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Dining Out: Handy place for barbecue

July 24, 2010
(Raul Roa )

To the uninitiated motorist driving down Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank on a given Saturday, one might conclude there's a three-alarm fire, with huge billows of smoke near the intersection of Buena Vista Street. But open the car window and you'll know this fire was deliberately set, on one of the largest smoker grills you've ever seen. The intoxicating (at least for meat lovers) smell of fresh barbecue brings lines halfway down the block, week after week, year after year.

The weekly cookout at the Handy Market has become so popular that some customers plan their weekly wait in line to catch up on their social lives and update their kids' progress in school. Handy Market also provides exclusive catering for the summer concerts at the Starlight Bowl, in the hills overlooking Burbank.

Does the meat live up to the hype? My answer is yes, even though it isn't falling-off-the-bone barbecue. For me, the secret's in the sauce, made by a company called D's based in Sylmar. It's a perfect blend of sweet and tart, with essences of anchovies, tamarind and celery added to the expected tomato paste, distilled vinegar and molasses. They sell it inside for $4.95 per 19.5-ounce jar.

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On the giant grill are chicken, baby-back ribs, beef ribs, tri-tip, turkey drumsticks (so you can be mistaken for a cavemen as you gnaw on one while browsing the vintage and antique stores of Magnolia Park), and pork sausage, with your choice of hot or mild.

Kindred's choice: the baby backs. Again, not falling off the bone, but they are truly yummy, and remind me of how much I like charcoal grills compared with the more convenient gas-fired variety. Juicy and tender, they might even tempt the most hardcore vegan. You'll also want to try the chicken, my runner-up choice. The Handy Market butchers seem to have a knack for picking the freshest, best-tasting birds, and the grill masters cook them just right, not too dry as is the case in many restaurants.

The Handy Market's tri-tip is good but not great. Because they serve it in big slabs, the meat isn't precisely cut to get rid of the fat and gristle. To be fair, this isn't a restaurant, and tri-tip isn't the best grade of meat. But the marinade and that great barbecue sauce make it enjoyable nevertheless.

I'm not big on sausage, so my dislike of the market's links might just be unfair. I found them chewy and not very tasty.

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