Thursday, December 18, 2014

How To Make Herb Crusted Smoked Prime Rib

By Dru Chai

There's something about serving and eating prime rib that just screams special occasion. Yes, it's expensive, so of course that has a lot to do with it. But it's also the appearance. A steak comes to the table looking like an blackened and burnt meteor rock. But a piece of sliced prime rib looks luxurious, velvety, and even sensual. Pink, juicy, and just begging to be eaten.

Having used my Weber smoker for over 3 years, it never occurred to me to smoke prime rib. Until now. With an early holiday family dinner scheduled, I told everyone that I was in charge of the main course. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to serve the juiciest, most flavorful, and tender prime rib ever. EVER. Okay, maybe that's stretching it. But it was gonna be damn good.

I started shopping right away to look for beef ribeye roasts and how much they would cost. Costco doesn't have the cheapest prices out there, but I didn't want to drive around all day comparison shopping. Once I decided that Costco was going to be it, I had to decide if I was going to buy USDA Prime or Choice. Since prime is the creme de la creme, it was $18/lb. Choice came in at $11/lb.

On a 7-lb boneless beef ribeye roast, we're talking about a $50 difference between Prime vs. Choice. I inspected several meats and I decided that it just wasn't worth the extra money for Prime. I did some side-by-side direct comparisons, and there is a subtle difference in the marbling. I chose the best looking Choice rib roast with the most amount of fat. Choice is still an excellent cut of meat for prime rib at a reasonable budget. It's technically not quite Prime, prime rib -- but pretty darn close.

I decided to do a semi-herb crust on the prime rib. I say "semi" because it's not quite the thick and heavy paste that you see in many other recipes. After an olive oil rubdown, I covered the meat with a generous portion of Kosher salt, cracked black pepper, minced garlic, garlic powder, and chopped sage (or whatever herb, like rosemary and/or thyme). I left the prime rib in the fridge for a couple days, uncovered, giving it a little bit of a dry-brine and dry-aging effect. The salt will pull in some of the moisture from the meat and hopefully intensify the beef flavor.

The next morning, I gave the prime rib a nice sear on all sides -- a good 2-3 minutes on every side. I was going to use my trusty cast iron skillet, but the prime rib didn't fit. Nonetheless, a standard indoor grill pan did the job. The smell was just intoxicating, and filled my entire house. The sizzling sound was over the top. I was practically drooling at this point. The pre-sear helps the rib roast develop a protective crust. If you sear the meat after the smoking process, there will be an ugly-looking brown colored ring, as I experienced in my smoked tri-tip.

After searing, it was time to fire up the smoker. I decided to add a mix of hickory and pecan wood chunks -- but not too much, since I didn't want the meat to be overpowered by smoke. I kept the smoker at a consistent 250 degrees F. With the help of an internal probe thermometer, the prime rib was done in about 3 hours, reaching an internal temperature of 130 degrees F -- perfect for medium rare. If you want even more rare, then 120-125 will do. If you want well done, just stop reading right now. Just stop.

I wrapped the prime rib in foil and let it rest for about 30 minutes. The temperature will also slightly rise up to 5 degrees at this point. Do not, under any circumstances, cut, slice, or poke the prime rib during this resting period. If you do, all of those precious meat juices will come pouring out.

When it was finally time to slice up the prime rib, it was like slicing through butter with a hot knife. The prime rib was a perfect medium rare and extremely tender. I took the drippings and added some broth to create the au jus. What really differentiated this homemade prime rib from the rest was the smoke flavor. It was just subtle enough and complimented the real star of the show -- the beef.

