Dining Out: Handy place for barbecue

To the uninitiated motorist driving down Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank on a given Saturday, one might conclude there's a three-alarm fire, with huge billows of smoke near the intersection of Buena Vista Street. But open the car window and you'll know this fire was deliberately set, on one of the largest smoker grills you've ever seen. The intoxicating (at least for meat lovers) smell of fresh barbecue brings lines halfway down the block, week after week, year after year.

The weekly cookout at the Handy Market has become so popular that some customers plan their weekly wait in line to catch up on their social lives and update their kids' progress in school. Handy Market also provides exclusive catering for the summer concerts at the Starlight Bowl, in the hills overlooking Burbank.

Does the meat live up to the hype? My answer is yes, even though it isn't falling-off-the-bone barbecue. For me, the secret's in the sauce, made by a company called D's based in Sylmar. It's a perfect blend of sweet and tart, with essences of anchovies, tamarind and celery added to the expected tomato paste, distilled vinegar and molasses. They sell it inside for $4.95 per 19.5-ounce jar.

On the giant grill are chicken, baby-back ribs, beef ribs, tri-tip, turkey drumsticks (so you can be mistaken for a cavemen as you gnaw on one while browsing the vintage and antique stores of Magnolia Park), and pork sausage, with your choice of hot or mild.

Kindred's choice: the baby backs. Again, not falling off the bone, but they are truly yummy, and remind me of how much I like charcoal grills compared with the more convenient gas-fired variety. Juicy and tender, they might even tempt the most hardcore vegan. You'll also want to try the chicken, my runner-up choice. The Handy Market butchers seem to have a knack for picking the freshest, best-tasting birds, and the grill masters cook them just right, not too dry as is the case in many restaurants.

The Handy Market's tri-tip is good but not great. Because they serve it in big slabs, the meat isn't precisely cut to get rid of the fat and gristle. To be fair, this isn't a restaurant, and tri-tip isn't the best grade of meat. But the marinade and that great barbecue sauce make it enjoyable nevertheless.

I'm not big on sausage, so my dislike of the market's links might just be unfair. I found them chewy and not very tasty.

Now, here's how we save you time when you succumb to the barbecue cloud on Magnolia Boulevard. Go early. They fire up the grill at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, and that's the best time to get in and out quickly. Big line? You have to pay inside the store anyway, so skip the outside congestion and go back to the meat counter. The grill guys provide them with fresh stuff throughout the day. However, make sure it is fresh off the grill.

The butcher counter is also where you get my favorite sandwich in Burbank, Handy Market's tri-tip sandwich, also available only on Saturday. The sirloin is shredded so there's no gristle problem, and it's loaded with D's delectable sauce. The store also offers a full menu of sandwiches and dinner entrees. Just grab and go. There's a large choice of deli items including side salads. My favorite is the coleslaw. It's the perfect side dish for any barbecue.

STEVE KINDRED loves to eat, but doesn't like to cook. He's been a journalist for more than 25 years, and anchors news on KFI-AM (640) radio. Reach him at steve@stevekindred.com.


What: Handy Market Saturday cookout

Where: 2514 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank

When: 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday only

Prices: Meat sold by the pound, grilled corn $1 per ear

Phone orders: (818) 848-2500

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