Harry’s Open Pit BBQ

This one’s about Harry’s Open Pit BBQ. Harry, whoever he was, had a small chain of barbecue places that cooked real meat over real wood. Their sauce was mediocre but that was okay because the ribs and chicken were so good nude that you didn’t need sauce. I used to go to the one on Crescent Heights, just south of Sunset, situated about where you now enter the parking garage for the big shopping complex that’s now there. It was a little rathole of a building with everything served fast food style. You ordered your ribs and/or chicken at a counter and they’d take your food right off the grill for you. Then you carried it into a little dining room with picnic table seats and a large sink, right in the midst of the tables, for the washing of rib-stained fingers.

That Harry’s always had a strong rock-and-roll connection due to the surrounding businesses and when it closed, its proprietors briefly moved its open pit and food service into a rock club across the street. As a result, a number of musicians did odes to Harry’s ribs on their albums of the period. Canned Heat, for instance, recorded a song called “Harry’s Open Pit Barbecue.” It’s about all that’s left of what was once the best place in L.A. to get ribs.

51 Responses to Harry’s Open Pit BBQ

  • Barbie says:

    I was searching for the name which I had forgotten but never forgot the ribs and sauce. Best ever! That old ball and claw bat tub to wash up and rolls of brown paper towels on the tables. Right around the corner from Schwab’s Drug Store. Old Hollywood memories.

  • Bruce Howell says:

    We used to go to Harry’s Barbeque after getting lit up on those ten dollar lids, go in there with uncontrollable laughter, would always get the Barbeque beef sandwich drowning in their sauce, best sauce ever, best sandwich ever, could never afford the ribs, the vibe back in those days cannot be reproduced. After they close I discover they opened the one on Sepulveda s/o Santa Monica, went their until that one closed. Been to every Barbeque joints through out L.A. and South Central, Harry’s was the best…..

  • Robynne says:

    1968…Cut school to hang out on Sunset & Crescent Heights,Pandora’s Box , Free Press & Harry’s Open Pit was the hang out! The bbq sauce on the fries and were the best along with a beef sandwich. Fond memories.

  • Sue Ochoa says:

    I live two blocks from where Harry’s was on Sunset/Crescent Heights – and I miss it still!! The “sink” to wash your hands was actually an old bathtub! Eventually they moved to Pico between Crescent Heights and Fairfax. They put up thick plexiglass windows to separate the customers from the staff, and still got robbed so many times they eventually closed. So sad

  • John Hindsill says:

    Stan Fortner–As I recall, and IT is a long ago recall, Harry’s was a bit south of where Jefferson merged into Sepulveda, on the west side of the street.
    We ate there for BBQ in the mid-late ’50s.

  • Stan Fortner says:

    My brother and I loved Harry’s on Sepulveda Blvd. not sure of exact address. We lived in Culver City -around 1977-1979. Never knew if there was a real
    “Harry”. Fantastic Ribs. Have always wondered if recipie was available?
    Would love a picture if anyone has one. Have had my own bbq restaurant
    For 28 years… .. but always liked Harry’s.
    Hats off to Harry’s….

  • Alan Sims says:

    Ahh, I loved Harry’s, and ate there at least once a week. I would drive from Los Feliz area to UCLA weekly and always stop at Sunset & Crescent Heights. The 31 Flavor shop next door was owned by my uncle. Can you imagine going on a date, having great BBQ, and then getting free ice cream next door. My uncle would give my date a few spoons, let her walk behind the counter, and taste anything she wanted…whoa that was fun. But Harry’s ribs and chicken were the best and I still think about them. To me, the sauce was about the best sauce I have ever had too, especially dipping my fries into the sauce…the meat was tender, cooked just right and yes, it was good without sauce, but with sauce, it was amazing. I loved the big tub in the middle of the entry for washing hands. What a great place.

  • Peter says:

    Harry’s had a bathtub in the dinning room with shower heads to wash up in. I STILL have a leather pouch, with a buffalo headed nickel snap, that I bought at Lady Snow’s, the head shop next door.

