R.J.’s for Ribs

R.J.’s for Ribs was one of many restaurants opened in Southern California by a man named Bob Morris who was kind of the Johnny Appleseed of restaurants. Mr. Morris made his fame with Gladstone’s, the venerable seafood eatery out by the beach.  Folks who went there when he ran it still talk about how great it was when it was wholly under his control. The current Gladstone’s bears little resemblance to that fine eatery but Morris now owns and operates the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe up in Malibu that more or less combines what was great about the old Gladstone’s with what was great about R.J.’s, which he operated in Beverly Hills at 252 N. Beverly Drive until 2006.

R.J.’s was a fun place with reasonable prices and the emphasis was, of course, on ribs. Whereas most rib joints specialize in pork, Gladstone’s did special things with the largest beef ribs I’d ever seen. Their pork ribs were fine — no complaints there — but the beef ribs were huge and meaty and tender.  I usually opted for a combo of beef ribs and chicken.  Their chicken was very, very good.  Everything there was and so R.J.’s was very successful…and imitated.  I’m not sure if Mr. Morris was involved in it but out on Ventura Boulevard in Encino, in a building that’s now a Buca di Beppo, there was a restaurant called Adam’s Ribs that was a near-clone.  It was not quite as good but it came close.

Like most Bob Morris restaurants, R.J.’s had…

  • A very, very long salad bar with items you usually don’t see in a salad bar.  I brought vegetarian friends there and they were very happy to graze while I gnawed on animal flesh.
  • Sawdust on the floor.  And interesting things on the walls, mainly photos of old Los Angeles.  Once, I spotted a photo I liked so much (it was of a fave childhood haunt) that I called Mr. Morris’s office and they gave me the name of the photographer/archivist they got them from.  Then I called him and ordered a print.
  • The Bob Morris Clam Chowder.  Folks raised in New England would sometimes say, “That’s not how clam chowder’s supposed to be.  It’s too thick.”  And it was thick.  But not having been raised in New England, I thought it was the best white clam chowder I ever had.  You can still get it at his current establishment.
  • Monster-sized desserts.  People would order the chocolate cake and be stunned at what they got: A slice big enough to carve up and share with six people, with gobs of whipped cream on the side.  It was also unbelievably rich and moist.  Once when I was there with one person, we didn’t want to order the cake because we weren’t going home after.  The people at the next table heard us and handed us the unconsumed cake they were left with after stuffing themselves.  We ate all we could and then handed it off to strangers at yet another table.  I have a feeling they weren’t the last in that food chain.
  • Decorative “to go” wrappings.  It wasn’t just the cake that most folks took home to eat the next day (and maybe the next and the next…)  I always took home ribs and/or chicken from my colossal-sized entree.  R.J.’s was known for huge portions and few could finish them on the premises.  The bus boys were all trained to wrap your overage in gold aluminum foil and then to sculpt the package into a swan or other artistic creation.  It was like making balloon animals with your leftovers.  I used to challenge them: “Hey, how about an aardvark?  Or a puma?”
  • New items.  I went to R.J.’s about twice a month and there always seemed to be something on the menu that hadn’t been there before.  Once, it was something called The 1,000 Year Old Baked Potato.  It was a huge potato that was served at your table in a crockery shell.  Allegedly, it had been encased like a mummy in a shell of brick that was stamped and numbered, then baked underground in a pit for ten centuries or something.  Your server broke open the shell with a little hammer and then served you your potato with a tray of about a dozen condiments including caviar and real, just-cooked bacon bits.
  • Other little touches.  Coffee was served with a side cup of whipped cream and another of chocolate morsels.  The chowder came with a soup mandel, which is kind of like a big Jewish crouton.  Sometimes, there was a little appetizer bar of cheese and crackers and other goodies to munch on. and there were always open bins of free peanuts while you waited for your table.  On a Friday, Saturday or Sunday evening (sometimes on a weeknight), that could be a long wait.

That was the main downside of R.J.’s, at least at the peak of its popularity: The wait.  That was a problem out at the old Gladstone’s, too.  An 8 PM reservation meant you started waiting for a table at 8 PM and were fortunate to be seated by, say, 8:45.  Even though they provided snacks, it could be frustrating and there was the clear and present feeling that it was deliberate; that they wanted you to spend heavily at the bar before they’d seat you.  The bar, like everything else there except the prices, was huge.  They’d boast of having 600 different beers or 800 different beers…the number kept changing but it was always believable, given what you saw there.  There were as many non-beer alcoholic beverages, as well.  Eventually though, you’d get your table and about the time your clam chowder arrived, you’d start feeling it was worth the wait.  In case you can’t tell, I really liked this place.

