Rodney’s Ribs: Slow and reduced

By Frier McCollister
Pasadena Weekly Contributing Writer

On a the latest Sunday afternoon, on the northwest corner of North Lake Avenue and Mountain Avenue, a peaceful buzz of action in the CVS parking lot told an additional community culinary good results story.

It’s a tale of the problems of results.

Pitmaster Rodney Jenkins of Rodney’s Ribs hustled mightily to keep up with the desire for his luscious racks of smoked pork ribs and slabs of brisket at his Pasadena trailer.

“I’m selling out particularly rapid,” Jenkins stated. “People like it. They are coming right back. I by now have repeat buyers. It (the press consideration) did capture me off-guard, but it is nothing that we’re not changing to as we go together.”

By about 3:30 p.m. on this Sunday afternoon, Jenkins’ assert was entirely supported. The ribs had been all but marketed out and Jenkins was encouraging a stream of potential visitors to return all-around 5 p.m. for the following batch of racks finishing on the rotating smoker, within the trailer.

In the meantime, Mike Eing from Sierra Madre returned for his 2nd pay a visit to of the working day to sample the smoked brisket. He polished off a 50 % rack of ribs, a number of hrs earlier.

In accordance to Eing, it’s not all about the ribs and brisket though.

“The baked beans are the very best in town,” Eing stated.

“The ribs had been excellent far too. They fell right off the bone, all in one piece. It was fantastic.”

The beans are one particular of five aspect dishes on the menu, which also includes inexperienced beans, potato salad, cole slaw and mac and cheese. They’re all produced refreshing day by day by Jenkins’ mother, Johnnie Jenkins. Those beans do have a rarified provenance.

“She figured out how to make the beans from her auntie, who applied to cook dinner for Ginger Rogers,” Jenkins reported, referring to the late film star and dancing spouse of Fred Astaire.

Jenkins is a 2nd-era Pasadena indigenous, obtaining developed up in the northwest facet of city, exactly where he still life, and is a proud graduate of Marshall Higher College.

That stated, his grandparents on each sides ended up from Texas. Any household impact on his barbecue?

“Texas is a middle level of barbecue,” Jenkins stated. “That’s where we figured out how to do brisket, from people in Texas. They have it down pat, melts in your mouth. It’s usually been there on (the menu). It was at first going to be pulled pork, as a substitute of brisket, but I have friends, who don’t eat pork. They persuaded me to improve to brisket.”

Jenkins’ route to turning out to be the most celebrated pit master in Pasadena was circuitous and mostly unplanned.

“I did not see this coming. I have got to inform you. I’ve normally barbecued, my full life. That aspect I realized was constantly there. But wherever it was main to? No, I did not know,” Jenkins stated.

Following graduating from Pasadena City Faculty, Jenkins worked as a payroll administrator for numerous enjoyment organizations.

“I was in the business just one working day,” Jenkins said. “My manager came up to me and reprimanded me about some paperwork that I believed was just so petty. With that, I started off gazing out the window (and considered) ‘I bought to get out of in this article.’ I was staring out the window and a big rig drove by.”

He took it as a sign to leave the conventions of business lifestyle and pivoted to a temporary job as an interstate truck driver.

“I drove significant rigs for about a few or 4 several years. I imagine that gave the training I necessary to push this rib truck all-around. I did not even know I would want it at the time, but totally it aided,” Jenkins claimed.

Jenkins returned to Pasadena and continued to acquire his barbecue at informal family members gatherings. The spark of a more substantial ambition was ignited at just one these function. 

“All of a unexpected, my sister-in-law instructed me, ‘I assume you have to have to barbecue. Your barbecue is amazing,’” Jenkins explained.

“I read her, but I did not listen to her. I didn’t know if it was just communicate. I didn’t know if she was critical or just (currently being helpful). I guess the 3rd time she experienced it, she kept telling me that. I heard her that 3rd or fourth time. I started hunting into it, (to) see how to make it transpire.

