Harry’s Open Pit BBQ

This one’s about Harry’s Open Pit BBQ. Harry, whoever he was, had a small chain of barbecue places that cooked real meat over real wood. Their sauce was mediocre but that was okay because the ribs and chicken were so good nude that you didn’t need sauce. I used to go to the one on Crescent Heights, just south of Sunset, situated about where you now enter the parking garage for the big shopping complex that’s now there. It was a little rathole of a building with everything served fast food style. You ordered your ribs and/or chicken at a counter and they’d take your food right off the grill for you. Then you carried it into a little dining room with picnic table seats and a large sink, right in the midst of the tables, for the washing of rib-stained fingers.

That Harry’s always had a strong rock-and-roll connection due to the surrounding businesses and when it closed, its proprietors briefly moved its open pit and food service into a rock club across the street. As a result, a number of musicians did odes to Harry’s ribs on their albums of the period. Canned Heat, for instance, recorded a song called “Harry’s Open Pit Barbecue.” It’s about all that’s left of what was once the best place in L.A. to get ribs.

23 Responses to Harry’s Open Pit BBQ

  • Craig Miller says:

    There were three Harry’s Open Pit BBQ locations, as I recall. The one on Crescent Heights, one on Sepulveda south of Santa Monica Bl, and one on Ventura Bl in, I think, Studio City. What I heard was when Harry retired, he gave a restaurant to each of his kids to run. Which they apparently did, straight into the ground.

  • Craig Printup says:

    I remember the one on Sepulveda, it was walking distance from a friend’s apartment. I remember not liking it very much, it was not slow smoked like good southern bbq, it had burned edges like something you might make yourself in a park in one of the metal bbq grills. Don’t miss it at all….

  • Larry Parker says:

    Harry’s Open Pit BBQ- I just want to comment about the “BathTub” located in the dining room. It wasn’t a sink… it was an actual Bath Tub. I was there so many times.. when ditching school, with my family and when cruising down Sunset in the 60’s. The bbq sauce would drip down on the fries and we were happy with a beef sandwich & fries.

  • bruce whalen says:

    I remember the one south of sunset… thought it was fabulous.. just saw a pic posted on facebook and made a comment about Harrys… One of my favorites…

  • bruce whalen says:

    I just saw a pic on facebook and made a comment about harrys just south of sunset… I loved it… More than anything else I really liked the guy who stoked the fire… He went to great lengths to find the perfect piece of wood.. Ate there many times… thought it was great…..

  • Bruno G says:

    The best! And the sauce was thin, not sweet, but really good. As I recall, no baby backs, only large spare ribs. I used to frequent Sepulveda. I believe there is now a Zankou’s Chicken on the old site.

  • Paul Walters says:

    Looking for some pictures of Harry’s Open Pit BBQ in Hollywood on Crescent Heights and Sunset.

  • The ChocolateDoctor says:

    Our offices are a block away from where the old Sepulveda Harry’s Open Pit Barbecue was located. When the wind was blowing east you could smell the hickory smoke in my office. It was a grungy dump with always good and sometimes great barbecued ribs. It depended on the day, the time and who was cooking. They cooked the “barbecued” ribs the right way, using an off-set fire box allowing the ribs to smoke not just cook. There is a big difference between barbecuing and grilling. They sold ribs, chicken and spicy links—basically Texas-style. I used to have lunch there at least once a week. It was a print shop for several years and now Zankou’s Chicken—not one of my favorites. There are no good barbecue restaurants on this side of town anymore. Our other walking distance haunt was Hot Spot now the home to yet another Starbucks. Hot Spot had great, inexpensive grilled burgers. We miss them both.

  • 77' kid from NS says:

    Lived on Orange dr. in 77′ and ate at Harry’s every Friday evening for three or 4 months straight. I loved the ribs, chicken and the people you’d meet from all over Hollywood and LA. The place was a going concern from 4 pm to late into the evening. A slab of ribs came with a large plate of fries and a lettuce salad and an orange quartered, it was a great meal at the end of the work week. I miss the ribs and all the friends I met in LA in 77′ There was nothing as good as open pit ribs and chicken straight off the wood fire.

  • C. D. says:

    The one on Crescent Heights moved across the street to a night club called Coconut teasers. It went out of business a few years later.
    I use to hit the one in Studio City often on first dates. If they could not handle diving in and getting messy, there usually was not a second date.

  • Brian says:

    The Harry’s in West L.A. was first located on the northeast corner of Sepulveda and Ohio, accross the street from the baseball fields. Before going out of business, sometime in the 80’s, they moved further south on Sepulveda, where Zankou’s is now. The second location didn’t have quite the charm of the first.

  • Gary Turner says:

    On a hunch, I punched in Harry’s. Harry was our cousin, he had two sons. one got heavily involved in drugs, don’t know what happened later in life. The other brother opened a successful French restaurant on Ventura Blvd I believe. Harry opened in Watts before the riots. My Dad had the restaurant next door, Jodi’s that served burgers along with other fast food. The artists with Barry Gordy used to come down, dance in the middle of the restaurant, Harry and my Dad had a Jukebox, artists joined in dancing and singing. Good memories.

