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An assortment of barbecued ribs, chicken, links, smoked turkey, and side dishes at Bludso’s BBQ.
A barbecue platter from Bludso’s BBQ.

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James Beard Award-Winning Author and Pitmaster Kevin Bludso Smokes Up Santa Monica

Fresh off a James Beard Award win, Bludso’s BBQ imports his Texas-style barbecue vibes to the Westside

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It’s early July and opening day at Bludso’s BBQ in Santa Monica. A lunch crowd fills up the 100-seat interior while a smaller group gathers outside to surround owner and Texas-style pitmaster Kevin Bludso. Bludso’s business partner James Starr, a group of family, friends, and Santa Monica officials close their eyes and bow their heads while reverend Kevin Anderson under Pastor Victor Green’s New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in South LA utters the following words, “Heavenly Father, we ask that you bless this building and the hands that prepared the food.”

Reverend Kev is also a Los Angeles city attorney who grew up with Bludso in Compton, coming here to pray for and support his longtime friend. Though eyes remain shut as the reverend continues the prayer, smiles abound at one of Southern California’s biggest restaurant openings of the year. Inside Bludso’s Santa Monica, excitement radiates from every corner. The atmosphere is by design, according to Bludso.

“Barbecue is always like a party,” says Bludso. “What’s the first thing you think about with picnics, family gatherings, or family reunions? That’s the vibe we want for everybody. I want everybody to feel at home by asking their name, telling them welcome, that they’re part of the family, and to take good care of them.”

Kevin “Reverend Kev” Anderson dressed in a suit stands in front of Bludso’s BBQ restaurant in Santa Monica.
Kevin “Reverend Kev” Anderson blesses the restaurant.
A photo of Bludso’s BBQ owner, Kevin Bludso at his Santa Monica restuarant.
Bludso’s BBQ owner and pitmaster Kevin Bludso.

It’s been 10 years since Bludso’s Bar & Que opened on La Brea Avenue. The new location resides on the corner of 14th and Santa Monica Boulevard in the former Truxton’s. No one can miss the bold white lettering over the burnt-red colored building that took seven months to revamp. Bludso’s is ideally situated, kitty-corner to the Santa Monica Ford Lincoln, a few blocks away from multiple car dealerships, and directly across the street from one of Southern California’s largest Tesla Supercharger stations. There’s also a parking lot at the rear of the restaurant.

Bludso has always been at the heart of LA’s modern barbecue movement, having first opened a small walk-up spot in 2008 in Compton before closing it in 2016. Bludso’s Texas roots, experience, and fame are impossible to ignore in 2023, with a recent James Beard Award win for his and Noah Galuten’s cookbook, Bludso’s BBQ Cookbook: A Family Affair in Smoke and Soul, and his role as a judge on Netflix’s American Barbecue Showdown. He also operates a takeout counter at Proud Bird near LAX, and a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia called San Antone by Bludso’s BBQ.

Though Bludso will split time between Texas and California while navigating media appearances, Bludso’s partner Starr will hold down operations here in Santa Monica. They’re more than partners — Starr says Bludso is a friend and mentor.

Bludso’s BBQ restaurant’s custom smoker.
Bludso’s BBQ custom smoker.
James Starr

Starr is proud of Bludso’s meats, which are smoked for up to 14 hours. “All of our barbecue is [made] on a smoker that was custom-built in Texas,” says Starr. When asked if there are future locations on the horizon, Starr replies, “We want to bring great barbecue to the rest of Southern California.”

Order the aforementioned starters along with rib tips, salads, or jumbo smoked wings smothered in buffalo, dry rub, or hot barbecue sauce. Bludso’s also serves brisket, chicken, Texas-style hot links, pulled pork, and even smoked jackfruit for vegetarians. Bludso’s Santa Monica has the same cocktails but keeps a slightly smaller beer list. Both locations have new menu additions including fried okra, chips and queso, hush puppies, and the fantastic, thick-cut smoked turkey.

“People in this area are so excited, so I just want to embrace them,” says Bludso. “I want to take good care of them and become part of this community too. They say they’ve been starving for barbecue, and I’m just excited to be here and give them some.”

Bludso’s BBQ Santa Monica is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with Monday through Friday happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 1329 Santa Monica Blvd Santa Monica, CA. Reservations are not available yet at Bludso’s Santa Monica.

A dining room with customers at Bludso’s BBQ.
Dining room.
A bar with customers and televisions at Bludso’s BBQ.
People wait for a table at Bludso’s BBQ in Santa Monica.
A long wait.
Food waits under heat lamps at Bludso’s BBQ.
Expediter station.
A ribbon cutting ceremony at Bludso’s BBQ.
Ribbon cutting ceremony.
A platter of ribs from Bludso’s BBQ in Santa Monica.
Whole beef ribs.
A close up of brisket at Bludso’s BBQ in Santa Monica.
Smoked turkey on a platter at Bludso’s BBQ in Santa Monica.
Smoked wings from Bludso’s BBQ in Los Angeles.
Cornbread on a crowded table of barbecue at Bludso’s BBQ in Santa Monica.


Coleslaw on a table full of barbecue at Bludso’s BBQ in Santa Monica.
A bowl of baked beans sits between barbecue at Bludso’s BBQ in Santa Monica.
Baked beans.
A platter of mac and cheese at Bludso’s BBQ in Santa Monica, California.
Mac and cheese.
Jumbo smoked wings with celery and sauce at Bludso’s BBQ in Santa Monica.
Jumbo smoked wings.
Bludso’s BBQ’s brisket and hot link sandwich.
Brisket and hot link sandwich.
A party platter with ribs, chicken, pulled pork, and brisket at Bludso’s BBQ in Santa Monica.
A party platter with ribs, chicken, pulled pork, and brisket.
A red and white building in Santa Monica, California that reads “Bludso’s BBQ.”

Bludso's BBQ

1329 Santa Monica Boulevard, , CA 90404 (310) 310-2775 Visit Website
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