“I generally felt like I needed to put my barbecue on wheels due to the fact if it doesn’t work just one position, I can get it to do the job a further. In some cases barbecue is difficult to catch on. I just required to be equipped to shift to maintain her alive, just in case some thing did come about. I assumed of a trailer and identified that in my lookup and just put it all together.”

Jenkins had the trailer personalized-designed to his specifications in Pennsylvania and then drove it back to Los Angeles, where by the kitchen area was made and set up to conform to county well being laws.

“I experienced them set the kitchen in and then we rolled it out,” she mentioned.

Two a long time afterwards, in 2014, Rodney’s Ribs’ trailer strike the streets. The hunt for practical destinations took some time as properly.

“I was at Lincoln and Woodbury because I reside about the corner from there,” he mentioned. “For a yr and a 50 percent, I was looking for spots to go to.

“With that, I went to Tujunga on Foothill, off and on for about a 12 months. When I remaining, they damn in close proximity to begged me to come again.”

The intersection of North Lake Avenue and Mountain Avenue in Pasadena proved to be the appeal. In the beginning, Jenkins planted his trailer in the parking alcove next to O’Reilly’s Car Areas. Ahead of long, he landed throughout the avenue, in the corner of the CVS parking good deal.

The arrangement has been thriving.

“CVS has been awesome. Shout out to CVS,” he explained. “The management is excellent, the staff members are great. They are a good organization and great men and women.”

The trailer structure and location also proved to be rather pandemic proof. Compared with his deserving brick and mortar opponents in the region — Bonnie B’s and Clifton’s — Jenkins had innate benefits.

“Fortunately, simply because of the pandemic and since how they wished us as a local community to work, I fit beautifully,” Jenkins stated.

“I’m exterior, outdoors. I’m by myself. It labored correctly for me. Also, they advertised to help your area tiny organization and I’m out there on the corner in their confront. Folks truly did support and guidance me. It was just due to the fact of how I was established up currently. It was a best minimal established-up.”

Specified the locale, parking for Rodney’s Ribs is under no circumstances a trouble.

It’s tough for visitors to time their arrival close to the present-day need. Jenkins doesn’t have a website for on the web purchasing, and he disabled ordering by means of Instagram.

Positioning progress orders by cellphone is possible but not always entirely reliable. Arriving on-site to position progress orders is a different choice.  Hrs are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. — or until it sells out — Wednesday to Sunday.

“I’m continuously cooking. If we’re there, we’re cooking. The smoker is rotating continuously,” Jenkins mentioned.

He’s assisted in the trailer by Andre Beggram, Dwight Reed and David Egan.

The menu at Rodney’s Ribs is straightforward and pretty straightforward.

Larger sized catering parts are also offered. The “special” has three ribs and a single aspect (13.50), or a plate with four to five ribs, depending on minimize, with two sides ($21.60).

Rib strategies with a single facet ($12) is a lighter possibility or go for a whole rack ($33.75). The brisket is offered as a sandwich ($13.50) or plate ($21.60). The aforementioned side dishes, including auntie’s famous baked beans are obtainable individually at $3.25.

Jenkins utilizes a dry rub of his individual to address the ribs and brisket and smokes them for quite a few hours at a temperature just topping 200 levels. Jenkins’ father, the late Arthur Jenkins Jr., was an primary mentor on procedure.

“When I started out, my father showed me how to established the coals and get the fireplace, enable it get sizzling, enable it calm down and then place your meat on,” Jenkins recalled. “There is sizzling and rapid but you bought to know what you are carrying out. But very low and slow is the way to go.”

With nearby acclaim continuing to make, what may the foreseeable future keep?

“We’re in the system of wanting at shopping for far more people who smoke for a lot more volume,” he reported. “Eventually, I hope to transfer into a brick and mortar. It’s taken care of itself up until finally this place. I’m just going to keep functioning, preserve generating the finest plates, the best ribs and allow it tumble wherever it might. We love Pasadena.”