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.

308 Responses to Love’s

  • Grace E Forman says:

    Does anyone have the recipe for the Cheese Bread that they used to serve at their Lakewood, Ca restaurant?

  • jeff king says:

    I mostly remember Love’s as a customer when I was a sales rep at Interstate Restaurant Supply and S.E. Rykoff & Co. in the mid 70s to the late 80s. I ate at several when I was doing vacation coverage as a rookie at IRS. I was the rep for the stores in Torrance, Brea, Garden Grove and on La Tijera in Inglewood.

    One of my competitors, Goldberg and Solovy, sold unlabeled LOVE’S BBQ Beans to a BBQ restaurant in Gardena. Sneaky, and very illegal.

  • John Herrera says:

    So awesome to see there were others who went to the Oceanside location. I remember drinking the warm lemon water that was supposed to be used to clean your fingers after eating. And the “people bag” doggy bags that had a drawing of a snooty chef putting leftovers in a bag. Does anyone else remember these?

  • John Hannon says:

    Can anyone remember when Love’s opened/closed when it was located at 620 E. Sahara, LVN 89104? And yes I know it became Tony Roma’s later. After reading some of the comments, I find that maybe Donn Roach may have the answer.

  • JOE says:

    Hello PAW. Thanks for the recipes. Can I use regular Bush canned pinto beans and kidney beans? Every recipe I’ve seen online called for pork ‘n beans. I thought that was the base of the recipe, since Van Camp’s pork ‘n beans kinda have a Love’s beans taste right out of the can. I do vaguely remember the two different sized beans. I tried one of the copy-cat pork ‘n beans recipes and something about the size of the beans just didn’t feel right. Thanks again! I hope to suffer as badly as you did ;)

  • Philip Motoike says:

    i remmber in the 80s there was a loves express.. its was smillar to Dickies BBQ.. its like a fast food versoin but it didnt last either

  • PAW says:

    I had the recipe for the coleslaw, beans and BBQ sauce on my last laptop and the harddrive crashed and like an idiot I didn’t write it down or copy it to anything.

    BUT, I did remember them and wrote down what I remembered (finally)… After testing each several times… And gaining an extra ten pounds, so you people owe me big time for my suffering!

    Coleslaw: 1C Mayo
    1/2C buttermilk
    1/3C sugar
    1&1/2tsp onion powder
    1&1/2 tsp celery seed
    1/2tsp black pepper
    3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
    1 head of chopped cabbage
    1C shredded carrots
    Mix the mayo, buttermilk, sugar, onion powder, celery seed, black pepper and apple cider vinegar together and whisk until the sugar dissolves completely. Let that mixture chill for 2hrs. Add the mixture to your cabbage and carrots and toss well.

    BBQ Beans: 29oz can of pinto beans
    15oz can of kidney beans (yes, kidneys)
    2Tbsp worchester sauce
    2tsp chili powder
    1/3C dark molasses
    1/2C Heinz Chili Sauce
    2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
    1C brown sugar
    Mix all ingredients (including bean liquids). Now, for the Loves added flavor, use trimmed fat from smoked beef AND pork chopped very fine and add that to the mixture… SLOWWWWW cook them in the same FRUIT wood BBQ smoke pit as the meats. Stir to keep the beans from burning but you need to render them down to a thick sauce consistency. Yes, this is a multiple hour operation. As your ribs, tri-tip, or whatever meats your are cooking in your pit continues to cooks, remember to add bits of the trimmings chopped finely to your beans. Love’s BBQ beans had 2 kinds of beans if you remember correctly.

    BBQ Sauce: 2&1/2 C apple cider vinegar
    3C brown sugar (firmly packed)
    1/4C dark molasses
    2Tbsp salt
    2Tbsp onion powder
    2Tbsp garlic powder
    2Tbsp celery seed (YES you need this)
    1tsp black pepper
    1tsp paprika
    2 Tbsp Crisco butter flavor shortening
    1/4C pickling spice (make sure it does not contain cinnamon)
    1 can (6oz) tomato paste
    Mix the Crisco, cider vinegar, brown sugar, molasses and tomato paste in a pot on low heat. Once the Crisco has melted and the brown sugar has completely dissolved add the remaining ingredients and let simmer for 45 mins to an hour.

    Pit firewood: Applewood and Oak according to one pitmaster I got to know. It was an even mix of the two types of wood where he worked at the Buena Park Love’s near Knott’s Berry Farm. After testing oak, apple, cherry, mesquite and hickory mixes, he does seem to be right with apple and oak as that gives that last bit of needed smoke flavor that it was missing.

    Again, always keep your beans cooking in the same smoke pit as your meats. If you are making a mix of meats (chicken, pork and beef), he stated the chicken should be racked above the pork which should be racked above the beef. The chicken drips on the pork which drips on the beef. Like I stated earlier, it’s a long process (all day if done correctly), but it’s what you’ve been missing.

