Kelbo’s

Two men, Thomas Kelley and Jack Bouck, combined the first syllables of their last names and invented Kelbo’s, a small chain of Hawaiian barbecues that were not all that Hawaiian: Burgers, barbecue meat sandwiches and some miscellaneous seafood. The concession to the islands was that every plate was garnished with a piece of pineapple and the fried shrimp was coated with coconut. They also served very sweet (but very good) barbecued ribs and had a menu of tropical drinks, some of which came flaming or served in a skull mug. About half of each restaurant was a large, dimly-lit bar that I suppose some found atmospheric. I never saw anyone there who looked like they might have been a hooker but given the mood, it wouldn’t have surprised me.

What was Hawaiian — and much of the appeal of the places — was the decor which was comprised of tiki gods, fish nets, lanterns in the shape of pineapples, and other things you could buy at any cheap patio furniture shop to suggest a real cheesy tropical motif. Some of it seemed to have come from a chain of stores that existed in L.A. in the early sixties called The Akron. A gentleman named Eli Hedley was reportedly the main designer and he also was responsible for the interior of other tropical-themed restaurants like Don the Beachcomber. I don’t know when Mr. Hedley did that voodoo that he did so well but Kelbo’s felt like a place that had been decorated in the thirties or forties and then no one changed anything.

I frequented two Kelbo’s. One, on Fairfax across from CBS Television City, was torn down and there’s an outlet of The Vitamin Shoppe at that address today. It was a popular hangout for crew members who worked across the street at CBS Television City in the fifties and sixties.

The building that housed the other was over on Pico at Exposition.  It still stands but has been converted into a bikini bar called Fantasy Island.  I haven’t been inside since it stopped being Kelbo’s but I’ll bet they kept some of the old Hedley-selected furnishings and tiki tchotchkes.

Click above to enlarge a little

One other thing that interested me about Kelbo’s was that much of its advertising art —like the drawing above — was done by a gent named Bob Hale who otherwise turned up on Los Angeles TV from time to time as a cartooning weatherman. (He was also active in Seattle where he owned a popular hobby shop that bore his name.) Hale’s drawings of a fat Hawaiian guy in native garb could be seen on Kelbo’s napkins and menus, and both of the outlets I visited had had huge Bob Hale murals on the outside, all featuring his little signature character, Sammy the Seagull. Sammy was always being drawn into his TV weathercasts, shivering or tanning himself depending on the forecast. It was said that Mr. Hale had once had a severe drinking problem and that after he quit, he lectured and illustrated pamphlets for Alcoholics Anonymous or some such group. Which always made me wonder why he had done so much work promoting a place where a lot of people just went to drink.

70 Responses to Kelbo’s

  • Cecilia says:

    I have the best memories from Kelbo’s I wish they were still around. I was a faithful customer and dancer at Kelbo’s.

  • christopher donald says:

    This advertising is the most incredibly sexist, misogynistic thing I’ve seen in awhile. Naked women being pinched, tied up and chased by fat guys with massive guts. I’m no feminist, but man, this stuff is awful by modern standards. I can understand why this chain might have given the impression of a hooker-friendly atmosphere.

  • Serendiphany says:

    Thank you for posting the Bob Hale artwork! Bob’s work has all but vanished from the Seattle landscape, so it was a turn of a freindly card to see this. I remember watching him on TV as a child in the late 50′s – early 60′s. His hobby shop had flashing incandescent bulbs and huge wads of cotton “clouds” in the windows, as seen from the bus heading east on Olive Way. On the first floor was the Copper Kitchen, where I had the most heavenly fish and chips one night in 1977. All gone, torn down to build the Westlake Center, rife with drek like Sbarro’s and Sweet Factory…

  • Les says:

    Lighten up, Francis.

    Kelbo’s was a great place. The advertising was kitcshy, as was the decor. It was all in good fun, long before the p.c. police took over and ruined the party.

  • David says:

    you sound like a blast to be around. kelbo’s was the best place in the world, and anyone who was lucky enough to go knows exactly what I’m talking about.

