Billy D’z Backyard BBQ
765 N. Wendy Drive, Newbury Park
498-7772
$4-15
billydzbbq.com


Barbecue, like chili, is a very personal thing. Everyone has an idea of what makes good ’cue: the type of sauce, when to use it, what kind of meat, marinate or not, dry rub versus wet, how you grill. Throw the many regional variations into the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for a spirited debate.

Billy D’z Backyard BBQ in Newbury Park takes the controversy out of the equation by offering up just about every version of meat and sauce you can imagine. From the Carolinas to California and the Southwest to the Midwest, the menu reaches far and wide to bring the best of every tradition to the table.

Bill D'z three item plate with tri-tip, pulled pork and meatloaf

Billy D’z three item plate with tri-tip, pulled pork and meatloaf

The array of meats, all slow-smoked over a mix of hickory and pecan woods, is pretty impressive. Yes, there are the usual tri-tip, chicken, pulled pork and ribs (St. Louis and beef both). I was pleasantly surprised to find brisket, sausage, salmon and portobello mushrooms on the menu as well. But wait — there’s more. Turkey, smoked chicken wings and a smoked meatloaf round out the options, 12 in all.

Lots of enticing choices, and way too many to try in one trip — but we did our best. We ordered a three-item plate with tri-tip, pulled pork and meatloaf (which I had never had smoked before), a half-rack of beef ribs, a bowl of chili and the barbecue chop salad with chicken. Unsurprisingly, this was a lot of food — but trust me when I say those leftovers did not go to waste.

Portions here are, predictably, large: Great big piles of beef and pork were served up alongside a large slab of meatloaf. I now understand why the meat plates come with only a small corn muffin. (Although for a few extra bucks you can make it a combo and get some sides.) The smoke flavor absolutely goes all the way through, and while there were a few dry pieces here and there — and the ribs maybe could have done with a little less char — the bulk of what we ordered was tender and juicy.

Meats come to the table naked, giving customers complete control over the sauce situation. Six versions are available, sitting in a neat row at every table along with a list of ingredients. “Sweet” is a Missouri and Tennessee style, “Spicy” hails from Texas, “Carolina” is a thinner concoction with a prominent vinegar characteristic, “Tangy Mustard” is a South Carolina recipe, the California-inspired “Blonde” features horseradish, and the “Smoky Jalapeño” offers the flavors of New Mexico. We tried every single one, and while some sauces were preferred over others (I was particularly fond of Spicy and Smoky Jalapeño), all were pretty darn good. If you don’t find at least one sauce to love in this bunch, maybe barbecue just isn’t your thing.

I would never judge a barbecue joint by the quality of its salad — but if I did, Billy D’z would stand tall. True, the lettuce, corn, black beans, tomato and fried onions were basically buried under a generous portion of meat (in this case, chopped chicken, which consisted of both white and dark meat) but they were fresh and it was a good mix. There are a few other salads on the menu as well . . . for a (slightly) lighter meal, you could do a lot worse. The corn bread was surprisingly good: warm, moist, just a tad sweet and rather light. The chili is OK, made with brisket and more earthy than tangy in flavor.

Billy D’z enormous selection of meats and sauces is impressive enough, but the very reasonable prices are notable as well. Nothing on the regular menu is over $15, and if you pop in between 3 and 6 p.m., you can fill up on sliders, rib tips, wings and the like for $6 or less each. Wash it all down with some lemonade or a pitcher of beer ($15) and you’ll be putting the happy in happy hour indeed.

Flavor, selection, price: Billy D’z Backyard BBQ pretty much hits all the sweet spots, and makes choosing a place for local barbecue easy. It’s deciding what you want once you’re there that’ll be hard.