Chuck Pine spent two and a half years at Topolobampo under the tutelage of Rick Bayless before striking out on his own, opening a small barbecue shack in south-suburban Burbank. Since then, his Mexican and southern specials have come to eclipse the barbecue itself. Pine wants to show his customers the great variety within Mexican and deep-south cooking, at prices much lower and in an atmosphere more casual than at other shops around town started by Bayless's flock. He continually travels, studying Cajun, creole, and Mexican regional cooking styles. Cinco de Mayo and Mardi Gras are the best times to visit, when month-long blowouts feature daily specials like a trio of homemade chorizos and chiles en nogada—poblanos stuffed with meat and fruit, covered in walnut sauce and grapes. Pine always throws a few curveballs in as well: paella, say, or strawberry salad, or Creole-Italian dishes like lasagna with andouille. Normally when restaurants try to do so many different things they do none of them well, but Pine cooks by his whims consistently well. There's a second location in Darien.
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