Friday, March 19, 2010

Singing the Baby Blues (BBQ) Mac

By Suzy Gruyere

I saw Baby Blues BBQ on a rerun of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and decided it was time to check out their macaroni and cheese, which has been reviewed favorably by some of my friends. I was surprised to discover a bustling biker bar vibe inside, but I settled onto a comfortable barstool and immersed myself in the cacophony.

I ordered the brisket dinner because it was St. Patrick’s Day and I figured it was the closest I’d get to having corned beef and cabbage that day. Things got off to a bad start when my food arrived on a New York Yankees dinner plate, but I decided not to hold that against them.

I usually love brisket, but this one, not so much. It was more like pot roast or ropa vieja, simultaneously chunky and stringy and with no discernible smoke flavor. (Later I noticed the menu called it “beer braised brisket,” so I guess they don’t smoke it at all. Boo!) A dose of Baby Blues’ sweet bbq sauce lent some molasses flavor, which I amped up with a dash of their XXX hot stuff. This was an improvement but it still didn’t approach my ideal of barbeque joint brisketness.

I appreciated the combination of black, kidney and pink beans which appeared to be cooked from a dried state (not canned). The cornbread seemed like it would have been excellent the day before.

But of course we’re all here for the mac. The good news is that Baby Blues BBQ’s macaroni and cheese is polite and respectable in a Southern belle kind of way. The bad news is that it utterly fails to hold its own against everything else raging on the plate.

The noodles are those large, ridged elbows that are turning up all over the place lately, and they were a little on the soft side for me. The sauce was viscous and clingy, oozy and stretchy, yet it was not incredibly cheesy. I’d bet this is a roux-based sauce, and the only cheese is Cheddar. I prefer a more assertive cheese presence, but I responded well to the creamy texture.

It looked like the sauce had “broken” a bit but it didn’t feel gritty on my tongue. It was actually quite pleasant going down the hatch. Unfortunately, its subtle charms were completely overpowered by the complex acidic and sweet flavors going on in the sauced meat and beans.

The service at Baby Blues BBQ was prompt and very friendly. When she delivered my meal just minutes after I ordered it, my server spent a few moments explaining the five different sauces I could try, and later the bartender made sure I’d been briefed. I sampled them, and they were all quite different and tasty. And look at this adorable takeout container!

Keen eyed readers will note the absence of any leftover mac and cheese. That’s right, bitches. I ate it all. And I’d do it again.

I must mention the prices. My dinner (the lowest-priced entrée) was $13.95 and that seemed reasonable, but $8.50 for a sandwich with no sides? Six hushpuppies for $6.95? Two-fifty for a glass of Kool Aid?? Honestly.

Later I read some reviews on Yelp and, according to that consensus, I’d ordered poorly. I love okra, sweet potatoes and greens, so next time I’ll try the side order sampler. Including macaroni and cheese, natch. Without the interference of barbeque sauce, it would have a chance to stand on its own merits and excel.

Baby Blues BBQ
7953 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90046
(323) 656-1277


Just me: A beautiful disaster! said...

That mac n cheese looks good. Jack's BBQ in Nashville has the BEST mac and cheese I've ever had!!! Mmmm