  • david c says:

    We discovered Harry’s on Crescent Heights back in 1973 when we went to Zeidler and Zeidler to get suited up for graduation. After a lengthy morning of fittings and purchases, we asked the sales guys where to get lunch. “Right around the corner at Harry’s S**t Pit!” was the response.
    Being from Palmdale with no BBQ anywhere in sight, we dug in to plates of fries and salad and ribs. Anytime we ended “up over the hill”, Harry’s was THE destination.
    Years later, when I was living in Hollywood on N. Gardner, a Harry’s opened a block or two towards Fountain, in what I thought was the old Famous Amos Cookie joint.
    This was in ’89-91. When I asked if they were related, the owner said he was Harry’s son. They made damn good barbecue too, and had the old bathtub for washing up.
    When we left Hollywood for Atlanta in ’91, we got one last meal to go, and they filled us up with all the leftover food from lunch. We ate for three days on that.

  • Howie Siegel says:

    Harry was from Chicago, his place there was on Navy Pier. He originally opened in LA on Adams near Normandy right near Willie Bloch’s and Sam Weisbrodt’s liquor store. It was a reunion of Maxwell Street boys. We called the place on Crescent Heights the Vomitorium because we loved the ribs so much we wanted to keep eating. I bought a pair of avocado slacks with zippers on the side from Z&Z. I wore them to class at Hamilton High and one of the football players called me “a pickle barrel”.

  • Neal Warner says:

    Harry’s on Sunset was ALWAYS a stop whenever I went into Hollywood from the Valley. When they opened one a couple miles away on Ventura it was even better. When I visited my friend the artist Jim Rumph at the Slime Factory on Sepulveda I’d always stop by the Harry’s when it was there. I never thought of Harry’s as having three locations but one store that kept moving. I figured the place would eventually kill me since some of the pork ribs were charred black on the outside but pink on the inside but I just couldn’t stop eating them. I’m still alive though.

  • mark says:

    I remember in the 70s great slabs of beef ribs flying off the grill you could smell the bbq from quite a distance crecent heights etc wasnt so commercial like it is now there wasnt virgin records or whatever the only store next to harrys open pit was a head shop called lady snow i beleive

  • Wynonah says:

    I lived in the West Adams Historical district on 21st & Hobart Blvd. before the Santa Monica Freeway came through our beautiful neighborhood.
    Our Harry’s Open Pit was on Adams Blvd. & Budlong Ave. and we use to get a half slab of Ribs for $3.50, with fries in a shoe box type of container wt parchment in between the meat and the fries.
    A whole slab was only $7.00!
    Harry’s Open Pot was THEE spot after parties because they stayed open until 2:00 am on weekends.
    There was the original Golden Bird Chicken just across the street which gave Harry’s a bit of competition.
    I worked for Harry’s son at a hamburger stand on Western Ave. & 22nd st. It was my firs job!

  • w c williams says:

    I have checked most of the bar b q places on the internet, i have been unable to fine the pit used by Harry’s restaurant i would like to know where i can purchase a pit like they used. I have tasted the finished products and there was none like it. please if you can let me know where we can get one.

  • john toombs says:

    Let us not forget the one original Harry’s Open Pit Bbq In Venice,Ca on now what is Abbot Kenny St. just north of Venice Blvd.This was early 1970.Let me tell you folks it was the bomb.Then they jumped to Cresent Heights Blvd and Sunset Blvd,Hollywood,Ca.Believe me I frequented them both on a regular basis .I grew up in Venice and worked in Hollywood for some 55 years, I know .

  • rjones says:

    For some reason I had an urge to eat ribs and then remembered eating at Harry’s BBQ place. I started web browsing, still nothing. I called my dad, and he said he though it burned down. Very sad that Harry never re-opened his establishment. Reading one of the posts, seems he left it to his children. Still sad.

  • Bob Delanoy says:

    Working at the Tower Records Sunset store for a long time I visited Harrys on Cresent Heights often with friends for lunch. Watching them grill the ribs over the red and white coals while waiting in line just made you hungrier , toss en on a paper plate with some sides and cover em with sauce .. sit on the patio and watch the traffic.. … great lunches. Have a funny story with Wildman Fisher.. Thanks Harry!!

  • Stew Fair says:

    We used to go to Harry’s on Crescent Heights in the early seventies. We loved the ribs, and we were there constantly. I remember the old burnt-out upright paino in the corner. It looked as if you touched it, it would crumble. And don’t forget dessert next door at Baskin Robbins.

  • Robert says:

    Harry’s was a Friday night treat for us working the night shift at the Old Wutkee’s Mobil Oil on the corner of Westwood and Sepulveda in the ’70’s!

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