New to LA (Burbank), some specific questions (Long)
- mygirlbakes AL Nov 2, 2007 11:21 PM
Hi, I'm new to LA from Alabama (big change!), and I have some specific chow questions that I'd love some help with. I've already done tons of reading on the boards, but I'm thinking I'll get more of the answers I'm looking for this way. If I seem like I'm only looking for certain things, or asking too much, it's not that so much as I don't know where to begin looking, so I'm just describing the kinds of places I'm used to eating.
My husband and I live near downtown Burbank, so advice about our area would be particularly helpful.
First, of course, is the question of good bbq. Now, I know everyone's definition of "good" in this area is entirely up for debate, so here's what we are looking for: Pulled pork sandwiches with sauce (mix of sweet and vinegar-ey, I think) AND good fries is absolutely required. Given that, pork ribs and great pies would be a bonus. We should be overpowered by the aroma of smoked meat as we approach the restaurant.
Second: we have been fighting to find a good Mexican/Mex-American place. From what we've tasted so far, I think our problem with being in Southern California looking for Mexican food we like is that honestly, I think maybe it's just too authentic for our Southern country tastes. We're not really looking for food like your Mexican grandmother made, we're looking for whatever kind of Mexican food we left in Alabama. Our ideal Mexican restaurant would be a strip-mall type sit-down place with tasty, cheap margaritas (bonus if they're a little strong), free flowing chips with red, smoothish, spicy salsa, and cheap taco/bean/rice combo. Maybe it's asking too much, but a margarita each, plus free chips and salsa, plus tacos for each shouldn't be more than about 20 bucks. The best we've found so far is Barragan's (knocked out by the 2.50 margaritas!), but we didn't love the salsa and the rest of the menu seemed kind of expensive. We're looking to find a place we can afford to go on a weekly basis. I read some promising things about Don Cuco's (both the Glendale and Burbank location are close enough to us), but I haven't been able to track down actual prices for the margaritas or anything else on the menu.
Third, being from Alabama, we need somewhere with good country cookin'. Fried catfish, fried chicken, biscuits, grits, fried okra, buttery green beans, mashed potatoes, corn bread, blackeyed peas, etc. If there is anywhere in this city that serves real sweet tea, point us that way!!!! A place that would have apple butter somewhere in the kitchen?I know it's a chain, but we love Cracker Barrel, so use that as a frame of reference for the type of food we're aiming for.
Those are the most important things we're desperately seeking out, but other recommendations are welcome! Just keep in mind that we are very poor newlyweds who nearly have a stroke every time we have to pay our rent. We're trying to be kind to both our taste-buds and our bank account!
And if you're ever headed to Birmingham (can't imagine why you would be...), or Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, or even Auburn (WAR EAGLE!), let me know and we will steer you to GREAT local chow!
Thanks so much in advance for all y'all's help!
My favorite BBQ in town is Porky's. For exactly what you are looking for -- pulled pork, spareribs, and they have fries. They also have a franchise to serve what some think is among the best fried chicken, Golden Bird. Kind on the wallet, too, but unfortunately not on your car -- it is almost as far as the airport (LAX, not Burbank) on Manchester just west of the Forum and east of La Brea.
This current thread mentions almost all of the BBQ favorites around L.A.
For you, almost all of those receiving support are pretty much as far south as Porky's.
You're out of luck for great BBQ unless you feel like driving. Phillip's is still the best (see thread nosh mentioned). Barbecue King (http://www.texasbbqking.com) on the corner of Sunset and Figueroa (15 mins away from you guys if no traffic) will do in a pinch. A little too sweet and not tangy enough, but since I live relatively close to it, I go there when I can't take the craving any longer. It hits the spot like methadone would (I only assume). Take the 5 south to the 110 south, get in the left lane immediately, exit on Hill St (the exit is on the left), go straight till you reach Sunset/Caesar Chavez (I forget where they conjoin) make a right and in less than a mile, you'll see BBQ King to your right.
