Thursday, July 16, 2015

Birthday Meet Up in Placentia

Meat Up BBQ
1450 North Kramer Blvd.
Placentia, CA 92870

I know I've been writing this blog a long time when we have gone to the same address for two different restaurants. It's happened a few times now, and it just proves how hard the restaurant business can be. At this same address was a restaurant that we really liked, Sue Ann's Kitchen, which served classic American food. The one time we were here it was pretty sparsely populated, but I had hoped for a better fate for them after eating their food, but it was not to be as they closed their doors in 2014.

When we showed up at Meat Up recently, they were pretty crowded, and filled up during our stay. A very good sign. Meat Up comes to us from the guys behind two food trucks, The Viking Truck and the Garlicscapes Truck. I'm sure it's not a surprise to most of you that read this blog on a regular basis, but I haven't been to either of these trucks before, since I'm not really a food truck fan. I had heard good things about the Viking Truck, and their sausage and tater tot menu. From what I've been able to gather, the Viking Truck is still in operation, and the Garlicscapes Truck has been taken off the road to concentrate on this, their latest venture.

We came to Meat Up on a recent early Sunday evening with my parents, who were going to be buying me dinner for my birthday. Not only because its nearby, but the feel of this place reminded me of Leadbelly's Barbecue, which is a few streets over. Both of these restaurants have versions of loaded fries, some great sounding burgers, sandwiches, and of course meat plates. The only difference between the two is that at Meat Up you order at the counter, and the food is brought to you, while over at Leadbelly's waiter service is the norm, thus costing you a little more money due to tipping. We put our order in, and waited for the food to be brought out to their very comfortable dining area, which had TVs turned to basketball. Let's see if this food was going to be slam dunk good, or were we going to have to call a foul. Sorry for being so cheesy.

I have to admit, as soon as I sit down and see bottles of BBQ sauce on the tables, I get a little excited that we are going to be in for a treat, and if there are multiple bottles, it's even better news. At Meat Up BBQ they had three sauces to choose from, Habanero Mustard Sauce, Red Pepper BBQ Sauce, and a Blackberry BBQ Sauce. I like knowing that the meat will be coming out naked, and I can use the right amount of sauce for my liking. I did try all three of these throughout my meal here, and my favorite was the blackberry variety, but the other two were pretty solid as well. Now, on to the food.

I haven't mentioned it yet, but Chris Burrous was here profiling this restaurant on the Channel 5 Morning News, and he raved about the garlic feta fries, but I could not resist trying these Smothered and Covered Chili Verde Fries ($7). These fries were topped with a pulled pork chili verde and a generous amount of cheddar cheese. The fries stayed remarkably crisp, even as time went by, not that they were around too long. The chili verde pork was a mild version, but the pork was tender, and the sauce went well with the barbecue seasoned fries. Really good, and I can't believe more places haven't thought of putting chili verde pork on top of fries. Delicious.

My mom's go to item at a barbecue restaurant is almost always a pork sandwich, so it was no surprise when I heard her order this Meat Up Pulled Pork Sandwich ($11). For a sandwich, this had plenty of meat included. This sandwich came with pickles, barbecue sauce, cracked pepper, and it usually comes with a horseradish cole slaw, but my mom wanted that on the side. She really enjoyed this sandwich, and found it to be one of the better ones she has had recently. With each sandwich you get your choice of a side, and she opted for the Broccoli Salad, which is pretty close to a salad she made as we were growing up. Meat Up's version of a broccoli salad contains sunflower seeds and cranberry in a creamy sauce. Very tasty, and fresh produce was used in this. My mom left here pretty happy.

It's almost always a crap shoot what my dad will be ordering these days. There used to be a time when we would order a lot alike, but that hasn't happened in a awhile. I'm not saying I wouldn't order a burger in a barbecue place, but probably never on my first trip to a new place, but there he was getting this Smokin Reuben Burger ($11). This burger came with a house fennel sauerkraut, arugula, strips of pork belly, barbecue sauce, and Swiss cheese. My dad loved this burger. The sauerkraut was not overpowering, like a lot of them tend to be. The burger patty was cooked well, and seasoned nicely, and the pork belly pushed this burger over the top in decadence. My dad made quick work of this burger. For his side, he tried the Bacon Potato Salad. This classic potato salad was made up of a mustard-mayo sauce, some pickle, and as you can see in the picture, quite a bit of crumbled bacon. This was a very good version of potato salad. Of course the crumbled bacon was great, but the salad base was good as well. Tasted very homemade, and not too mustardy, which is my biggest pet peeve with a lot of potato salads.

The OC Cheesesteak ($11) would be Katie's dinner on this night. This sandwich utilized smoked tri-tip as the protein, then they added caramelized poblano peppers and onions, avocado cream, sliced tomato, and Swiss cheese to finish it off. Definitely not a traditional cheesesteak by any means, but Katie really enjoyed this. The tri-tip was tender and flavorful, there was plenty of cheese, and the veggies were done nicely so they snapped when bitten into. The only drawback with this sandwich was that the avocado kind of got lost here, but that's bound to happen with all of these big time flavors vying for attention on this cheesesteak. This sandwich was a little on the heavier side for Katie, but she did manage to finish most of it.

It was my birthday dinner, so of course I went big at Meat Up, with their 3 Meat Plate ($21). For my meat-a-palooza I had St. Louis Ribs, Pork Belly, and Rib Tips. All of the meats were pretty solid. The rib tips were not like any I have ever had before. They were huge, and full of meat, but some of the bigger ones were a little on the drier side. I'm still not sure why these were so much bigger than what I was used to, but I wasn't complaining. The pork belly was also a little different than what I was expecting. It came out in strips, like undercooked bacon, and was topped with crunchy chicharron. Not bad at all, but again, not what I expect when ordering pork belly. The pork ribs might have been the best out of all the meats. They were tender, with light sauce, and had just the right amount of light smokey flavor, which is my preference. With a meat plate you get to choose two sides, and I tried the Hellbilly Chili and Mac and Cheese. Both of these sides were solid, with an edge to the chili. This chili utilized three different kinds of beans in it, along with beef, plenty of cheese topping it, and a touch of garlic sauce, which I mistook for sour cream when it first came out. The chili was really flavorful, and the garlic sauce did not overpower the chili like I thought it would, but actually added another flavor profile to it. I can not see myself coming here without getting this chili. The mac and cheese was a step below the chili, it was a pretty classic version of this dish, with a bread crumb topping and some herbs. Not really anything to make this side dish really stand out though. A lot of food, which I only took a little bit home for lunch the next day.

It's hard coming here, and not comparing this place to Leadbelly's. Maybe it's because they are so close to each other, or maybe it's because they serve the same kind of west coast barbecue, but whatever the reason, they are about equal in my book. The sides here are better at Meat Up, and I would give a slight edge to the barbecued meats at Leadbelly's, but just slightly, and only based on our one visit to each. We talked to the owner on our way out, and he mentioned that their menu is still a work in progress, and they are still fine tuning their dishes, so I look forward to trying them out again in the future. North OC seems to be a hot bed of very good barbecue places all of a sudden, so maybe they can spread the love, and open one south of Irvine to feed all of us in barbecue starved, South OC. Please hurry.

Out of five tennis racquets, (because one of my first brushes with someone famous was when I saw tennis great, and Placentia resident, Michael Chang at the supermarket), five being best to zero being worst, Meat Up BBQ gets a strong 3.5 tennis racquets.

For more information about Meat Up BBQ, go to their website here:

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