“Where the fork…meets the pork.” Very promising motto, and based on what I heard from trusted L.A. bar owners, Beachwood BBQ owner Gabriel Gordon regularly assembles one of the best beer lists in Southern California. This was going to be a fun way to test Beachwood’s two strengths.
Gordon is a Sonoma County native who grew disenchanted with L.A. and drove south to Orange County to pursue his passions for beer and southern-style barbecue at Beachwood BBQ. He opened two-and-a-half years ago in an airy two-room space only two blocks from the ocean.
Blackboard panels list the selections on Gordon’s 22 rotating taps. He constantly refills his stock and burns through about 10 different kegs a week. Since Beachwood is within striking distance of San Diego’s thriving breweries, you’ll normally find some hoppy S.D. selections on draft. If variety’s your thing, you never know what to expect on tap at Beachwood BBQ.
I started with a pint of North Coast Blue Star ($5.50), a refreshing American style wheat beer, and made sure to steal a sip of Avery Maharaja Double IPA, with some hops that punched me in the palate.
While attending Vanderbilt, it was a short drive to Murfreesboro, where Toot’s specialized in fried pickles. It was a surprise to find Lena’s Famous Fried Pickles ($3.50) on a menu in Southern California. If anything, Gordon’s version was better, since they had thin, crispy sheathes and weren’t nearly as greasy. We dipped them in spicy mustard sauce, which really boosted the flavor.
Beachwood has developed a great reputation for beer, but the sign hypes another offering: BBQ. If I have areas of expertise, barbecue is certainly one of them. I lived for four years in the South and have eaten at dozens of top-flight barbecue spots in barbecue hubs like Texas Hill Country, Memphis, Kansas City and rural North Carolina. Given that, expectations were relatively low for Beachwood’s food, but the ‘cue was respectable for Southern California. However, there’s still no great barbecue in the region.
I opted for a Beachwood Smoked Combo ($15), which comes with a choice of 2 sides and cornbread. The pork was dry rubbed & slow smoked for 13 hours with applewood, pecan & oak until crusty and tender. Brisket was definitely smoky, but for some strange reason, the fatty outer ring was shaved away, leaving the beef too dry. In Texas, the thickness of the smoke ring is an indicator of the brisket’s quality, and those crusty smoke-buffeted exteriors are revered.
On paper, Beachwood BBQ’s sides seemed like a strength. Most of the 15 options sounded enticing. Thin-sliced cayenne & honey glazed carrots were tangy and fairly sweet, but not spicy enough. The collard greens were cooked with a prodigious amount of pork, normally a plus, but in this case that overpowered the vegetable’s flavor. The best side: dense but satisfying blue cheese grits, which featured some kick from the pungent cheese.
The brick of sweet cornbread flecked with dried cranberries was a definite plus, especially when it was slathered with whipped butter.
Did Beachwood BBQ meet expectations? Beer, barbecue and the beach sure seemed like a winning combination. I’d certainly return to Seal Beach for the beer – probably for Gordon’s upcoming sour beer fest. It’s not worth an hour drive to eat Beachwood’s barbecue, but for people who live closer to Seal Beach, it’s definitely worth a try.