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The inside scoop on Territory Barbecue & Records, set to open May 15

May 4, 2009 |  1:19 pm


From today's Calendar section:

Want a vinyl 45 rpm single to go with that pulled pork sandwich? How about a dram of Cheerwine while you're weighing a 180-gram investment opportunity? Territory Barbecue & Records, scheduled to open May 15, plans to offer Southern-style barbecue next door to stacks of specially cured new and used vinyl.

It's the creation of ex-Bad Wizard frontman Curtis Brown and former Tee Pee Records co-executive Tony Presedo. On a recent visit to Los Angeles, where taco trucks are as common as palm trees, Brown (who is also the impresario behind the popular taco truck Endless Summer in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn), was inspired to open a restaurant that paid homage to his North Carolina roots.

"What I haven't had here is any kind of good comfort food," he says, while setting up a temporary smoker to test a new recipe. "Eating barbecue out here breaks the bank. Everywhere you go it's like 50 dollars, and then the potato salad is weird."

Some of Presedo's best and blurriest memories of Austin, Texas' annual South by Southwest music festival (Tee Pee is home to heavy psych bands such as the Warlocks and Deerslayer), involve late-night excursions to the barbecue joints that pepper the streets there. The message is music and food. "Outside of Austin, you don't see that kind of connection with records and food," Presedo says. Territory’s record selection will lean toward used releases and re-issues, along with goodies for the discerning collector who knows his Wimple Winch from his Cleaners From Venus.

Territory's menu covers all the staples, including pulled pork and brisket, fried cornmeal catfish and a 48-hour brined fried chicken. Entrées come with two sides, including collard greens, baked beans, potato salad or mac n' cheese -- or you can get a simple sandwich on Wonder Bread. There's sweet tea, but bottled Cheerwine, the cherry-flavored, North Carolina-bottled soda, is sure to put a nostalgic twinkle in the eyes of Southern transplants. Saturday and Sunday are rib days, since pork and beef ribs are going to cost a little more than the usual under-$10 fare.

"The whole idea was to keep it simple, Southern and cheap," says Brown, whose speech lacks a Southern twang. Still, he strikes an imposing figure with a shock of curly hair, tattoos and ever-present snakeskin boots. His grandmother showed him his way around a grill and, following the usual North Carolina customs, he prefers a vinegar-based sauce over other varieties like tomato or mustard.

“They cover up the actual taste of the meat,” Brown says, “I think the vinegar brings out the fat in the pork.” Regardless, in the spirit of democracy, he’s going to offer all three kinds. 

Located on the corner of Hoover Street and Bellevue Avenue in a mostly residential area that Realtors refer to as Silver Lake-adjacent, Territory is just far enough from the hip-kid hustle of Sunset Junction and Echo Park to make it a destination spot. It's hard to miss its sea-foam turquoise exterior, its jaunty watchtower and the clouds billowing from its two 50-gallon oil drum backyard smokers.

Order at the counter, but all the seating is outdoors. A small tin-roofed porch opens up into a larger back area that for all intents and purposes used to be a driveway. Rush hour could get cramped, as an occupancy estimation caps at around 50, but you’ll be able to spot the true believers — they’ll be the ones sitting right next to the oil drums. 

For the moment, Brown has a small staff to work with, including a chef who wrote the Larry Clark film “Wassup Rockers” and a North Carolina-born cook who Little Joy regulars of yesteryear will find happily familiar. The loose nature of the whole enterprise keeps the overhead low and the price point salivatingly cheap.

"I don't mind doing it myself for a little less money," Brown says. "It's not dentistry. It shouldn't cost that much."

 Territory Barbecue & Records, 534 N. Hoover St., L.A. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, beginning May 15. No phone or website yet.

-- George Ducker

Photo: Curtis Brown, left, and Tony Presedo in the kitchen of what will be Territory Barbecue & Records. Credit: Jay Clendenin / Los Angeles Times