BBQ King is one of the very few places anywhere near downtown that got downgraded from our rotation. They do an ok huge burger, best thing there. But after years they still are amazingly slow, expensive for what you get, and mediocre in the bbq product. Ribs are tough and stringy, and as Woody Allen is quoted, "Such bad food, and they give you such small portions." You either take away or eat at outdoor tables under umbrellas that threaten to collapse in any wind. Look, if this place was any good and could get its act together, it would serve something affordable to the legions of students going in and out from the community college next door.
I don't think they have margaritas but tasty Mexican-American can be found here
2635 W Olive Ave
Burbank, CA, 91505
Hi, mygirlbakes AL
Welcome to CA.
For the Southern food esp the fried catfish and fried chicken there is no other place than LARKINS in Eagle Rock...it is not too far of a drive from Burbank. I really miss Cracker Barrel! Larkins also has an amazing Sunday Brunch with the craziest pancacks...oh god they are so good!!! BYOB and have a great time.
As for Americanized Mex (now, I'm a mexican but I used to live off this Am-Mex stuff when I was in college because the margaritas were cheap) jsut go to good ol' Alcapulco and look in your junk mail (the mail box kind) and they always have fliers fo bargain 2 for 1 meals and super cheap margaritas in Mondays.
Hey other Ch-ers, I know I only talk about LaCabanita but that is not what the OP asked for, k?
I'm not gonna suggest any BBQ places since they really aren't my cup o tea...I got pretty spoiled in MO and TN and KY when it came to BBQ.
Have fun exploring!
Larkins is purty durned expensive for them young 'uns. We're talkin' $15 bucks for 2 pieces of fried chicken. Dinner for two, starter, entree and dessert (although they DO have sweet-tea) is gonna cost close to $100 dollars. Hardly home-cookin' prices. For barbecue, you might want to check out Robin's though.
Not brilliant but servicable and a lot of food for the money. Also, Big Mama's is on my list to try and it's not that far either;
Let us know how you fare.
re: Steve2 in LA
HI Steve2 in LA
Actually, the lunches are sooo reasonable. Catfish Po-boy is something like $7 and it so good even though I keep ordering the meatloaf sandwhich which is so good and spicey and the rollls they are served on are great...the lunches will satify their Cracker Barrel cravings. As far as I'm concerned, the portions, day and night, are huge...I keep reading on the boards that they aren't big enough...maybe these people are truck drivers or something but I always have left too full.
Now, the money they'll save by not driving to San Gabriel can get them a slice of pie.
Hey Tatertotsrock. (andI'mnottooproudtoagree, by the way) I'll grant you, I haven't been there for lunch and that menu looks like the best bet however, I still think the prices are too high, for what you get there for dinner. Fact is, I'd take Mom's over Larkin's any time (although that idea of Heirloom Tomato Salad with Fried Okra WAS fab. Already made it at home).
Not complaining about going away hungry, just think that you should get more than 2 pieces of fried chicken and a small side for $15 dollars. You get more for your money elsewhere and the newbies did mention they're pinchin' their pennies. . .
re: Steve2 in LA
I've tried Big Mama's and I thought it was decent. Not the best in L.A., but servicable and large portions. Not the cheapest, though.
For pulled pork with that sauce, fries, etc., Oinkster is the place on Colorado in Eagle Rock. Had the pulled pork last week and it was large enough for 2 meals for me ($6.50).
There used to be Angel Lina's on Sepulveda south of Ventura that had good southern-style food. It's been years, though, and I don't know if it's still there.
Welcome to L.A.!
I have to say that I wasn't all that thrilled with the pulled pork at OInkster.
Even with a bottle of Prosecco (our friend's 40th birthday) our mouths were so dry with each bite of our sandwhiches.
