Amazing beef ribs and fall-off-the-bone tender baby backs steal the show at Baby Blues BBQ

By Richard Foss (

The Baby Blues Beef Rib: Slow-smoked, grill-finished

The Baby Blues Beef Rib: Slow-smoked, grill-finished

If you can name only one Westside barbecue joint, it’s probably Baby Blues BBQ.

Even if you haven’t eaten there, you know it from the blue awning that usually has people hanging out underneath. It’s been a Lincoln Boulevard landmark for over a decade.

On days when the wind is from the east, you know there’s a barbecue nearby even if you can’t see it, since there’s a faint scent of roasting goodness wafting through traffic.

I first went to Baby Blues when it opened in 2004 and was wowed — I had been going to the Valley or South Central for barbecue, and now there was someplace respectable close to home. I visited several times after that, but then the place fell off my radar. I remembered it again when I had friends visiting from New Zealand who came off the plane and announced that they wanted American barbecue, and they wanted it now.

The restaurant hadn’t changed much — it has the same view as you enter of a kitchen where flames were shooting through the grill, the same eclectic primitive Americana on the walls, even some of the same garage rock on the sound system.

The menu was a bit smaller, but the essentials were there: ribs, of course, chicken, fried fish and sautéed shrimp, plus the wide array of sides. That was always the thing that made the difference to me, that they went beyond the greens and beans and offered American regional items to round out a complete and satisfying meal.

We decided to order the sautéed shrimp as well as a rib and brisket combo, and on a whim I decided to also get a single beef rib just to see what they were like. I had never tried a beef rib at Baby Blues —never seen one, in fact — but I figured it would be a nice thing that the three
of us could share along with the rest of our meal.

As it turned out, that item arrived first, and I suddenly understood why the beef ribs aren’t available on any of the combination plates. The thing was almost a foot long, and instead of a bone with a half-inch of meat clinging to the side, a thick piece of prime rib meat stretched from end to end. The one rib was a meal by itself, and we fell to cutting and pulling tender bits from it. The rib had been rubbed with seasonings before being slow-smoked and grill finished with a sweet and spicy sauce, and it was simply the best beef rib I can remember having.

The rib and brisket combination arrived soon afterward, and we were pleased to see that there were varied preparations on each. The meaty baby backs were simple and fall-off-the-bone tender, while the brisket slices had been crusted with peppercorn and spices before slow roasting.

They weren’t sauced, but four sauces were available, ranging from mild to an assertive hot sauce marked “porno” for its triple x rating. The porno sauce did have some flavor under the heat but was not my favorite — when you have meat of this quality, why would you pour jalapenos on it? The other sauces were considerably better, and the sweet-kick was my favorite.

We had ordered four side items, since the meals here come with two each, and I had asked for a glass of wine. Three side items showed up, but the shrimp and wine didn’t, and after some time I flagged down our server who had been in a conversation with a co-worker in the other room. She had forgotten the wine and hadn’t put in the shrimp, apparently because she thought we had wanted the beef instead. Once we saw the beef we realized we really didn’t need another entrée, but it would have been nice if she had checked. I think she was having an off day, because service here is usually much more professional.

After this was straightened
out she brought the other side dish we had ordered, so we had mac and cheese, collard greens, coleslaw and creamed spinach.

The slaw was OK but a bit mild — I like a bit more celery seed or cider vinegar, something to give it some extra kick and flavor.

The greens were as good as greens get, the slight natural bitterness and funkiness tamed by slow cooking in a slightly sweet and savory sauce. I order these on every trip, and am always glad I did.

The mac and cheese didn’t quite reach those Olympian heights, but it was quite good if you like yours baked a while rather than creamy. And since I like them baked, I was happy.

The only item that didn’t work was the creamed spinach, which had an odd burnt flavor. After one bite each we focused on the other items, and because portions are large here we were still too full for dessert.

Baby Blues offers soft drinks and a pretty good beer list, but only one red and one white wine. Corkage is $15, so those who like to bring their own won’t be clobbered for the privilege.

Dinner for three with two glasses of wine ran $85, and there are other combos on the menu that feed four to six people for $95. Those don’t include the amazing beef ribs, but they do offer a family meal with lots of great barbecue for around $20 per person.

That’s a great reason to stop in and acquaint yourself with a landmark, or reacquaint yourself like I did. I’m glad I went back and won’t wait so long until the next time.