  • Elaine Sekerman says:

    Oh yeah! I was living on Laurel Ave. just above Sunset in 1971 and that was one of my and my friends favorite great eating places. I remember the sawdust on the floor. You could watch the chicken going around and around on the spit. The beef sandwiches were devine. I will never forget Harry’s Wood Pit Bar-b-Que and my days living off the Strip in my youth.

  • Raymond Murillo says:

    My Dad worked for Harry in the late 60’s all the way to the early 80’s he built the kitckens for him including the custom made BBQ pit I remember helping him build a few of them. I worked at the one on Sants Barbra blvd now MLK blvd. making $1.00 an hour that was my first paying job. Went by the building last week looks the same, brought back many good memories.

  • adam weissler says:

    never ate there.. but as I kid I remember coming out of Laurel Cyn in the city.. crossing Sunset and always smelling that BBQ as we drove South.

  • Yo Sloan + Entire Sloan Family says:

    Harry’s Open Pit BBQ on Crescent Heights off Sunset Blvd WAS the PLACE TO EAT BBQ, my children were child actors, after working we would stop at Harry’s Open Pit BBQ for BBQ chicken & ribs to take home..MEMORIES the staff were all naturally super friendly making your visit pleasant, your wanting to return because you knew they would welcome you, while giving you great service and THE FOOD WAS GREAT, WE Miss them so very much,we still talk and wish today, in 2017 , Harry’s was still there so we could hop on over and get some of that WONDERFUL BBQ.

  • Native Angeleno says:

    While Texas BBQ is the best, Harry’s was LA’s best BBQ in the 60s & 70s. Used to work nights at Ralphs & would go to the Crescent Heights store…remember fondly the ribs, chicken, & the ham sandwich. Back in 1972 you could get the fried shrimp dinner with the fries, salad, & bread for $1.87! Harry’s was BBQ, but they sure had a way with fried shrimp.

  • John Kawamoto says:

    Our Harry’s Open Pit was in Venice, on West Washington – called Abbot-Kinney nowadays, just N. of Venice Blvd. It was close to the Comeback Inn (fusion jazz & good vibes) and Brandelli’s Brig, and across from the Taurus Tavern. Great food on a Starving Artist budget! How about a shout out for late 70’s – early 80’s Venice?

  • Robert O'Shaunnessy says:

    I ‘grew up’ at Crescent Heights & Sunset. Every Friday/Saturday night, I would hitch hike over Laurel Canyon and sell the Free Press next to the Liquor Locker. Towards the end of the evening, I would buy 2-3 albums at the record store between Ziedler & Zeidler and Harry’s and finish off with a full plate of bbq beef sandwich with corn-on-the-cob, beans and fries at Harry’s Open Pit. The cozy dark lighting, the smell from their pit behind the counter, their friendly staff and even the bathtub they had to wash one’s hands are some of the best memories of my teenage years in the late 60’s. Harry’s Rocked!

  • Kevin Mersereau says:

    Phil I would love a picture of Harry,s on Crescent Heights

  • John says:

    I just scanned the comments and did not see mention of a Harry’s Open Pit Barbacue in San Bernardino, California. just north of the very first McDonald’s on E Street. I know cuz I worked there for two years starting in 1978. The owner was a Berdoo cop named Frank. We wore these stupid yellow shirts and although I was never a huge BBQ fan cuz of the mess, It gave me a steady paycheck so I could buy a car ( a 1970 Chevelle Malibu) and get to my girlfriends house(I miss you Ann). It was my first job and the beef and ham sandwiches were pretty good and I almost got fired for eating all the shrimp!


    I have a picture of Harry’s on Crescent Heights. Send me your email.

  • Steve J says:

    I worked at the Baskin-Robbins across the parking lot from the Crescent Heights Harry’s in the early 1970s – I was in high school. After a day shift I’d go to Harry’s for some take-home ribs. The folks there knew me and would often “comp” me the ribs. Those ribs were fantastic – what a way to end the day.

