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is barbeque in the Valley a contradiction in terms?

  • s

Yeah, apparently. For scientific purposes, I had barbequed ribs at three Valley establishments that claim to specialize in such things. Two of the three were okay, but none of them could compete for ten minutes on Adams or Slauson. Here are my notes.

El Paso, 18938 Ventura Blvd, Tarzana, (818) 996-5607. This is a dark steak joint, somewhat expensive, very much a guy place, geared for the sort of guy who has ideas about quality that are strong enough but not exactly the same as the ideas of your average chowhound's. As such the food is plentiful and well-prepared, but also a little bland. All the same, it was probably (by a small margin) the best of the three. The ribs had a little too much char for my taste, but they were meaty, juicy, and fresh, and were rather good even without sauce. The sauce comes in a bowl on the side, which is not my preference, and while it's certainly not offensive, I'm not sure I could pick out any specific flavors in it besides your basic barbeque. Fries and grilled vegetables were inoffensive as well. Though it's on Ventura it's far from a 750 express but stop; you need to use the 150 local. There's a pretty good used CD store next door to it, and a small Sri Lankan store in the next block or so west.

Mom's, 14062 Vanowen St, Van Nuys, (818) 786-1373. There really is a Mom, and she's delightful (though the kid who takes your order would rather be somewhere else), and so you want to like this place really bad. I went in the middle of the afternoon, which is not the best time to get anything that needs to be fresh, so the comparison may not be fair. But the picture as I saw it was mixed. On the upside, Mom's had the best sauce. It was sweet, interesting, fresh-tasting, and not at all hot. (They provided a separate squeeze-bottle of hot sauce, which I'm afraid is not at all the same thing as providing hot barbeque sauce.) The meat came slathered in sauce, which I always like, but the meat itself showed signs of having sat around for a while, with a bit of a dry "skin" on it that you had to chew your way through. I also had some red beans, which were alright. The portions are small, but so are the prices. It's a very small place, maybe eight tables. They've got a radio and television both running at moderate volume, so you're probably not going there because you want to think. On the whole, though, I thought it was reasonably okay. It's a few blocks east of Van Nuys Blvd, and there's a stop for the 165 bus right outside.

Dr. Hogly Wogly's, 8136 Sepulveda Blvd, Van Nuys, (818) 782-2480. This was easily the worst of the three; in fact I was quite taken aback, given some of the hype I had heard about the place. Much of the meat I was served was literally inedible, and I ended up discarding quite a bit of it after extended sessions of futile chewing. They served two different sauces, a mild sauce that was served warm in a cream pitcher and a hot sauce that was in a cold squeeze-bottle on the table. I have to admit that barbeque sauce in a squeeze-bottle always gets me off on the wrong foot with a place (as for example Mr. Cecil's, which I find wildly overpriced for what it is). I mean, the stuff is sitting there culturing bacteria all day, and how gross is that? Besides, it's cold. The mild sauce was the more interesting of the two, but both were strikingly unmemorable. Nor were the fries anything special. This was all a shame, given that the people are really very nice, always ready to refill your soda, etc. The restaurant itself is done up in paneling, which I guess does make for a brief vacation from Los Angeles. The neighborhood is ugly as heck, sun-blasted and hard on by the railroad tracks. That part is authentic anyway. You get there on the 234 bus which runs along Sepulveda; the cross street is Roscoe.

So that's my Valley barbeque experience. If I have missed any Valley barbeque revelations, do tell.

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    Filmfreaketta

    To add to your list DO NOT GO TO STUDIO BBQ on Moorpark near Tujunga. This is easily the worst BBQ I've ever had. The sauce was industrial at best and the ribs tasted like they had been microwaved (not that I know what that would taste like but I can only imagine).

    5 Replies
    1. re: Filmfreaketta

      When ever I go to Dr. Hogly Woglys I only get the brisket. This is what they are known for. You also may want to try My Brother's BBQ in Woodland Hills.

      1. re: Eric

        In the Valley, try

        1) The Valley Ranch, a very old, fifties-style place on in Van Nuys, on Sherman Way, between Hayvenhurst and Balboa, on the north side of the street. Solid, mild BBQ. A fine lamb sandwich. Good beef ribs. As untrendy a place as they come.

        2) Ribs USA, in Burbank on Olive Avenue, east of Hollywood Way and west of Buena Vista; or in Sherman Oaks, just west of Sepulveda on Ventura Blvd, in a crazy place made up to look like the Chicago El. I love the sheer gusto and messiness of the rib tips they serve here. It should be said, though, that Ribs USA is a controversial choice. I know people who hate the place.

        Not to start a flame war or anything, but I personally like the Studio BBQ on Moorpark. I've been going there, through all its various owners and name changes, since the mid-1980's. Their BBQ sauce is, in a word, robust.

        Finally, contrary to other reviews I've read here, I'm really disappointed with Pecos Bill's in Burbank. The one sandwich I ever ate there seemed like it could have been prison food. The meat was gray, greasy and flavorless. The bun was limp. So, I guess one chowhound's BBQ is another chowhound's poison...

        1. re: Ed

          you know whats good? although you need extra sauce
          uncle andres in studio city on moorpark and colfax

          1. re: griffster

            My problem with them is that I really want barbecue -- cooked slowly over smoke -- and Uncle Andre's doesn't do that -- they cook the meat, then add smoke flavour.

