Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sound the Alarm, There's a New Barbecue Restaurant in South OC

Firehouse Ribs and More
111 West Avenida Palizada 
San Clemente, CA 92672

Katie and I have been trying to be more active in this last part of the year. We have been walking a lot more frequently, which has actually made us feel pretty good. On a recent Friday afternoon, Katie had gotten off work early, and we decided to go walk one of our favorite trails in all of OC, the San Clemente Beach Trail.

This trail not only offers the picturesque coastline of the Pacific Ocean but has the added excitement of watching the commuter trains passing by, only a few feet from the walkers, cyclist, and joggers taking advantage of this great spot. This trail also offers us the advantage of trying out some nearby restaurants, and after giving Katie three choices, she decided we'd give Firehouse Ribs and More a try.

I've often lamented the fact on this blog that there are not many good options for barbecue in South OC. In my opinion, the only decent option for barbecue south of the El Toro Y is Dickey's, but they are really more of a fast casual spot, and not really a restaurant for dining in at, although you can definitely do that if you wish. With the lackluster barbecue in these parts, I always get excited by the prospect of a new barbecue spot becoming my new favorite place to get ribs, brisket and more, and that's what I was hoping for when we entered Firehouse.

Firehouse Ribs is located in one of the strangest shopping centers we have been to in awhile. One block south of El Camino Real on Palizada is Old City Plaza, which is also home to a Chinese, Mexican, and breakfast restaurant. It was also the location of some retail shops, which were all closed at the very early hour of 6 pm. Kind of odd, and even odder, was the fact that when Katie and I walked in Firehouse, the only other table occupied besides our own belonged to my aunt and uncle. We quickly took the two empty seat at their table and set up shop while they waited for their food to arrive.

Opened since April, the decor here can best be described as kitschy. There's a disco ball hanging from the ceiling, along with a Millennium Falcon, lots of framed rock music posters and albums, and if you feel so inclined, you can eat in one of their two private dining rooms, which just happen to be converted jail cells from the Historic San Clemente Jail. The menu is pretty straight forward, and not going to make you gasp at the hugeness of it. There are seven barbecue plates, along with two burgers, pulled pork sliders, and chicken strips. They are also waiting for a liquor license, which we were assured was on its way soon. Since we ordered after my aunt and uncle, let's take a look at their food first, and see if this will become our go-to spot for barbecue in South OC.

First up was my uncle's selection, off of their specials board in front of the restaurant, the Baby Back Rib Special ($12.99). With this special, that seems to be available regularly based on the pictures on Yelp, you receive three ribs, two sides, and cornbread. He had no qualms with the ribs, calling them, "delicious." For his sides, he opted for the mashed potatoes and the baked beans. The cornbread won rave reviews from him and his wife. A very satisfying meal for my uncle.

Not what many would consider ordering in a barbecue restaurant, my aunt Hiroko had the Chicken Strip Dinner ($9.99). These tender pieces of white meat chicken were not overly breaded like others tend to be. This allowed the natural flavor of the chicken to shine through. The fries were pretty average, and nothing special. A good plate for people not wanting barbecue.

Katie went a more traditional barbecue route at Firehouse, by getting the Pulled Pork Sliders ($9.99). These three sliders came with plenty of pork and coleslaw, and also included fries as a side item. She liked the pulled pork here, calling it, "tender and juicy," while the coleslaw added a nice textural crunch. The fries again were just average.

As is my usual in a barbecue restaurant, I always try the largest combo plate available. At Firehouse that would be this Rib Combo Plate ($21.99). This plate was made up of three baby back ribs, two beef ribs, one side item, and cornbread. The best of the bunch were the beef ribs. These had plenty of meat on them, which was tender and flavorful. I don't think beef ribs get enough love from barbecue enthusiasts, and I'm going to attempt to change that by ordering beef ribs whenever I'm in a barbecue restaurant. The baby back ribs were a little disappointing. Parts of them were good, but some parts of the ribs were on the dry side, which was rectified with adding some extra sauce. I also had mixed thoughts about the side item I selected, the mashed potatoes. The menu says these include onions, parsley, and bacon, which they did, but I expected a bigger flavor boost from these. They did have good texture, not too lumpy or too dry. The cornbread was good, but not as sweet as I enjoy it. It did hold up structurally, which is my pet peeve when it comes to cornbread, which can sometimes be too crumbly.

Firehouse Ribs and More is a welcome addition to the desolate barbecue landscape of South OC. This is still a very new restaurant, so I'm curious to see where they go from here. The barbecue on this evening was not knock your socks off, but it's a better alternative than not having any barbecue options. I'd probably stick to the specials here, as they are more moderately priced than the regular plates, and the portions are pretty much the same size, and you also get to choose an extra side item. People are slowly finding out about this place, as when we left the restaurant, it was packed with customers consuming lots of ribs. I've also heard great things about their burgers, and they looked fantastic as well. With only two servers to help a full restaurant, service was stretched a little thin on this evening, but they were at least trying. We will definitely be back after future visits to our favorite walking trail in OC, the San Clemente Beach Trail.

Out of five dalmatians, (because all firehouses need to have one these black and white spotted dogs), five being best to zero being worst, Firehouse Ribs and More gets 3 dalmatians.

For more information about Firehouse Ribs and More, head to their website, which has one of the longest web addresses ever, here:

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