The Food Section, the New York-based website Gourmet calls "the consummate gastronomic blog," is devoting a week to Los Angeles culinary spots. Guest editor Kristin Franklin, a recent L.A. arrival, has discovered Surfas and the Santa Monica farmer's market, reviewed the qualities of the usual burger joints, and raves about finding the Friday barbecue on the historic veterans hospital grounds wedged between Westwood, Brentwood and the Sawtelle neighborhood.
I know what you’re thinking. Yes, the Veterans Affairs campus is the last place I would have thought of to enjoy delicious barbeque while listening to a local jazz band. But following a recommendation from a former co-worker, a few Fridays ago my boyfriend and I found ourselves with trays in hand, waiting in a small line at the Veteran’s Village Diner on the VA campus in Westwood. And here’s the kicker: they smoke their own chicken and ribs.
I knew the barbeque would be good even before I had my first messy bite. As we walked toward building 306, I spotted the two horizontal capsule-like smokers on the perimeter of the large outdoor patio. Manned by barbeque guru Earnest "Pork Chop" Phillips every Friday, the smokers slowly complete the cooking of the ribs and chicken as well as infuse them with a char-like, smoky flavor. The heat is controlled by manually opening and closing the lids, a skill which Pork Chop has delightfully mastered, considering his 35 years experience with everything barbeque. The fall-off-the-bone ribs and crisp-skinned chicken are then slathered with a tangy house-made (yes, house-made) barbeque sauce in the kitchen before brought to the cafeteria line for service. For $6.50 each, we enjoyed our choice of ribs or chicken, two sides, cornbread and a piece of cake. Oh, and the sides are all house-made as well, from rich, comforting macaroni-n-cheese to tender collard greens and tangy potato salad.
The former home for Civil War soldiers (and veterans hospital throughout the 20th century) that straddles Wilshire Boulevard is where the Wadsworth Theatre is located. Brentwood Theatre, temporary home of the Geffen Playhouse, is also there. (OK, she didn't give all the history, so I'm helping her out a bit). Franklin works in the kitchen at West Hollywood’s O-Bar and writes at Babblog.