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Valley Life | restaurant review

Saucy Concept

But poor service, chaotic approach detract from tasty barbecue offerings.

November 17, 2000|MAX JACOBSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you go to Coal Miner BBQ & Grill at a peak time--say, an hour or two before the evening showings at the nearby multiplex cinema--you'll have to wait for a table. When you're seated, you may be surprised to find the waiters are nearly all teenagers.

And service can be chaotic. For instance, when we ordered ahi tuna salad as a first course, it didn't come until after our entrees. On top of that, the fish was so tired that we sent the dish back.

That's a pity, because this bright, pleasant place at Creekside Mall in Santa Clarita has a solid concept: barbecue and steaks with a choice of four excellent table sauces. The best of them is Hot and Zesty, a cumin-spiked barbecue sauce with a mule's kick. It's especially good with beef.

It can even rescue the relatively flavorless prime rib, but it won't save the chili appetizer, which has a canned chili taste through and through.

The colossal, quoit-sized onion rings are better, and they're particularly good with the sweeter Original BBQ Sauce.

Unlike the ahi tuna, our Caesar salad came on time, and the romaine lettuce was surprisingly crisp. The buffalo wings were pretty good too. Somehow they weren't soggy, although breading had absorbed some of the spicy sauce.

Though the entrees are cooked on a gas grill, you won't taste gas on any of them. A nice choice is shrimp skewer, two skewers of shrimp alternating with pieces of green bell pepper and red onion, shish-kebab style. Barbecued tri-tip, a cut that can be tough when not prepared carefully, is flavorful and tender.

The New York strip steak isn't bad at all, but the top sirloin steak is on the tough side. The best of the sandwiches is probably the barbecued pork, pulled pork loaded with sauce on a springy sesame-seed bun.

The beef ribs are positively enormous but gristly and not very meaty.

The Coal Miner baby-back ribs have the best meat. I'd like them better if the ribs were brushed with the Hot and Zesty sauce instead of the Original BBQ sauce, but for some reason the kitchen will not do that. You can actually get all four types of ribs the restaurant serves in the dish called Coal Miner Sampler, which is a pretty good idea.

These platters come with two side dishes. The best choices are the barbecued corn and the garlic mashed potatoes.

But the desserts are downright unmentionable. Grab your favorite box of candy at the multiplex instead. Coal Miner's young waiters will be grateful to have one fewer course to worry about.

BE THERE

Coal Miner BBQ & Grill, 23630 Valencia Blvd., Santa Clarita. Open Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Full bar. Parking lot. All major cards. Suggested dishes: buffalo wings, $6; tri-tip, $13; BBQ pork sandwich, $7; Coal Miner Sampler, $15. Call (661) 222-7560.

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