Smokey Fred's BBQ
129 East Collins Ave.
Orange, CA 92867
I know, another Orange restaurant. It seems like lately we have been meeting up with our north OC friends halfway between us and them. Since we live in Mission Viejo, and they live north of the 91 Freeway, Orange has been the first city that has popped into my mind about a possible meeting spot. With lots of great restaurants to offer, Orange has provided us with some great meals recently, and we hoped that the trend would continue when we visited Smokey Fred's BBQ.
We were meeting my parents on this trip on a recent Friday evening. We got here a few minutes earlier than my parents, (a rare occurrence), and surveyed the area a bit. This is not a fancy shopping center, to say the least. There's a liquor store at one corner, and an apparent local favorite, Pancho's Mexican restaurant, which had a very steady stream of customers making their way into it for what I have heard are combination plates smothered in cheese. We contemplated jumping ship, and trying Pancho's, but we held our ground and entered Fred's.
Smokey Fred's is not a big place, and it's not going to blow you away with it's decor. There are three tables, a long bar with some chairs facing the wall, no soda fountain, and no air conditioning. What Fred's does have is the sweet smell of barbecue when you walk through the door. That was more than enough for me to be excited about this place.
Fred was behind the counter when we walked in, he was very cordial, explained his menu, answered all of our questions, and really made us feel welcome. He has tried to incorporate the four different, but equally delicious styles of barbecue at his restaurant. Kansas City is represented by a sweet and spicy sauce, Carolina shows up on the menu with their signature pulled pork, Memphis is highlighted for their ribs, and no one could pass up the Texas barbecue staple, brisket. Fred's mantra, which is splashed across his website is, "low and slow baby!" I was getting excited just hearing him talk about what was good on this day. We hit this place at just the right time, pulled two-2 person tables together, and waited for the food to make it out to our table. Let's see how Fred's barbecue stacks up against others in OC.
I kind of went big here at Smokey Fred's, starting with this Half Rack of Baby Back Ribs ($12.99). These came pre-cut, with your choice of sauce or naked. I almost always prefer to have the sauce left on the side, so I can taste the meat. These were some damn good ribs. They had plenty of meat on them, they definitely were smokey, but not in an overbearing way, and they were tender enough to come off the bone with just a little bit of effort. The sweet Kansas City barbecue sauce went well with these. I got these to share with the table, but had a hard time parting with any of them. Excellent.
Both Katie and my mom got the Lexington Pulled Pork Sandwich ($7.99). This Carolina inspired sandwich comes with plenty of pulled pork, coleslaw, and a Carolina barbecue sauce, which is more tangy than the sweeter Kansas City variety. My mom is not a fan of coleslaw on sandwiches, but liked the crunch it gave this sandwich. The pulled pork was smokey, tender, and full of flavor. This was a good sized sandwich, with plenty of pulled pork falling out of the sides of the sandwich. According to Katie, there was just the right amount of the vinegar based sauce here, as to not overshadow the star of the show, the pork. She'd get this sandwich again.
The sandwich parade just kept on rolling when my dad selected the Danewich Sliders ($7.99) as his meal. This was made up of three sliders with your choice of meat. He went with one brisket and two pulled pork sliders, which were served on mini Hawaiian rolls. He really liked these sandwiches, but thought they should have come with a side item. He went up and ordered a side of potato salad, which you will see in a bit. When pinned down, he liked the brisket slider a little better than the pork, but both varieties were good.
So remember when I told you I went big here, I was not lying. This is part two of my meal, the Double Barbecue Plate ($11.99). My choice of meats were the smoked brisket and the Louisiana hot link. This is some of the best brisket I have had. Very tender and flavorful, with tiny little pockets of fat that added some intense flavor. So good, it's been a few weeks since we have been here, and I still crave this brisket. The hot link was not too shabby either. Not crazy, over the top hot, but a decent heat to it. The only drawback of my visit to Smokey Fred's was the chili that I picked as my side. A very watery chili, with not much spice to it. I will choose something else for my next side item on my frequent future visits here.
Since my dad was still a little hungry after his three sliders, he decided to have a side of Potato Salad ($1.00). This was a much better choice than the chili. This potato salad reminded me of my mom's version, which is still my favorite. This potato salad is a recipe from Fred's family. The mustard was not over the top, the potatoes were fork tender, and there was not too much pickle used here. A dash of paprika on top for seasoning, and you have a pretty stellar potato salad.
I was really excited by the barbecue at Smokey Fred's. It's definitely right up there with my favorite BBQ place in OC, Blake's Place. The meats here are awesome, and worth the drive to experience them. I wish the restaurant itself was a little more conducive to larger groups, and I wish it were a little more comfortable eating here. The brisket and ribs are worth the minor inconvenience of not having a soda fountain and no providing air conditioning. I have a feeling that once people find out about this place, it will become harder to snag one of the three tables at Fred's. Looks like we have found our new spot to have a pregame meal before going to the Ducks games this Fall.
Out of five campaign hats, (because that is the official name of the hat that Smokey Bear wears), five being best to zero being worst, Smokey Fred's BBQ gets a strong 3.5 campaign hats.
For more information about Smokey Fred's BBQ, go to their website here: http://smokeyfredsbbq.com/