Yesterday I was driving home along Ventura Blvd looking for a place to stop for lunch. I noticed Mr Cecil’s California Ribs, a satellite of its main location on Pico. It was pretty empty for lunch rush, with about 3 tables full, one server and one cook. The music was great – Bowie and the Violent Femmes. I asked the server about it and she said it was her I-Pod. Great stuff. The interior was a combination of that hip industrial look from the late 80s, with exposed ductwork and a silver swirly overhang above the small open kitchen, mixed with a kind of “country” charm. I perversely liked that the walls were decorated with large photographs of adorable pigs and cows, Like, “We are so cute and happy. Admire the wonder of our being while gnawing on our bones.”
The server was really friendly and helped me make my selections. I liked that she encouraged me to get the giant 20-dollar sampler platter if that was what I wanted, in spite of it clearly being way too much food. No judgement here. I opted instead for the catfish bites, with a side of baby back ribs and cornbread. I like that you can order a side of almost anything on the menu, including ribs.
The catfish bites were disappointingly tiny, more like catfish nibbles. In that arena, Stevie’s plump nuggets totally kick their ass. But they were delicious, non-greasy, and came with an unusual tartar sauce. It didn’t seem to have visible pickle or relish, but was full of some kind of chopped green herb. It was too mild to be recognizable – Parsley? I asked the server what was in the tartar sauce. She asked the cook. She returned, offering, “Bacos, jalapenos, cilantro and anchovies.’ What? What what what? I asked, “Bacos? Like bacon bits?” She said, “I guess.” We both looked over to the cook, who was watching our exchange and shrugged good-naturedly at me. It made me think how genius it would be if they just got tired of everyone asking for ingredients, and just started rattling off strange, random items. “Uh, yeah, it has ketchup, sesame oil, peanut butter and Campbell’s cream of celery soup.” If those were really the ingredients, they are masters at balancing flavors.
The ribs were just what you would expect…if I had been craving ribs I would be satisfied. But they were not a spectacular life-changing experience, like, “I must return here for ribs fortnightly for the rest of my life.” The cornbread confused me. Usually you have a kind of dry, crumbly, cast-iron cornbread or a cake-like sweet cornbread. Cecil’s has the texture of a cake, but no sweetness at all. It was kind of disconcerting.
I would definitely go back if it were in my neighborhood, or if I were driving past again. But it does not warrant a special trip.