Enjoy the food. Savor the conversation.

Barrel & Ashes

Barrel & Ashes
11801 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604 $$

Drink, then Eat: Solid bar program outshines the barbecue a bit.

Barrel & Ashes is the first restaurant Timothy Hollingsworth opened after arriving in Los Angeles in 2012. His second opening in LA was Otium which we reviewed extensively as our first 360° Restaurant Review back in October 2016. If Timothy Hollingsworth's name sounds familiar, it's because he spent 12 years at Thomas Keller's spiritual home to all things culinary, French Laundry in Yountville, CA. Hollingsworth started out as a commis (a junior chef) at French Laundry, working his way up to Chef de Cuisine after only 8 years. Hollingsworth was also part of the core team that traveled to New York City and prepared for the opening of Per Se - on our list of NYC restaurants to visit and arguably NYC's best restaurant, although they were dinged at the beginning of 2016 by the New York Times' food critic, Pete Wells.

We arrived at the San Fernando Valley's latest entrant into barbecue a little early and there was no chance they were letting us sit down and imbibe before the minute they opened. Once we did get settled in a booth, we quickly honed in on the cocktail menu.

We felt like cocktails would go best with barbecue so we tried each of the following and thoroughly enjoyed them. Each was refreshing on a relatively warm day and got us in a spirited mood. I could easily see whiling away an afternoon (and maybe evening) with one of these drinks in my hand.

The Honey Bubble (tequila blanco, honey bubbles moscato, fresno pepper honey, ginger, lemon, creme de violette)

Kentucky Mule (bourbon, lemon, ginger, honey, angostura)

Pear Pressure (anjou pear, lime, cinnamon, maple, vodka, bitters)

We started our group off with the Hush Puppies, Peel and Eat Shrimp, and the Hoe Cake. I hate to just say "they were great" but honestly, they were devoured so fast, I didn't get to spend much time with them. The Hush Puppies were my favorite - well fried but not TOO fried, moist and tasty savoriness. The Hoe Cake was sweet and although i loved it, it would make a great dessert.

The sides were but a warm-up for the big meat course. Potatoes, Sweet Potato Fries, and glazed Brussels Sprouts all hit the spot but we were waiting for this:

Sausage, brisket, ribs, tri-tip and some pulled pork not in the photo because the hungry beasts with me jumped on this before I realized! Although barbecue isn't my first choice, I enjoyed it all. We were expecting something more refined since Hollingsworth had been at French Laundry but we realized that Barrel & Ashes is a great hangout for groups wanting a higher end location to meet friends and watch a game. Great drinks, good food, and a loud, rowdy atmosphere. 

In typical eat+drink fashion, I ordered all four desserts on the menu. The Blueberry Crumble, Banana Pudding, Ice Cream Float, and the Hot Fudge Sundae. There isn't much to say about a float and a sundae - as long as you use very good ice cream, it's hard to go wrong and my kids proved it. They inhaled both of them. My favorite was the Blueberry Crumble. It went well after the barbecue and made me feel like I was in the south a bit. I'm sure Hollingsworth would like to bring a bit of his home state, Texas, to SoCal and in a very slight way Barrel & Ashes did make me feel like I was somewhere else. Lots of great flavors, in an accessible environment, allowing diners to eat, drink, visit and maybe watch the Texas Longhorns or Dallas Cowboys play a game.

Did I mention that the decor is a do you say...interesting?