Let’s talk barbecue!
I say this as I try my first-ever bite of su-beoreg sitting at a desk in an alley north of Washington Boulevard. In fact, it’s the back outdoor vestibule of the now legendary Su-Beoreg & Monta Factory on Washington Boulevard. Recently featured on the PBS show,” No Passport Required,” hosted by chef Marcus Samuelsson, the tiny storefront has been a neighborhood fixture for 16 years…
(And how about this su-beoreg? Buttery phyllo pastry falling in layers under molten mozzarella and feta cheese… how have I not tasted this by now?)
Barbecue… we’re here for the barbecue?
Oh, for that, you will have to wait until 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday or 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. That’s when a vinyl banner announcing “Porky’s Pit Stop” drops down over the Monta Factory awning and a walk-up neighborhood barbecue stand magically materializes.
On a random early Sunday evening I order two “Pork Ribs” combos with all four sides: mac and cheese; curly fries; cole slaw; and fried cauliflower. Both “Regular” and “Spicy,” the ribs arrive back home and… they’re convincingly seductive in the manner that tends to signify good barbecue. There is the familiar though elusive tension between an assertively spiced outer bark and the drape of moist shank softly paging off the ivory bone. Good ribs offer hand-held, portioned, luscious tastiness and satisfaction. On this first blind taste with no further data, information or intel, Porky’s delivers the goods.
And there are “Pulled Pork Sliders.”
And “Loaded Fries.”
And “Loaded Mac & Cheese.”
That’s the whole menu.
Go for the ribs. Spicy.
Pro-tip: Of the side dishes, there is fervid and mounting local enthusiasm for the fried cauliflower. (My girlfriend devoured it all before I could sample a taste. )
Off-menu tip: Hot Cheeto BBQ Burrito.
A fresh addition to the local barbecue landscape, Porky’s has been generating a raving underground buzz since it opened last November. As a roving local chow hound, I couldn’t ignore it. That said, as a roving local chow hound, I also sheepishly admit that it took the promise of barbecue to discover the wonders of su-beoreg and montas. Welcome to my town!
Porky’s is the brainchild of Arsen Arabyan, 29 — the ostensible “Pit Master” — in collaboration with Sarkis Yegiazaryan, 28, the young family scion and general manager of “The Factory.” With crumbs of su-beoreg still on my lips, I ask Arabian, why barbecue? “I went to Cal Poly Pomona and got a BA in Food and Nutrition with an emphasis in Science (in 2017). When I got out, my brother and I started making barbecue. I got him a big smoker. We call our friends and they come over. (One friend said) ‘I’ll buy all the supplies. You need to start selling this stuff. It’s really good!’“
So what’s his relationship to the Yegiazaryan family and The Factory? Sarkis now pipes up, “We grew up together playing basketball at the church right across the street. He (came to me and) said, ‘I want to get my foot through the door…’ I close at 6, I got (a kitchen)… Preparation met opportunity and here we are today!”
In the inevitable ensuing interrogation over ingredients and methods, Arabyan is by turns both blithely transparent and guardedly circumspect. No secrets will be revealed here, except to say that a dry rub is involved and that the sauce-base is store-bought and then “doctored” in-house. This is a new regional barbecue style that I will dub “Dena Freestyle” and can only be found at Porky’s Pit Stop. When asked about the popularity of the fried cauliflower side dish and its composition, Arabyan is again guileless. “I’ll be honest. I don’t know the recipe… it’s my mom’s. She makes it everyday. Growing up she always made it for us. I really love it. My mom was the greatest chef growing up…” It also helps that he and Mom — Sona Arabyan — live two blocks away.
Mom seems to be the actual secret ingredient around here. Sarkis’ mother, the indomitable Evelina Yegiazaryan, is still the backbone of the Su-beoreg and Manta operation and now runs the family’s new larger venue Mont Factory in Glendale. When I return to actually sample the montas — tiny baked boat-shaped dumplings (think thumb-nail sized khachapuri) served in a spicy tomato sauce, topped with garlic yogurt crème and sprinkled with dried mint and sumac — I encounter a regular customer, Sonia Eurejian. When asked about her order, she replies, “It’s the closet to my mom’s montas…” From behind the counter, a smiling “Koko” Helvajian swiftly serves up my own order of montas. An émigré from Syria, when asked about his background, he simply says,” I work with food… It’s all my mom.”
Dena Freestyle Barbecue? Armenian comfort food? It’s all happening out of a storefront on Washington Boulevard. Only in Pasadena.
Blame it on mom, y’all. Blame it on mom. –
Porky’s Pit Stop
at Su-Beoreg & Monta Factory
1531 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena
Wed.-Fri.: 7–10:30 p.m. (or sell-out)
Sat.-Sun.: 5–9 p.m. (or sell-out)
No Alcohol/Cash Only