We will go back because the fries were great and the ketcup was really good and the burgers and chicken that was being eaten next to us looked fantastic.
The servings were pretty good...couldn't finish half the sandwhich since we were pretty full from the great fries.
I must admit that I get the sauce on the side and douse it pretty well, but the last pork sandwich I had the meat was very moist. There was one time (out of many) where the pork was skimpy in the sandwich and just didn't have the smoky flavor it usually does. Perhaps there are times when someone doesn't quite make the pork right? BTW, last time I was there on an early Tuesday evening and I think I was served personally by the owner.
Hit the Cantina bar at El Torito, on Riverside near Warner Brothers. Monday through Friday they have a happy hour with discounted ($3.95?) margaritas, free chips & salsa, a few half-price appetizers and a $1.00 taco bar. Best of all, their happy hour prices go 'til 8pm, and on Tuesdays the $1.00 tacos are served 'til 10pm.
Chuy's in Glendale is another decent place for cheap margaritas, they serve them by the pitcher.
Tequila's on West Magnolia, a few blocks past Hollywood Way in Burbank, has $2 margaritas on Mondays and you can get a coupon for a combo plate special at hotcoupons.com
Gordon Biersch, the brewery downtown, has good pulled pork samiches but I think they're only on the lunch menu. The happy hour, which runs from 4 to 6:30 weeknights, has some bite-sized pork sliders I think, and a bunch of happy hour appetizer deals. You have to sit on the patio and ASK for the happy hour menu.
Ernie's Junior, on Colorado on the border of Glendale and Eagle Rock, is real live Midwestern "Mexican" for pretty reasonable. You could also come over to Pasadena and go to El Cholo (down on South Fair Oaks, near the Pasadena Water & Power complex), or to Mijare's on Pasadena Avenue, another been-here-forever magarita mill that's been serving the stuff your grandma called Mexican since she was younger than you are.
I will cautiously advise you to try Big Mama's Rib Shack just because I trust the taste of some who've recommended it, but frankly the only truly reliable Southern cookin' - Cracker-Barrel style, that is - I've found here was from my own kitchen. Tried "biscuits and gravy" at Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, and got a plate of YEAST ROLLS and a bowl of watery brown stuff with shreds of onion and canned mushrooms in it, although there are some places that do have real biscuits and adequate gravy, but I can't think of any close by. There is NO good cornbread to be had in LA County, IMO, though I have to tell you that I learned to make it in Nashville, where sugar in cornbread is widely abominated...but besides being generally sweeter than the average cupcake the local stuff is also dry and flavorless. Order some Martha White self-rising cornmeal online and console youself at home...
tony's is exactly as you say--a strip mall joint at coldwater and magnolia.
ernie's taco house has a great happy hour.
i fear for Mex-Amer or Mex, your taste might be most pleased at Casa Vega. you might also like Mexicali Cantina or Senor Fred in a similar vein you could also try rincon taurino, las fuentes mexican kitchen, or hugo's tacos.
Welcome to Burbank. For affordable Mexican Food with Margaritas in your area, you might want to try the following (some already mentioned):
1. Acapulco - 3113 W. Olive Ave.
2. Alfredos Granados - 1100 W. Victory Blvd.
3. Chevy's - 701 N. San Fernando Blvd.
4. El Torito - 4012 Riverside Drive
5. Mucho Mas - 10405 Burbank Blvd.
6. Tequilas - 4310 W. Magnolia Blvd.
For affordable BBQ in your area, there's:
1. Kansas City BBQ - 4141 Lankershim Blvd. - one of my new fav's
2. Pecos Bill - 1551 Victory Blvd. - some folks swear this is the Valley's best 'Cue
3. Ribs USA - 2711 W. Olive Ave. - I mention it only because it's in Burbank
4. Swinging Door - 11018 Vanowen Street
Hope you find what you're looking for. If you do, let us know.
You've listed all the places I had in mind reading the OP. I would definitely recommend Acapulco and the Swinging Door.
