Phillips is a soul food barbecue parlor (actually three parlors in the L.A. area) that offers little in the way of hospitable charm, no accommodations (it’s all take-out), and an uncompromising menu of smoke-cooked meats. Its character is evident in the sauce: a tart, tangy red emulsion with no sweet charm but with plenty of spicy authority. Even the mild version, while lacking pepper punch, does nothing to amuse a lightweight palate. The hot version is at least three-alarm. An in-between “mixed” sauce is urban ‘que that is vaguely reminiscent of Arthur Bryant’s.
Unless you specifically request to have it on the side, Phillips’ serious sauce is routinely applied to any meat you get, which can be pork ribs, baby backs, beef ribs, links, or chicken. As a result, eating is a roll-up-the-sleeves, finger-licking mess, albeit a mighty tasty one. Top of the line, for me, is pork ribs: giant bats with good, chewy meat that resonates smoky-sweet character. There are baby backs, too: more meat, more tender, less flavor. Chicken is lush and smoky, although it tends to be overwhelmed by the sauce. I enjoy the chewy oomph of beef links, which come pre-sliced, but let’s be frank: In this venue, pork is king.
Beans are serviceable, as is potato salad, but the macaroni and cheese is a cut above, creamy and rich and a marvelous counterpoint to the power packed meat and sauce.
The dessert menu is intriguing – sweet potato pie, peach cobbler, banana pudding, sock-it-to-me cake, etc. – but the lure of Harriet’s Cheesecakes Unlimited, which is right next door, derailed my focus.
The two other Phillips are at 4307 Leimert Blvd. in Los Angeles (323-292-7613) and 2619 S. Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles (323-731-4772).