Smoke Out: Barrel & Ashes Brings Top-Notch ‘Cue to Studio City

What happens when two Thomas Keller-trained chefs take on brisket and ribs?

It began with a road trip: two chefs, a bartender, and four business partners crammed into a SUV and toured central Texas Hill Country to sample some of the best barbecue in the nation. All told, they hit around 20 places in five days before catching a flight back home to L.A. But this wasn’t just any crew—it included chef Tim Hollingsworth, barman Julian Cox, and restaurateur Bill Chait, all of whom are involved in Studio City’s new barbecue restaurant Barrel & Ashes.

Housed in the former Spark Grill space along Ventura Boulevard, Barrel & Ashes is a barbecue restaurant with serious star power, helmed by chefs Timothy Hollingsworth (former Chef de Cuisine at The French Laundry) and Rory Herrmann (former Chef de Cuisine at Bouchon). Julian Cox designed the food-friendly drink program, which includes an impressive selection of whiskies and craft beers, balanced with refreshing cocktails like highballs, shandies, and sours.

The food is inspired by Hollingsworth and Herrmann’s numerous barbecue excursions across the country (including Chicago, Atlanta, and Texas)—there’s smoky Texas-style brisket, striped with just the right amount of fat, tender St. Louis pork ribs, and pulled pork dabbed with tangy Carolina vinegar sauce. You’ll also find a fried chicken sandwich topped with coleslaw and pimento cheese, smoked chicken wings, and gooey, melty Frito Pie served in an overstuffed chip bag. Sides are served in cast-iron skillets, filled with classics like shells ‘n’ cheese, long-braised collard greens, and “hoe cakes” slathered with maple butter.

“We wanted to serve the kinds of foods that we were passionate about and that we enjoyed eating,” says Herrmann. “I think when Walter Manzke opened Petty Cash [Taqueria] it was really inspirational. Here was this dude with a serious high-end resume opening a spot dedicated to the tacos he grew up eating on trips to Tijuana. We felt the same way about barbecue.”

Barrel & Ashes doesn’t adhere to a particular barbecue orthodoxy, but rather reads like an all-time favorites list compiled by two chefs with a serious love of smoked meat. “We’re taking the knowledge from our culinary background and combining with things we learned from professional pitmasters and people on the competitive barbecue circuit ” says Hollingsworth. One example? Batches of house-smoked Maldon salt, which add an extra smoky punch to dishes as they head out of the kitchen.

Currently, most of the meat is cooked in a gigantic Southern Pride smoker trailer, though the duo plans to add several other smokers on the premise in the coming months, including two barrel smokers on the back patio. “Barbecue requires a lot of preparation,” says Herrmann, “we want to make sure that we’re not one of those places the runs out of meat early in the day.”

What customers currently see at Barrel & Ashes is just the beginning, though. There are plans to transform the back patio—currently a small parking lot—into a Texas-inspired backyard lined with gravel and picnic tables and equipped with horseshoe pits and strings of lights criss-crossing above. The restaurant hopes to have the project complete in the next five months or so, along with an upstairs “honky-tonk” space that is still in its early planning stages.

For now, Barrel & Ashes is already a must-try for any serious barbecue fan. Would you expect anything less from a restaurant dream team that spent hundreds of hours on smoked meat research?

Barrel & Ashes, 11801 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-623-8883