  • Eileen says:

    As ridiculous as it sounds, I just teared up at seeing the pictures. I miss Love’s. Great ribs and delicious beans! My sister and I used to go to the one on Pico back in the mid 70’s. Simpler times.

  • John Hindsill says:

    Helen Blackwood–I know you not, but it is possible that you would have been our server at least a few times from the late ’80s until the restaurant shuttered.

  • Helen Blackwood says:

    Hi. Do I miss Love’s. I still have my name tag when I worked in the one in Tujunga CA. Have pictures too. Love, loved the beans but loved the bbq chicken salad with the bbq sauce and coleslaw dressing was absolutely delicious. Worked there twelve years until it closed in 1995.


    My very date with my now late husband of 43 years, was at Love’s on Hollywood Boulevard. Such wonderful memories !

  • David Gekko says:

    Very cool site, awesome. There was a Loves in Claremont, near the city border with Pomona. I remember this from my childhood in the early 70’s.

  • Jack Burger says:

    I lived in Encino in the 50’s and early 60’s. I think it was 4605 Alonzo. I went to Our Lady of Grace. There were 4 of us kids and we use to go the original loves a lot. BBQ beef sandwhiches and the coleslaw by which I judge all coleslaw to this day. I am 70 now but will never forget that original Loves real pit BBQ

  • Eric Quinn says:

    Everybody loved the beans. Here’s why. We would smoke a bottom round of beef in the Pit, each restaurant had two, using oak for heat and a fruit tree wood, apple or cherry, for flavor. When the bottom round was done, it was removed from the pit and the fat covering the meat was trimmed off. This fat, having been completely inundated with wood smoke for hours was then put through a very fine grinder and added to the beans. Just enough so the beans would take on that wonderful wood smoke flavor.

  • James Broms says:

    The one in Costa Mesa,Ca, which was near South Coast Plaza is now a Wahoos fish tacos.

  • Beanie says:

    My best friend growing up was Dick Love’s daughter. Dick ran the Love”s restaurant on Ventura Blvd in Encino ( a regular was Mae West!).
    After all the legal hullabaloo, he opened Dick Love’s in Northridge on Reseda Blvd.
    The beans are the best.
    In response to earlier post… Sue Love Hill is Dick’s sister.
    Dick’s family moved to Branson and he has passed in the last few years.
    I still yearn for Love’s Pit BBQ!

  • Melonee & John Murray says:

    My husband and I lived in Lancaster for over 45 years prior to relocating to Bakersfield in 2010. During the time we lived in Lancaster, there weren’t as many restaurant choices as there are now-a-days. It was a big deal on Saturdays & Sundays to hop in the car and drive “down below” to do our shopping at Fedco and various malls, then choose a restaurant to eat at that we didn’t have. One of my favorites was Love’s. Their BBQ Baked Beans alone were worth the drive! Eventually we had a Love’s open in Lancaster on Valley Central Drive. Unfortunately, it closed down along with most, if not all of the Love’s restaurant chains a few years later. Their BBQ sauce was so yummy. I really miss those days when life was a lot simpler and cell phones weren’t pulled out as soon as everyone sat down at the dinner table.

  • Chris says:

    Loved the ribs at the Loves in Walnut Creek (Norcal) from the mid 70’s until it closed. Nicely oak smoked quality pork ribs that were glazed with their great BBQ sauce that got its distinctive flavor from the use of proper amounts of coriander seed, which is probably the primary flavoring agent present in the “1/4 cup of pickling spice” ingredient listed in the (possible)Love’s BBQ sauce recipes in this thread. Wondering if it was just lack of business or something else that caused All of the Love’s to close?

  • Cruz Antonio Sanchez says:

    Hi I’m Cruz, I have probably been to most loves restaurant’s I So. Cal. They had a coleslaw dressing and also called it their house dressing. Let me tell you Hidden Valley makes a coleslaw dressing that’s tastes the closest to it. If you want to make the beans you have to know how to make the Original baby back ribs. They used a basting Sauce. One day in the city of Rosemead the cook took me in the kitchen and showed me how they smoked the ribs always with chicken on top of them that gave them an added flavor. The basting Sauce is this
    2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
    3 cups packed of brown sugar
    2 tbsp onoin powder
    2 tbsp garlic powder
    2 tbsp sea salt
    2 tbsp celery seed
    1 tsp paprika
    2 tbsp
    you have to use this pork lard
    1 tsp black pepper
    1/4 cup pickling spice
    Bring all ingredients to a boil then simmer for 45 minutes to an hour or so that’s the basting Sauce once you have this basting the ribs . smoke some vandekamp beans put some basting Sauce in the beans.also chip some smoked meat and put it into the beans. That’s the closest you’ll get . enjoy

  • Eddie says:

    Man, I remember Love’s BBQ…great tasting ribs! We had a Love’s restaurant here in the City of Ventura, right near the beach. So sad that it’s gone. Great memories, though.

