500 South Anaheim Blvd. #D
Anaheim, CA 92805
It's happening people! After a decade of writing this restaurant blog and lamenting the fact that there are very few above-average places to get barbecue in OC, we now have several places dotting our great county. Unfortunately for me, most of them are north of Irvine, a little bit more of a trek from where I live in South OC, but for good barbecue, I'll definitely drive.
As of right now, my favorite barbecue places are The SmoKING Ribs in Garden Grove, Firestarter Barbecue in Lake Forest, Leadbelly's in Fullerton, Blake's Place in Anaheim, Meat Up Barbecue in Placentia, and the long-departed Lillie's Q in Brea. Guess they aren't coming back to OC after all. I was hoping that this visit to Jav's BBQ could add another restaurant to my favorite barbecue list.
I heard about Jav's from my cousin Kevin, who works at KTLA as a sound guy. I was not watching at the time, but he texted me and told me that the guys from Jav's were in the studio and made food for all the crew. Kevo told me that we had to check them out, that their barbecue was amazing. This coming from a guy that is very particular about his food. I'll leave it at that.
Anyways, it took us quite a few months to finally find the time to make it to Jav's BBQ. We combined this trip with a long-overdue double date night with our very good friends Rebecca and Martin. I've known them for over 25 years, met her at work, and they have become life long friends ever since. They had never been to this area of Anaheim, which includes the Anaheim Packing District, Farmer's Park, Center Street Promenade, and the Make Building which houses Jav's and a few other businesses situated on the corner of Santa Ana and Anaheim Boulevard, right across the street from the always busy Packing District.
Javier Gomez is the man behind Jav's BBQ. He was born and raised in Anaheim and has spent most of life studying barbecue from around the country. He's used what he's learned to bring what he hopes is great barbecue to the people of his hometown. Jav's BBQ started as a caterer and was selling their barbecue at the Anaheim Farmer's Market on Thursdays. They opened their brick and mortar spot in early 2018 and have gotten glowing reviews for their meats that are always cooked for at least 12 hours over an all-wood pit.
Their menu is like a greatest hits of the barbecue world. They offer six proteins, which they sell by the pound or you can get them as a plate, and they come with two sides. There are three sandwiches to choose from and they also offer wings, pulled pork nachos, and fries. Sides are what you've come to expect at a place that serves barbecue. Their restaurant is really more of just a counter, and then you take your food and find a spot at one of the tables in the common area of the center of the building. Enough chatter, let's see if we would be able to add Jav's BBQ to our list of great barbecue in OC.
A Pulled Pork Sandwich ($12.48) was Katie's choice on this early evening and will lead us off. This was a pretty good-sized pulled pork sandwich, with a nice looking brioche bun. They did not skimp on the delicious pork here, as it was falling out of the sandwich when she picked it up. She described the pork as tender and juicy, with just the right amount of smokiness. Katie was also a fan of the coleslaw here, as it was a vinegar-based version, which had a nice tang to it.
My goal at every barbecue restaurant is the same, try as much of the menu as I can on one plate. I had the Two Meat Plate ($19.76) and added a Sausage Link ($3.64) just for good measure. These three portions of meat were pretty incredible. If I had to pick a clear winner it would be the brisket for the gold. One of the best I've had. Nice smoke ring running around the outside edge of each slice, just enough of a ribbon of fat to boost the flavor, and not dry at all. The pork back ribs nab the silver medal here. Each of the four ribs was tender and easily pulled off of the bone with a little tug. The outside had a nice crust to it, while the meat inside was just the right amount of moist. A lot of meat on these as well. The sausage link had a nice snap to its casing and a little bit of heat was present at the end of each bite. The sides should not be ignored at Jav's BBQ. I got the Brussel sprouts and the mac n cheese. The sprouts were honey glazed which was a good contrast with the earthy green bulbs. The mac n cheese was some of the best I have had in a long while. Elbow noodles were used here and they were coated with a very good cheese sauce that clung to the noodles perfectly. The cheese was not too runny, which is a big pet peeve of mine when it comes to mac n cheese. I almost went and got a pint of this to take home for lunch the next day. I really should have but I would have had to lug it around while we went to the Packing District after dinner.
Martin is a pretty straight shooter when it comes to what he likes. He did not really debate at all when he picked the Chicken Plate ($15.60). Chicken is never something that I'd eat when at a barbecue joint, but different strokes for different folks. Martin was generous enough to allow me to try a piece of his chicken, and it was surprisingly moist and juicy. For his two sides, he went with coleslaw and creamed corn. The coleslaw was alright, but the cream corn shined here. It was a tad sweet, but not like the famous one at Gulliver's. I liked the slight subtleness of this one and it conveyed a hominess that I enjoyed.
Last but not least, Rebecca finishes things off for us on this evening with her Tri-Tip Sandwich ($13.52). The meat was cooked just about medium rare, which allowed for it to be very tender and nicely spiced on the ends. Again, they did not skimp on the amount of meat included with this sandwich. Rebecca definitely had plenty to keep herself occupied with this rather large sandwich. For her side items, she opted for the Baked BBQ Beans and cornbread. I did not get a chance to try the beans, but she really enjoyed them. The only slight hiccup of the evening was probably the cornbread. It was a little on the dry side, too dense, and really did not have too much in the way of flavor. Maybe the jalapeno version might have been the better option.
If you've read this far, you might have noticed that I have not mentioned barbecue sauce yet. They have it, but as it says on their website, they urge you to taste the meat, not the sauce. The meats here are so good you will find yourself only using a little bit of their sauce. That's the mark of great barbecue, and this really is great. Yes, the prices are a bit high, but barbecue always costs a bit more than you'd expect, and this is definitely worth it. The serving sizes are pretty solid as well. Since it's open seating here for all the places in this building, I could imagine that peak times could be a bit of a hassle to find a place to sit, so be prepared for that. This was a good tip from my cousin who lives in LA, about what I think is the best barbecue I've had to date in OC. Thanks, Kevo.
Out of five catcher's masks, (because whenever I hear the name Javy, it brings to mind the Atlanta Braves catcher from the '90s, Javy Lopez), five being best to zero being worst, Jav's BBQ gets 4 catcher masks.
For more information about Jav's BBQ, head to their website here: https://www.javsbbq.co/