DEEP IN THE HEART OF CHINATOWN
More than a thousand miles from the heart of Texas, nestled in the shadow of Disney Hall, sits a barbecue joint with its sights squarely set on the divine. Five days a week, long before the sun rises, one man begins his journey — stoking his fire, his oven burning hot, he pursues his quest to bring mouth-watering barbecue to Los Angeles.
“I love barbecue,” says Justin Mi, the owner of Belle Belle’s Cue, “and I wanted to start a barbecue restaurant for a few years.” Knowing his path, he started looking into barbecue. Hard. “I read books, I did my homework, I watched ‘BBQ Pitmasters’ on YouTube,” Mi says. He points to BBQ masters Aaron Franklin (Franklin Barbecue in Austin) and John Lewis (Lewis Barbecue in Charleston) as his meat gurus and guides.
He took a deep dive into barbecue while on a food tour of Austin, where he estimates he ate at eight or nine barbecue spots in three days. His research paid off. Belle Belle’s Cue, named after Mi’s daughter Isabelle, delivers incredible barbecue to BBQ lovers.
Mi aims to bring Texas quality BBQ to Los Angeles. “The biggest thing is the fire,” Mi explains. “If it’s not constantly monitored, the meat gets the wrong flavor. To get juicy, perfect meat you have to be there constantly to check on the fire.” Because of this Mi starts his morning at 2:45am, tending to his smoker and monitoring the consistent quality of the day’s meat.
The flavors that Belle Belle’s Cue is able to conjure up are tasty beyond belief. The spare ribs slip right off of the bone. The brisket, wet cured for 30 days, is juicy and delicious.
“You have to have a passion for it,” Mi says. “Otherwise it doesn’t come out right.” And don’t forget your choice of sides from the mac & cheese, cole slaw, baked beans and creamed corn — all drool-worthy. The pickle chips served with each plate are crisp and tangy. “We make everything in house,” Mi explains.
Mi is confident in his barbecue,“If we were to open up in Texas we’d do good business.” Perhaps some day, but for now the native Southern Californian is more interested in traveling to other barbecue meccas scattered across the states, specifically Memphis and Kansas City. He’s looking forward to continue learning and growing in his pursuit of barbecue perfection.