A regional specialty: Santa Maria Barbecue
Tootie's Texas Barbeque. Texas expatriates Willard Sterling and Steve Vinson have brought some fine, fine 'cue to the low, low desert. Tootie's uses green oak and smokes its brisket up to 17 hours, but the flavor, while full, is more subtle than most Texas barbecue. The sides are outstanding, including a creamed corn spiced by jalapeños. $$; closed Sun-Mon. 68-703 Perez Rd., Ste. A1; 760/202-6963.
Lucille's Smokehouse Bar-B-Que. Visit Lucille's at the Long Beach Towne Center, and the slick mall location may raise some authenticity alarms. But around back, you'll see Lucille Buchanan's old smoker, and by the time you see the deep, rich color of the spareribs, doubt will turn to desire and finally to devour. $$. 7411 Carson St.; 562/938-7427 (visit www.lucillesbbq.com for other locations).
Woody's Bar-B-Que. Cousins Woody Phillips and Foster Phillips are to L.A. barbecue what Venus and Serena Williams are to tennis: On any given day, either one can be the very best. Woody is a master of traditional barbecue, with pork ribs that burst with flavor and a pepper-flecked sauce that bites with spice. $$. 3446 Slauson Ave.; 323/294-9443.
LOS ANGELES AND MOORPARK
Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill. The first Wood Ranch arose in semirural Ventura County; it's as comfy as a pair of Hush Puppies. At the Ranch outpost in L.A.'s Grove at Farmers Market, the Puppies give way to Jimmy Choos. The ribs are succulent at both. Moorpark: $$; 540 New Los Angeles Ave.; 805/523-7253. L.A.: $$; 189 Grove Dr.; 323/937-6800. Six other locations: www.woodranch.com
Dr. Hogly Wogly's Tyler Texas BBQ.Since 1969, Sepulveda Boulevard drivers have caught a whiff of cherry, oak, and hickory smoke from this classic and instantly reconsidered dinner plans. This is no-nonsense barbecue, deep-smoked up to nine hours. Dr. Hogly Wogly was a nickname given by the founder's wife to her heavyset pharmacist husband, who cooked for Lyndon Johnson on his Texas ranch. Hail to the beef. $$. 8136 Sepulveda Blvd.; 818/780-6701.