And there was a way around the wait, sort of.  I had this friend named Stanley Ralph Ross, a prolific TV writer and occasional restaurant critic.  Stanley was a friend of Bob Morris…one who claimed to have suggested the name of Gladstone’s.  (Given Stanley’s tendency to exaggerate, it wouldn’t surprise me if Mr. Morris did not agree.)  When I told him of an excruciatingly long wait at R.J.’s one night, Stanley said, “You need a Farkleberry Card,” and before I could ask what the hell that was, Stanley was on the phone to Bob Morris’s office, convincing some nice lady there to send me one.  It turned out to be a blue plastic card not unlike a credit card in look and feel but it didn’t buy anything.   Instead, you flashed it quietly to the hostess to tell her you were some sort of privileged friend of R.J.’s…I guess.  It was supposed to get you a table swiftly (or even sans reservation) but I’m not sure it ever sped the seating process and I never dared go there without a reservation.  Still, I told myself after waiting just under an hour for a table, “Just think how long it would take without the card.”  And I did feel privileged in some odd way.

Eventually, R.J.’s went away in stages.  Morris sold it to others and they took it downhill farther and faster than the folks who’d ruined Gladstone’s.  The last time I was there, they had notices up that they were moving, location unspecified.  On the sly, the hostess told me the owners had just signed a lease on a place on Santa Monica Boulevard near La Cienega and that they’d be up and running there in less than two months.  This was in 2006 and I’m starting to get the feeling that ain’t gonna happen.

61 Responses to R.J.’s for Ribs

  • Connie Martin says:

    Al Penny’s in Culver City was next to MGM Studios. I worked there part time and I remember how he always looked out for the workers, one girl had her purse stolen and her paycheck was in it, and he gave her another check. Another time he heard a party left a very small tip, and he stood at the back of the restaurant and yelled telling them if they were that cheap, that they couldn’t leave a decent tip, never come into my restaurant ever again. Of course everyone in the place heard him. Everyone got good tips that night.

  • Fred Stock says:

    Great memories! I ate there quite often. Huge portions and fun place to hang out. Not only did I see Michael Jackson but I remember David Lee Roth would eat there too.

  • VanStiller says:

    We were reminiscing about Cali. Went to RJ’s. twice a month for the Sunday Brunch in the mid to late 80’s. HOLY CRAP WAS THAT GREAT. Dinner once a month. Saw many stars there. One time Joanne Worly was at a table next to us. She knew my dad from childhood days. We put our two tables together and spent 9 hrs. there. Smokin’ drinkin’ laughing and cryin. Time of my Dear Dad’s life. Mine too.

  • Tina M LeBrun says:

    I worked at RJ’s in the late 70’s and early 80’s when it first opened. Waited on a lot of famous faces. Just recently found anold Jetty’s at Sunset T-shirt, lots of fond memories. The cake was actually a box mix, Betty Crocker, if I recall. Boy, time flies.

  • Mark Diamond says:

    What about the banana ice cream daiquiris? Served in a milkshake glass, they were fantastic!

  • Robert says:

    RJ’s was a place I could go and not feel out of place, especially in Beverly Hills.
    The food was terrific and the service was natural. This was during the 80’s
    I recall Beverly Hills was the first town in the nation to ban smoking in restaurants (around 1983) RJ’s let you smoke in the bar area. That was fine with me then. Thank God I finally quit. RJ’s was probably my favorite restaurant, sorry to see it go.
    PS I left Pasadena in ‘89 now live in Naples, FL.

  • Alice G. says:

    Your writing about RJ’s brought back many memories of my short time working there as a 17 year old cashier. Loved thr food, which employees got for only a couple dollars. You forgot to mention the enormous and delicious metal buckets of steamed clams—my fave! Manager when I worked there was a lecherous jerk, but that wasn’t unusual in those days. Thanks for the window to my teen working world.

  • Patrice says:

    What about the Hollywood trivia? The question was printed on a small card at each table. If you guessed correctly, you got the hug chocolate cake slice for free!

  • ND says:

    Man I wish RJ’s was still open. It would have been the perfect meal today (Memorial Day).

