One of LA’s most well-known barbecue operations is set to expand for the first time in years. Bludso’s BBQ, owned and operated by longtime South LA pitmaster Kevin Bludso, is jumping to Santa Monica with a new location not far from the water. This is the first time in a decade that the now-famous Bludso has expanded in Los Angeles with a full restaurant, though he’s remained quite busy over that time with appearances on Netflix and projects elsewhere.
The new Bludso’s BBQ will open this June at 1329 Santa Monica Boulevard, in the corner Truxton’s space, with daily lunch through dinner hours. Co-owner James Starr (Cofax, Prime Pizza) tells Eater that the new restaurant will keep much the same menu as the location on La Brea, which opened back in 2013. However, there will be some Santa Monica-only exclusive items available once the new restaurant is up and running. That includes smoked turkey breast and a smoked bone-in ribeye for folks who aren’t afraid to go big at dinner. The new location will also offer a similar beer and wine list and will have a full bar to boot.
Longtime fans know Kevin Bludso as perhaps the first real face of LA’s sweeping modern barbecue movement. Back in 2008, Bludso opened his first restaurant, a small walk-up spot in his hometown of Compton, leaning into techniques and flavors he honed through years of cooking with his Texan family. He quickly earned citywide acclaim for his ribs, brisket, and hot links (thanks in no small part to the late Jonathan Gold), expanding to the La Brea location (stylized as Bludso’s Bar & Que) half a decade later, and ultimately closing the Compton original.
Since then, Bludso has been on quite a tear, operating several small takeout stalls at places like the Proud Bird near LAX as well as the standalone restaurant San Antone by Bludso’s, a barbecue and Texas-styled restaurant way down in Melbourne, Australia. Bludso also appears as a judge on the Netflix competition cooking series American Barbecue Showdown, and released his first cookbook in 2022. He now splits his time between Texas and California but will be here often for the next few months as the new restaurant gets up and running in Santa Monica.
Meanwhile, it’s a moment of both growth and change for the broader California barbecue scene. Heritage Barbecue in Orange County has been playing to long lines since basically day one and now has a smaller, more streamlined outfit in Oceanside, while up in Los Angeles the team at Moo’s Craft Barbecue continues to turn out what is widely considered to be LA’s best Texas-influenced smoke meat. Burt Bakman’s Slab has been on its own expansion path locally as well, opening soon in Pasadena and deep in the San Fernando Valley in the coming weeks.