Love’s

There was a time when Love’s Wood Pit Barbecue restaurants dotted the California landscape and seeped into other states, as well. Some folks believe it’s impossible to get decent barbecue in a chain. You need a small, one-of-a-kind restaurant in a building that used to be a welding shop and was converted by some guy who’s obsessive about good bbq and has been doing it all his life. I’ve been to some great places that fit that description and also some where the food was close to inedible.

Love’s fell somewhere in-between but they were always conveniently located and there are times you need to eat and you can’t find one of the “other” kind of bbq joint, or maybe you’re just not in the mood to gamble. Love’s had decent ribs, great chicken, terrific sandwiches and easily the best beans I’ve ever had in my life. I used to go to every Love’s I ventured near and for a time, I had a running correspondence with a gent who was either the president of the company or very close to that. Each time I ate at a new (to me) Love’s, I’d send him a critique. He’d write me back a nice letter and toss in coupons for free meals. A fine relationship.

But I liked Love’s for other reasons beyond the coupons. They were friendly and dependable and the food was pretty darned good. So you could often find me at the one on Pico Boulevard near Beverly or at the one on Hollywood Boulevard at Cherokee or at the one in Encino or the one in Pacific Palisades or any other one. I probably went to twenty different Love’s including the one Love’s Junior they operated (briefly) on Ventura Boulevard in Van Nuys. It was an attempt to repackage their cuisine into something that functioned like a fast food outlet. Had that experiment succeeded, I assume we’d have seen them in locations too small to handle a full-sized Love’s or in food courts.

Alas, over the years the chain just lost business and got smaller. The one on Pico, which had once been a kind of “flagship” Love’s and was used as a model and training facility for others, turned mysteriously one day into a place called Noonan’s. Noonan’s was the name of the company that supplied uncooked ribs to many L.A. restaurants and they went into business in some kind of partnership with Bob Morris, who had founded R.J.’s for Ribs, Gladstone’s and other popular Los Angeles restaurants. (Morris now operates the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe in Malibu, which is not covered on this site because it’s open and thriving.) Then it became Bob Morris’ Beverly Hills Cafe even though it wasn’t really in Beverly Hills…and it may have changed names one or two more times before closing down. The building is now the office of a limousine company. The Love’s on Hollywood Boulevard changed identities at least ten times and is now a restaurant called the Geisha House.

There were some changes of ownership and some lawsuits in the Love’s operation. A lot of them closed and the ones that didn’t changed names. The Love’s in Brea, for instance, changed its name to Riley’s and went on serving the exact same menu for years. The one in Chula Vista renamed itself The Great Rib Restaurant, which was a subtitle that Love’s sometimes used in its advertising and on its signs. Eventually, all such after-life Love’s closed. According to the company website, there’s still a Love’s in Jakarta, Indonesia but I’m skeptical that’s so. If it exists, it’s the only one.

Click above to enlarge

Folks who loved Love’s still love it…and miss it. If you do some Googling, you’ll find a number of different recipes that purport to be the secret to replicating Love’s Beans and others that teach you how to make the sauce. Since the recipes differ, some or all of these are obviously wrong. I haven’t tried making any of them but the recipes for beans (which is sometimes attributed to the L.A. Times) strike me as dead wrong. Some of the sauce recipes seem credible, especially this one…

2 cups cider vinegar
3 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons celery seed
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons lard
1/4 cup pickling spices

Place lard (not shortening) in a pot. Add sugar and then other ingredients. Cook over a low flame stirring occasionally until sauce reaches the desired consistency.

As I said, I never made this but it sounds like it might be the secret. And the reason I’ve never made it is that every three or four years, I order another case of the genuine article from the Love’s website. I have no idea why they’re still bottling this stuff if there are no restaurants to sell it in. Maybe there is one in Jakarta and it’s thriving. Anyway, it’s been more than two years since I ordered any of it. I don’t guarantee that the site is still active but you can inquire there if you long to get some. As you might imagine from all that brown sugar, Love’s sauce was very sweet but it was awfully good.

