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Review: J&L BBQ

What: Chicken, Jalapeno and Cheese Hot Link, Mac & Cheese, Baked Beans, and three different sauces
Where: J&L BBQ – 2915 Colby Ave, Everett WA
Rating (1-5):  🌿🌿🌿🌿

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The other evening, my husband and I were in Everett to meet some friends. Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about Everett. I never hear things about it that makes me want to go there often, but the experience I had was a nice one! Maybe that was just grumpy folks talkin’.

After a trip to the Funko store – also an amazing experience – my husband and I noticed all the places to eat that were in the area, and we still had another hour or so on our parking meter, so we decided to look around. After searching through Google Maps for restaurants near us, we found that a two minute walk from where we were was a place called J&L BBQ.

Barbecue is hard to come by – at least the kind of barbecue that we enjoy. We’re from Georgia, so it’s about the sauces and tender meats. Not really the dry rubs, etc., of other places. Barbecue places in the PNW are sparse, and ones that do it don’t always do it well. However, this place definitely knew what they were doing.

The atmosphere inside was much of what you’d expect from a BBQ place – akin to a Shane’s BBQ or Dickey’s BBQ, for example. The restaurant is family owned and run, and when we got there, the mother and daughter were cutting up meats while the dad was in the back.

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The menu has most of your basic needs for a BBQ place: chicken, pork, beef, etc. The sides are mostly carbs: macaroni and cheese, baked beans, cornbread. But you can get some good pickles with your food and a cookie if you want!

I settled on something easy for my first trip there: the chicken meal. It came with cut up chicken, a choice of two sides and the optional pickles. When the mother and daughter were done loading up our trays, the father rung us up, and that’s when we got to meet more of what makes J&L BBQ great. Joel (the J in J&L BBQ), was a very nice host. The next day they planned on being closed for a holiday, and knowing that they wouldn’t be able to sell the rest of their hot links gave us the jalapeno and cheese hot link to try, and he threw in a cookie at the end, too.

The experience of getting to meet the kind family behind the barbecue made it that much more enjoyable. By most standards, you expect an environment that’s rather cold or just accommodating enough to count as customer-friendly. However, we definitely felt at home in this place. And when my husband and I both used the word “y’all”, Joel’s eyes lit up for a second, excited to meet two people who grew up on barbecue and could understand his cuisine mission. (According to their website, his grandfather is from North Carolina, which would make sense why he works hard to understand bbq.)

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Overall, my eating experience there was great! We came a bit later into the evening, so Joel would check up on us while we ate and make sure that my chicken wasn’t too tough or displeasing – he even offered to swap it out should it have been cooking a little too long that evening. It was an appreciated measure! My chicken was cooked just right, but there was a small bite-sized cut that I could tell had been a byproduct of the tougher batch. Even still, even tough, this chicken had just the right amount of flavor.

At each table, there were three sauces: mild, medium and hot. Each sauce had my favorite underlying tinge of tang and sweetness that I prefer in my bbq sauce. Even more so, the flavors really worked wonders to have the kick of spice you want without being all that the flavor is. The mild was probably the sweetest and gentler blend. The medium had a small bit of heat to it, but it wasn’t unbearable. The hot was the one that snuck up on you – it’s flavors were much like the medium’s blend, but after a beat you got that real kick of heat from it. Even then, the heat didn’t overtake anything. I could have probably dipped my food/slathered my food in it just fine.

The pickles also complimented both the sauces and the baked beans quite well. The baked beans definitely had a homemade feel. So often at chains you’ll see baked beans that aren’t much different than dumping a can of ’em and letting them simmer all day. These felt like beans that had been stewing all day. The sauce wasn’t as thick, and felt loose and thin. The beans were evenly seasoned, and there was a hint of almost a mustard-y or pickled flavoring in there that really drew everything together. They were, quite honestly, some of the best baked beans I’ve had in awhile, possibly because of their uniqueness.

The macaroni and cheese was pretty standard, but very creamy and thick, which I enjoyed! You would hope that they wouldn’t mess up your mac, though. The hot link was the biggest surprise: a little beat of heat, that delicious cheese, and the savoriness you expect from a hot link.

We spoke with Joel a bit more about how we appreciated finding his place, and we found out there’s another in Snohomish, as well. So if you happen to be in either area, I definitely recommend checking them out! I told Joel if he can get some collard or turnip greens on the menu of sides, they’ll draw me in every time.

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