  • Bruce Holloway says:

    There was a Harry’s open pit on Pico Boulevard and Western Avenue back in the 60 and it was also a club in the same building called to California club so that’s the one that I was looking for it was a very small BBQ pit that right there on the corner delicious barbecue and also across the street from here is open pit and liquor store call Albert liquor store Western Buick Auto Sales standard gas station there was also it was also Cooper’s donuts and I also believe that there was yep a block away it was a fear to call Midway theaters in Manhattan and PicoBoulevard

  • Pine says:

    My brother and friends went to the one on Crescent Heights and told me about their Friday $1 chicken with fries deal so I invited a friend to go with me. We took a bus after school from Hollywood High in 1967 or 8. The meal was excellent. We were the only customers, then 2 guys came in. One looked like a nice clean cut college age guy, the other an edgy looking older hippie. I knew right away the nice guy was buying pot from the hippie guy. It was obvious to me and scary. That was my one time only experience at Harry’s and never went back. LOl

  • Butch Harris says:

    OMG, what memories. I’m from Texas and know my BBQ. Harry’s rivaled the best BBQ I ever ate.
    In the 70’s I was a police officer for Los Angeles and worked narcotics in Hollywood. We normally started work in the afternoon and would go over to Harry’s just after coming in. There would be 6 or 8 of us in plain clothes so we blended in with Hollywood’s diversified crowd. Standing in line with that huge pit BBQ on the right with all the ribs fired up, grab your paper plate with plastic forks, load up with salad and corn on the cob and catch a slab of ribs right in the middle. Go out by the street or eat inside which was brick walls painted black, which gave it a dungeon effect. Mismatched wood tables and chairs, saw dust on the floor. There was an old piano in the corner and a dirty white freestanding bathtub with a showerhead over the center. Pull the chain and rinse the BBQ sauce off your hands over the tub.
    Full belly and a toothpick, wow, what an eating experience.

  • Robert says:

    It was a Friday nights’ treat for us that worked night shift at Wutkee’s Mobil at Westwood and Sepulvesa…

  • Sandi says:

    Great memories of Harry’s Open Pit BBQ. Made the drive from the Pasadena area, more than a few times, with my (not at all so nice) ex-boyfriend. The food and the vibe were great. That aroma of the fire pit drew you in. But my most memorable and serendipitous night was when I quite literally ran into Barry White! Turning around in that slight space I came face to mid-section with that awesome voice and presence. I looked (waaay) up and squeaked out an apology and he just sweetly smiled and said that HE was sorry
    “little lady” and extended his hand & shook mine! OMG! I will never forget that
    night and the all the other great meals there. Still miss it. Such a cool Hollywood/Rock & Roll Sunset Blvd vibe.

  • howard says:

    Harry was a cabbie from Chicago and got his recipes from a fare.
    He moved to L.A. and opened up Harry’s Open Pit BBQ in downtown
    and Southeast L.A. He opened his location in West Adams in the ’60s
    It was on the north side of Adams 3 doors west of Normandie (not on
    Building) He would go to the track every day and come in the afternoon
    to make the deposit s for the restaurant’s. Afterwards he would come in
    to my dad’s store on the corner of Normandie (property owned by Sam Weisbrodt even though he also owned Budlong Liquor) He would talk to us for hours on end. Later he opened up 3 Harry’s on the Westside and gave them to
    his kids. One was near my ceramic factory on Sepulveda. I got to get my fibs on

  • tim says:

    Went to Harry’s on Sunset and Crescent back in the day. Was owned by Harry the Hat a big horse player. Would see him at the track about everyday.

  • rob stace says:

    I discovered harry’s when I worked in the federal building in west la. I don’t remember whether I discovered the one on sepulveda first or the one on sunset. I rememgber that the food was delicious and not expensive. It was at harry’s that I developed a great love for ribs and the other things he served.

  • Robert says:

    Harry’s was a Friday night treat for us working the night shift at the Old Wutkee’s Mobil Oil on the corner of Westwood and Sepulveda in the ’70’s!

  • Stew Fair says:

    We used to go to Harry’s on Crescent Heights in the early seventies. We loved the ribs, and we were there constantly. I remember the old burnt-out upright paino in the corner. It looked as if you touched it, it would crumble. And don’t forget dessert next door at Baskin Robbins.

