Dickey's Barbecue Pit
27931 La Paz Road Suite D
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
To say that South OC is starved for a good barbecue place, would be an understatement. I have lived south of the El Toro Y for over ten years now, and have yet to find a really good barbecue restaurant that has blown us away down here.
Before you bombard my email box with suggestions, yes I know about Bad to the Bone in San Juan Capistrano, but we have never really liked it. Their meats are hit and miss, and the sides really haven't lived up to expectations. Lucille's gets a lot of praise for their barbecue, but they are pretty pricey, and again, the meats seem like they are pulled out early depending on how busy they are. Wood Ranch has been the best we have had up until this point, but they are very pricey, and then there's the trouble of battling parking at the Spectrum.
When we saw that Dickey's Barbecue Pit was opening up right down the street from my work, I knew we had to give it a try. I had an inkling that this might just be our new go-to spot for barbecue in our own backyard. We had visited a Dickey's once before, in the Dallas Airport. I remember telling Katie that it was a shame that this airport barbecue tasted better than almost anything that we could get back home. I still regret that I did not blog about our first visit back then, but I got a second chance to review Dickey's recently.
For those of you that are not aware, Dickey's is the largest barbecue chain in the United States, with close to 500 locations operating in 42 states. They have big plans for California, as well as Orange County. This is their fourth OC spot, with others being in Buena Park, Fullerton, Brea, and their website touts another coming soon to Ladera Ranch.
Dickey's was started in 1941 by Travis Dickey. Now run by his grandson, Roland, he has kept a lot of the traditions started by his grandfather. There's free soft-serve ice cream at every spot, and kids eat free on Sundays here. All locations smoke their meats on-site, using hickory wood-burning pits. The smell is intoxicating when you drive by, and when you walk through the door the aroma hits you in the face.
We arrived here at 6pm on a recent busy Friday night. Ordering is done at the counter, with an awkward glass partition that sits at just about forehead level, so you find yourself yelling at the guy prepping your meats and side items. The line does move efficiently though, and by the time you make your stop at the side item station, and finally the register, your food is there waiting for you. You then take your metal tray to the dining area, where there are about ten communal tables for you to set up shop. One last thing before you dig in, don't forget to get some of their barbecue sauce, which comes out of the dispenser warm. They offer two kinds, a spicy and regular sauce. Both are good, but I always find myself leaning towards the spicier version. Let's take a closer look at the food we had on this night.
Both Katie and I opted to get meat plates, but they do offer sandwiches, meats by the pound, and a few salads. Katie selected the 2 Meat Plate ($12.95) with Spicy Cheddar Sausage and Beef Brisket. She had wanted just regular polish sausage, but they had just run out. The cheddar sausage is real good though. Just a hint of spice, but the cheese kind of cool it down a bit. A real good sausage here, but the brisket is the thing to get at Dickey's. Tender pieces, with some stray morsels of fat hiding in there. The flavor is spot on, and I liked the crunchy bits that are interwoven in the portion that I had. Crazy good. Side items at Dickey's are pretty solid as well. Katie had the Caesar Salad and the Green Beans with Bacon. I managed to snag a bite of the salad, which was okay. It needed more dressing. I did not even try the green beans, because I'm not really a fan of them, but Katie was pleased with them.
I had a 3 Meat Plate ($13.50) as is my usual when eating at a barbecue restaurant. For my meats, I had the spicy cheddar sausage, the very well done brisket, and the pulled pork. For the most part, the pulled pork has been pretty good. Most bites are tender and moist, but I have had one or two bites that are a little on the dry side. Nothing a little barbecue sauce can not cure. I really do enjoy that they leave the sauce off of their meats here, so you can adjust the amount of sauce to your liking. For my side items, I went with the Jalapeno Baked Beans and the Baked Potato Casserole. Both of these have become my favorite sides at Dickey's. The jalapenos in the baked beans really awaken the taste buds and are not for people that can't tolerate a little heat. The baked potato casserole is really just mashed potatoes with cheese and green onions sprinkled on top of them. Not bad texture-wise, but they would be made even better with some bacon thrown in here.
Since this trip to Dickey's, I have been back a few other times. I'm happy to report that they are pretty consistent with their food. I have not had a bad experience on the three trips I have taken here. I like the amount of smokiness that the meats have at Dickey's. I'm more of a less is more kind of guy when it comes to barbecue. I don't like the natural flavor of the meat being overpowered by a smoky flavor, but instead just a hint, like the meats here. Looking at the pictures of the plates, the serving sizes do look pretty small, but I have left here stuffed. The word seems to be spreading about Dickey's as it can sometimes be challenging finding a seat here during peak dining times. I'm pretty excited that there's a new barbecue place south of Irvine that is worth going to whenever barbecue cravings strike me, which is pretty often.
Out of five oil rigs, (because Dickey's started in the city of Dallas, and part of my childhood was watching the Ewing's run around that city on TV), five being best to zero being worst, Dickey's Barbecue Pit gets 3.5 oil rigs.
For more information about Dickey's Barbecue Pit, go to their website here: https://www.dickeys.com/