Blake’s Place—BBQ Bliss in Orange County

This BBQ favorite of misplaced Texans and Orange County locals lures guests with slow-cooked meat. Photo: Blake's Place

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. August 2012—After 16 years of successful business in Anaheim, Blake’s Place has recently opened its second location here. Owner Gene Hobel and Mike Rhodes, his partner at Los Alamitos, had been thinking of opening a new store and different areas were considered. “When we saw this place (formerly a fast food chicken vendor) was open, we jumped on it,” Hobel says.

 Partner Mike Rhodes and Gene Hobel

Partner Mike Rhodes and Gene Hobel

Open just a couple of months, he is more than satisfied with business so far. “Both locations have pluses. In (Anaheim) lunch is always busy Monday to Friday, dinner slower. Here it’s the opposite.”

In spite of a few challenges, each day gets a little better and smoother. “We got more business than we expected with a soft opening and no advertising.”

His quick serve concept has allowed him to keep his prices down (see below).

All meat except chicken is treated with a dry rub, smoked, and in the last hour brushed with their basting sauce. Jars of the signature BBQ sauce are on the table but the meat is so flavorful already, it’s hardly needed. The pulled pork, pulled BBQ chicken and chopped beef brisket are all tender, moist and delectable. Sandwiches, salads, and side dishes round out the menu.

Hobel began his career in college just looking for a way to make money. Discovering he liked the industry he continued as a manager of fine dinner houses around southern California for several years. He soon realized he was at the mercy of his chef whenever something went wrong in the kitchen. So he decided to attend culinary school. At the time, Hobel, who is in his 50s, found two major culinary schools — The Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York and the Culinary Academy in San Francisco — with much stricter requirements for entry than today. “Back then you couldn’t get in without experience.”

Gene Hobel, owner Blake's Place

Gene Hobel, owner Blake’s Place

He chose San Francisco and worked in a few high-end restaurants before returning home to manage a Claim Jumper, one of a group of restaurants known for large portions of tasty comfort food.

“I realized high-end dining requires the chef be hands-on every day for it to work,” he says. He wanted time with his son Blake, for whom his restaurant is named.

“I wanted balance. I came up with a concept so I would have time to coach my son.”

A high energy person, Hobel enjoys the pace and finds gratification in making food people enjoy. “I also want to make them feel at home. I teach my staff to treat them as if they were coming to their home. When someone comes over you give them your best.”

His cheerful, welcoming servers seemed to have absorbed the lesson.

If you’re feeling bold, try the spicier BBQ sauce. A little bit of either the regular or spicy versions enhance the potato salad and creamy coleslaw.

 

 

 


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Linda Mensinga

Linda Mensinga was editor of Culinary Trends for 15 years, now a contributing writer. Researching restaurants and hotels, she interviews the best and brightest chefs, not necessarily the most famous, to learn their secrets and recipes. Their talent and dedication never cease to inspire her. 

Mrs. Mensinga is happily food obsessed and fortunate enough to be married to a chef. 

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