  • Bob Delanoy says:

    Working at the Tower Records Sunset store for a long time I visited Harrys on Cresent Heights often with friends for lunch. Watching them grill the ribs over the red and white coals while waiting in line just made you hungrier , toss en on a paper plate with some sides and cover em with sauce .. sit on the patio and watch the traffic.. … great lunches. Have a funny story with Wildman Fisher.. Thanks Harry!!

  • rjones says:

    For some reason I had an urge to eat ribs and then remembered eating at Harry’s BBQ place. I started web browsing, still nothing. I called my dad, and he said he though it burned down. Very sad that Harry never re-opened his establishment. Reading one of the posts, seems he left it to his children. Still sad.

  • john toombs says:

    Let us not forget the one original Harry’s Open Pit Bbq In Venice,Ca on now what is Abbot Kenny St. just north of Venice Blvd.This was early 1970.Let me tell you folks it was the bomb.Then they jumped to Cresent Heights Blvd and Sunset Blvd,Hollywood,Ca.Believe me I frequented them both on a regular basis .I grew up in Venice and worked in Hollywood for some 55 years, I know .

  • w c williams says:

    I have checked most of the bar b q places on the internet, i have been unable to fine the pit used by Harry’s restaurant i would like to know where i can purchase a pit like they used. I have tasted the finished products and there was none like it. please if you can let me know where we can get one.

  • Wynonah says:

    I lived in the West Adams Historical district on 21st & Hobart Blvd. before the Santa Monica Freeway came through our beautiful neighborhood.
    Our Harry’s Open Pit was on Adams Blvd. & Budlong Ave. and we use to get a half slab of Ribs for $3.50, with fries in a shoe box type of container wt parchment in between the meat and the fries.
    A whole slab was only $7.00!
    Harry’s Open Pot was THEE spot after parties because they stayed open until 2:00 am on weekends.
    There was the original Golden Bird Chicken just across the street which gave Harry’s a bit of competition.
    I worked for Harry’s son at a hamburger stand on Western Ave. & 22nd st. It was my firs job!

  • mark says:

    I remember in the 70s great slabs of beef ribs flying off the grill you could smell the bbq from quite a distance crecent heights etc wasnt so commercial like it is now there wasnt virgin records or whatever the only store next to harrys open pit was a head shop called lady snow i beleive

  • Neal Warner says:

    Harry’s on Sunset was ALWAYS a stop whenever I went into Hollywood from the Valley. When they opened one a couple miles away on Ventura it was even better. When I visited my friend the artist Jim Rumph at the Slime Factory on Sepulveda I’d always stop by the Harry’s when it was there. I never thought of Harry’s as having three locations but one store that kept moving. I figured the place would eventually kill me since some of the pork ribs were charred black on the outside but pink on the inside but I just couldn’t stop eating them. I’m still alive though.

  • Howie Siegel says:

    Harry was from Chicago, his place there was on Navy Pier. He originally opened in LA on Adams near Normandy right near Willie Bloch’s and Sam Weisbrodt’s liquor store. It was a reunion of Maxwell Street boys. We called the place on Crescent Heights the Vomitorium because we loved the ribs so much we wanted to keep eating. I bought a pair of avocado slacks with zippers on the side from Z&Z. I wore them to class at Hamilton High and one of the football players called me “a pickle barrel”.

  • david c says:

    We discovered Harry’s on Crescent Heights back in 1973 when we went to Zeidler and Zeidler to get suited up for graduation. After a lengthy morning of fittings and purchases, we asked the sales guys where to get lunch. “Right around the corner at Harry’s S**t Pit!” was the response.
    Being from Palmdale with no BBQ anywhere in sight, we dug in to plates of fries and salad and ribs. Anytime we ended “up over the hill”, Harry’s was THE destination.
    Years later, when I was living in Hollywood on N. Gardner, a Harry’s opened a block or two towards Fountain, in what I thought was the old Famous Amos Cookie joint.
    This was in ’89-91. When I asked if they were related, the owner said he was Harry’s son. They made damn good barbecue too, and had the old bathtub for washing up.
    When we left Hollywood for Atlanta in ’91, we got one last meal to go, and they filled us up with all the leftover food from lunch. We ate for three days on that.

