Fire Breather BBQ
22722 Lambert St. #1702
Lake Forest, CA 92630
I have used this blog many times to lament the fact that there is no good barbecue where I live in South OC. The best, in my opinion, is probably Wood Ranch, but the rest is really subpar. I've had a few decent meals at Lucille's, but most of the time it's been at the best mediocre. Dickey's was really impressive when they first opened up down here, but they have gone downhill fast. Bad to the Bone in San Juan gets a lot of love from people, but I've found their stuff to be bone dry, like sandpaper going down. Texas BBQ on El Toro Road? Unedible.
When my good friend David asked where I wanted to head for dinner for my birthday, I recalled seeing Fire Breather BBQ when I was picking up sandwiches at Philly's Best next door. The unmistakable aroma of barbecued meats hit my face when I entered to pick up a menu on that trip. It must have stuck with me because I told David we would be meeting at Fire Breather. To be honest, I had been burned many times by barbecue restaurants down here, so I did not really come in here with such high hopes. Big mistake.
We arrived at Fire Breather at 5:30 on a recent Friday evening. This is not a fancy barbecue restaurant. Ordering is done at the counter, and the food is brought out soon after that. There are less than ten tables inside, and a couple of small tables out in front of this strip center restaurant. The decor inside is pretty non-existent, save for the large wagon wheel with hanging lights in the center of the room and a wall with artificial turf fastened to it.
The menu at FireBreather is pretty sparse as well. They offer five kinds of meat for their one, two, or three combo meat plates. There are also two sandwiches, (brisket and pulled pork), five sides, and the rest of the menu is rounded out by kettle chips and bottled beverages. That's basically it, straightforward and to the point, which you can get away with if your barbecue is good. Let's see if that's the case here.
Starting things off for us is the Pulled Pork BBQ Sammy ($12) that tempted Katie. This sandwich came with plenty of pulled pork piled on a Hawaiian burger roll. The meat comes without sauce, and it's up to you as to how much you want to add. Not that this pork needed any. It was moist, with a nice subtle smoke to it. The smoke was not overbearing, and there was not a bad bite during the short life of this sandwich. The sandwiches come with Apple Slaw and your choice of one side, Katie got the Potato Salad, which she was over the moon about. She felt this was one of the better potato salads she has had in a long while. It was chunky style, with plenty of celery and red onion included. Just like grandma used to make.
There would be no doubt what I'd be having on this evening at Fire Breather's, the Beast Mode Combo ($24). I like getting to try as much as possible on one plate, and this was a perfect choice here. It also helped that David was going to be paying, thanks, buddy. For my three portions of meat, I went with brisket, baby back ribs, and pulled pork. All were fantastic. I consider brisket to be the king of barbecue meats and a good indicator of if a place is going to be any good or not. Fire Breather passed this test with flying colors. The brisket was tender, with a small ribbon of fat running through it which added a nice flavor boost. The outside bark was flavorful with the rub that they use. Exactly what I look for in brisket. The ribs featured a nice looking smoke ring on them and were meaty, while the pork pulled easily from the bone with just a little tug. Just like Katie's sandwich, the pulled pork continued to shine. I liked that there were some different textures included with this pile of pork. You get some of the crispy ends along with the moist inside cuts. For my side item, I went with the bbq beans, which were fine, but did not elevate to anything other than average. Maybe some cut up brisket in these would have made these better.
David probably didn't want me to feel like I was the only one eating a ton of food here, so he also went the Beast Mode ($24) route at Fire Breather. He picked brisket, tri-tip, and pulled pork. Tri-tip can be a pretty tricky barbecue meat to get, as it is easy for it to come out dry and flavorless. Not the case here. It was meaty and flavored nicely with a combination of a nice rub and a tinge of smoke. Easily one of the best tri-tips I have had in a long while, even though David just allowed me to have one slice. For his side item, he selected the mixed veggies, which I did not get a chance to try.
Fire Breather BBQ should be the place that you head when you are in South OC and want good barbecue. I was pretty impressed with all of the meats that we tried on this trip here, as they are not just South OC good, they are some of the best we have had in all of Orange County. The sides were a little disappointing to me, as they were all pretty basic. Maybe they don't have room in this storefront to make mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, or greens. This is definitely a family run business, as the very friendly woman at the counter, Kat is one of the owner's wife, and she had her very cute infant behind the counter with her. They are very proud of the barbecue they serve here and have every right to be. Be aware that they are closed on Sunday and Monday, so you only have five days to get your barbecue fix. Based on just this one visit, I can now declare the South OC curse of bad barbecue is broken.
Out of five kisses, (because the co-lead singer and bassist of Kiss, Gene Simmons was famous for breathing fire on stage at their concerts), five being best to zero being worst, Fire Breather BBQ gets a strong 3.5 kisses.
For more information about Fire Breather BBQ, head to their website here: http://www.firebreatherbbq.com/