Summer is the official barbecue season. Incredible briskets, pulled pork sandwiches, and slow-roasted ribs with coleslaw and fries await meat-lover types seeking their chuck-wagon fix. Whether you like dry-rubbed, smoked, or barbecue sauce–slathered meats or a combination of all three, grab a bib and check out these eight spots where you’re sure to find your fill in Greater Palm Springs.
• See related story: 5 Best Places for a Hot Dog
The California BBQ Company
Located inside the Red Barn bar in Palm Desert. owner and pitmaster Reggie Martinez regularly has to shut down after selling out of his ribs. “California BBQ is my personal take on what I think California barbecue should be … a little spicy, a little sweet,” Martinez says. “We make tri-tip [sandwiches and plates], baby back, and St. Louis–style ribs [subject to selling out nightly], smoked wings, tri-tip quesadillas, and tacos. On weekends I have different specials, from a smoked chicken-thigh plate to pulled pork sandwiches and brisket.” Note: They only take cash for now. However, Martinez says he intends to expand to lunch and dinner seven days a week. Once that happens, they will accept credit cards.
73290 Highway 111, Palm Desert. 760-863-6971; facebook.com/thecaliforniabarbecueco
Since opening 15 years ago, Babe’s has expanded into a gastropub-slash-brewery serving barbecue, salads, pizzas, burgers, tamales, and fish along with house-brewed suds. Executive chef and operations manager Arthur Vasquez, who learned the restaurant trade from Don Callender (of the Marie Callender’s chain), says the primary focus at Babe’s in Rancho Mirage is dedication to quality, consistency, and the deliciousness of the menu. “Each product is different,” he says. “There is no seasoning on the core products like the pork ribs, the baby back ribs, the St. Louis ribs, the brisket, or the boneless pork butt. And the barbecue is smoked over hickory wood as it has been for the last 15 years.”
71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-346-8738; babesbbqandbrewhouse.com
PHOTO COURTESY OF BABE’S BAR-B-QUE & BREWHOUSE
The barbecue is smoked over hickory wood.
Considered an East Valley destination, Jackalope Ranch is known for its baby back ribs, says owner Lee Morcus. “We serve Duroc and Kurobuta pork, both of which are hormone, antibiotic, and GMO free. The ribs are dry-rubbed for 24 hours before the 4.5-hour smoke on low temp.” Ribs are served in the restaurant’s signature “Kaiser cut,” which means they leave a little more meat on the bone.
PHOTO BY KAREN GRANINGER
Jackalope Ranch is known for its ribs and its trio of barbecue sauces, notably the Chipotle Date Barbecue sauce made from locally grown Medjool dates.
“You’ll taste zip, heat, sweetness, and tang,” Morcus says. “It’s a pretty-dang-good rib.” Jackalope Ranch also delivers with its sliced tri-tip and the 14-hour smoked barbecue beef brisket. They sell bottles of their barbecue sauce in three flavors — the traditional, used at the restaurant; Chipotle Date, made with local medjool dates, which is smokier with a subtle heat; and the Habanero Prickly Pear sauce, a balanced mix of fiery heat and pungent sweetness.
80400 Highway 111, Indio. 760-342-1999; thejackaloperanch.com
Brown’s BBQ and Soul Food
This family-owned barbecue restaurant is tucked into a small industrial alcove out near the windmills. Blink and you may miss the opportunity for mouth-watering Southern barbecue and soul food. Owner Charles Brown grew up in Pensacola, Florida, where his family operated soul food cafés, grocery stores, and fish markets. He says his barbecue is a combination of influences from the Southeastern states and Texas. “Everything is made from scratch, right from the family recipes,” says Brown. The menu includes braised oxtails, baby back and pork ribs, catfish, shrimp, and tri-tip sandwiches. Brown’s also serves up macaroni and cheese and cornbread to rave reviews. Note: They only take cash.
410 West Rafael Drive, Palm Springs. 760-832-6985; facebook.com/pages/browns-bbq-and-soul-food/132860707092481
PHOTO COURTESY OF BROWN’S BBQ AND SOUL FOOD
Brown’s BBQ and Soul Food serves up Southern classics like collard greens, mac n’ cheese, fish fry and ribs.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SMOKE TREE BBQ
Check out the homestyle menu with a Southern flair at Smoke Tree BBQ.
Smoke Tree BBQ
Two locations located in Palm Desert and Palm Springs “specialize in house smoked barbecue meats — hand-trimmed and rubbed with Smoke Tree seasoning and slowly smoked with a blend of oak and fruit hardwoods,” says owner Joe Funkey, who describes the menu as homestyle with Southern flair. Try the newest appetizer, a smoked-sausage and cheese plate featuring andouille and hot link sausage with smoked Gouda, cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheese.
1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Ste. 405, Palm Springs. 760-778-6521; smoketreebbq.com
3850 Highway 111, Ste. A, Palm Desert. 760-834-8658.
Harley’s Texas BBQ & Grill
Harley’s is located inside Neil’s Lounge, serving “real Texas smoked barbecue and St. Louis–style ribs,” says owner and pitmaster Harlan Fagan. “All barbecue is roasted low and slow. It’s a little spicy, smoked, and cooked on an open pit over woods. Burgers are hand-formed. All sauces, rubs, and side dishes are made from scratch. The potato salad is made with red potatoes, eggs, and dill. The Texas red chili is all meat with spices.” Noted for its generous portions, Harley’s brisket sandwiches, pulled pork, ribs, tri-tip and chicken roast for several hours before service. The brisket alone roasts for 20-plus hours. Note: Harley’s operates separately from Neil’s, though it is located inside the lounge, so be ready to pay at both places; grab your drinks from Neil’s bar and your barbecue from Harley’s.
80956 Highway 111, Indio. 760-342-6485; facebook.com/harleystexasbbq
PHOTO COURTESY OF HARLEY’S TEXAS BBQ & GRILL
The beef brisket at Harley’s roasts for 20-plus hours.
Cactus Jack’s Bar & Grill
Though not specifically a barbecue establishment, locals love Cactus Jack’s baby back pork ribs. “The ribs are slow-cooked, then dry-rubbed with mixed seasoning before putting on a homemade barbecue sauce,” says Tammy Wilson, head server and admitted barbecue enthusiast. “Not bold, just tender, fall-off-the-bone.” A neighborhood favorite, Cactus Jack’s is old-school with black and white celebrity photos on the walls. It’s not fancy or trendy, but everyone likes it that way. Staff and regular customers are welcoming and chatty. The bar can get happily raucous during Happy Hour so bring your “outdoor voice.”
74450 Highway 111, Palm Desert. 760-346-1565.
Smokin’ Burgers & Lounge
If you’re a meat lover, there’s no reason to settle on just one cut. That’s why Smokin’ Burgers co-owner Huey Burnham recommends those ordering a piled-high burger add-on ribs. And why not, when the extra meat is only $5?
PHOTO COURTESY OF SMOKIN’ BURGERS & LOUNGE
Smokin’ Burgers & Lounge was named Best for barbecue in Palm Springs this year as voted on by Palm Springs Life readers.
Named Best of the Best for barbecue in Palm Springs this year, as voted on by Palm Springs Life readers, Burnham describes the fare as “Carolina style [with] a tangy, sweet barbecue [sauce].” They serve both barbecue ribs and barbecue pork sliders.
1775 E. Palm Canyon Drove, Palm Springs. 760-883-5999; smokinburgerslounge.com