I do *not* recommend any Mexican place with "Ernie" in the title.
The Swinging Door Texas BBQ
11018 Vanowen St, North Hollywood, CA 91606
Acapulco Mexican Restaurant
3113 W Olive Ave, Burbank, CA 91505
I work in Burbank... my choice personally is El Torito, but to be fair, my panning of Tequilas is based on the severe downhill slide of the Van Nuys branch on Victory -- I have not been to the Burbank Tequilas in years. You can also get combo plates at El Tapatio, corner of San Fernando and Alameda, or at the place directly east of it on Alameda. A further place to investigate (it's good, but I don't know if it's what you're looking for) is Bahia Caporales on Magnolia near the western city limit.
As for Southern food -- I have eaten BBQ and southern food all over the Valley and I have to say that while some of them will tide you over (the Pivoting Portal, Zeke's, &c.) none of them are what you're hoping for. You'll probably get by with them, but when you get that real homesick feeling, you need to come on down our way and go to Johnny Reb's... it's a small chain with four outposts (see below -- Bellflower, Long Beach, Orange and Victorville). They have exactly what you want -- everything on your list, including real sweet tea. I need to write a review -- we just went again today. They serve breakfast until 1 PM on Sundays and while the BBQ isn't going to make you forget your sweet home Alabama, it certainly is right up there as far as Orange County goes... my suggestion is to go for lunch, since it's so much cheaper than dinner. A two-item BBQ combo is $10.75 at lunch and $16.75 at dinner, and while you get more meat at dinner, the lunch is enough to feed even me, and I'm not a little guy. Today's meal was $24 plus tip -- a sandwich with two sides, a two-item combo with two sides and bread, and tea.
Johnny Rebs' Southern Roadhouse
16639 Bellflower Blvd, Bellflower, CA 90706
Johnny Rebs' Southern Roadhouse
4663 Long Beach Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90805
Johnny Rebs' Southern Roadhouse
2940 E Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92869
15051 7th St, Victorville, CA 92395
I've spent close to 20 years looking for decent Southeastern-style pulled pork in LA with no luck. Every place I've found that claims to serve pulled pork is more Memphis or St. Louis style, with the sauce overly sweet and barely a touch of vinegar (I tend more towards Carolina-style pulled pork with the finishing sauce mostly vinegar and peppers with just a hint of sweet and a vinegary slaw as the sandwich topping or a side dish). I'm afraid that your only solution is to get a smoker and do it yourself. You're more likely to find Texas, St. Louis and Southwest styles here.
Biscuits are another thing that you'll either have to get used to a different concept of or make for yourself. The closest thing I've found to the classic Southern rolled biscuit are the ones served at Popeye's, and for catshead (or drop) biscuits, you're pretty much out of luck entirely.
Not far from Burbank, in North Hollywood, you can find Miss Peaches Soul Food on Lankershim Blvd. just north of Burbank Blvd. I've had inconsistent food there, but overall it's been good, and their catfish dinner is good. Most everybody here tends to put sugar in their greens rather than a smoked hock or other cured meat product. Down-home food is not LA's forte.
With all due respect.....
The other posters have given you some great suggestions for Americanized Mexican food. I certainly have a long, happy relationship with the "orange glop" school of American Mexican cooking, starting with my Texas father's Sunday afternoon lunches of canned Old El Paso tamales - but when you're ready, please consider stepping out of your comfort zone and sampling the more authentic Mexican and Central American offerings here in Southern California.
For one thing, it will be just as economical, if not MORE economical, than the Acupulco - type places. And the ingredients will be fresher, less canned. And, further, if you like the idea of "home cooking" - what you find in these restaurants is closer to Mexican "home cooking" than the stuff in malls.
