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Drunk After Work: Lucille's Smokehouse

Drunk After Work: Lucille's Smokehouse
Edwin Goei

The Place: Lucille's Smokehouse, 2550 Park Ave.,, Tustin, (714) 259-1227. Also available at its other locations; check Lucille's website for addresses.

The Hours: 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 p.m.-close all week. Available in the bar only

The Deal: Appetizers from $1.95-$5.95. 22 oz. draft beers including a house hefeweizen, honey blonde and amber ale, $3.75. Coors Light and Bud Light, $3.25. $1.00 off all other 22 oz draft beers. Reserve wines by the glass, $4.00. Well drinks, $3.25. Skyy martinis (Cosmopolitan, Sour Apple, Lemon Drop, Key Lime), $6. Selected featured cocktails range from a Cuervo Margarita for $3.75 to a Classic Candy Rite for $6. $1.00 off all other drinks on the bar menu.

The Scene: You need to come at least a half hour in advance of when you actually want to sit, because it is likely that you'll spend the first 15-30 minutes waiting for a seat to open up. And there are very few seats to be had. The high tables go first. If you're planning to eat a larger meal made of appetizers (which you should), you'll want one of these. The bar seats go next.

At closer to seven, when every seat and table has been claimed, late-comers get desperate, resorting to any flat surface they can find to put their drinks on. For those who are simply out of luck, there are two seats just outside the periphery of the bar where the Happy Hour deals still apply. On it, a side table already occupied by a lamp has just enough space for two drinks or one appetizer plate. Larger parties usually claim the couch and coffee table.

Drunk After Work: Lucille's Smokehouse
Edwin Goei

The Sauce: Our own Dave Lieberman considers their amber ale "most awesome". Like their hef and honey blonde, the amber ale is brewed by Lucille's themselves. He notes that it tastes a lot like Newcastle, his mass-production beer of choice. Their house hefeweizen also goes well with fried things you're bound to consume.

Or you can go for their most expensive cocktail, the Back Porch Strawberry Lemonade, served in a sugar-rimmed mug so tall and unwieldy it's ridiculous. Alcoholically speaking, it consists of two ounces of vodka and an insignificant amount of triple sec. This is a drink fun to sip as things with the words "strawberry" and "lemonade" always tend to be.

 

The Food: Aside from their gumbo, which is criminally over-salted but chock full of meat (shredded chicken, andouille sausage, and nicely-cooked shrimp), everything on Lucille's Happy Hour menu can substitute for the restaurant's full-on meals, for a fraction of the price. They even supply you with hot towels and complimentary baskets of the same sugar-crusted biscuits and apple butter they serve inside the real dining room.

Before you fill up on them, the hot link must always be ordered--a smoky, intense, otherworldly meat-in-tube-form that snaps and fights you all the way down your gullet.

The sliders, using the same Hawaiian rolls everyone else uses, are filled with the same saucy pulled pork they use for their full-sized sandwiches; or slices of their slow-roasted brisket; or BBQ chicken. Fried green tomatoes sit in a puddle of plate-lickable sauce. Cajun fish tacos come full of flavor, thanks to cornmeal breaded fried catfish fingers and a surprisingly effective cilantro cream and jalapeno tartar sauce.

Drunk After Work: Lucille's Smokehouse
Edwin Goei

And if you're still itching to order some baby backs, you can quench your craving by asking for the BBQ rib tips, which are almost as good. A tall stack of the fatty, meaty, sweet char-crusted, sauce-drizzled things come out looking like it came from a fancier restaurant. Each chewy, tender, porky slice even has a small bit of cartilage and bone to hold on to.

Round out your meal with a decent spinach and cheese dip, scooped out by freshly fried tortilla chips; or completely blot out your hunger with Carolina skins, baked potato halves stuffed full of chicken meat and other odds and ends.

The Verdict: Good house brews paired with food as excellent as what's served inside, except in more realistic portions and prices. One of the better Happy Hours around.

The Grade: A.


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