If you're a decent home cook, at one time or another someone has told you, "this is the best (insert your specialty here) I've ever had. You should sell it." Maybe you even considered it ... for about a minute. Dustin Bartz took things a step further, and now he is dishing up savory smoked meats all over town.
Bartz, a Redondo Union alum, spent a few years in Austin, Texas where he developed a taste for authentic low and slow Central Texas style barbecue. When he returned home to the South Bay, he couldn't find the smoky brisket he craved, so he bought himself a smoker and began experimenting, cooking mounds of meat for his buddies. After three and a half years of practice, they encouraged him to "sell the stuff," so he worked out a business model, and on the Fourth of July 2016 opened Bartz Barbecue.
Now every Thursday, Bartz prepares his sauce and sides from scratch at the TKT in Redondo, a 4,000 square-foot warehouse facility that houses five commercial rental kitchens. Central Texas style is not generally sauced, but folks here like sauce, so he makes his own. He's very particular, starting with homemade ketchup, insisting the corn syrup in the commercial stuff is too "gummy." While he simmers the sauce, he's also assembling his mac and cheese, barbecue beans and creamed corn. Bartz also serves a bright apple cabbage slaw, but that isn't something that improves by sitting, so he tosses it together closer to service. Depending on the size of the event, he can also do some corn bread and peach cobbler.
Twenty to twenty-four hours before service, the meat goes in his enormous gravity-fed smoker. Keeping true to Texas style, the meat of choice is beef; both brisket and Fred Flintstone-sized ribs, but bowing to SoCal tastes, he also throws in a pork shoulder or two, and an occasional chicken. He uses either white or red oak depending on availability, and staggers up to 170 pounds of meat on a series of shelves that keep the heat between 200 and 275 degrees.
Bartz cooks everything in his smoker, including the sides. He travels to bookings as a one-man band, loading the giant smoker and all the food and service equipment onto a trailer, like something out of the Beverly Hillbillies; hauling it out to local breweries including: Absolution, The Strand, Timeless Pints and Scholb. Bartz also does private catering, and once the busy football season is over, he's hoping for a spot at the Manhattan Beach Farmer's Market.
And how does it taste? Pretty terrific. The Texas style pulled pork sandwich is more chunky than saucy, the pork smoky sweet on a fluffy bun. The brisket has just the right amount of chew and a mild smoke flavor which I liked slathered in Bartz's spicy sauce. My favorite, though, was the insanely huge beef rib with a rich caramelized char. The sides are all stick-to-your-rib style, the creamed corn rich and thick, the beans full of bacon, the mac and four cheese baked into a sturdy wedge, and the slaw offering a nice vinegary brightness.
Dustin has no plans to move to a food truck or a restaurant model—he's a simple guy who just wants to cook the food, serve the food, and sell the food.
You can find the next place he's popping up at bartzbarbecue.com or maybe cater a tray for your next party. You could do worse than to go smoky, low and slow for the upcoming Super Bowl.
For more information visit BartzBarbecue.com.