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Restaurants & Bars 67

is barbeque in the Valley a contradiction in terms?

Stan | Jul 24, 200203:42 AM

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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