So if you ever having second thoughts about cooking or smoking prime rib, don't worry. The most important thing you have to do is watch the temperature and make sure you do not overcook. That's it. People will think you slaved all day cooking the prime rib. Slice up the meat and serve the slices to your guests like a boss. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Quick Take: Lillie's Q in Downtown Brea

By Dru Chai

The BBQ restaurant business is no joke. With the rising costs of beef and meat products, those already slim margins are shrinking down even further. Aside from raising prices, BBQ restaurants are forced to make money in other ways by adding a myriad of appetizers and side dishes to their menu. Alcohol will always be the gold standard as the top money maker, but for many BBQ restaurants and proprietors it's all about selling their line of BBQ sauces.

Lillie's Q has a half dozen of their BBQ sauces perfectly lined up at every table. There are sauces that are vinegar based, tomato based, or even mayo based. Smoky, spicy, thick sauce, thin sauce, sweet, or tangy. There are even limited edition BBQ sauces that quickly sell out -- playing the old Jedi-mind marketing trick. Good BBQ doesn't require sauce, but good BBQ sauce does require an occasional taste test -- at least in my book.

Chef and co-owner Charlie McKenna is one of many trained chefs with a passion for BBQ. It's a growing trend -- "upscale" BBQ restaurants with a regional influence are sprouting nationwide in major cities. Joe Manzella is banking on it. The TAPS Fish House & Brewery owner/restaurateur quickly partnered up with Lillie's after a visit to their flagship restaurant in Chicago.

With Memphis in May competition experience, there's no doubt that Chef Charlie McKenna knows his BBQ, with a southern twist. Whether that translates into a long-term, profitable BBQ restaurant in Southern California remains to be seen. Los Angeles has its fair share of good BBQ joints and even pop-ups, but the dearth of quality 'Q in Orange County is troublesome. Will Lillie's Q break the mold? Full review.

Lillie's Q
240 S. Brea Blvd
Brea, CA 92821

Free Giveaway: iDevices Kitchen Thermometer mini

By Dru Chai

Not to get mushy or anything, but I want to dedicate this post to my blog readers. When I started this blog almost four years ago, I never thought I would get the opportunity to meet (both online and in-person) so many passionate people about BBQ. I'm definitely blessed.

As a BBQ blogger, I get to review some great BBQ and food related products out there, and every now and then I'm fortunate enough to win a social media contest. Just recently, the folks at iDevices held a contest on their Instagram page for Thanksgiving, telling people to share their best turkey pictures. I was the lucky winner of an iDevices Kitchen Thermometer mini.

Since I don't need this prize (I already have an iGrill mini), I'd like to give this away to a lucky blog reader. Just enter using the contest entry form below. The contest ends December 15th, 2014. Good luck, and happy holidays!

UPDATED, 12/15/14: The winner was randomly chosen. Thanks to everyone who entered the raffle!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Evolution of the World Food Championships

By Dru Chai

Three years ago, Mike McCloud didn't know what to expect when he launched the World Food Championships (WFC) in Las Vegas. It was the inaugural year and even the President & CEO/Co-Founder had "no idea what he was doing" as he shared his candid thoughts during the Food/Fight/Write food blogging conference at The Plaza Hotel & Casino.

2012 - Adam Richman with WFC President & CEO
Mike McCloud taking a picture

The Dirty Smoke has attended as media and judged the WFC each of the last three years in Las Vegas. While the competition has been an evolution, it was not without any mishaps. In 2012, Adam Richman from Travel Channel's Man vs. Food was hired as the high profile host (along with one overly serious bodyguard) to lend some credibility and give the competition some visibility, but it only seemed to take the attention away from the true stars of the show -- the competing chefs, the home cooks, and of course the food.

2012 - Main stage setup in front of Bally's

While the WFC set up their main demo and presentation stage directly in front of Bally's Hotel & Casino -- prime real estate with high foot traffic along The Strip -- most of the chefs and home cooks toiled in obscurity behind Bally's parking lot. There were many "VIP" events set up that required hundreds of dollars in admission fees -- only to see meager attendance numbers. This was just one of many failed attempts at trying to capitalize and recoup the high costs of hiring celebrity chefs that endorsed and judged the competition.