I can't tell you what an epiphany it was for me to have my first bite of a taco that was made with soft corn tortillas, real carnitas, and bright fresh pico de gallo instead of crunchy u-shaped tortillas from a box, ground beef cooked with Lawry's taco seasoning from a envelope, and Pace Piquante sauce.
So, welcome to LA, good luck be with you, and when you're ready, check out those taco trucks and taquerias!
I've never bought into the argument that there's no middle ground between "orange glop" from the likes of El Coyote or joints with Ernie in the title, versus taco trucks on Pico at 2 am with untranslated menus.
Now, my favorite Mexican restaurant is and will always be La Super Rica in Santa Barbara, but every few months I will still head to Acapulco or El Cholo for a combo plate (chile relleno, chicken or green corn tamale, shredded beef or carnitas enchilada).
Is it better than Super Rica? No. Is it worse? No, it's different. And it *is* better than "orange glop".
Not to mention the margaritas.
Would love to get your opinion on any really good cupcake bakeries that deliver in Alabama or to Alabama, available online. Thanks!
Thanks to all for your help!
To be honest, we've tried very few restaurants since getting here. It's just more economical for us right now to buy and cook our own food. I have enjoyed the Burbank farmer's market on Saturday mornings, which has drastically reduced the money we have to spend in the Ralph's produce section.
In any case, when we have eaten out it tends to be spur-of-the-moment and/or following along with friends. My impressions of a few places I have actually eaten:
Pitfire Pizza in North Hollywood: I enjoyed the cheese, but I generally prefer a crispier, less chewy crust. If I was really interested in going crazy with different toppings, this would have some great choices, but I'm pretty simple when it comes to pizza.
Acapulco, as per recommended: Great chips and great margaritas, but we didn't go on a night when they had a deal so it was a bit more expensive than I'd go for. And I really didn't like the taco I got. What's the deal with everywhere automatically mixing peppers and onions straight into the chicken? I don't like it.
Kansas City BBQ Company in North Hollywood was not exactly what we were looking for (chopped pork instead of pulled, steak fries instead of thin and crispy, white bread instead of buns), BUT the taste was great anyways. They do their thing very well and we intend to return.
Rib Ranch in Woodland Hills: pulled into this place abruptly on a drive back from the beach. First impression was promising in that it looked like it belonged waaaaay out in the country somewhere. Menu looked good too. Ordered the pork sandwich and fries, also got baked beans. Their soda machine was broken, so we were given water (good crushed ice, though). Steak fries again, although very crispy. Terrible beans and a disappointing sandwich. Good service, but it certainly doesn't make up for the food.
Victorio's pizza, less than a block away from us on Glenoaks in Burbank. Great garlic bread, not bad pizza except the pepperoni had kind of a foul flavor to it...not sure why. Even though we can walk there in less than 2 minutes, I don't foresee going back.
Big Mama's Big Papa's pizza: Apparently there's a lot of these, but in any case there's one down the street from us. We ordered the 36 inch pizza for a night in with a bunch of people. I knew it was going to be big, but WOW! And that it was made and delivered in only about 40 minutes, impressive. Everyone liked it, plus we had plenty of leftovers. For poor newlyweds, this is not a bad choice when ordering a lot of pizza.
Market City Cafe on San Fernando in downtown Burbank: I've read some pretty awful reviews, but we liked it the one time we went. The fact that it was mostly empty was a little off-putting, and the antipasto bar looked pretty vile, but everyone liked what they got (I had ravioli).
Don Diego's on Alameda in Burbank: Ugh! We really wanted to like this place since it's so close, but it was really awful. I could swear that the margaritas were made with lime off-brand kool aid. Although our friend was pretty obsessed with the chicken soup.
That's close to all I have to review. If something else comes to mind, I'll add it.
I know there's a very divisive debate among some posters regarding any kind of corporate chain restaurant, but we're not opposed and Chipotle has become our go-to place for dinner out. Pretty addictive, and the amount of free-food promotions they run is a very major bonus. We won 10 free burritos for Super Bowl Sunday.
