food on site? That’s weird…
- Their cornbread is an embarrassment
The Original Texas Barbecue King, 525 W. 7th Street (btw. Grand & Olive), 213-627-7555