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