2013 - Move to Downtown Vegas and Introduction of Kitchen Coliseum

Learning from their mistakes, the 2013 competition was a vast improvement. The focus shifted to the chefs, the home cooks, and their journey towards earning a spot to compete at WFC. The best move was a change in venue -- instead of the glitz and glamour of The Strip, the WFC organizers opted to move to the burgeoning Downtown Vegas area on Fremont Street. Gone were high-profile celebrity chef endorsers, instead opting for Food Network B-listers Ben Vaughn and Jeffrey Saad.

2013 - Jeffrey Saad super focused during an interview

2013 - Kitchen Coliseum setup

At the centerpiece of the Downtown Vegas move was "Kitchen Coliseum," a fantastic way for diehard fans as well as casual observers to feel the beating pulse of the WFC. Taking a cue from Food Network's Iron Chef, it was a way for the competitors to cook on an even playing field. The most thrilling part of Kitchen Coliseum occurred when chefs sprinted to the judge's table in an effort to beat the clock. It was also a chance to showcase just what the WFC was all about -- passionate people cooking their hearts out not only for bragging rights, but also for some serious prize money.

2014 - Ben Vaughn filming in Kitchen Coliseum

2014 - The chefs are super focused to make the best burgers in the world

Fast forward to 2014, and the WFC remained mostly unchanged with the same location. But the WFC upped the ante. The number of competing teams doubled in size. There were more sponsors, and total prize purse swelled to a staggering $300k. Each category winner squared off to compete in the Final Table, with the winner earning a cool $100k and the bragging rights to hold an oversized check in front of other competitors on the main stage.

Richard Heredia's Final Table dish - Bacon Tamal w/ Salsa Verde
(photo courtesy of World Food Championships)

San Diego based chef Richard Heredia, winner for both 2013 and 2014 bacon categories, took home the title of 2014 World Food Champion with his final dish -- bacon tamal with salsa verde. Over the course of two years, Heredia's total WFC winnings total a staggering $120k. Insert cliche here -- not a bad way to take home the bacon.

San Diego based chef Richard Heredia, 2014 World Food Champ
(photo courtesy of World Food Championships)

After 3 years, the WFC has established itself as the ultimate food competition in the country, with over 400+ competitors. The WFC will even expand to host the first-ever Canadian Food Championships in Edmonton in July 2015, as well as a move cross country to Kissimmee, Florida in November 2015 for the main event. Safe to say, Mike McCloud and the WFC organizers learned from their mistakes -- they now have the winning recipe to a successful World Food Championship, which is to focus on the food and the stories behind the food.

Pictures from WFC '14.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Review: Viper Sauce BBQ Sauce Mix & Rub

One of the best parts about buying a brand new bottle of BBQ sauce is the entire experience -- the look of the shiny new label, the smell of fresh shrink wrap, and that moment when you break the seal of the bottle. The ultimate payoff is that first bite of food with the sauce.

So what are the drawbacks of bottled BBQ sauce? If you're buying online, it's the cost of shipping and small amount of sauce you get for the price. If you're feeding a large party, BBQ sauce can run out rather quickly. The alternative is buying pre-made BBQ sauce mixes.

I had a chance to try out some BBQ sauce mix and rub from Viper Sauce. Based out of Alabama, they've built quite a loyal following selling their southern style BBQ sauces. One sauce mix ($6) yields about 50 ounces of sauce, which more than doubles the typical bottle of BBQ sauce. Just add ketchup and/or brown sugar.

One of my favorite BBQ rubs to use is the Viper Sauce Original Spicy. It's a versatile rub, and I've used it on just about anything from chili to beef stew, to go along with your typical grilled meats like chicken and steak. But perhaps my favorite way to use the rub is on vegetables. If you're a typical home cook and griller like myself, veggies just don't excite me. Sprinkle some bold and flavorful spicy rub on veggies to wake up!

