Smoke City’s Michael Gans: 4 Great Bites Near LA

A series about LA chefs and the off-night food they love.

Not too many places are holier for barbecue aficionados than Lockhart, Texas, a 30-minute drive south from Austin. It’s representative of a style commonly referred to as Hill Country Barbecue. The area annually draws 250,000 visitors intent on experiencing the primal methods of pit-smoked meats. Time-honored establishments like Smitty’s and Kreuz duke it out just like the Giants and Dodgers (in barbecue as in baseball, opinions never settle). This particular brand of barbecue developed out of butcher shops operated by Czech and German settlers in the mid-1800s. Meat is served on butcher paper, with a side of raw onion, white bread, and pickles. Asking for sauce or utensils is practically an insult.

Smoke City Market in Sherman Oaks grew out of this tradition. Its meats smoke as long as 14 hours over traditional white oak, a milder wood than mesquite or hickory, so the flavor of the meats comes through. After opening in 2010, Smoke City quickly won the praises of critics for brisket, sausages, and pastrami, and has since invigorated a stretch of Van Nuys that desperately needed a boost. I chatted up managing partner and co-pitmaster Michael Gans and asked him to steer us to some of his favorite local dining destinations, places where you do, in fact, need a plate.

THIS CHEESESTEAK IS SPOT-ON

“They do a very traditional sandwich that reminds me of the Geno’s style in Philadelphia, with white American cheese, peppers, and the same kind of D’Ambrosio-type bread that they used to use back East.”
Philly’s Best [Encino]
17200 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 229, Encino; 818-990-0977 (multiple other locations)

JUST … CLAMS AND CHORIZO

“It’s a great place to come and share tapas. They have really good steamed clams in a chorizo broth with some garlic crostini.”
Bow & Truss [North Hollywood]
11122 Magnolia Boulevard, North Hollywood; 818-985-8787

THAT $21 BUTTERMILK FRIED CHICKEN THOUGH

“This place always lives up to my expectations. For the type of food you’re getting, everything is reasonably priced.”
Post & Beam [Baldwin Hills]
3767 Santa Rosalia Drive, Los Angeles; 323-299-5599

PERFECTLY JUICY ON THE INSIDE

“I order the Blue Dog burger with thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, cheese, and caramelized onions. It has great char on the outside and a perfectly juicy interior. I love the atmosphere with all the dog pictures on the wall too.”
Blue Dog Beer Tavern [Sherman Oaks]
4524 Saugus Avenue, Sherman Oaks; 818-990-2583

Photo credits: Michael Gans photo courtesy of Michael Gans; Flickr member valleytimes2; Bow & Truss / Facebook; Post & Beam / Facebook; Blue Dog Beer Tavern

Justin Bolois is a writer living in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBolois.