The meat maven cooks brisket overnight and turns his elegant L.A. brasserie/steakhouse into a daytime barbecue joint.
At around 10:30 p.m. on Monday night, dinner service was wrapping up at Hollywood’s APL and chef Adam Perry Lang was putting briskets in the smoker. Tuesday was the launch of APL’s new lunchtime barbecue menu with brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork, chili dogs, sandwiches, and sides. So Lang, who’s long been known as a meat maven, cooked brisket overnight and also took a nap at the restaurant.
By the time the doors opened at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday for what’s known as APL BBQ, there was a line of 20 people, including parents with small children, waiting outside. By noon, there were 50 guests inside and the line to order food at the bar wrapped around the dining room. The line kept growing. There were plenty of booths and tables, and people could sit wherever they wanted, but many guests were happy to stand while gnawing on ribs and talking about barbecue with fellow meat lovers.
“It was such a boost to see so many people so enthusiastic, having a great time,” Lang says. “There was a great vibe in the dining room.”
Lang wanted to keep things simple, so he was slicing and plating meat himself while talking to his customers. He filled trays with supple brisket. There were delightfully peppery pork ribs being finished on a Big Green Egg outside.
The goal of APL BBQ is to offer smoked meat in “its most pure form,” Lang says. “I wanted people to order at the bar and come chat with me while I’m filling orders. It’s kind of like cut and serve.”
Many of the guests who walked up and said hello to Lang while he was slicing on Tuesday were rewarded. Lang had a plate of brisket cracklings that he was brushing with jus. The cracklings were free for the taking.
“The thing about barbecue is it’s all about anticipation,” Lang says. “That’s why people wait in line or drive a long way.”
So Lang thought it would be nice to give cracklings to customers who were patiently waiting for their orders.
“It’s such a great start to a meal,” he says. “It’s kind of a taste of what goodness there is to come. It’s this salty, slightly smoky, popping-fat, textural thing. It immediately wakes up your palate.”
Meanwhile, he’s brushing meat with jus to amp up the flavors. The intensely concentrated liquid is “a residual of the cooking of the barbecue.” Lang, who was inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame in 2013, is excited about cooking a lot of barbecue again because it always gives him new ideas like the cracklings and the jus.
“It’s a constant process of just evolving with my barbecue,” he says. “And that’s why I’m so happy to do it again, because it is a creative process for me. It’s wrapped in tradition, but there’s alway a world of discovery as you’re cooking. There’s something to be said about being in your own mind as opposed to copying what other people are doing. It enables you to really grow and see things while other people are maybe focusing on something else.”
In the case of the cracklings, it started with Lang trimming his briskets.
“I like to render the beef fat as part of the cooking process and I had all these trimmed bits,” he says. “I just decided to say, ‘Hey, what happens if I start smoking these and cooking these like this? … Oh my God, this is so good.’”
APL BBQ is served Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and delivery and catering are available. In addition to trays of meat, Lang is offering sandwiches filled with barbecue like short-rib burnt ends. There’s also a $50 sandwich, loaded with shaved, pit-cooked, dry-aged prime rib. Beyond that $50 sandwich, which can easily be shared by two or three people, APL BBQ is mostly designed for easy lunches that don’t cost much more than a meal at a good fast-casual chain. A chili dog or a quarter-pound of pulled pork is $6 at APL, and a quarter-pound of brisket is $7. A side of pickle salad is $2.50, and a half-pound of potato salad, spicy coleslaw, or baked beans is $7. There are oversized chocolate-chip cookies for $2. (A warm tray of these that was being carried through the dining room attracted a lot of attention on Tuesday.) On Saturdays, Lang has big beef ribs for $32 a pound.
At night, of course, APL is an elegant brasserie and steakhouse. Lang recently added wonderful 150-day-plus dry-aged burgers to a dinner menu headlined by steaks that he dry-ages himself in an downstairs “environmental chamber” with room for more than 20,000 pounds of meat. APL is very much a restaurant that works for both everyday dining and special occasions. The new barbecue-by-day, brasserie-by-night setup makes APL a meatery unlike anything else.
It’s a place where Lang can showcase his classical training and the skills he honed at fine-dining restaurants like New York’s Daniel (where he was part of the opening team) while also reviving the energy of the extremely popular barbecue pop-ups he did at Jimmy Kimmel’s Hollywood backlot. It’s a place where things can be soigné at night and slice-and-serve during the day. This is Hollywood after all. Why not play different roles?
Lang, who’ll celebrate APL’s first anniversary by hosting a May 10 Los Angeles Times Food Bowl event that will bring in national barbecue stars like Aaron Franklin, Billy Durney, Sam Jones, and Pat Martin, is still figuring out how he’s going to balance work and sleep now that he’s doing APL BBQ. But he says he’s not putting too much pressure on himself to come up with a specific schedule.
“I’m just doing what I love,” he says. “I’m just going to have to figure it out.”
APL, 1680 Vine St, Los Angeles, 323-416-1280