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Hands in black gloves cut through a rack of wide beef ribs from a pop-up barbecue restaurant, Axiom Kitchen.
Axiom Kitchen.
Brian Addison

15 Underground Barbecue Pop-Ups Redefining the Scene in LA

Backyards, brewery pop-ups, non-traditional techniques and flavors, and on-the-sly meats at your fingertips

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Axiom Kitchen.
| Brian Addison

When opting for barbecue in Los Angeles, try to think beyond the traditional (and expected) Southern style. LA certainly serves this aforementioned genre thanks to the millions who migrated from the South over the decades, but alternatives are spread throughout the Southland that transcend into fantastic, meaty, and creative meats over an open fire. That includes pop-ups that draw from LA’s cowboy roots or Mexican pit-cooking, along with the Black-owned Southern variety, Chinese, savory grilled Filipino meats over noodles, or a hybrid that can only be found in a city like LA: a Cambodian-Texas-style barbecue. Here are the stands, weekend Instagram sellers, and backyard barbecue pop-ups to know about; there are separate lists for ongoing, sit-down barbecue restaurants and for out-of-town restaurants, too. When looking through the options below, know that the addresses listed are based on previous locations; for the most up-to-date locations, keep up with pop-ups’ social media accounts.

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iii Mas BBQ

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Young chef Arthur Grigoryan’s Armenian-Texas pop-up has proven to be a hit with people from across the flavor spectrum, thanks to wholly unique dishes like baharat-laced lamb shoulder, basturma-style brisket, and more. Check Instagram for pop-up dates and ordering details.

Rodney's Ribs

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Rodney is as close to a barbecue legend as the Altadena/Pasadena area has. From his tiny parking lot setup off Lake Avenue, this longtime star serves some of the city’s best ribs (and more) with lots of sauce and plenty of love. Check Instagram for dates.

The brisket at Rodney’s Ribs is served between plush Hawaiian buns with a drizzle of tangy-sweet sauce.
Brisket sandwich from Rodney’s Ribs.
Wonho Frank Lee

River Street BBQ

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Whether it’s pop-ups, catering, or collaborations, get over to River Street. This roving setup mostly sticks to Northeast LA, including stints at spots like the Fable in Eagle Rock. Expect brisket tacos, loaded nachos, and more.

Herc’s Barbecue

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Texas meats, from brisket to hot links, reign supreme at this low-key home cook operation known for pulling up at breweries around the greater Inland Empire and San Gabriel Valley. Check Instagram to see where Herc is popping up on Saturdays.

Black Cat BBQ

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This staple barbecue spot has been a fixture in Beverly Hills for several years now, popping up at the weekly farmers market selling ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and lots of sides.

A hand in a rubber glove pulls up a freshly cut rib on a wooden cutting board.
A rib at the ready.
Wonho Frank Lee

Ragtop Fern’s

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Fernando Carrillo identifies operates as a UPS Driver on the weekdays, a Saturday grillmaster, and becomes a lowrider on Sunday. His Koreatown-adjacent sidewalk pop-ups have been running for half a decade at least, a mix of Texas traditions and whatever flavors he feels like pulling from the Los Angeles diaspora. Check Instagram for monthly pop-up dates.

A stack of deep red ribs with char at the edges.
Ribs from Ragtop Fern’s.
Ragtop Fern’s

A’s BBQ

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The city is watching City Terrace pop-up A’s BBQ closely these days, to see what pitmaster Alan Cruz is going to get up to next. There’s lots of East LA flavor and love smoked into each brisket and ribs plate, but Cruz and the team aren’t afraid to mess around with different genres, meals, and styles to suit their weekly pop-up whims. Check Instagram for the menu and locations.

Smokey Jones

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This Culver City pop-up operates out of a home garage or to nearby breweries. Owners Russ and Viv offer a broad array of staple meats for all to enjoy, but the star of the show might well be the slow-smoked turkey. There’s always inventiveness happening here, including the chili Frito pie topped with house-made shaved pastrami.

Shown from above, a box of smoked meat sits on a street ready to be consumed.
Smokey Jones BBQ.
Farley Elliott

Bootsy BBQ

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After parking in the residential View Park-Windsor Hills neighborhood, look for the light plume of smoke and follow your nose to Bootsy’s (there’s a lone speaker playing old-school R&B right next to a giant smoker that tells you you’re in the right spot). The proof is in the technique, which results in gorgeously cooked meats including beef ribs, baby backs, and incredible brisket. Bootsy’s salmon is what gets you, though; it’s perfectly cooked and full of flavor. DM Armand Bootsy Keys via Instagrm for details.

