11018 Vanowen St.
North Hollywood, CA 91605
(818) 763-8996

Tucked in behind a gasoline station in the midst of a commercial area … two smokers working hard out back … just a handful of tables inside …

Sounds like the kind of place you’d might find in some small Texas town. Only it’s in the North Hollywood community of the sprawling San Fernando Valley in the City of Los Angeles.

The menu includes all the things you expect at a top notch “Q” joint – Angus beef brisket, baby back ribs, spare ribs, hot links, pulled pork, and chicken. It’s all smoked with a dry rub and served with a choice of mild or hot sauce, each of which is fine. The hot sauce provides nice heat without killing the flavor of the meat.

The sides? World class BBQ baked beans … Vegetarian red skin potato salad, spicy ranch beans, garlic herb mashed potatoes and mac and cheese also are on offer.

My lunch favorite is the beef brisket sandwich with hot sauce on the side and a side of BBQ baked beans. Other sandwiches include tri tip steak, smoke sausage, chicken breast, pulled pork, spare ribs, and baby back ribs.

I’m a sucker for a great rack of ribs and Swingin’ Door offers both baby backs and spare ribs. Whatever your personal preference, you’ll do just fine.

Baby back ribs come from the top of the pig’s rib cage, the loin section, and are generally lean and tender in comparison to spare ribs. They are pork chops with most of the loin meat removed. Spare ribs are cut from the pig’s rib cage, below the back ribs. They are bigger, tougher and meatier that baby backs. But with the proper smoking, they are perfectly fine.

While the food is excellent and you will find me there often, I have some issues with the name of the restaurant. “Texas BBQ” doesn’t tell the potential customer much about what to expect.

As with so many other areas of the country – eastern North Carolina vs. western North Carolina – barbecue isn’t the same throughout Texas. So, when Swingin’ Door bills itself as Texas BBQ, how is a customer to know if it’s East Texas BBQ – cooked until it is falling off the bone, over hickory wood and bathes in a sweet, tomato-based sauce; Central Texas BBQ – dry rubbed with spices and cooked over indirect heat from pecan or oak wood; West Texas BBQ – cooked over direct heat from mesquite wood giving it a somewhat bitter taste; or South Texas BBQ that uses molasses-like sauces to keep the meat very moist.

Truth is Swingin’ Door BBQ probably is a combination of Central Texas and West Texas style. Whatever it is, it’s luscious.

And just to top it off, Swingin’ Door pit masters recently finished first in a countywide burnt ends contest. And that’s more properly Kansas City BBQ. It’s the heavily flavored burnt ends of the beef or pork cooked in a smoker.

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