261 Responses to Love’s

  • Jammer says:

    Went to the Loves in Rosemead.

  • Crystal McGuigan says:

    Do you happen to have a photo of the Loves that used to be in West Covina?

  • Yualli Mena says:

    i went to the Love’s in Rosemead right off the 10 freeway. It was also called Mayumba’s Cuban Cuisine right where Friday’s and Target are at now.
    My parents went for a Valentine’s Day Dinner and, of course, I was also part of there Valentine’s Day because I also got to eat with them there at Love’s. To this day that will always be a great memory for me to have of when my father was still here with us. For my mom, Lucy, Love’s made the memory of my pops having dinner there with her and brought them back together to rekindle what they lost.

  • Bruce Honig says:

    Are there any BBQ joints in America (or the world) that makes Ribs and BBQ Beans like Loves did? I would love (no pun intended…or is it?) to check them out. Thanks.

  • Ronald Morris says:

    The Loves in West Covina was on the North side
    of the 10 freeway at Barranca. It is now a Hooters.
    In the 70’s there was a Victoria Station restaurant
    built with a old railroad car out front, right down
    the street from Loves.

  • Buz Cederlof says:

    When I was a kid in the sixties/seventies we used to go to the Love’s wood pit in Torrance about every other month. Once when we were walking out after dinner, my Dad recognizes some young dude with two hippies coming in, introduces us and starts talking at length until the in/out traffic was backing up. They said goodbye and we got in the station wagon. The young dude was a guy named Johnny Bettis, which was the kid brother of my Dad’s high school and Korean War friend. Dad told mom that he’s some songwriter and the two “hippies” were “goody four shoes” themselves, Richard and Karen Carpenter. (Anyone under 30 and not to the right of Jack Webb was a hippie to my folks.)
    But my best memory of Love’s wood pit was how well my brother and I behaved – no fighting, fidgeting or other monkey business – or we wouldn’t get our favorite dessert – Lemon soup. It wasn’t until I was in my early 20’s until I realized that after dinner the waitress would bring to everyone those stainless steel bowls of hot water with lemon slices to clean the BBQ sauce off your fingers. Mom and dad got sherbert but Greg and I would be happy with our lemon soup with about 4 packs of sugar in it. Damn I miss my dad.

  • rennie g says:

    loved the riley’s in brea….they were sued by love’s and had to take down the heart—now that’s gone….and i always liked to say ‘i eat at ex- Loves’—also used to eat at the MJ ranch one in west covina–then that closed—but ages ago in the early 70s my dad worked across from eastland center–sometimes my brother and i would go with him—one time my brother spooned some of the hot bbq sauce into the mild one and that set my mouth on fire—and how bout them anti-ADA bathrooms—sooooo narrow that the sink was in a corner to make more room for the hi-profit bar,,,,,

  • Kevin Padberg says:

    My father was a majority owner of LBBQ Pit restaurants in CA, OR and NV in the late 1980’s. Butterfield was the holding company. Our family had long loved the very things you mentioned….but the food and fireside seating was the best! We’re it not for a series of unrelated events, we would have retained the entire chain… Great read here! Thank you for the memories…

  • Joe says:

    @Wilma McGuigan

    3101 E Garvey Ave, to the left of Marie Callender’s, now an LA Fitness parking lot :(

  • Wilma McGuigan says:

    Where exactly was the Love’s in West Covina? We have a bet about where it was located but I can’t find the answer.

  • Walter Lapinsky says:

    As a kid I remember going to the Love’s in Gardena on Redondo Beach Blvd. It was dark and smoky inside and dimly lit with those red candle glasses. Sometime in the late 80s it became a Korean BBQ restaurant.

    And who could forget that great TV and radio jingle, “When you’re in Love’s, the whole world’s delicious…”

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