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My main beef with most barbecue joints outside of the South is their failure to recognize the benefits of regionality and instead try to do too much, to be all barbecue to all people. Maple Block Meat Co. is just such a place — but it works. Chef Adam Cole moved around the South as a kid, living in Texas, Georgia and North Carolina, and he developed a taste for quite a few different barbecue styles. His restaurant, unsurprisingly, pays homage to all kinds of traditions. He spent some time training with a competition barbecuer, and at Maple Block he's smoking whole animals in J&R wood smokers that are built in Texas. Cole is not adhering to any particular style or region; what he does do very well is smoke meat — brisket in particular. The tender slices of beef are intensely smoky, the ratio of fat to lean meat is just right, and the peppery crust on the outside delivers just enough prickly flavor. I wasn't the first to notice the superiority of Maple Block's brisket; Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor for Texas Monthly and perhaps the most respected barbecue writer in the game, penned an essay in Los Angeles Magazine late last year declaring his admiration for Cole's efforts. After quipping that “California has sunshine and great wine — they're not supposed to have great brisket, too,” Vaughn declared Maple Block's brisket the best in California. I must concur — and would suggest that its superiority extends even beyond the Golden State. This brisket is as good as any I've had outside of Texas and far better than 90 percent of what the other 49 states have to offer.