I should also add that we drove 45 minutes each way today for a Chick fil A fix. You can take the girl out of Alabama, but you can't take the Alabama out of the girl...
re: mygirlbakes AL
I would also suggest checking out My Brother's BBQ in Woodland Hills for some of that BBQ taste you're looking for. It might be found there...
They're located on Ventura Blvd. right near the intersection of Comerico (between DeSoto and Canoga). The interior decor leaves you with a little bit of that "down home" feeling too. At least it did for me...
Anyway, it's worth a shot!
re: mygirlbakes AL
I totally understand about the horrendous price of supermarket produce. If you go to Vallarta supermarket, on Vineland between Vanowen and Sherman Way (it literally abuts the landing runway for Bob Hope Airport), you will find the prices a great deal more palatable. They also have a great meal deal where you get a pound of carnitas (that'd be fried pork), rice, beans, freshly-made tortillas, salsa and trimmings for like $8. Add a huge piece of their delectable tres leches cake for another $2 or so and a quart of agua fresca (fruit drinks made from real fruit) for another $2 and you've got enough to keep you for quite a while.
Northend Pizzeria in downtown Burbank is not bad at all.
There's a very good Armenian restaurant called Cafe Bravo on Glenoaks and, uh, I forget -- Sonora, I think? Near the DMV, across Glenoaks from Carl's Jr. Anyway, their kabobs are absolutely delicious. The hummus is terrible but the other sides are fine, and you can swap sides all you like (including if you don't want rice, or the grilled tomato and chile pepper). And they sell their raw, marinated meat to go if you want to grill it at home.
I also like Pinocchio's Restaurant on Magnolia. It's not fancy, it's not even the best Italian-American out there, but it's quite tasty and it's probably the best food-for-money value in Burbank (except for Porto's pastries, of course).
re: Das Ubergeek
I second the suggestion of Vallarta supermarket for good prices, and another good suggestion is Ranch 99 - there's one in Van Nuys on Sepulveda at Victory (and you can go to Pho So 1 for lunch!).
The produce prices are about half that of the stores in my westside neighborhood. The meat prices are good. And you can get fresh fish, and they will even fillet it for you! Great values here.
Be warned - it's a Asian supermarket so you will encounter foods that might be unfamiliar to you, but it's a great place to explore and try things.
re: mygirlbakes AL
mygirlbakes AL, I'm having the same exact problems finding good Mexican and BBQ! I just moved from Texas about 6 months ago. My friends and I usually end up going to Gordon Biersch for that BBQ sandwich and garlic fries. Most dishes at the brewery are a little overpriced but sandwiches are pretty reasonable.
NOT a BBQ place but I remember having some yummy cornbread at Bandera on Wilshire near Brentwood. They have this bread plate that it comes on with olives and guacamole.
For "soul food", I like Miss Peaches on Lankershim in North Hollywood. This is run by the same folks who ran Angelina's. For BBQ, my favorite is Uncle Andre's on Moorpark near Colfax. And my favorite place for mexican is Mucho Mas on Burbank.
I don't know what it it about Burbank in particular, and the SF valley in general, but it is pretty much a foodie wasteland. I have it on good authority that there is some really good BBQ down by LAX, but can't be more specific, sorry.
Many years ago there was a restaurant you would have loved here. It was on Victory near Burbank Blvd, across from Costco and was called Sargent's (the place now is uninspired Mexican called Granada), Sargents had the best fried chicken I ever ate, as well as great biscuits and sawmill gravy...and sweet tea. About a block away, and long before they put that big kink in Victory Blvd and made the intersection 24-7 gridlock, there was a place about where Costco's gas station is now called The Dip and they made wonderful pastrami dip sandwiches. Does anyone but me remember that?
re: Billow Fair
The Dip is now on Tyrone and Ventura in Sherman Oaks.