        2. re: Eric

          I agreee, at Hogly Wogly it is the brisket or the hot links that are great..the ribs are only fair.

      2. i am so glad someone else (besides the mrs and i) feel that hoglys is sub par. the ribs are fair, awfully expensive and the sides are horrible. the prices should be much cheaper given the location. yes the staff is good. When i was going the carpet was disgusting i was surer there were critter down there but we couldn't see them.

        i have had a hard time finding bbq in the valley too. people love a place on victory called 'peco bills'
        WATCH OUT this place is mega disgusto.

        1. Couldn't agree more with your assessment of Hogly's, I have never figured out what the hype is all about. Been meaning to try Mom's, doesn't sound like it's worth a trip from Northridge.

          There used to be a great rib place called Diamond's on Ventura Blvd. east of Winnetka (I believe where Green Cottage is now), but they've been closed for a few years now.

          Unfortunately I believe the best ribs to be had in the Valley right now are at Houston's in Woodland Hills. Other than that it's pretty slim pickin's.

          7 Replies
          1. re: mark n

            Diamond's was a throw back of the Tony Roma chain!! The owner hired one of executive chefs of TR's to consult years ago. We were never impressed!!

            1. re: THEE STEALTH

              In my recollection Diamond's was much better than TR's, although it's been quite a few years.

              1. re: mark n

                Well as one Chowhound, who just posted awhile ago said, "one chowhound's treasure is another chowhounds junk"!!!

              2. re: THEE STEALTH

                I need to rant (okay, comment) about Tony Roma's, in Encino. I had the worst ever bbq chicken there a few weeks ago. It was dry and mostly inedible. The service was lousy, slow, and sloppy, as well.

                Last year I ate at a Tony Roma's in Las Vegas (can't remember the hotel...maybe my brain has blocked it out), and got sick on the beef ribs. On the plus side, I did not gain weight on that Vegas trip.

                Maybe there are some good Tony Roma's still left in the chain, but I for one will never find out.

              3. re: mark n

                The "hype" about Dr. Hogly-Wogly is merely a matter of a once-great restaurant that is no longer as good as it once was. There was a time when it had the best barbecue in Southern California and all the praise was warranted.

                Now, it's not as good or at least not consistent. It's possible to have a very poor meal there. Even the brisket, which I used to love, wasn't great on my last visit.

                When you see or hear people raving about the place, they may be remembering their last visit there years ago or maybe they just got lucky on a recent trip.

                1. re: Hackenbush

                  I work across the street from Hogleys and the last time I went the brisket was awful. No smoke taste, poor quantity and dry as a bone. The sauce couldn't even help rescue this meat. We went at lunch and felt like they were rushing us out the minute we finished. I won't be back.

                  My latest guilty pleasure is Moms. Although, went last week and the beef ribs tasted baked and were disappointing. I'll be back though. Love the green beans, yams and mac n cheese she makes. Call ahead, take out only IMO (they have a few tables), orders take time.

                2. re: mark n

                  I like Grandpa Freds on Victory/Variel. Good sauces and I like their beef ribs.

                3. I have heard pretty decent BBQ in the Valley can be found at

                  My Brother's Bar-B-Q
                  21150 Ventura Blvd.
                  Woodland Hills
                  (818) 348-2020

                  I haven't been able to make it out there myself yet.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Norm

                    I use to work in Warner Center and this use to be one of our regular stops for lunch. The beef ribs can sometimes be a bit fatty. Otherwise, the food is good and messy. They serve the bbq Tennessee style with the sauce put on after the food is cooked with extra sauce on the side. Their sauce is vert different from anywhere else but hard to explain why.

                    1. re: Norm

                      I was not impressed with My Brother's BBQ when I visited it earlier this year. The place really reminded me of the Chris & Pitts chain foodwise, as the beef ribs that I ordered were unimpressive. The garlic cheese bread is fantastic, though.

                      Here's the link to my earlier review:
                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                      There are quite a few reviews of My Brother's BBQ on Chowhound.

                    2. Seems like it's tough to get a consensus about BBQ.

                      No one's mentioned the Bear Pit, on Sepulveda just
                      north of the 118 ("Yer dern tootin we cook with wood..."). Years ago there were several, Glendale and West Valley. And it seems like it was better then, too.

                      Still, I like them occasionally - they have a good sandwich on garlic toast, two kinds of meat.

                      I'll agree with the posting about brisket at Hogly-Wogly's - that's definitely their forte.

                      It's been a long time, but there was a BBQ on Topanga near Dumetz (south of Ventura) owned by twin brothers who'd started the biz after being "twin fiddlers fiddlin'" in an old DoubleMint gum commercial. I think it was called the Rib Ranch, and it was pretty good... anyone know it? Is it gone?

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: JeffS

                        Rib Ranch is still there, can't vouch for the quality since I haven't eaten there in about 10 years.

                        1. re: JeffS

                          Rib Ranch is still great. We had them by by about 3 weeks ago for an on-site BBQ lunch at work. The baby back ribs were great, as was the tri-tip. The mexican style rice had lots of flavor and veggies, and the salsas on the side were homemade and delicious.