I had the opportunity to check out BBQ restaurant Wood Ranch's new fast casual dining concept WR Kitchen & Bar in Laguna Niguel -- located in Southern Orange County, California. Pick up the menu at the entrance, order at the bar, then pick up a pager and wait for the food to be delivered to your table. The interior atmosphere is lively with plenty of TV screens. The exposed ceiling wood beams and and wood accents is a nice touch as well.
Most of the favorites from the Wood Ranch menu are available, along with the introduction of several new menu items like brisket caramel popcorn, buffalo cauliflower, and a variety of tacos with brisket, roasted cauliflower, chicken, and more. I especially liked the brisket tacos. The buffalo cauliflower was very good, as well. Although deep fried, at least you're getting your vegetable fix. The bleu cheese crumble can be a bit overpowering, however. Although the caramel popcorn could use more of the bits of brisket on top, it is the perfect sweet and savory combo to complement a cold beer.
WR Kitchen & Bar offers an a la carte menu, which provides the guest with more options to customize based on portion size or healthier alternatives. For example, instead of the corn tortillas for the tacos, you have the option of butter lettuce cups. Perfect for those who want to avoid carbs.
WR Kitchen & Bar 28061 Greenfield Dr Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Phoenix for a work conference trip. As soon as I booked my flight and hotel, I immediately mapped out the location for Little Miss BBQ. I'm not sure how I initially found out about Little Miss BBQ -- perhaps through Yelp or Instagram -- but I knew the place came highly, highly rated.
I arrived shortly after 9AM on a beautiful day in October. I wanted to arrive early and be among the first customers because I had to head back to the downtown area in the early afternoon. Located in an industrial area, it was easy to locate the Little Miss BBQ sign. I was greeted warmly by several employees prepping for the upcoming lunch rush -- everyone was so nice and made sure that I was comfortable by letting me know about the water cooler and that I was welcome to use one of the chairs since I still had another hour and half to go before the 11AM opening time.
I killed some time by checking out the menu written on a piece of cardboard, and by observing a couple of the workers by two massive pit barrel smokers. I even ran into the owner who was dropping off some things, we chit chatted a bit about his BBQ competition days and how I traveled from Southern California for work but had to stop by for some brisket.
About an hour or so before opening, the line really started to grow -- maybe about 40-50 deep. I thought it was great that they put up a covered area for everyone waiting in line. While the weather was fantastic in October, I can't imagine how hot is it during the sweltering summer months pushing 110+ degrees F. About 15 minutes or so before opening, they even passed around some homemade smoked sausage for everyone to try.
At 11AM on the dot, the doors flew open and I was the first customer of the day. My stomach was eating itself at this point I was so hungry! The worker slicing the brisket offered a sample of the brisket, and that piece of meat just literally melted in my mouth. I ordered the 2-meat plate which comes with two sides. At just $1 extra, I ordered the double fatty brisket which was about 3/4 of a pound, along with coleslaw and potato salad. You can also ask for pickles, onions, and a few slices of white bread.
The fatty brisket is one of the best brisket I've had -- beautiful smoke ring, perfectly smoked, and just the right amount of seasoning. I had high expectations going in, but my actual experience went above and beyond. Even the sides were excellent, something that many BBQ places simply neglect to focus on the meat. With no breakfast and waiting a couple of hours on a growling stomach all morning, I destroyed that entire plate in just minutes!
Little Miss BBQ is the best Central Texas style BBQ I've had on the West coast (aside from my own brisket, of course). Phoenix is lucky to have this place, and I will return soon if and when I'm ever back in Phoenix. 5/5 stars.
Recently I discovered that my local Costco started selling uncut USDA prime bone-in short ribs for just under $5 a pound. That is an absolute steal, because many specialty butcher shops charge up to $16 per pound for these "plate" short ribs. They are vacuum-sealed and are approximately 8-9 pounds. I couldn't resist and threw them in my shopping cart.
I already wrote about my experience smoking BBQ beef short ribs last year. If you love BBQ and if you already have a smoker, the BBQ beef short rib is truly one of the best pieces of meat to smoke. Short rib comes from the lower part of the ribs from the cow, and are usually cut into thinner and smaller pieces most often seen at the butcher shop from your typical grocery store.
But when these beef short ribs are left uncut, or as "plated" beef ribs -- you can transform them into a monster short rib that is juicy, succulent, and full of beefy flavor. At many BBQ restaurants, if they happen to make these available, they charge anywhere from $25-30 PER rib. For about $45 at Costco, one package yields about 6-7 ribs.
Since I love Texas-style BBQ, I used a simple salt and pepper rub and threw it on my Weber Smokey Mountain at 225 degrees F with pecan wood to give it a subtle touch of sweetness versus the heavier flavor of hickory. After about 3 hours, I took a peek at the ribs.
You can see that the meat has pulled away from the edges of the bones. The edges started to caramelize faster than some other parts, so I made sure to rotate the grill so that the bark would form more evenly on all sides.
After about 5 hours in the smoker, the internal temp of the beef ribs hovered around 190-195 degrees F, so I pulled them out of the smoker and wrapped the ribs in butcher paper to let the meat rest and for the juices to redistribute. It was agonizing to wait for about a hour, since I was hungry and it smelled so good! When I finally cut through the first rib, it exposed the slightly pink smoke ring as well as a slightly pink color throughout the meat from the hours of smoking.
What makes the beef short ribs so good, so that there is very little fat wasted during and after the smoking process. Unlike the beef brisket, where you have to trim a considerable amount of fat before smoking, the fat is already dispersed throughout the ribs. The texture is very similar to the brisket point -- or the burnt ends of the brisket. The end result is a super juicy rib FULL of beef flavor, rendered fat with a subtle kiss of smoke. Plus, unlike the brisket, short ribs are very difficult to screw up and overcook.
So the next time you see uncut beef short ribs at Costco, or anywhere else for that matter, pick them up! Everyone will want to be your best friend.