And the SF Valley is a foodie wasteland -- meaning "foodie" as in "I need to pay $200 for my fancy meal and be surrounded by celebrities". It's certainly not even close to being a Chowhound wasteland.
And the BBQ down by LAX is called Baby Blues, and it's just "meh".
re: Billow Fair
My mother and I still dream about Sargent's even though it must have closed more than 40 years ago. I usually got stewed chicken and noodles. We loved the hush puppies. The delicious desserts (cakes, pies, puddings) were made there. I especially loved the tappioca pudding and the prune whip. (I think heavy whipped cream was the secret ingredient in these puddings.) The fried chicken dinner you remember cost $2.90 according to my old menu dated 1964. The dinners came with a choice of salads, a choice of soup, and a choice of dessert. If there is a heaven, surely Sargent's will be there.
I like the pork sandwiches at Pecos Bill's in Glendale, right next to Burbank.
Last time I drove past The Dip in Sherman Oaks, it looked out-of-business. It was cute looking, but we didn't care for the sandwiches. I don't think this is the same place as the one that used to be near Costco.
re: Billow Fair
In fact, selfsame uninspired Granada may be what OP is after as far as Americanized Mexican. It's better than Barragans, anyway. Don Cuco has good margaritas and great atmosphere, but their too-large menu is very uneven. And if they're enjoying Chipotle (and I for one don't blame them one bit: at last, a San Francisco style burrito here in LA!), they might try Casita Tacos Al Carbon for a more authentic hole in the wall experience.
For your pulled pork sandwich, you might try The Oinkster in Eagle Rock. It's not too far east of Burbank off the 134 freeway, on Colorado Blvd. I believe it's "Carolina" style, but the sandwich is hearty and good, and they have very tasty fries. I've linked their website, with address and menu, below.
BBQ, well these are a few choice spots from a fellow Burbanker. Although from what I'm guessing, I think you'll like Spring Street Smokehouse downtown.
1. Spring Street Smokehouse in downtown Los Angeles is quite excellent. It's South Carolina type BBQ so expect it to be vinegar and mustard based. Food is well worth the trip. BTW, it's around the corner from Philippe's.
2. Ribs USA in Burbank. Haven't been there in forever, but I remember it being pretty decent. Good meat, free peanuts (shells on the floor of course).
There are others, but these jump to the top of my list.
Another girl from the south! I moved here from Memphis, TN about 3 years ago, so I've looked for EXACTLY the things you're looking for. I also live close to downtown Burbank.
1.) Good pulled pork BBQ -- Haven't found any nearby. There are a few places in the OC that are great, and one place that's in Compton that's run by a relative of the Neely's, but I seriously have my granddaddy send me Corky's in the mail. :) There's one place in Pasadena, over on Fair Oaks called "Barn Burner" that has good pulled pork, but I don't like their sauce or slaw. Their fries are good.
DO NOT GO TO PECOS BILLS. I don't care what anyone tells you, their pulled pork sandwiches are *revolting*. I had such high hopes for them and it was like cat spitup on a bun. I actually cried for being homesick that day.
2.) Best Mexican near us that will feel right coming from the south and not be gross like the place at Alameda and San Fernando - Casa De Ramos over on Glenoaks in Glendale. Good chicken tacos, good fajitas, AMAZINGLY good All Chile Verde burritos (amazing pork, really). The carnitas there are solid too. The only thing I haven't liked there has been their guacamole. It's definitely good food. Adam and I are also poor (I'm in law school), and we'll often split the all chile verde burrito and be stuffed. Sometimes we'll order 1 a la carte chicken soft taco on a flour tortilla to go with it and split it into 2 tacos (they give you 2 tortillas out here for some reason) - and our entire dinner ends up costing us $12 after tax.
