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Dining Guide for Families in Orange County

Bad to the Bone BBQ So Good to the Bone

We dined as a guest of the venue


I have to confess to being somewhat cynical when anyone tells me about a good BBQ place in these parts. Every time I get suckered into going, which admittedly isn’t very often, it seems like I walk away disappointed. Sorry but oversauced, falling off the bone ribs just aren’t my thing. Especially when they’re fatty and lack that deep smoky flavor I crave. This for the most part sums up my experience, so I was a little skeptical when I and several fellow food bloggers and writers were invited to an early lunch at Bad to the Bone BBQ on a recent Saturday.

My first order of business was finding the place. It’s a bit hidden away in a strip mall in San Juan Capistrano. Though I’m pretty familiar with the area, I never realized the mall or the restaurant were even there. You’d think that would be a hindrance for business, but a more recent visit last Friday night proves that simply isn’t the case. With nearly all 140 seats occupied the place was buzzing the entire time we were there. The bar area and outdoor patio were particularly popular with live music to entertain.


The restaurant looks and smells exactly the way you’d expect a barbecue joint to. Rustic and casual with the wonderful, drool inducing aroma of smoke wafting through the air. So far so good.

We were greeted by owner, Marty Wells, a former bona fide cowboy from Oklahoma, who gave up the pro rodeo circuit to settle in California with his wife and pursue his second career making barbecue. A passion he comes by honest, learning from his uncle, the owner of Smokin’ Joe’s Rib Ranch in Oklahoma. Now things were sounding even more promising.


Marty walked us through his process for turning out their succulent, smoky meats. Several pits run simultaneously, so they are able to juggle the varying smoke times for the 70 to 75 racks of baby back ribs, 35 racks of St. Louis style pork ribs, 20 racks of beef back ribs, 150 pounds of tri-tip, 25 chickens, 200 plus pounds of brisket and 200 pounds of pork butt they prepare each day. That is a lot of BBQ!



Each start with their in-house rub before they are placed in the pits with hickory. The brisket and pork butt smoke the longest for about 12 to 16 hours until they’re done. Due to the long smoking times, when they run out, that’s it for the day, they’re out. This is a good thing! Waste is minimized and each day you know you’re getting freshly smoked pork and beef.


The tri—tip smokes about an hour and a half until medium rare, before it’s finished over a mesquite fire. The ribs smoke around three to four hours and then are lightly sauced with housemade barbecue sauce. All of their sauces are housemade and a favorite is the vinegar based original sauce.



I have to confess, by now I had seen enough, it was pure torture and I wanted to eat already. And eat we did. We stuffed ourselves on baby back ribs, St. Louis ribs, beef ribs, tri-tip, smoked sausage, pulled pork and brisket along with several side dishes including baked beans; sweet, moist corn bread; mac ‘n’ cheese; garlic bashed potatoes; and potato salad.


I am a rib lover and fully expected to like the ribs the best. In fact had I been ordering on my own, that’s what I would have chosen. However, while the ribs were tender with just enough chew, not oversauced, nice and smoky, and oh so flavorful, it was the tri-tip that blew me away. Lean, moist, with a rich smoky flavor, so delicious with or without sauce, I had to order extra to take home.


Another favorite of mine I had to order extra of was the mac ‘n’ cheese. Creamy, cheesy, gooey goodness…. and though I’m not sure what the cheese blend was, Marty did confess Velveeta has a hand in the creaminess. The kid in me is not opposed to a little Velveeta here and there. Food for the soul.

As for Marty, his favorite is the brisket. And between the baby back and the St. Louis style, he prefers the St. Louis style. Based on what I tried though, it doesn’t matter what you order, it’s all good. So good in fact, I’ve already returned to the scene of the crime with my sister and mom in tow for dinner. This time I selected from one of their 25 beers available on tap… Blue Moon with an orange to go with my tri-tip.

Bad to the Bone BBQ  is located at 31738 Rancho Viejo Road, San Juan Capistrano.

Dana Wilde grew up playing “sous chef” for her father as he churned out one amazing meal after the next for family and friends. She inherited her father’s life long passion for cooking and has spent the past two decades studying, reading, practicing, experimenting, and creating in the kitchen.

Bad To the Bone BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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