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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gus's Barbecue - South Pasadena

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I've eaten at Gus's Barbecue in South Pasadena four times over the past few years so I figured it was about time to finally blog it. The first visit was back in July 2010. Actually, it was on Independence Day. No one around me was throwing a barbecue that year, and you can't have a Fourth of July without barbecue! So my brother asked if I wanted to check out Gus's with him and his wife.

The atmosphere is pretty classic American. Red stools at the counter. Scenes of old South Pasadena on the walls. We sat at a booth in the far back.

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We started off with spicy smothered hot wings, $8.95. Crispy, slightly vinegary, spicy. My brother really liked their homemade hot sauce. I liked the accompanying Jicama Slaw. Must try to replicate this.

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We split a ribs and chicken combo, $22.95. Choice of 1/3 rack of Memphis baby backs or St. Louis ribs and BBQ smoked brick chicken or Southern Fried Chicken, and a choice of two sides from 11 options. I can't remember which ribs we chose, but I think it was the Memphis baby backs because I remember liking them more. And obviously we went with the fried chicken. The fried chicken here is completely deboned, which is awesome if you don't want to get your hands dirty. I can never pass up sweet potato fries. The red beans and rice were good too.

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Fried chicken and barbecue. Not a bad way to celebrate being an American. Later, I saw fireworks at home when my oldest uncle and his family lit some in front of the house.

A couple of months later, I went back with Gourmet Pigs to celebrate her getting a green card. What's more American than barbecue? The perfect way to commemorate her path to citizenship.

This time we sat at the counter. I ordered a sweet tea, $2.65.

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And chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy and creamed corn on the side, $15.95. At first I was dismayed by the dark appearance of the chicken fried steak, but it wasn't burnt at all. Nice and juicy steak with a crispy coating.

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Gourmet Pigs ordered a full St. Louis spare ribs rack with sweet potato fries and creamed corn, $24.95. Don't worry, we were sharing. A half-rack is $18.95 so it just made sense to spend a little more to get a full rack and take home the leftovers.

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For dessert, the waiter talked up the blueberry cobbler, $6.95. It's listed on the menu as blueberry biscuit cobbler, served with vanilla bean ice cream, warm lemon blueberry sauce, and an oatmeal crumb topping. Sounds good right? I was expecting an actual biscuit topping. But it was a blueberry CAKE! Cake is NOT cobbler! This was just all kinds of wrong.

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Actually, when I saw the waiter put the blueberry cake in the microwave, I kept thinking that couldn't possibly be the blueberry cobbler. Then he added the blueberry topping and ice cream and garnished it and brought it out to us. I should have sent it back! But I was hopeful that the blueberry sauce would save the dessert. No. Just no. Cake is not cobbler!

As we left, I noticed the cigar shop next door was giving away a bunch of really nice wooden cigar boxes. So I grabbed a couple and ended up giving them to cousin A to use in her wedding. So at least the day didn't end on a bad note. I know I'm being melodramatic. But I love blueberries! I love cobbler! I was anticipating blueberry cobbler! Not cake!

Fast forward to last February when I was househunting. After a day of viewing several locations, my brother suggested lunch at Gus's since it had been a while. This time, the niece was old enough to sit up and eat. Pretty child-friendly. Drawing placemats, crayons, and even a children's plastic cup and straw.

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We got the wings again because my brother really liked them.

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And shared a rib and two meat combo with two sides, $21.95.

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Your choice of Memphis baby backs, St. Louis spare ribs, or Lockhart beef ribs and two of Carolina-style pulled pork, beer-braised Texas brisket, or smoked sausage. All the meats were juicy and smoky and yummy.

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Fast forward again to now. I was invited by Nerissa Silao of NRS Public Relations, via Gourmet Pigs, to a blogger dinner at Gus's. Dinner at one of my favorite barbecue restaurants with friends? Of course!

When I arrived, the table had already ordered Fried Onion Strings, $5.95. Crispy little bits of deliciousness. I had forgotten how much I like onion strings.

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Cast iron cornbread with honey butter and jalapeno jelly, $6.95. The cornbread was fabulous. Crispy, a little eggy, studded with lots of corn kernels.

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Pulled pork nachos, $11.95. Homemade tortilla chips, pulled pork, four cheese sauce, BBQ baked beans, smoked mozzarella, jack cheese, tomato, red onion, guacamole, jalapenos, and BBQ drizzle. I had always been curious about this appetizer and it didn't disappoint.

