You may have noticed a man who stands outside of a bar right by Sunset Junction, across from a Jiffy Lube, on Friday and Saturday nights. He's on the sidewalk, next to a parking lot, under a glowing neon red "COCKTAILS" sign. He's a tall, African-American guy with broad shoulders; he might be wearing an apron over a sweatshirt and chatting up customers of various levels of inebriation. If you haven't noticed him, seek him out the next time you're in the area. Because he happens to have a massive, custom-made smoker with him. And he's serving amazing barbecue.
The smoker is pretty genius -- it's essentially three huge industrial drums, like what you'd imagine crude oil would go into. One of those huge 55-gallon deals comprises the body of the smoker -- it's set on its side and cut in half lengthwise, allowing it to open and close. Two smaller drums, side-by-side, run perpendicular to the main drum, and act as storage for various supplies.
The whole thing has a black, powder-coated finish. I ask him, in awe, where on earth he got this thing. "I had it made," Richard responds, and goes back to cooking. Richard keeps things fairly close to the vest. I asked him what is last name was and he waited a moment, half-smiled and said, "Name's Richard T. That's all, just Richard T."
Not sure what you ladies are laughing at...but this food is on point.
A group of young women, all in black dresses and all on their phones, stumbles out of the door and past Richard. He takes the opportunity to hawk his wares: "I've got baby back ribs and hot links. Just ran out of the chicken," he says through a thick plume of white smoke. They giggle and keep walking. "Not sure what you ladies are laughing at," he says, "But this food is on point." Richard will repeat this a few times over the evening -- that the food is "on point." He'll also make a few self-deprecating, somewhat nonsensical jokes about the name of his business: Barbecue Pit Stop. "If there's a pit, I can stop it," he'll say, and laugh to himself.
The food is as described. It's majorly on point. The pork ribs are so well-seasoned that they don't even need sauce. They're given an earthy, peppery rub that naturally brings out the taste of the meat. All-beef Louisiana-style hot links are snappy and zesty, given a beautiful char on the grill. Sliced up or served on a plain white bun, they're spicy perfection. The chicken is good but not great -- you can drown it in sauce, of course, which will make anything taste fantastic -- but stick to the links or the ribs.
The pork ribs are so well-seasoned that they don't even need sauce.
Richard describes his barbecue as Kentucky-style. "Louisville, Kentucky," he says. "That's where I'm from." Accompanying the meats is a thin, tomato-based sauce -- vinegary and tangy, and slightly sweet. It's all homemade, and kept in big gallon jugs. He's got a heavy hand with the sauce (which I enjoy, but you might not) so let him know if you want him to go easy.
It's about 12:30 am, and Richard is preparing for a possible rush once the bar closes at 2. The bar itself, 4100 Bar, is one of those establishments that is designed to give off the appearance of a local dive bar. The clientele is young and bearded. Inside, you can get a Moscow Mule in a copper mug to go with the vaguely Asian decor. Artisanal hipster. (You can, incidentally, take your food into the bar — a major plus.)
A woman who appears to have never walked on heels before stumbles up to the smoker in a pair of the biggest heels I've ever seen. "I'm so fucking hungry," she slurs, nearly falling on her companion, a slightly apologetic-looking young man. She points at a hot link on the grill. "I want that." Richard sticks a fork into the link, deftly transfers it to a bun, and grabs the bottle of barbecue sauce. "Can I have, like, some ketchup on that?" At that moment—when she says, "ketchup"—Richard winces, almost imperceptibly. A teeny, tiny portion of him has just died inside. He's a good sport, though, so he smiles and says, "Um, sure, I think we can maybe find you some ketchup."
A teeny, tiny portion of him has just died inside.
I point out to the woman that he's about to put delicious, amazing barbecue sauce on the whole thing and maybe ketchup isn't the best idea. She hadn't noticed me before, but now turns toward me and looks slightly-to-the-left and about 50 feet past my head. Slightly puzzled; very soft focus. Richard seizes the opportunity: "I think my man may have a point, there." The faint crunch of buckling of plastic reaches us from around the corner; someone's car just got backed into. On the other side of the street, a couple of kids go "Daaaaaamn." The woman blows some hair out of her face and says to Richard, "Okay, whatever. No ketchup."
He chuckles and exhales a short breath of air; a small sigh. He hands the woman her hot link and a few napkins, wipes his hands and looks at me. "So how was your food, man? It was pretty good, right?"
Barbecue Pit Stop is located outside of 4100 Bar at 4100 Sunset Boulevard. He's there on Friday and Saturday nights from about 9:30 p.m. until 2 a.m. Cash only.