  • Lawrence Hatch says:

    I thought there was an RJ’s in Westwood and the restaurant that became Gladstones at the corner of Sunset Blvd and Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) was originally called RJ’s too before it became Gladstone’s. Gladstone’s was kind of fun, but then the owners started taking themselves way too seriously, they commandeered the public beach parking lot for their valet parking and had some tables down in the sand, which was nowhere near legal. Drunks leaving the restaurant caused many serious car accidents as they pulled out on to the busy PCH. The hostess, bartenders and even the valet attendants go so snooty the place lost its appeal for many locals but remained popular with out of town visitors, who wanted to dine with a view of the ocean. Interestingly, before the restaurant was Gladstone’s or even RJ’s, it was known as the Sea Shore Inn and way back in the early to mid sixties it was Neenie’s Famous Weenie’s, an over-priced fast food joint that served hungry swimmers and sandy children from the beach there.

  • T Quinn says:

    In college, at Claremont, my friends and I would drive out to Brentwood for a great evening! Many fond memories!

  • Delores says:

    Even in the early 2000’s, it was a good place to eat. I used to take out-of-town visiting family members there. I really miss it.

  • Lyn V says:

    The best Sunday Brunch EVER!!!!!

  • Kathy H says:

    This was always our go-to dinner place for birthdays when we all lived in LA. Anything to get that free cake but the ribs were fantastic and while we took them home in their colorful animal foil takeout, they rarely lasted until morning. But that salad bar, to this day I think of it, too much to eat but I sure tried. I wanted to bring my granddaughters and was very sad to learn that it’s gone. It was a great place all around, perfect for families. We always arrived early, rarely a wait, barely enough time for a handful of peanuts from the barrel.

  • tony wingate says:


  • Chris says:

    Loved the ribs and the bucket of clams. They also had a unique cheese dip with chocolate chips

  • Steve says:

    What a cool site! I used to work in L.A radio back in the 80’s. For months, a few friends kept pestering me about going to Gladstone’s in Malibu. Just to shut them up, we all went on a Saturday nite…and was I ever surprised! No hoity-toity “L.A. scene” by any stretch. Just regular folks (a hard thing to find in that town) having one hell of a good time.

    I think it took close to 2 hours to get seated but, boy, was it worth it. Usually, I wimp out when it comes to ordering anything too ‘exotic’ at a new restaurant, but Gladstone’s had nothing but crazy-named entrees to choose from. So, I decided to go for broke and ordered “Shark Teriyaki.” To this day, it’s still the greatest tasting fish I’ve ever had in my life.

    I moved away in ’85 and still think of Gladstone’s. Sure wish I knew that RJ’s was owned/run by the same guy. I would’ve been there in a flash!

    Sorry to hear about Hamburger Hamlet on Doheny, too. Used to be a regular watering hole after my air shift. Nothin’ like a few cold ones with Dino hunkered down in a booth a few feet away. Gotta love Hollywood!

  • Yvonne says:

    Wow, how cool that you posted this blog. I have many faint, but lovely childhood memories of this place and Gladstones. Not to mention memories of visiting the Morris home! My father worked as a temp chauffeur for Mrs. Morris and later my grandmother worked (for over 25 years) as a live in maid and casual cook for Mr. and Mrs. Morris. This was back when they lived on Rockingham Drive and then they moved off of Ave of the Stars in Century City. I remember R.J.’s and how I LOVED to order Shirley Temples when I went there. I used to gawk at the grand wood finishing, and I seem to remember a green glow of thick window glass. I don’t know if anything matches that description. We frequented Gladstones more often and my oldest brother worked there for a short time. I remember stuffing my little purse with peanuts and walking all over the sawdust. What fun! The best part was the huge chocolate cake we would order and take home. It was soooo good! I remember leftovers being wrapped in the rose gold (?) colored aluminum foil made into swans. I don’t know about special blue cards, I should ask my parents. However, I seem to remember special gold coins that you gave the waiters at Gladstones that were good for a free drinks. I could write so much about these places, I wish I had more pictures. What memories.

  • AARON LOPEZ says:


  • Nadja says:

    R.J’s was my birthday restaurant growing up. Every year my folks would ask where I wanted to go and without hesitation I’d ask for R.J’s. The sawdust floor, bucket for bones, and more ribs than my childsized eyes could behold all added up to the best birthday dinner. Another great memory from my food bank brain.

  • Ken Coate says:

    Took a date there in 1983- she was a model and I was way over my head as an Insurance Wonk making $14,400 a year. I wasn’t a beef ribs fan, but I was told this place was different. They may have been right, but there isn’t anything harder to eat with any class than beef ribs. I had BBQ sauce places on my face I never thought to wipe.

    We went out until I was broke. Funny how that works.