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I ordered a brown derby, Woodford Reserve bourbon, clover honey syrup, and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, $9. A bit strong, but I'm a wimp these days when it comes to alcohol.

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The owners then came out to talk to us. They look so young! They're brothers, who bought Gus's from the previous owner. I told them I've been to the restaurant several times and have liked everything I ordered, except for the blueberry cobbler! It's not a cobbler! What? You didn't think I'd pass up the chance to air my grievances when the owners were right there? They were nice about it though, and said that customers liked their version. OK, then, but change the menu to call it a blueberry CAKE. Hey, I am all about transparency.

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I also found out that their father opened The Original Tops - Pasadena and they used to work there when they were younger. Actually, their punishment would be to help in the family restaurant. Kinda cool to find out the stories behind some of my local favorite family-owned and run businesses.

We also got to see their smokehouse in the back of the restaurant. It operates 23 hours a day. Closing only a little after the lunch rush for cleaning.

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I asked them why they needed to hire publicity when it seemed like the restaurant was always packed when I was there. One of the reasons was to promote their catering business and the launch of their new "Smoke Monster" truck. The truck even has a 55-inch flat screen T.V., which you can see on the left side of the photo.

The catering truck actually wasn't as expensive as I thought it'd be. The truck is $500 and requires a 50-person minimum order. The trailer pack for $29.95 per person includes choice of ribs, smoked sausage, pulled pork, brisket, two sides, cornbread muffins, and beer. I could imagine this being really popular for outdoor weddings.

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After checking out the new truck, we went back inside for dinner. Since I had tried all the rib and meat combos, I opted to have ahi tuna with spinach and rice, $17. I don't know what I was thinking. Sure, it tasted good, but for the same price point, go for a rib and fried chicken combo. You'll be happier. I wished I had ordered the blackened rib-eye. I debated between the two and thought I'd go healthy. Ha!

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I also wanted to try a mint julep just because the cups were so cool.

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We ended up not ordering dessert because everyone else was stuffed and I didn't want to be the only one eating. Besides the blueberry cake, there's red velvet cake, a s'mores tart, brownie, and sundaes. The ice cream is from Fosselman's Ice Cream Co. - Alhambra.

As we were leaving, I looked over at the cigar shop's selection of boxes again, and started putting them in my purse trying to think of craft projects, when I noticed they're now charging for them. $3! Hmph! They were free last time! Felt silly that I somehow missed the big sign, especially when everyone was wondering why I was taking so many...

Gus's gave us little goody bags with jars of their spicy and original barbecue sauces, a barbecue rub, and a tiny bottle of whiskey. I gave the barbecue sauce and rub to my brother so he could make some ribs with them.

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A few summers ago when Norwegian girl cousin's husband was in town, we were going to take him here for some American food. But cousin's husband perked up when I mentioned Korean barbecue so we ended up going to Chung Dam Korean BBQ - Los Angeles instead. My brother was actually quite disappointed at the time because he was really looking forward to eat at Gus's Barbecue too.

I still haven't tried their cheeseburger sliders and Wedge Salad, which looks sooo appetizing when I see it coming out to other tables. Their brunch menu looks really good too.

As you can tell, we like Gus's. A lot.

Other South Pasadena posts:
Bistro De La Gare Restaurant & Wine Bar - South Pasadena
Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain - South Pasadena
Farmers' Market - South Pasadena
Mamma's Brick Oven Pizza and Pasta - South Pasadena 
Mike and Anne's Restaurant | Bar - South Pasadena

Gus's Barbecue
808 Fair Oaks Ave.
South Pasadena, CA 91030
Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

1 year ago today,
2 years ago today,
3 years ago today, 2006 Recipes: Picture Index.
4 years ago today, Elite Restaurant (Dim Sum) - Monterey Park.
5 years ago today, Com Tam Thuan Kieu Vietnamese Restaurant - San Gabriel (Valley Blvd.).
6 years ago today, dim sum at Mission 261 - San Gabriel.


  1. You know I used to like them a lot but I went there recently (like a month ago) and their meats were dry! the chicken was still good but the ribs were dry. i was a little sad. maybe i'll go back to see if it was an off day.

  2. Jin,
    Oh no! Hopefully it was just an off-day? I've been meaning to check out their brunch since I haven't done that yet.


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