Although Orange County may not be synonymous with classic southern barbecue, Lillie’s Q in downtown Brea certainly provides a savory sample of an authentic cuisine scarcely seen in Southern California.
The Chicago-based restaurant hadn’t extended its reach west of the Mississippi River until the Brea location opened in December 2014.
Owned by chef and award-winning barbecue pitmaster Charlie McKenna, Lillie’s Q’s first West Coast restaurant offers seating for up to 161 people, including two patios and a private dining room.
The 4,600-square-foot restaurant produces an ideal setting for private events and sizable gatherings with its high ceilings and ample amount of seats it has available.
In fact, large groups can order a “Whole Hog Dinner” for 10-12 people that includes smoked hog carved table side along with eight starters and sides for $425. A 72-hour notice beforehand is required for the dinner special.
The simple yet impressive menu consists of six different categories of options — For the Table, Stews-Salads, Q, Non-Q, Side Dishes and Desserts.
For the Table items include Smoked Chicken Wings ($11), Pimiento Cheese Hush Puppies ($6), Fried Pickles ($6) and Pork Rinds ($5) while the staple of the Stews-Salads selection is the Southern Chopped Salad ($9) topped with pickled red onions, tomato, avocado, roasted corn, cotija cheese and cilantro pepper ranch.
However, the heart of the menu lies in its barbecue or “Q” dishes, each of which showcases the heavenly meats that earned Lillie’s Q the title of “Best New Barbecue in the Country” by Food & Wine magazine in 2011.
“All of our recipes are based off of southern home cooked meals that we put a twist on,” said General Manager Kody Havener. “Our ribs are competition style so they aren’t ‘fall off the bone’ as most people are used to. The meat should be tender, but still have a little pull off the bone, as they are judged in a competition.”
According to Havener, the Prime Aged Brisket (1/2 lb $23/1 lb $33) and the Pulled Pork (1/2 lb $17/1 lb $25) are the most popular meats on the menu.
“We do a Texas-style brisket so it just melts in your mouth,” he said. “We smoke the brisket for 14 hours and it comes out fantastic.”
Other meats like the Baby Back Ribs ($23 half rack/$28 full rack) are nurtured in a similar manner, as the ribs are smoked for six hours and never baked or boiled.
Situated at each table are six regional sauces in elegant glass bottles that guests can add to any meat they order. The flavors include a Cajun-spiced Alabama sauce, a sharp, mustard-based Carolina Gold sauce and a sweet Memphis-style Smoky sauce.
During my visit to Lillie’s Q, I went with a few different dishes to acquire an accurate taste of everything the award-winning barbecue joint had to offer.
To start things off, I ordered the Smoked Chicken Wings, a favorite among regulars at Lillie’s Q. What struck me the most about the wings was the unbelievable smoked flavor as well as the crispy skin that prevented the delectable juices from leaking onto the plate.
I also took a chance with the Smoked Deviled Eggs ($5), a simple dish with a twist. Like many of the meats on the menu, the eggs yolks are smoked and topped with house picked Serrano peppers and a bit of hot sauce. Surprisingly, the quirky twist to a classic appetizer worked well, with just the right of kick to be flavorful but not overpowering.
For my main entree, I went with the Pulled Pork Sandwich ($12 + one side) and was equally as impressed. Much like the crispy skin on the wings, the Brioche bun managed to retain all the juicy tastes oozing from the pork without transforming into soggy pieces of bread. If your order contains pulled pork, be sure to go with the Memphis-style Smoky sauce.
Based off a convincing pitch from my waiter, I paid a little extra to have the Mac & Cheese as my side dish. Featuring an aged white cheddar and American cheese blend with toasted bread crumbs on top, I had no trouble understanding why it was the top selling side dish after just a few bites.
With excellent portions, a friendly staff and undoubtedly the tastiest southern barbecue in the area, Lillie’s Q has filled a longtime void that was left vacant in Southern California until just a few years ago.
Lillie’s Q is located at 240 S Brea Blvd and is open Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. , Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit lilliesq.com.
240 S Brea Blvd
Brea, CA 92821