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Build Your Own BBQ for Under 10 Bucks!

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Zeke's Smokehouses in Montrose and West Hollywood are offering an amaaaazing deal (imagine me waving my arms around like in a Crazy Eddie commercial right now)! For only 9.95 you can choose 2 meats and 2 sides! It doesn't sound too different from your usual Southern "Meat and Three" dish, but the amount of food on the plate is unbelievable. Enough for me and my dog, Spot! (cue the tiger) Come on down and see us!

Some people take their BBQ very seriously. They will throw down with you over dry rub versus mop, grilling versus smoking, Texas versus Tennessee. Zeke's Smokehouse is being kind of ballsy just by offering more than one "regional" BBQ. They focus on Kansas City, Texas, North Carolina and Memphis. Our host for the evening did want to clarify that there are influences from other regions as well, and their "North Carolina" BBQ is actually a combination of North and South Carolina. As sacreligious as it may be, I have to agree as North Carolina BBQ reminds me of bland gravy.

LAist was invited to check out the special at the West Hollywood location, along with some of LA's superbloggers. First a plate of hushpuppies, onion rings and sweet potato fries hit the table. I like my hushpuppies with a more intense corn flavor, but they were a nice texture and not at all greasy. The onion rings were a little greasy, but they are kind of supposed to be that way. The coating was like a cross between beer-battered and a tempura. The sweet potato fries belong in my mouth.

Next we were able to order from the menu, and we tried to split them up so that we could all try everything. It didn't really matter, because so much food came flying at us we practically needed raingear. We definitely needed doggie bags. Then, just to make it crazier, ribs and brisket arrived family-style.

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OK. So. The chicken was nice, but smoked to an intense pink, which some people like and others don't. The ribs were tender and falling off the bone. The hot link had a nice snap, but no crackle. They make it themselves with natural casings. It's nice that they chose not to make the hot links so hot they are rendered inedible. Some places make it into some macho trip.

The pulled pork was a little dry, but as leftovers the next day in a sandwich with BBQ sauce and coleslaw, it was revived and damn authentic. But that brisket. Wow. Angels sang. It was the brisket I will return for again and again.

There was simply too much to eat, even for professionals. The applesauce and potato salad were delicious, but there was no getting a bite of ham or most of the other sides anywhere near my belly. And when they brought dessert - nooooo. You're on your own. We did notice the pecan pie had pecans all the way through, instead of just resting on the top of the filling. But it was like a scene from "Le Grand Boeuf", or for a more popular analogy, Mr Creosote from Monty Python. "One thin mint. Wafer thin..."

The restaurant is sparkling clean, almost too clean for a BBQ joint. It is super corporate, squeezed into the Target complex that has enveloped the Formosa Cafe, Owner and pit boss Michael Rosen showed us the impressive giant smoker. The shelves don't rotate, but they switch the meats around by hand. They cook the brisket for a full ten hours.

While we were touring the kitchen, I asked to see the smoke ring on one of the briskets and he humored me. He answered all of my obsessive BBQ-ista questions in detail, if not too cheerfully, and passed with flying colors. He definitely knows his stuff. Bobzilla said it reminded him of the guy at the zoo who has to show all of the schoolkids the monkeys. And there is one kid who keeps raising his hand and saying, "Do monkeys eat bananas?" and he answers in a monotone for the hundreth time, "Yes. Monkeys eat bananas."

Zeke's owners definitely have the credentials. Michael Rosen was the Executive Chef at Reign restaurant in Beverly Hills, always maintaining a down-home Southern flair. He opened Maple Drive along with Zeke's chef and co-owner, Leonard Schwartz, late of 72 Market Street. For Zeke's, they decided to partner with Gelsinger Meats and Deli in Montrose to highlight the meats, and to provide fresh fodder for the pit. A perfect match. They traveled the country studying up on BBQ and returned home ready to 'que.

Zeke's "Build Your Own BBQ Special" lets you choose two meats from pulled pork, pulled chicken, dark 1/4 chicken, smoked ham and hot links. The sides are baked beans, collard greens, mashed potatoes, green beans, potato salad, cole slaw, applesauce, kettle chips and fries. Still, that brisket is so memorable. It may be worth going off the specialty menu. And hey, did you notice they have catfish? I didn't know they had catfish!

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