Ventura BBQ Co.
2810 Harbor Blvd., #B-11, Oxnard

Barbecue is beloved by Americans across the nation, in all its myriad forms and traditions. But at its heart, it is a Southern specialty.

Ventura BBQ Co. — headquartered in Oxnard but with food trucks across the county — has made a mission out of bringing this delectable culinary artform from the Deep South to Southern California, and Ventura County is all the richer for it.

We had every intention of checking out the establishment for ourselves when a last-minute conference call brought our plans to a screeching halt. Not to worry: Online ordering is a breeze through GrubHub, so I hopped on my laptop and had a smorgasbord of meaty deliciousness delivered to my door in less than an hour. Everything was still hot and fresh, too, and the sides were no worse for the journey.

Wanting the full barbecue experience, I dove in and placed as diverse a menu as I could. Pulled pork sandwich, a “redneck” grilled cheese with brisket, a half rack of baby back ribs and a two-meat plate with smoked chicken and tri-tip. For sides: macaroni and cheese, baked beans and coleslaw. It was a lot for four people, but being able to sample Ventura BBQ Co.’s spectrum was a treat — as were the leftovers the next day.

All of it was great, but my favorite was probably the pulled pork. It is an enormous sandwich — I had to eat some of those tender, smoky, rich hunks of meat with a fork before even considering picking that sucker up. No matter how you eat it, though, it is absolutely delicious. Cooked “low and slow” for over 12 hours, I felt like I could almost taste every moment. It was served on a nice, soft brioche bun with a sweet and spicy (it had a kick) sauce that made my tastebuds tingle.

The other great dish of the evening was the baby back ribs, slathered in that delectable sauce. Not quite falling off the bone, but still finger-licking good; meaty and chewy in all the best ways. So much flavor, and a complete mess to eat, of course — the way barbecue, and ribs, should be.

I barely got a bite of the grilled cheese before my 13-year-old gobbled it up — a true testament to the quality of the sandwich. The shredded brisket and sauce really put it over the top. My one caution: It’s a bit of a mouthful and could be a bit much for younger diners looking for a traditional grilled cheese.

Chicken can sometimes be the outlier at a barbecue joint. It’s not usually the star player, and doesn’t always take well to the long, slow cooking process that lets heartier cuts sing. Ventura BBQ Co., however, takes a gentle hand with the bird, managing to keep chicken thighs juicy even as it imparts that smoked flavor. If you’re craving barbecue but want something on the lighter side, the smoked chicken is an excellent choice.

I liked the tri-tip well enough, but it wasn’t the standout. A good cut of meat, and cooked well, but after all the tender (and fattier, let’s be frank) options that came before it, it seemed a little tough and bland by comparison — it definitely needed the extra sauce to juice it up a bit.

The sides were surprisingly good. The coleslaw was fresh and cold, and not excessively creamy, which my sorely tested arteries probably appreciated. The baked beans were a huge hit; I will definitely order more next time. Even the mac and cheese had its charm: milder, but well made, and the noodles weren’t overcooked.

Having never been to the South, I can’t say how Ventura BBQ Co. stands up to its homegrown counterparts. But for this California native, every smoky bite was a pleasure. Dine in, dine out, get it delivered or find yourself a food truck — but do get yourself some Ventura BBQ. Your tastebuds deserve it.