Southern barbecue is sort of the antithesis of parking in LA. Think about it: barbecue is slow and generous — piles of meat infused with the sweet scent of smoke, tended for hours and often served at large gatherings — while LA parking is quick and ruthless, a hair-pulling experience liable to leave you hating your fellow man. So it was in the spirit of slow and generous living that I proposed a Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 meal* for my friends on May 30th, with food from Territory BBQ & Records, a brand-new Southern-style barbecue joint just at the end of my street. No car required.
Territory is the brainchild of Tony Presedo, a former indie record label co-executive, and Curtis Brown, ex-frontman of the band Bad Wizards. A North Carolina native, Brown is also behind the Brooklyn taco truck Endless Summer, so he’s used to bringing regional foods to the hipster masses. The restaurant itself is sparse; all the seating is at outdoor tables covered with checked tablecloths, alongside a refrigerator that diners can open up to grab sodas in glass bottles. It’s charming, but no match for my own apartment, where my friends and I can stay as long as we want and go back for seconds or even thirds — slow and generous, remember? I got our meal to go.
Back at my apartment, my friends gathered around the kitchen table as I opened to-go containers brimming with pulled pork, beef brisket, fried chicken, fried catfish, collard greens, mac and cheese, baked beans and gigantic biscuits. Two small boxes were filled with apple butter, caramel-brown and flecked with spices, to be slathered on the biscuits. One container held only sauces: pepper vinegar and sweet red barbecue sauce, to appease fans of various barbecue styles. To drink there were sodas from Territory — Bubble Up, Jolt cola, orange and grape Crush and cherry-flavored Cheerwine — or the fresh mint limeade I had made that morning. Without ceremony, just a communal “Let’s eat!,” we started loading up our plates and filling our glasses.
The chicken with its thin, crunchy skin and juicy, flavorful meat was quickly voted a crowd favorite, as were the baked beans, which had a big ham bone planted like a flag in the middle. The cornmeal-dredged catfish was crisp yet succulent, but tasted a little bland until I dabbed on some of Territory’s tartar sauce, a light, wonderfully smoky version of a condiment I normally dislike. Of the two barbecued meats, the brisket seemed more deeply flavored than the pork, more redolent of smoke, and was a great match with the fresh-tasting barbecue sauce and plain white bread.
Speaking of bread, let’s talk about the biscuits. When I picked up the food, there had been a short wait because the biscuits were still in the oven. Freshly baked biscuits? No complaints from me. I carried them home in a roasting pan, their toasty, buttery smell drifting into my face, tempting me to just bite into one there on the street. I refrained, just long enough to get inside and grab a plate. Then I split one open, spread on a thick layer of apple butter and bit into warm biscuit heaven — one stop past cinnamon roll paradise, just before croissant nirvana — a place of moist, buttery layers and browned, deliciously crusty edges. If you love bread, you will love these biscuits.
Some of us went back for seconds. A few of us even went back for thirds. Miraculously, though I had ordered enough food for 15 people, the nine of us managed to finish almost all of it. This was not due to paltry servings on Territory’s part, I feel, but to the general spirit of the gathering. We ate a little, we talked a little, we ate a little, we listened to some records, and then we ate some more. Slowness and generosity and eating till you bust — isn’t that what Southern barbecue is all about?