Spicy Summer Squash recipe:

- Slice zucchini or yellow squash 1/2 inch thickness
- Lightly coat with virgin olive oil
- Place on cookie sheet and sprinkle with Viper Dry Rub seasoning
- Place in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes

Dirty Smoke rating - 4.5 of 5 stars
Pros - Lower cost for sauce mixes, double the amount of BBQ sauce vs. buying bottle
Cons - Need to buy ketchup and brown sugar, take the time to mix yourself

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review: Adam Perry Lang's Serious Barbecue Backlot BBQ

By Dru Chai

I could wax poetic all day about Adam Perry Lang's (Chef APL) BBQ, but then I would get really, really hungry. Again and again. Chef APL named his 3-week long pop-up "Serious Barbecue," and it's both a playful nod and wink to those who fully appreciate the dedicated craft of low and slow, no-fuss, Texas-style BBQ.

It was a little tricky finding the main entrance. After a small detour down an alley-way towards the Jimmy Kimmel Live! backlot, no more directions were needed. I simply followed my nose towards the smell of sweet BBQ smoke and the sight of bright green artificial turf. It was like stepping into a BBQ Twilight Zone, smack dab in the middle of Hollywood.

Chef APL makes great use of the limited space, with plenty of large umbrellas for shade, along with a few tables and chairs. Wooden wheelbarrows scattered throughout, serving as perfect side tables for BBQ-noshing. Looming in the back is a custom-built, massive steel barrel off-set smoker on a truck bed that his buddy Aaron Franklin (Franklin BBQ in Austin, Texas) personally built for him. Ah, it's good to be a celebrity chef.

The menu is short and simple, highlighting beef in all its glory. Brisket, prime rib, and short rib -- all of the highest quality. This is Texas-style BBQ at its core, where beef is king. Best indication that this is serious barbecue? BBQ sauces are nowhere to be found (extra charge), but don't even bother. Good BBQ -- check that, great BBQ -- doesn't require sauce. That's how it should be.

Hit up the ATM, because it's cash only. I ordered both the brisket plate ($15) and the monster beef short rib ($30). Perhaps the best part is being able to watch Chef APL in action, gracefully switching meats and hand slicing to order, except the shiny meat slicer for the prime rib. I could definitely tell this was a guy who was dedicated to maintaining the quality of every single piece of meat that went out. As a classically trained chef, APL puts his own subtle twist too. Each piece of meat that goes out is finished off with a sprinkling of salt (not fleur de sel, his latest ingredient obsession).

Every plate comes with a side of sweet pickles, onions, and Texas toast -- perfect sidekicks to the main star of the show. Both the flat and and point (fatty) brisket are included, about a pound of meat. No complaints about skimpy portions here. The fatty brisket slices were tender and juicy -- this particular cut of brisket contains the most amount of fat. Fat equals flavor. This is where Kansas City diehards cube them up for burnt ends.

On the other hand, the flat slices that I had were slightly chewy. But it wasn't like chewing on shoe leather, this was still very good. Chef APL uses pecan wood, piled high and proudly displayed next to his logo. The BBQ isn't overpowering with smoke either, something that can be attributed to lighter woods like oak and pecan. After using stronger flavor woods like apple and hickory for the majority of my backyard smoking, I'm really starting to love the subtle flavor that pecan wood imparts on meat -- a combination of sweet, smoky, and nutty.

The monster short rib is just a sight to behold -- the ultimate beast on a stick. If this isn't serious barbecue, I don't know what is. It had to weigh at least a pound, maybe even two. Wonderful bark on the outside, with succulent, juicy meat on the inside. The gorgeous, bright pink smoke ring on a monster short rib on bone is just plain sexy, begging to be Instagram'd.

Upon leaving, I thanked Chef APL for his dedication to high quality BBQ and that I drove an hour from Orange County just to try his BBQ. I boldly proclaimed that his brisket was right up there with Franklin BBQ, sans the 2-hour wait with PBR-drinking hipsters at the crack of dawn. With a hearty laugh, he let me know that his BBQ restaurant in the downtown LA area will be coming soon. It couldn't come soon enough.