  • Jim Eubank says:

    Brunch at RJ’s on New Year’s Day was great and if you showed up in your pajamas you got a coupon for brunch on another Sunday. If you weren’t in your PJ’s you stuck out like a sore thumb.

  • KJ Jensen says:

    Actually, Gladstones 4 Fish is the phone number of the place (and still is the the one on PCH) GLadstone was the old exchange name for The Palisades “GL” “3474” spells out FISH on the old phone with letters attached to each number

  • tony escobedo says:

    The greatest place for ribs. Growing up eating food from this restaurant brings back good memories from when my father work there. My father worked there for about 15 years (70 ‘ and 80 ‘) as a cook, bus boy, and server. He was very well known and loved by coworkers, customers, friends, and family.

  • Jennifer Martin says:

    It was a great place. I used to see Michael Jackson (not the singer; the KABC radio host) there quite often.

  • suze donn says:

    Responding to the Al Penni’s comment. I worked there for 4 years, it just closed one day, came into work and there were many people their taking inventory. Later found out it was due to back taxes. We had not warning, just out of a job, bingo. But I loved working there, met so many people, all types of actor/actresses, big name bands, tv stars, it was just a fun place to work. And the food was great as well. Giant plates of food all came with fries and fresh fruit. I would love to find some of the people I worked with, we didn’t have FB and Instagram and all of the other social media things back then, so I have lost track of so many people.

  • CARON says:

    I remember so many wonderful meals at RJ’s. The salad bar was the best and so was all of the delicious food. In the days of the 80’s, I would sit all day drinking margaritas and smoking ciggys before I ordered food galore. We need another RJ’s !!!

  • Greg says:

    Al Penny’s across the street from MGM studio on Washington Blvd, 24/7, 25o items on the menu. In the early 70’s went there after clubbing in Marnie Del Rey for a Monte Cristo sandwich. Anyone went to Asian American parties at the RJ’s in Torrance in the mid 80’s?

  • Denise Madden says:

    Does anyone remember Al Penni’s restaurant in Culver City? It had a zillion page menu and there was always a long wait for a table. He had a huge ad campaign on KABC Radio and it really paid off! I don’t know what happened to it.

  • David Hyman says:

    Today I was sending an email to my sister overseas mentioning I was going to the Cheesecake Factory in Beverly Hills next week. I then was mentioning a family restaurant our deceased Grandparents in the Miracle Mile used to take us to. We also visited the nearby Cannon Theater with out them. None of us could remember the name RJ’s until I found it on this site. Kudos!

  • Jimmy says:

    Actually, Adam’s Rib was owned by Mike Ridell. I was a barternder there for about 2 years…. loved my time there. Not sure about RJ’s because I moved to LA in 1989 and left in 1991. Mike had already opened Adam’s. I think I remember him talking about RJ’s. If anyone sees this post and remembers Adam’s, say hello. Hard to believe this was over 20 years ago!!!

  • Sam D says:

    Bob Morris was a customer of mine when I had a business selling and servicing business machines. I had lunch dozens of times at RJ’s. He had the best salad bar around back then with genuine Roquefort cheese salad dressing and artichoke hearts. RJ’s also served a terrific hamburger and if you ordered the burger, it included a trip to the salad bar. I miss that place as it was in the 1970s and 80s.

    I seem to remember that when Bob Morris originally opened the present Gladstone’s location on PCH it had a different name. Then the restaurant was closed for an extended time due to a fire. Later when it re-opened, it was renamed Gladstones.

  • Jim says:

    Wasn’t RJ’s originally a Gladstone’s Beverly Hills? I know there was a branch right around there late 70s or so.

  • Teresa says:

    I was one of the unemployed actors working there in the mid 80’s. Surprised no one has mentioned there legendary Sunday brunch. Line ups an hour before the doors opened. Ice sculptures, omelette stations, all you could eat buffet. Desert and fruit station. It was enormous. Great place.

  • Phil Ankofski says:

    For Elise;
    Your comment put the biggest smile on my face. I have known several people over the years who seem to function as your boyfriend.
    I too become a different person when hungry. Not a pretty sight.
    And because I am this way, I cannot patronize a restaurant where the seating time may be longer than ten minutes.
    If the wait was to be longer, I would exit and head for Johnnies Pastrami
    or Joe Patrellie’s Steak House in Culver City.
    Thanks for posting …. I am STILL smiling.
    Phil Ankofski

  • Ken says:

    My dad used to take us there in the late ’70’s/early ’80’s. Two memorable highlights: they had great guacamole at the salad bar (a noteworthy addition at the time) and fantastic ribs. I never left there hungry, that’s for sure.