  • Gary Turner says:

    On a hunch, I punched in Harry’s. Harry was our cousin, he had two sons. one got heavily involved in drugs, don’t know what happened later in life. The other brother opened a successful French restaurant on Ventura Blvd I believe. Harry opened in Watts before the riots. My Dad had the restaurant next door, Jodi’s that served burgers along with other fast food. The artists with Barry Gordy used to come down, dance in the middle of the restaurant, Harry and my Dad had a Jukebox, artists joined in dancing and singing. Good memories.

  • Brian says:

    The Harry’s in West L.A. was first located on the northeast corner of Sepulveda and Ohio, accross the street from the baseball fields. Before going out of business, sometime in the 80’s, they moved further south on Sepulveda, where Zankou’s is now. The second location didn’t have quite the charm of the first.

  • C. D. says:

    The one on Crescent Heights moved across the street to a night club called Coconut teasers. It went out of business a few years later.
    I use to hit the one in Studio City often on first dates. If they could not handle diving in and getting messy, there usually was not a second date.

  • 77' kid from NS says:

    Lived on Orange dr. in 77′ and ate at Harry’s every Friday evening for three or 4 months straight. I loved the ribs, chicken and the people you’d meet from all over Hollywood and LA. The place was a going concern from 4 pm to late into the evening. A slab of ribs came with a large plate of fries and a lettuce salad and an orange quartered, it was a great meal at the end of the work week. I miss the ribs and all the friends I met in LA in 77′ There was nothing as good as open pit ribs and chicken straight off the wood fire.

  • The ChocolateDoctor says:

    Our offices are a block away from where the old Sepulveda Harry’s Open Pit Barbecue was located. When the wind was blowing east you could smell the hickory smoke in my office. It was a grungy dump with always good and sometimes great barbecued ribs. It depended on the day, the time and who was cooking. They cooked the “barbecued” ribs the right way, using an off-set fire box allowing the ribs to smoke not just cook. There is a big difference between barbecuing and grilling. They sold ribs, chicken and spicy links—basically Texas-style. I used to have lunch there at least once a week. It was a print shop for several years and now Zankou’s Chicken—not one of my favorites. There are no good barbecue restaurants on this side of town anymore. Our other walking distance haunt was Hot Spot now the home to yet another Starbucks. Hot Spot had great, inexpensive grilled burgers. We miss them both.

  • Paul Walters says:

    Looking for some pictures of Harry’s Open Pit BBQ in Hollywood on Crescent Heights and Sunset.

  • Bruno G says:

    The best! And the sauce was thin, not sweet, but really good. As I recall, no baby backs, only large spare ribs. I used to frequent Sepulveda. I believe there is now a Zankou’s Chicken on the old site.

  • bruce whalen says:

    I just saw a pic on facebook and made a comment about harrys just south of sunset… I loved it… More than anything else I really liked the guy who stoked the fire… He went to great lengths to find the perfect piece of wood.. Ate there many times… thought it was great…..

  • bruce whalen says:

    I remember the one south of sunset… thought it was fabulous.. just saw a pic posted on facebook and made a comment about Harrys… One of my favorites…

  • Larry Parker says:

    Harry’s Open Pit BBQ- I just want to comment about the “BathTub” located in the dining room. It wasn’t a sink… it was an actual Bath Tub. I was there so many times.. when ditching school, with my family and when cruising down Sunset in the 60’s. The bbq sauce would drip down on the fries and we were happy with a beef sandwich & fries.

  • Craig Printup says:

    I remember the one on Sepulveda, it was walking distance from a friend’s apartment. I remember not liking it very much, it was not slow smoked like good southern bbq, it had burned edges like something you might make yourself in a park in one of the metal bbq grills. Don’t miss it at all….

  • Craig Miller says:

    There were three Harry’s Open Pit BBQ locations, as I recall. The one on Crescent Heights, one on Sepulveda south of Santa Monica Bl, and one on Ventura Bl in, I think, Studio City. What I heard was when Harry retired, he gave a restaurant to each of his kids to run. Which they apparently did, straight into the ground.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Comments