  • Maria D says:

    Help me remember if my memory is true, in the mid 70’s after church on sundays we often went to the Oceanside location when I was 9 and 10, wasn’t it all you can eat BBQ chicken on sundays for the kids who were weighed on the large scale at the entrance? Thank goodness all of us 5 kids were skinny, though we could still pack on all that chicken and beans because back then kids rode bikes and ran all day until dinner! Good times!

  • Steve Morreale says:

    I worked at the Loves in Garden Grove when I was in high school in the mid 70s. I recall that the recipe for their beans required a substantial amount of the “bark” from the smoked brisket that would normally not be set able. They pretty much threw in any non usable portions of beef or pork after finely mincing it as well as about an equal amount of bacon. I’ve noticed that a lot of copycat recipes call for chili sauce but they actually used ketchup and tomato paste. The beans were cooked right on the side of the wood pit in a heavy stainless steel steamer pan for a long time and the beans that were served actually came out of a walk in reefer and were reheated right next to the beans that were actually being cooked.

  • Terry says:

    My wife drives me crazy always trying to find a BBQ beef sandwich that compares to Loves. Never has, never will. I loved their Short Ribs. Always ate at the Ladera Heights location where a great bartender worked.

  • ron says:

    There will never be another bbq place like loves. It was the best and will never be outdone!!

  • Stephanie J Meadows says:

    I remember Love’s BBQ! It was the best! I used to go to the one in Brentwood and walked there with my parents. I loved the BBQ chicken sandwich and fries! The only place that was remotely like Love’s was Dave’s BBQ, now out of business.

  • Dave Hibbard says:

    I used to eat at the Loves in West Covina and Rosemead as a kid with my family for special occasions, I credit Loves to my Love of BBQ this day. Their sauce was the Best, Their Ribs and Beans were my favorite. I moved out of state in the mid 80″s and when I moved back to CA. the Loves I knew was closed. It was a sad discovery. I see the mention of a website that sells the sauce I will be spending some money on that site soon

  • Susan Brostoski White says:

    I kept my horse at the same stable as a daughter of the love family. They had reseraunts and a pet shop in Santa Ana. I am so bad at remembering names. I forgot her name but I did remember the name because of thirst businesses. This was also like 1968, and that was Bob’s Stables. Nothing is the same anymore. I miss her and thier businesses.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Yo OldLARestaurant Foodies and T. Campbell:
    Often one can use Google Search to find recipes of several different venues. In this case I used “recipe love’s retaurant beans”
    In the case of Love’s, did each of these copy from the other? LOL
    Once, long ago, went to a fine dining place in Gatlinburg, TN. They had preprinted recipes that gave if asked!!!! Great Customer Service, IMHO.

  • Andrew Walker Jordan says:

    Hello , my name is Andrew Jordan from vista,California. There was a Loves barbecue pit in oceanside, California and my family would go there on Saturday night and it was our special night out during the week.

  • T. Campbell says:

    Has anyone found a recipe for their incredible beans? I’ve never had anything that even comes close to them.

  • Thomas Simko says:

    Sue Love Hill are you still around?

  • Jeff Sor says:

    There used to be a Noonans Ribs on 67th and Western av. L.A. in the 60’s. It was strictly takeout from a plain unmarked white bldg with white porcelain tiled interior. It mostly sold to restaurants. I assume very few knew of it’s retail side.

  • Lisa says:

    My friend and I worked at the Love’s in Pomona 70s/80s. What fabulous food, great bar, good friends, wow! Never have found any food like that again. DblLisa & Susan.

  • nunya says:


  • Joan Sullivan says:


  • Joan Sullivan says:

    We lived in Sherman Oaks and went to the LOVES
    on Ventura Blvd and Woodly Ave… the absolute
    BEST BBQ ever, delicious loved the coleslaw
    The bens were magnificent and the BBQ sauce
    Marvelous ,,, this was in the late 1950,s
    And a family member Dick Love ran the
    Restaurant,,, I believe the family was from
    Missouri … very fond memories !!! Adored the
    Toasted buns on the BBQ SANDWICHES, and the
    Ribs the chicken WOW 😲 I even remember the finger
    Bowls with a slice of lemon 🍋 Good times very

    OLD school

  • Teddy says:

    I worked at Loves on LaCienega in Ladera Heights..from opening to about 1980
    wish I would have asked for the recipe for the beans and coleslaw..never found it and miss it so much

  • Joann Colan says:

    What can I say? I’m was one of Love’s most devoted fans! I loved Loves. I used to eat there regularly. And, now I found their website, don’t ask me how and I bought 6 bottles of it for family and friends.

  • Robert says:

    Does anyone have a recipe that comes close to what the barbecued beans tasted like?

  • 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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