  • Elise says:

    I only ate here once. My boyfriend at the time said he was taking me to dinner there. He said not to eat anything all day because we would be eating a ton that night. Like an idiot I listened to him. By the time we went out to eat I was STARVING. And when I’m hungry I’m a grouch. I remember we had to wait a long time and I was so hungry I don’t even remember eating.

  • Ken says:

    I found RJ’S by mistake an artist friend of mine was showing her painting at a fru-fru restaurant about two or three doors down, the food and the portions did not look good. So we snuck out and discovered RJ’S. I loved the rattlesnake chicken. I really hoped that they were still open I know that my son would have loved it as well and probably would have become some sort of weird family tradition like handing the secret of RJ’S from generation to generation. RIP RJ’s……

  • Mike Webb says:

    A news article for you Abilene Rose


  • Mike Webb says:

    Not sure this applies but I worked for a single owner restaurant that had taken over an old RJ ribs place we kept the name for around half a year deciding what to change it to. It had the same brick façade and green awning on the back side of the place with the RJ letters like in the Pic that was the entrance to the bar. This place was small though and the bar was nothing to talk about very small my understanding was it used to be a coffee shop before it was an RJ’s called Honeys this is in Westminster CA. next to mile square Park. It’s too bad we sold it before we started making money we renamed it Abilene Rose we sold BBQ food as we used the big slow smoker cooker that was in place 1998 to 2000 now a Vietnamese restaurant as they talked the owner into selling it to them one day. I was very angry he sold it as I just put two hard long years trying to get it running but the owner made some very bad mistakes in the beginning that doomed it.
    We had a country western BBQ theme and did have live bands Blues, Country and Rockabilly bands 3 days a week.

  • Jan says:

    I worked as temporary wait staff at R’J’s when they opened (mid 70’s?). What stands out in my mind besides the food was the massive wood bar that rose to the ceiling stocked with countless bottles of liquor that was called “The Library of Liquor” It had an old sliding librarians ladder on wheels as the means in which you’d retrieve the upper bottles!

    This website is a treasure and I cant tell you how happy I am to have stumbled on to it.

  • Sloane says:

    All I can say is with a name like Rattlesnake…how can you go wrong??? I love this place!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Art says:

    We had some wonderful family dinners there. The ribs were the best — big and meaty. That and the green grocer salad bar were enough for a meal and take home.

  • Bill James says:

    The barbecued “Duck” was to die for. R.J.’s was an outstanding barbecue experience, there is nothing like it today.

  • Vic Baron says:

    i used to go to RJ’s with dear friend the notorious king of porn AL GOLDSTEIN of SCREW MAGAZINE… we never ate there with less than 10 people in tow… AL babe, you think thats why you went broke!????
    I thought it was okay, wasnt that impressed, i was more impressed with our guest list of friends…i’m not naming names but several of these were Enquire alumni…

  • JL Marr says:

    This brings back fond memories of my days of youth. I also wonder if you have any information about Mr. Cecil’s California Ribs?

  • Bob Levy says:

    Not sure why I just did a search for RJ’s. I do not even remember when or how I found it the first time. I do recall once or twice a year in the 70’s(?) bringing a group of people (sometimes as large as 50) for the most fantastic meal many had ever experienced. I recall one meal where we occupied the entire upstairs and when the wait staff asked about appetizers the universal response was RIBS! If I recall it was Monday night and all the ribs you could eat for (I forget how cheap but it was cheap). The ribs, salad bar and dessert were some of the best meals I EVER had – and I am a rib lover. Sad to hear it is now only a fond memory.

  • Larry Parker says:

    I’m not sure if this is true, but I heard that Adam’s Ribs was owned by Bob Morris’s brother. I have also heard Bob is working on a new bbq restaurant on PCH in Malibu..

  • MichaelnSeattle says:

    This brings back the memory of Michael Jackson ad-libbing a live commercial on KABC going on about Gladstones and RJs, making me hungry as I sat in traffic. I wanted to head for Sunset and get down to Gladstones right then, spend the day at the beach.

  • Michael Rankins says:

    My late first wife and I enjoyed one of our most memorable meals at R.J.’s back in 1988. Our waiter — probably an out-of-work actor, but what waiter in L.A. isn’t? — was so entertaining and engaging that we tipped him rather extravagantly (at least, from our budgetary perspective) for his efforts, and added a note to management commending his service. When we left the restaurant, he actually chased us out to the street to thank us for our generosity. It’s the only time in a half-century of dining in restaurants that a waitperson ever went that far to show appreciation for a tip.

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