Combination platter from Bootsy’s BBQ.
Bootsy Barbecue.
Courtesy of Bootsy’s BBQ

Ribs in LA

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As the name implies, it’s hard to beat Ribs in LA. The roving pop-up trailer moves anywhere between La Brea and Downtown, so be sure to find their next location in advance when craving perfectly fatty rib tips with lots of sauce. Don’t sleep on the sides, either. Check Instagram for weekly rotating pop-up addresses.

Ribs in LA, a pop up that sells on the streets, turns out crispy rib tips with lots of sauce from a styrofoam container.
Ribs in LA.
Farley Elliott

AGL’s Craft Meats

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AGL’s Craft Meats owner Alec Lopez moves across much of Los Angeles, cooking out of a South LA space as well as popping up at locations like breweries and cafes on random nights. The former Pearl’s BBQ employee is best known for his Texas-sized trays of brisket and ribs. Check Instagram for pop-up dates, locations, and times.

A close up of a tray of Texas-style barbecue including pink pastrami, brisket, and more.
AGL’s Craft Meats.
Farley Elliott

Taste of the Pacific

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Former respiratory therapist Jeff Mejia applies his family recipes at Taste of the Pacific, where the specialties are Filipino skewers, lumpia, and noodles that pack incredible flavor. Find him at Angel City Market events, or at a stand in front of the Lakewood Center shopping mall.

Axiom Kitchen Smoked Meats & BBQ

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One can pick up Axiom Kitchen’s aroma from a distance. Upon closer inspection, Qiana and Ian Mafnas’ barbecue pop-up includes smoked beef ribs, brisket, and strips of tri-tip get slathered in herbed clarified butter before being dropped on a flat top for a finishing sear. Axiom pops-up Fridays and Saturdays in Long Beach.

A spatula turns a thick beef rib with lots of dark crust on top of a flat-top griddle at a restaurant pop-up at Axiom Kitchen.
Axiom Kitchen Smoked Meats & BBQ.
Brian Addison

Daniel's Backyard BBQ

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Want a massive tray of nachos that comes topped with a pound or more of brisket? How about a torta that comes with its own beef rib inside, bone and all? At Daniel’s, the weekly food truck pop-up in north Long Beach, just about anything is possible. Including breakfast sandwiches. Check Instagram for the weekly schedule.

Battambong BBQ

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They call chef Chad Phuong the Cambodian Cowboy. “They” being loyal Battambong BBQ fans who line up for his smoky grilled cuts of meat with plenty of Cambodian flavors and sides. He pops up frequently throughout Long Beach and the South Bay. Check Phuong’s Instagram for the current schedule.

iii Mas BBQ

Young chef Arthur Grigoryan’s Armenian-Texas pop-up has proven to be a hit with people from across the flavor spectrum, thanks to wholly unique dishes like baharat-laced lamb shoulder, basturma-style brisket, and more. Check Instagram for pop-up dates and ordering details.

Rodney's Ribs

Rodney is as close to a barbecue legend as the Altadena/Pasadena area has. From his tiny parking lot setup off Lake Avenue, this longtime star serves some of the city’s best ribs (and more) with lots of sauce and plenty of love. Check Instagram for dates.

The brisket at Rodney’s Ribs is served between plush Hawaiian buns with a drizzle of tangy-sweet sauce.
Brisket sandwich from Rodney’s Ribs.
Wonho Frank Lee

River Street BBQ

Whether it’s pop-ups, catering, or collaborations, get over to River Street. This roving setup mostly sticks to Northeast LA, including stints at spots like the Fable in Eagle Rock. Expect brisket tacos, loaded nachos, and more.

Herc’s Barbecue

Texas meats, from brisket to hot links, reign supreme at this low-key home cook operation known for pulling up at breweries around the greater Inland Empire and San Gabriel Valley. Check Instagram to see where Herc is popping up on Saturdays.

Black Cat BBQ

This staple barbecue spot has been a fixture in Beverly Hills for several years now, popping up at the weekly farmers market selling ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and lots of sides.

