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Dining Out: It's all about the meat at Cordon's Smokehouse & Grill

Spices and smoke from hard wood renders some of the tastiest meals around.

March 08, 2013|By Lisa DuPuy
  • Cordon's Smokehouse & Grill in La Crescenta opened on Friday, March 1, 2013.
Cordon's Smokehouse & Grill in La Crescenta… (Cheryl A. Guerrero…)

The folks at Cordon's Smokehouse & Grill are smoking purists. Their barbecue philosophy is not about sticky sauces or high-heat grill marks. It's about high-quality meats and fish smoked slowly over hard wood, seasoned by the best blend of rub spices. The meat this technique renders meanders into jerky territory, where the edges are crispy and the flavor of the meat itself reigns supreme. It is tender all the way to the bone, though not what you'd call super juicy.

The offset smoker sits just outside the front door of the little cafe (which is attached to the beloved Cordon's Ranch Market) puffing out clouds of fragrant smoke. Checkered tablecloths and cactus centerpieces give the place a quaint Western roundup feel. You may leave smelling pleasantly of campfire.

My family dug into a feast of meats tamed into submission by the smoker. The pork rack of ribs stood out above all else. The flavorful St. Louis ribs pulled apart nicely and delivered a heap of tender, smoky meat ($9.99 for a slab of six). Even the bones were delicious, especially as a transport for the sweet-hot barbecue sauce you get on the side. I'm sure the baby back ribs with their loin meat would be even better ($11.99). I had a little trouble with the beef ribs ($10.99) but only because they tasted so much like, well, beef. My husband loved their gamy flavor. The smoky chicken was great ($6.99 for a quarter-bird) and even better in a mandarin-arugula-almond salad I made with leftovers the next day.

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If you're not into strong smoky flavor, try one of the sandwiches. The barbecue taste on the tri-tip and brisket sandwiches ($7.99) is tempered by the fresh lettuce, tomato, onion and big French roll.

Everything comes with sides: two with the main dishes, one with the sandwiches. Our favorites were the baked beans, with big chunks of bacon and a couple different beans, the macaroni and cheese made with penne pasta and real cheese sauce, and the sweet potato fries. The smoked vegetables are tasty but might be too much with smoked meat, and the cole slaw needs tweaking, in my opinion.

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