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Where to find Texas-style barbecue in Southern California

Dishes served at Heritage Barbecue in San Juan Capistrano. Dishes served at Heritage Barbecue in San Juan Capistrano. | Photo by John Troxell

The West Coast may not have a reputation for bountiful barbecue, but with a little digging you’ll find plenty of impressive Southern California joints doling out saucy, sticky plates of meaty mains and stellar sides, often based on longtime family recipes.

If you’re seeking fall-off-the-bone brisket, real-deal ribs, or the baked beans of your dreams, the good news is you won’t have to drive too far. The bad news is you may have to wear your best stretchy pants. Here are a few local favorites.

Heritage Barbecue, San Juan Capistrano

Husband-and-wife team Daniel and Brenda Castillo opened their outdoor barbecue restaurant in the middle of the pandemic. In true Central Texas style, they season their proteins—including brisket, pork spareribs, sausage, turkey breast, and chicken—with salt and pepper and slow smoke them over California white oak.

Most items are plated with tart pickled red onions and jalapeños, a rustic mustard-based sauce, and thick slices of potato bread. Globally inspired rotating specials might include a pastrami torta, pork belly musubi, or brisket bánh mì.

Bowlegged BBQ, San Diego

The Stance family brings smoky East Texas–style barbecue “with San Diego soul” to the masses. Their Mount Hope eatery has walls covered in framed vinyl records and a comfy open-air patio out back. Everything is house-smoked. The signature sandwich includes a warm bun layered with hot links, Bowlegged’s beloved brisket, onions, pickles, and the Stances’ secret sauce. Pair it with sides of dirty rice, collard greens, and black-eyed peas. Save room for a slice of sweet potato pie.

Joey’s Bar-B-Q, Chino

This 40-plus-year-old joint prides itself on smoking its meats over massive mesquite-and-hickory pits. Go for tried-and-true classics like juicy baby back ribs, barbecue chicken, pulled pork, and country sausage stuffed on-site, or try the linguine tossed with a spicy barbecue sauce; house-made barbecue potato chips; or fries loaded with burnt ends. Vegetarians can opt for the refreshing spiced watermelon salad or the Veg-a-bob, skewered charbroiled vegetables served alongside a cheesy dipping sauce.

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