3.) You'll never find a Cracker Barrel in CA. It's sad. Very, very sad - but it has to do with the decor of the place and the earthquake-proofing laws in this state. I think that this city is SORELY LACKING in the soul-food dept. Every Sunday morning, however, there is a little glimmer of the South in Burbank at a restaurant called the Tallyrand. It's over on Olive and Reese. Adam and I go there almost every sunday morning to get their Biscuits and Gravy -- and this is the ONLY place in town that I've found that has amazing biscuits and REAL white country gravy that they make themselves. Best part is, Biscuits, gravy, and sausage is only $5.99 compared to most of their other breakfasts which are closer to $9.
I'm sure someone's already told you about Roscoe's Fried Chicken & Waffles. They're ok. Nothin to write home about, but they have good sweet tea and they have good macaroni and cheese.
What kills me is that there's no Chic-fil-a here. I don't understand it. We always stop to get some on the way to and from Vegas. (Where my parents moved) I think they have a Chic-fil-a in Long Beach too. Why they're not out here is beyond me. They would make a killing.
My vacation when I was growing up was to Gulf Shores, and one of my best friends went to college in Birmingham, so I understand exactly where you're coming from. :) If you and your husband are looking to make friends out here too, Adam and I would be happy to meet you for a meal. Maybe at Casa de Ramos? :)
Being that my family is originally from Virginia and my Hubby's from St. Louis I feel you on the BBQ tip and with the Soul food. Unfortunately being that your in Burbank your in for a bit of a drive for both of these. First, my man likes Tony Roma's (http://www.tonyromas.com/) ... I'm not a big fan but he grew up on Missouri BBQ so I'll give it to him.
My choice for BBQ is "The Pig" on La Brea in West Hollywood. Admitedly, I haven't eaten there in about two years but when I did it was certainly my favorite. I know a lot of people in my neighborhood also love JR's on La Cienega haven't tried it yet.
As for soul food, that's a bit of a reach here. Aunt Kizzy's Back Porch (http://auntkizzys.com/) , which is quite a drive for you, is probably your best bet. There is also Harold and Belle's but that is NOLA style creole and not the low country soul food your probably looking for, and as previously mentioned there is Roscoe's Chick' and Waffles. I recommend the one on Pico Blvd. and I would avoid it on Sundays at all costs.
As for Mexican I'm a big fan of traditional Mexican, but if strip mall mex is what your looking for try Chevy's (http://www.chevys.com/) there is out your way in the heart of Burbank. If you and your Hubby are looking to get a bit daring and have a fun night out, a tame "transitional"restaurant for the two of you to try is El Compadre's on Sunset. I rec the Arroz con Pollo and corn tortillas. Or Mexicali Cocina Cantina, it's Cal-Mex (as the name suggests) so it's on the tamer side aswell. Both of those are date nights for sure and probably not in your budget for an "average dinner"
Although it isn't exactly what you asked for, may I recommend that you give Patrick's Roadhouse (http://patricksroadhouse.info/index.html) a try. Again this will be quite a drive but what is a lazy Sunday with out a drive down PCH? Patrick's is an Irish/American cafe with great eggs, burgers and sandwiches.
other recs for you guys rather then describe each I'm just including the links:
Barney's Beanery : http://www.barneysbeanery.com/
Mel's Drive-in: http://www.melsdrive-in.com/
I know someone said Pojito Mas I also like
Baja Fresh: http://www.bajafresh.com
Kookooroo (Socals answer to boston market): http://www.kookooroo.com/
Hope you find what your looking for or better yet now that you're in Socal .. something new!
VIVA FRESH, Burbank, Riverside at the entrance to the Equestrian Center, I guess it's sort of Am Mex. You might never find it if you did'n know it was there. Down the street from Disney studios.
I've been going 25 years. Inexpensive, and you'll see the likes of William Shatner, Billy Gibbons, and dusty equestrian people. If you want to stay simple, get a beef taco or two, or an enchilada. Say hello to Cesar the bartender. Makes a good Margarita.