Walking on Melrose Ave. near Crescent Heights, I could smell the aroma of smoky BBQ wafting outside of the IMPROV. As I peeked inside, I saw a recycled wood interior with various patrons feasting on brisket, mac n” cheese and triple fried fries. At the bar, there were guests sipping beers on draught, creative cocktails and even apple-pie moonshine.
My friend Linda and I stepped into Roadhouse LA to experience Executive Chef Kyle Schutte’s BBQ. Other foodies have told me that this is not your typical backyard barbecue. This is creative and innovative global fare.
Upstairs is a cozy spot for private parties. It looks a little bit like the inside of the Little House on the Prairie television set with aged metal milk jugs, an old ice box freezer and creative farm house light fixtures.
Downstairs in the main dining room is a big window that rolls up to let in fresh air inside and the aroma of delicious BBQ outside to entice pedestrians on Melrose.
While looking over the menu, our server Jim recommended a few dishes that we must try – the crème brulee mac & cheese, corn bread pudding and housemade root beer. We ordered one of each.
When the root beer arrived, it looks like ice tea, instead of the usual dark, thick carbonated, sweetened beverage. This root beer is made from hoja-santa leaves from Mexico. It’s mixed with vanilla, cinnamon, five Chinese spices, lime extract, sugar and Balinese long peppercorn. I loved it.
The brisket is a deconstructed brisket sandwich. It arrives on a plate with slices of meat that have been prepared and cooked for five days. First, the grass-fed beef is brined for two days. Since it is not corn fed, the meat is not as fatty as most brisket. Then it is cooked for 36 hours at a low temperature. Afterwards its smoked for 24 hours and taken out of the smoker to rest. Then it is sealed with a secret butter sauce and cooked for another 12 hours. “When we run out of brisket, guests don’t realize that the recipe is a five day process,” said Schutte.
The brisket is served with thick Texas toast, a small dish of beer cheese made with stout beer, cheddar cheese, cream and jalapenos. It’s fantastic. There are also fat carmelized onions, kimchi coleslaw and housemade pickles and peppers. The in-house fermented kimchi cole slaw has a dash of chili oil and vinegar that gives a flash of heat to the cabbage.
You can eat them individually or stack them all on the Texas toast and eat as an open-face sandwich.
The chef recommends guests to order the wilted beet greens with the brisket. It’s cooked in ginger beer with dried blueberries, pickled beets and crystallized roses. If you don’t like to eat greens, you will love this dish. The acid and floral notes bring down the heaviness of the meat.
The crème brulee mac n’ cheese arrived in a black skillet with brown caramelizing on the top from the bourbon and honey. I don’t think I have ever tasted a creamier mac n’ cheese with a hint of sweetness.
Before walking back into the kitchen, Schutte shared with us that originally he wanted to be a football player growing up, however due to an injury, he had to change his life career goals and major in Psychology.
While at the Hula Grill in Maui, Schutte had an epiphany when he bit into a housemade ice cream sandwich. The flavors brought him back to a wonderful childhood memory. Schutte realized then, that he wanted to be a chef that made dishes that took other people back psychologically to a favorite memory. Food is meant to be fun to eat.
When he started as a young chef in Washington D.C., Schutte was told by an Executive Chef what to do, yet never “why” it was done that way. He left the restaurant and enrolled in the Atlanta Culinary Arts Institute to learn “why” as well as “how.” Soon he gained a reputation for making refined, contemporary, locally driven, innovative food that led the way in culinary trends.
When Adam Fleishman of the mega successful Umami Burger empire, 800 Degrees, smoke.oil.salt, Red Medicine and Formosa Café met Schutte, they flirted with the idea of working together. Fleishman called Schutte one day when the original Executive Chef at Roadhouse LA didn’t work out. Schutte started working the next day.
At first he wasn’t sure how the kitchen staff would receive him. He completely overhauled the menu in less than four weeks and taught the staff how to prep and execute dishes differently.
Schutte thought that many wouldn’t be receptive to change and would shut down, however the majority of his culinary team embraced his new ideas and gave him 100%. “I have such a great staff, we really work together as a team,” said Schutte. “We don’t cook what BBQ should be, we cook what BBQ in Los Angeles can be,” said Schutte.
This chef thinks out of the box for flavor combinations and artistic plating style. Take his corn bread pudding: he makes corn bread into a bread pudding. Artistically presented, I almost didn’t want to cut into it. The bread arrives on a plank with a scoop of jalapeno butter that looks like vanilla ice cream. Then this talented chef adds drops of olive green colored tequila and cilantro jelly and tops them with tiny purple flowers. There are shavings of citrus charcoal adorning the dish. It offers such a “wow” factor that diners at a nearby table decided to order one too.
Be sure to try the chicken fried watermelon poppers. The sweet red watermelon with the salty fried coating is an explosion of wonderful flavors with each bite that is beyond a diner’s expectations.
Also the triple cooked fries are thick and not greasy. They are served with two dipping sauces; a house smoked ketchup and black garlic aioli. I actually dipped my fries in the savory beer cheddar sauce that was served with the brisket.
Roadhouse LA is located at the historic Hollywood IMPROV Comedy Club. Dine here first before the show, and the staff will reserve good seats for you while you are enjoying creative barbecue fare or try some BBQ fare or a libation after the show. You don’t need to see an IMPROV show to dine at Roadhouse LA. It’s open to everyone for dinner every evening except Mondays.
Roadhouse L.A.’s has dubbed the month of May “Moonshine Month” and will be offering $12 specialty cocktails and $8 Ole Smokey shots all month through National Moonshine Day on June 5th. These beverages go great with BBQ fare. $$ – Open Tuesday through Sunday from 6 to 11 p.m. 8162 Melrose Ave. (323)556-2700.
This article was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on May 22, 2014.