Compton. Hollywood. Melbourne. Third-generation barbecue pit master Kevin Bludso seems as surprised as anyone to be opening his third restaurant, San Antone by Bludso's BBQ, on the other side of the world. "I'm blessed to be here. It's very humbling."
The 187-seat restaurant, which opens at Crown Melbourne on November 10, has been a year in the planning. Crown's scouts sampled barbecue all over Texas before wooing Bludso, based in Compton, California.
Brisket will be the menu mainstay. Seasoned only with salt and black pepper and cooked "slow and low" for 12 to 15 hours in enormous Ole Hickory smokers, it's a dish he began learning from his grandmother when he was nine.
He's also promising meaty pork ribs. "Ribs out here are really skinny," says Bludso's business partner, and barbecue understudy, Noah Galuten.
"There's not a lot of meat on them. So we've been going direct to butchers and showing them how we need to have our ribs done properly."
They have had to make other adjustments in the Melbourne kitchen: different woods to fuel the smokers ("pits"), temperature gauges in celsius and ingredients measured in grams rather than ounces.
Even the mayonnaise and vinegar taste different here, says Galuten.
Unlike Bludso's US restaurants, the Melbourne menu will offer some Tex-Mex dishes, including Texas beef chilli and tacos topped with house-smoked meats, along with traditional Texas barbecue sides such as potato salad, mac and cheese and southern greens – kale standing in for collards.
Sugar bandits can expect things like roasted banana cream pie, pecan pie with bourbon cream and red velvet cake.
San Antone by Bludso's BBQ will open Sun-Thu noon-10pm and Fri-Sat noon-11pm. Level 1, Crown Melbourne, Clarendon Street entry, Southbank 03 9292 5524, crownmelbourne.com.au/restaurants/casual/san-antone