More pictures:

Adam Perry Lang - Serious Barbecue / Backlot BBQ
Jimmy Kimmel Live! Backlot
6901 Hawthorn Ave
Hollywood, CA 90028

October 7th - October 24th
Tuesday - Friday, 11am - 3pm

Friday, October 3, 2014

The American Royal World Series of BBQ and BBQ Spot Launch Championship Rub Program

By Dru Chai

Judging and attending the American Royal has been on my bucket list for the past couple of years. The American Royal is dubbed the World Series of Barbecue for good reason. It's the largest BBQ event in the world located in Kansas City, MO, with over 550 teams competing. Yes, 550! There are festivals, demos, music, concerts, just to name a few. I hope to make the trip next year.

An event this huge wouldn't be possible with the help of various sponsors in the industry. BBQ is a multi-billion dollar industry, and everyone is looking to elevate their marketing game to sell their own BBQ products. I came across a collaboration between BBQ Spot and the American Royal that should really excite the competition. 

“BBQ Spot and The American Royal World Series of Barbecue® have announced a new partnership, launching the Championship Rub Program. The program was developed to bring the American Royal experience that Kansas Citians know and love to the rest of America. One winning team from each of the four categories – beef, pork, ribs and chicken – will have the opportunity to manufacture and market their award-winning rub recipes to stores nationwide and The new line of rubs will be available in time for the 2015 barbecue season.”

The BBQ rub and sauce market is a cutthroat, competitive business. Think you have the best BBQ sauce or rub? A secret, family recipe that everyone enjoys? You could easily bottle up and manufacture your own BBQ product -- that would be no problem. The tough part is marketing your product, and getting it into stores, and spreading the word so that consumers can buy your BBQ rub or sauce.

But if you're a celebrity chef or BBQ champion pitmaster, you obviously have a leg up on the competition because of name or brand recognition. Winning the American Royal would definitely catapult an obscure BBQ competition team into the spotlight. There's no better way to take advantage of that success than to sell your own BBQ rub. 

Winners from the 2014 American Royal will have the chance to manufacture and market their own recipe BBQ rub, just in time to go on the shelves of national grocery retailers for the 2015 BBQ season. For the "little guys," that's a huge advantage and head start over the crowded BBQ rub market.

For more information, check out

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Product Review: Barbecue Grill Brush by Optimal Kit

By Dru Chai

I hate cleaning. I really do. Whether it's dirty dishes, house chores, whatever it may be -- it's just not something I want to do. But as a backyard BBQ griller/smoker, cleaning is an absolute necessity. The grates need to be cleaned for the next session, and if you don't, who knows what type of bacteria will start forming on there. Nobody wants to get sick from a BBQ party, that's for sure.

There are countless grill brushes out on the market, and I've used quite a few over the past several years as a BBQ enthusiast. Recently, I got the chance to try out the Heavy Duty Brass Barbecue Grill Brush by Optimal Kit. The first thing I noticed about this grill brush was how sturdy and durable it felt. I also liked the wide brush head with the long brass bristles.

I made sure to try out the grill brush after a few smoking sessions on my Weber Smoky Mountain. As you can see, there was a lot of gunk on the grates. We're not just talking about a few hot dogs and burgers here -- I smoked a few pork butts and a 14-pound brisket with a huge fat cap. I wanted to put the grill brush to the test and give it a good workout.

As you can tell in the video, it took about 30 seconds of medium-strength cleaning -- mostly centered around the big chunks of gunk -- to get most of it out from the grates. I was impressed with the wide real estate of the brass bristles, and none of the bristles were bent out of shape or fell out. Overall, this is a quality BBQ grill brush and worth the extra few bucks because of its durability.

