Beer and Barbeque, Redefined

Aaron Robins’ Boneyard Bistro elevates two American classics

Written by Constance Dunn | Photography Courtesy of Boneyard Bistro

In his May 27, 1769 diary entry, George Washington wrote: “Went in to Alexandria to a Barbecue and stayed all Night.”

It’s an enduring thread of the American food tapestry, but for many barbecue conjures up little more than images of seared meat slapped on paper plates. A dozen years ago, chef Aaron Robins challenged this perception by opening Boneyard Bistro in Sherman Oaks, a grown-up ode to the genre where eaters could explore barbecue’s tasty nuances and variety.

The restaurateur, whose pre-Boneyard resume is steeped in high-end culinary cred, from spells at Charlie Trotters’s in Chicago to Bay Area haunts like Asian-fusion restaurant Eos and French bistro Zola in Palo Alto, has created an elevated stage for barbecue—plus beer, Zinfandel and spirits—at his brick-walled eatery on Ventura Boulevard. Note: Events are big at Boneyard, so check out its well-populated schedule and time you visit with a Louisiana seafood boil, a barbecue tour (spotlighting regional barbecue styles) or the annual stout beer festival, which rolls out over 20 keg-aged varieties.

There’s a fun eclecticism to the menu—Robins and father Preston are partners, which means he and his crew, which includes Executive Chef Erica Abell, have free creative rein, resulting in beloved menu stars like Falafel Tacos and Loaded Potato Potstickers. But the star of Boneyard’s Small Bites menu is the Kobe Beef Chili Filled Donuts.

In this case, Robins was toying with the idea of putting a gourmet burger on the menu, and a chili burger in particular, but was bothered by an issue that plagues many sophisticated burgers: “The buns just don’t work,” says Robins, pointing out that the bread used in such burgers often causes the whole thing to fall apart.

The solution: Form the burger in a donut shape to safely encase the meat and ingredients within. After some tweaking, the item made it onto the menu where it’s been the best-selling appetizer since its debut around eight years ago.

“We took one of my absolute favorite foods and turned it into something totally unique that no one had ever seen,” says Robins.

Boneyard Bistro’s craft beer focus includes 42 taps at the bar and a significant bottle list. Beers with a relatively shorter life span, such as IPAs, are kept on tap, while beers that age well are kept in bottles.

There’s also a packed list of bourbons, ryes and whiskeys (single malt Scotch regions are all generously represented)—not to mention one of the largest Zinfandel lists in the nation, with over 70 entries. “When we go, we go big,” laughs Robins. Why the focus on Zinfandel? It goes great with barbecue, the menu’s primary focus. It’s also a flexible varietal—price, profile and pairing wise.

“An absolutely incredible Zinfandel isn’t going to break the bank,” states Robins. And there’s a rainbow of different types, from light-bodied and flowery to oak and fruit-driven, that can tackle big barbecue. And if you are unsure what to pair with that rack of Santa Maria Red Oak Grilled Beef Ribs or the North Carolina-style pulled pork, do ask. “Our servers and our bartenders can pair things up for you really well,” says Robins.






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