Descending into Woodland Hills down Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Tom noticed that the 101 was moving at a snails pace and opted to turn right on Ventura. We were headed towards Van Nuys, to a well-know Texan que joint, and wed just walked the Eagle Springs loop in preparation.
But it was hot, the traffic was movin slow, the sun was high in the sky (half-past one, to be precise), and we were hungry, so when Tom pointed out the My Brothers Bar-B-Q sign, we decided it would be foolish not to pull in.
The sign outside says since 1957, the restaurant has its own, freshly surfaced parking lot, and the air is redolent with the evocative scent of smoking mesquite. Enough to convince us the Fates were smiling upon us, and that we had done the right thing by stopping.
At first glance, My Brothers doesnt look much like a barbecue joint, more like a quaint 1950s diner. Inside its all carriage lamps and fake brick walls. KZLA on the radio and individually lighted paintings thicken the atmosphere. The place could seat fifty comfortably and on very comfortable seats plush and leathery, complete with faux wood formica-topped tables. Quaint? Hokey? You be the judge. Theres also a small counter, where one can sit and drool at the impressive selection of cakes and pies lined up in a glass cabinet beside the till.
Our waitress, Betty, has been working the tables at My Brothers for 16 years. She told us the owners were originally from Texas, which explained the obvious Lone Star influence. My Brothers has all the usual barbecue staples, but its big on beef, offering sliced beef, tri-tip and beef ribs on the extensive menu, as well as Texas chili and Texas smoked sausage.
There's also got a full range of burgers, salads, fish and chips and shakes on there, and its clear that My Brothers has walked a fine line between being a barbecue joint and a family restaurant in order to have survived this long. An old Daily News review said the place is popular with a handful of movie stars, including Zsa Zsa Gabor, and while we were there, Betty played host to an eclectic crowd including several families, a couple of maintenance engineers, a shaven-headed hip-hop crew, and a very pleasant couple of eighty-year-olds.
We ordered the smoked sausage, the beef ribs, the pork ribs, the tri-tip, the sliced pork and the sliced beef. Beans, garlic mash potatoes, cheese bread and fries on the side. Oh, and a vanilla milkshake.
The sausage came first, and proved to be quite a surprise. It had been smoked, then sliced lengthways and char-grilled, and was accompanied by a stir-fried concoction of peppers and mushrooms. It was delicious, slightly spicy, and brimming with a lingering flavor. It came drizzled with the My Brothers sauce, which was sweet, ketchuppy and way too much of a distraction to complement the sausage much. The peppers and mushrooms, however, provided a perfect foil to the tingling spice in the links and we had the dish cleaned up in lighting speed. Betty told us the sausage isnt made on the premises, but what do we care?
We couldnt order the meats a la carte, which was irritating, so they came sliced and splashed in sauce in dinner combos, along with the sides. Unfortunately, Betty got our orders wrong, forgetting the beans and giving Tom sliced ham instead of beef. The ham was very ordinary, and the pork was dry and overcooked. Moreover, both came cut in very thick slices. Three slices of each meat and two sides, but it still didnt seem worth $15.25 a plate.
The pork ribs had a good, smoky taste, but they were slightly overcooked and rather chewy, almost as though theyd been cooked, left overnight and re-heated. The tri-tip was equally undistinguished; it arrived in very thick slices, sluiced with sauce, and devoid of any kind of rub, which Tom said was very unusual for tri-tip. It had clearly been smoked, but, mysteriously, it appeared to have been slapped on the grill for a few minutes after it had been sliced. Re-heated again?
The beef ribs were enormous. We nearly balked at the $9.75 price tag for three ribs, but when they arrived it was plain to see why they were priced so high. The plate could barely hold them, and they were laden with thick chunks of meat. They had either been basted with sauce or rubbed in spice, which had charred in the smoker or on the grill. The blackened, spicy outer had an almost mustardy taste, making a real surprise out of the beef underneath. The meat was juicy and only just cooked, which may sound strange to barbecue aficionados, but it tasted fabulous, nonetheless. It even made that sauce taste good.
We passed on getting an extra side of beans, but Tom pronounced the cheesebread and the mashed potato average, while the fries got the thumbs-up. Apple pie a la mode proved a worthy dessert, with a sweet, tasty brown sugar topping, but we could have done with a little more ice-cream for out $1.25.
We left with the distinct feeling that My Brothers Bar-B-Q has its heart in Texas, which isnt surprising given the origins of the owners. Their beef ribs were excellent, and that smoked sausage was, frankly, divine. But My Brothers doesnt really have that barbecue joint feel that I suspect most cue hounds will be looking for. Its really a family place that uses mesquite for fuel and happens to have more barbecue on the menu than anything else. Great milkshake, though.
My Brothers Bar-B-Q
21150 Ventura Boulevard (2 blocks east of Canoga)
818 348 2020
Monday-Saturday 1 am-9.30 pm
Sunday 4 pm-9.30 pm