Dirty Smoke Rating - (4.0 out of 5 stars)
Pros - Sturdy, high quality, wide brass bristles, made in the USA
Cons - Cost is on the higher side
Recommended - Check them out on

Monday, August 18, 2014

Juicy Pork Dumplings at Din Tai Fung, South Coast Plaza

By Dru Chai

Let the juicy pork dumpling madness begin. Today marks the official public grand opening of Din Tai Fung at South Coast Plaza. Din Tai Fung is a high-end Chinese restaurant that has earned countless accolades for their food. South Coast Plaza is the largest upscale shopping mall on the West coast with sales of over $1.5 billion (yes, billion with a "B") every year.

South Coast Plaza location: Replaced the old McDonald's spot by Sears 

You're probably saying, what? Isn't this a BBQ blog? Yes, you're right. But it's also about the ingredients and the meat. I'm all about the MEAT, especially when pork is involved.

Din Tai Fung is a restaurant that specializes in steamed dumplings. But they're not just your average, standard ho-hum dumpling. What makes these dumplings special is that they are filled with seasoned pork meat AND hot pork broth inside these porkalicious dumplings. Yes, I wrote porkalicious.

10 juicy pork dumplings, coming right up
Scalding hot and juicy pork broth inside

Now there are many different restaurants that serve these hot juicy pork dumplings (In Chinese, it's called xiao long bao). But what makes Din Tai Fung's version stand out from the rest is the attention to detail. They have an army of workers simply dedicated to making these dumplings by hand, from scratch. They go through countless hours of training just to be able to meet Din Tai Fung's high standards.

I wonder if they're allowed to make funny faces at customers walking by?

I can easily put down 30 of these hot-pork-broth filled dumplings. They're that good. Sure, I may burn every square inch inside of my mouth in the process, but that's how good they are. I love the intense pork flavor that's packed into each one of these dumplings, and the juicy hot broth is the best part.

While there are hundreds of locations throughout Asia, there are only a handful in the U.S. -- all of them on the West coast. If you find yourself with the opportunity to try these porkalicious dumplings, then jump on it. You can find more pictures on my Facebook page:

Din Tai Fung
3333 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Eating Out: Wood Ranch BBQ Burnt Ends

By Dru Chai

I'm not kidding when I say that I dream about burnt ends. Seriously. I was at a tropical island and I was being fed burnt ends by some beautiful bikini-clad women. Anyway, never-mind that part. What we're talking about are the perfect burnt ends -- the outside with just the right amount of smokiness and bark, the inside juicy and tender meat with the fat rendered down.

So it's no coincidence that when I smoke a packer brisket, I most look forward to making burnt ends. Proper burnt ends are made from the "point" of the brisket -- cut up into cubes, seasoned again, then thrown back into the smoker for another couple of hours. I like to take an extra step and caramelize the burnt ends on a grill plan for extra AWESOME-NESS.

Back when I first started this blog, I mentioned that I didn't hear of any restaurant in the Southern California area offering burnt ends on the menu. Nowadays, it's a different story -- there are more restaurants marketing and selling burnt ends. Famous Dave's recently introduced burnt ends, and now there's a new competitor to enter the ring -- Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill.

For Southern California residents, finding good BBQ can be a challenge -- especially in Orange County. For someone like me, and for many other backyard grillers and smokers, there's really no need to spend money going out to eat at BBQ restaurants. Unless, of course, the food is close (if not better) to your own BBQ.

Recently I had a chance to sample a few burnt ends dishes from Wood Ranch. They are from the "WR Test Kitchen"and served every Wednesday from 4pm until they sell out (from what I've heard, they usually sell out around 8pm). Wood Ranch uses a Southern Pride commercial smoker with oak wood. Based on what I tasted at the Irvine Spectrum location, I think Wood Ranch should make burnt ends a permanent item on their menu.

As far as the texture and tenderness, the burnt ends were fairly similar to the ones I smoke at home. The beef had a nice smoky flavor, but not overpowering. The burnt ends were not dry -- a common occurrence for many attempting to make proper burnt ends (some think that they should be burnt, literally). The fat was rendered down, so I didn't have mouthfuls of white fat jiggling around in my mouth.