A hand in a rubber glove pulls up a freshly cut rib on a wooden cutting board.
A rib at the ready.
Wonho Frank Lee

Ragtop Fern’s

Fernando Carrillo identifies operates as a UPS Driver on the weekdays, a Saturday grillmaster, and becomes a lowrider on Sunday. His Koreatown-adjacent sidewalk pop-ups have been running for half a decade at least, a mix of Texas traditions and whatever flavors he feels like pulling from the Los Angeles diaspora. Check Instagram for monthly pop-up dates.

A stack of deep red ribs with char at the edges.
Ribs from Ragtop Fern’s.
Ragtop Fern’s

A’s BBQ

The city is watching City Terrace pop-up A’s BBQ closely these days, to see what pitmaster Alan Cruz is going to get up to next. There’s lots of East LA flavor and love smoked into each brisket and ribs plate, but Cruz and the team aren’t afraid to mess around with different genres, meals, and styles to suit their weekly pop-up whims. Check Instagram for the menu and locations.

Smokey Jones

This Culver City pop-up operates out of a home garage or to nearby breweries. Owners Russ and Viv offer a broad array of staple meats for all to enjoy, but the star of the show might well be the slow-smoked turkey. There’s always inventiveness happening here, including the chili Frito pie topped with house-made shaved pastrami.

Shown from above, a box of smoked meat sits on a street ready to be consumed.
Smokey Jones BBQ.
Farley Elliott

Bootsy BBQ

After parking in the residential View Park-Windsor Hills neighborhood, look for the light plume of smoke and follow your nose to Bootsy’s (there’s a lone speaker playing old-school R&B right next to a giant smoker that tells you you’re in the right spot). The proof is in the technique, which results in gorgeously cooked meats including beef ribs, baby backs, and incredible brisket. Bootsy’s salmon is what gets you, though; it’s perfectly cooked and full of flavor. DM Armand Bootsy Keys via Instagrm for details.

Combination platter from Bootsy’s BBQ.
Bootsy Barbecue.
Courtesy of Bootsy’s BBQ

Ribs in LA

As the name implies, it’s hard to beat Ribs in LA. The roving pop-up trailer moves anywhere between La Brea and Downtown, so be sure to find their next location in advance when craving perfectly fatty rib tips with lots of sauce. Don’t sleep on the sides, either. Check Instagram for weekly rotating pop-up addresses.

Ribs in LA, a pop up that sells on the streets, turns out crispy rib tips with lots of sauce from a styrofoam container.
Ribs in LA.
Farley Elliott

AGL’s Craft Meats

AGL’s Craft Meats owner Alec Lopez moves across much of Los Angeles, cooking out of a South LA space as well as popping up at locations like breweries and cafes on random nights. The former Pearl’s BBQ employee is best known for his Texas-sized trays of brisket and ribs. Check Instagram for pop-up dates, locations, and times.

A close up of a tray of Texas-style barbecue including pink pastrami, brisket, and more.
AGL’s Craft Meats.
Farley Elliott

Taste of the Pacific

Former respiratory therapist Jeff Mejia applies his family recipes at Taste of the Pacific, where the specialties are Filipino skewers, lumpia, and noodles that pack incredible flavor. Find him at Angel City Market events, or at a stand in front of the Lakewood Center shopping mall.

Axiom Kitchen Smoked Meats & BBQ

One can pick up Axiom Kitchen’s aroma from a distance. Upon closer inspection, Qiana and Ian Mafnas’ barbecue pop-up includes smoked beef ribs, brisket, and strips of tri-tip get slathered in herbed clarified butter before being dropped on a flat top for a finishing sear. Axiom pops-up Fridays and Saturdays in Long Beach.

A spatula turns a thick beef rib with lots of dark crust on top of a flat-top griddle at a restaurant pop-up at Axiom Kitchen.
Axiom Kitchen Smoked Meats & BBQ.
Brian Addison

Daniel's Backyard BBQ

Want a massive tray of nachos that comes topped with a pound or more of brisket? How about a torta that comes with its own beef rib inside, bone and all? At Daniel’s, the weekly food truck pop-up in north Long Beach, just about anything is possible. Including breakfast sandwiches. Check Instagram for the weekly schedule.

Battambong BBQ

They call chef Chad Phuong the Cambodian Cowboy. “They” being loyal Battambong BBQ fans who line up for his smoky grilled cuts of meat with plenty of Cambodian flavors and sides. He pops up frequently throughout Long Beach and the South Bay. Check Phuong’s Instagram for the current schedule.

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