by Chef Katie Averill
When you walk into Bad to the Bone, San Juan Capistrano, you are immediately struck with two things: the space is huge compared to what is expected walking in, and the customers look like they have sat in their seats many times before; there is an instant sense of familiarity. Co-owners Chef Marty Wells and Al Meyling have the monopoly on true American BBQ in Orange County.
Their restaurant has tripled from its original size; and they would take over the entire plaza if it were available. In tough times like these, it is inspirational to know that restaurants still boom. In this Bad Bone BBQ world, the pair have mastered dining, take-out, and catering to create their success.
Straight from Oklahoma, Marty is a self taught chef (with a little help from his uncle) who joined a traveling rodeo for twenty years, one which covered 60,000 miles a year. He learned to cook on the road since eating out every meal was not an option. When he met his future wife in California, his traveling inevitably came to an end. So when it was time to settle down he turned to his second passion, BBQ. Bad to the Bone started as catering with a portable smoker and soon grew into a full blown restaurant in 2005. I was lucky enough to get a tour of the kitchen where the smoking meats schedule is down to a science. They have two temperature-controlled, walk-in sized smokers that can hold 1,000 pounds of rotating meat at one time. Brisket and pork butt cook overnight; chicken, ribs, and tri-tip cook twice a day in preparation for lunch and dinner. They also have a mesquite wood fed grill which takes constant attention. They go through 200 gallons of BBQ sauce a week; it’s Carolina style vinegar based sauce, not the overly sweet ketchup kind. What are the most popular signature dishes? For entrees it’s the pulled pork (amazing!), baby back ribs and 30-day aged tri-tip. The bar crowd favors the pulled pork nachos.
Other favorites include the pinto baked beans which have chunks of brisket throughout, no corners cut. Mac and Cheese is another popular side dish, comfort food at its best. On your way out you can purchase their secret dry rub, original BBQ sauce, and their pepper sauce. Instead of marinating meat they have found that dry rub is the key. The meat gets “rubbed” and then it goes into the smoker. To top it off, Bad to the Bone even has their own beer label Capistrano Brewing. Happy hour is from 3 pm – 6 pm weekdays with live music on the weekends so dining in-house is sure to be a good time. We are lucky to have true BBQ this side of Texas and Oklahoma at Bad to the Bone. When you’re in the mood for BBQ, nothing else will do. The line out the door speaks for itself.
Chef Marty Wells
1ST COOKING OR FOOD-RELATED MEMORY: Cooking in the kitchen with my grandfather making potato soup at age 6.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB? Working on my parents Quarter Horse Ranch in Oklahoma.
WHAT FIRST INTERESTED YOU IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY? Always enjoyed cooking and felt when my rodeo career was complete I would like to open a restaurant.
FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE: Ole Hickory Smoker/BBQ Pit
FAVORITE TYPE OF COOKWARE: Dutch Oven
SIGNATURE OR FAVORITE DISH TO MAKE: Hickory Smoked Beef Brisket
FAVORITE OC RESTAURANT: Beach Fire
FAVORITE RAW INGREDIENT: Garlic
YEARS OF CULINARY EDUCATION: Self Taught
OTHER EDUCATION: Oklahoma University
PLACES TRAVELED TO EXPLORE & LEARN ADDITIONAL CUISINES: Traveled all over the United States and Canada while I was a Professional Rodeo Cowboy.
WHAT 3 WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOUR CULINARY STYLE? Fresh, Authentic, Flavorful