In regards to the overall taste of these burnt ends, they are on the spicy side. For someone like myself who loves spicy foods, it was fine -- there was a good amount of kick. But for a customer who can't eat spicy foods at all, I doubt they can finish eating one or two burnt ends before waving the white flag. Wood Ranch mentioned that the spice was part of their dry rub recipe. I would recommend either a note on the menu or a mention by the server.

Traditionally, Kansas City burnt ends aren't really on the spicy side -- if you want additional flavor, the BBQ sauce should be on the side. It's good to pick either a sweet or spicy flavored BBQ sauce to accompany the burnt ends. For me, a perfectly made and seasoned burnt end should taste great without any sauce whatsoever. But hey, I'm more of a BBQ traditionalist.

Whenever I judge BBQ at a KCBS sanctioned BBQ competition, I tend to give higher scores to brisket entries that include excellent burnt ends in addition to brisket slices from the "flat." Whether you call them brisket bacon, or brisket bon bons, burnt ends should be offered at any serious BBQ restaurant. You can bet that a majority Southern Californians have never even heard of burnt ends. Glad to see Wood Ranch make a respectable version.

Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill
57 Fortune Dr, #230
Irvine, CA 92618

Eating Out: Fresh Brothers in Newport Beach

By Dru Chai

I love buffalo wings. Whenever I'm at a restaurant or bar, I always look for buffalo wings on the menu. And yes, I'm that guy who goes after the drumstick first. One of the things I look for in a good chicken wing is the texture -- Is it soggy or crispy? Is it meaty or skimpy? Sometimes, you have to sacrifice one over the other and it's a major let down.

I recently checked out the grand opening of Fresh Brothers in Newport Beach, the chain's first location in Orange County. They have a dozen LA locations under their belt, and I knew they served pizza, but what really intrigued me were the "pizza AND wings" part of their tagline. I immediately dove right in.

Fresh Brothers' buffalo wings comes in various flavors, and I tried both the sweet chili and the "super hot" flavored wings. The sweet chili wings had an ever-so-slight kick finish, just enough to offset the overall sweetness. The sauce reminded me of this popular sweet chili Thai sauce, used most often as a dipping sauce for egg rolls or spring rolls.

As spicy food lover, I knew that I had to see what the "super hot" wings were all about. There's no habanero or ghost chili, so the Scoville scale rating isn't off the charts, but the wings give off a slow burn. I liked it -- especially paired with bleu cheese (or Ranch dressing, for all you bleu cheese haters). On a spicy scale of 1-10, with 10 being the hottest -- I'd rate these wings at a 6.

What I liked about Fresh Brothers' buffalo wings is that they're baked, not fried. Surprisingly, there was a good amount of exterior crisp to the wings -- obviously not entirely super crispy if they were deep-fried. But hey, it's a bit healthier. I also liked how the wings were meaty, and not the super skimpy and boney kind. I don't want to be eating skinny chicken wings, that's for sure.

Another one of their popular appetizers are the meatball sliders. The meatball is super tender -- made with a blend of beef and pork, topped with crispy mozzarella cheese, sandwiched in between a King's Hawaiian sweet roll. The crispy cheese is what sets this apart. Crispy cheese is awesome. This world needs more CRISPY CHEESE.

Fresh Brothers' standard pizza reminds me a bit like Pizza Hut or Domino's, which isn't necessarily a bad thing depending on your taste buds and audience. But there's definitely a lot more variety and choices in customizing your pizza -- like gluten-free, thin crust, vegetarian options, etc. Options are an absolute must for a family or large kid party where everyone is picky. And with wall-to-wall TV coverage inside, everyone is sure to find something good to watch as well.

Fresh Brothers
1616 San Miguel Dr
Newport Beach, CA 92625