If you’ve spent much time at Barrel & Ashes, the Studio City barbecue joint that’s basically a collection of high tables and bar seating around an open kitchen, at some point you’ll have developed an obsession with its hoe cakes. These are not so much the hoe cakes of the traditional South — the name possibly comes from the slavery-era practice of baking flat rounds of cornmeal batter on a hoe blade heated in a fire — but rich discs of butter-laden cornmeal cakes fired in small cast iron pans. Their specific invention was a collaboration between chefs Michael Kahikina and Tim Hollingsworth, who wanted to elevate the classic barbecue-friendly dish.
So they decided to bake corn bread to order, giving each diner a small griddle hot from that oven the restaurant is built around. To play up the savory-sweet aspect of the dish, they douse the hot cakes with maple butter — a lot of it — as well as a hefty sprinkle of green onions and coarse salt. The results are extremely addictive, the cakes loaded with the butter it absorbs on contact, both edges and underside crusted a very dark brown. There’s reason the dish has been on the menu since the restaurant first opened, and that on the weekends during brunch, the little cast iron pans arrive with variations: topped with fried eggs and bacon, with chile and cheddar, and with bananas and chocolate. Or just get another order of the original, for which we got the recipe.