  • Isa Grijseels says:

    Its great to see some news about Kelbos, I lived next door in an appartmentbuilding back in 1989.Tom and his wife were great people,his son had the overlayglass buisness next door.Tom loved to be an entrepeneur,and he was allways looking for new ventures,from powersurgeprotectors till vendingmachines.Having a swimmingpool on top of your restaurant was certainly cool.The coconut room with the big band music,he even had thr famous impersonator of Frank Sinatra.Also the mondaynight B side parties,these were the privately held swingnights,I remember people like Eddie Murphy,Martin Downey junior,Fleetwoodmac.One day he walked up to a blond woman in his restaurant and said to her,my god you look a lot like Dolly Parton,I have a friend with the movies he could get you a job,then another person on the table said, this is Dolly Parton.So it has been sold i guess.Great memories though!

  • Craig Printup says:

    Kelbo’s was where my family went for special occasions. The interior decor was the best! The food was good, too. I find the menu at Bahooka to be almost identical and it tastes the way I remember Kelbo’s. I think they are related in some way, but I can’t remember how just now. Thing I remember most was the big menu of mixed drinks mounted on the wall, backlit. One particular drink was mentioned as Johnny Carson’s favorite, I recall.

  • Larry Stehle says:

    I went to Kelbo’s a few times. My father would take the family out now and then and it was oner of the places we would take us all (5 boys + Mom & Dad) I learned to enjoy BBQ there. I seem to remember they had great baked beans there as well. I wish it was still open….

  • Adam B. says:

    Very much enjoyed your Web site!! Fantastic! I love all the found photos. I went to a lot of these places as a kid and completely forgot about some of them, before revisiting them here. My parents were a fan of half the places on your list.

  • Craig Printup says:

    Don’t be so sensitive. That was a different time and place, it was Leave It To Beaver time…speaking of which, how about Billingsley’s restaurant, owned by Barbara Billingsley, of “June Cleaver” fame. That was a good establishment….

  • Charlie Carr says:

    Heck yes, I remember Kelbo’s….been there many times. I grew up in Santa Monica and Wally Bouck, Jack’s son, was my friend, school mate, and surfing companion….and we used to go to his dad’s restaurant frequently. I used to go there with my family for their delicious “ribs” and the themed restaurant was a “small kine” trip to da islands, “good fun”….heck, to some small kine degree I suppose it was partially responsible for my deep and abiding “Love of Hawaii and all things Hawaiian” I have lived in Hawaii since 1972, went to UH, and set up residency in Lanikai since 1974….me ke aloha pumehana to all those responsible for its’ existance way back when….maika’i…..

  • Papa Tango says:

    Christopher is just another product of the American public schools…

  • Papa Tango says:

    I worked on a high-concept comedy lounge act at the Kelbo’s on Pico called The Joey Cheezhee Show for a few years in the early Nineties. Korla Pandit, El Vez, and Eddie Vegas were frequent guests. We made a lot of noise in the media, and attracted some Hollywood types too like Weird Al Yankavich. My friends on the show and I became good friends with Tom and his wife, who I interviewed in their Early Seventies Mediterranean penthouse above the restaurant. I’d have to review the tape, but I can’t recall what Tom said about Hedly, but I do recall Tom sharing that much of the decor–particularly the resin windows with knick knacks and collections embedded in them(including condoms!)–were done buy Tom and his friends under the influence of amber libations. When the Kelbos didn’t view our act they’d watch it from the comfort of bed on a big monitor. The video cameras were hidden in the faux palm trees in the Coco Bowl Room, and all over the restaurant. At one point he turned the management ( incredibly, even though the invisible owners were a group of investors who grew up at Kelbo’s, they so loved Tom and let him live there and believe that he was still in charge!) over to us and we began cleaning it up and planning the live entertainment schedule when Tom’s paranoid son suspected us of taking advantage of his dad, and so threw us out , barring us from even visiting Kelbo’s (which we still did in disguise!). As it turned out his son was trying to take advantage of his dad, so the investors threw him out and invited us back by request of Tom! He said he loved us “because we were bringing back Vaudeville” We continued on there with the live act until the place went into the red and the lease was picked up by a strip club. When it closed for remodeling, a friend with access to a motion picture “flat” carrying truck and I, visited Kelbos and hauled away a huge load of decor which we filled a friends garage with. I never did find the Wurlitzer organ I left there. Just before the doors hallowed doors closed forever, we arranged a last supper at Kelbo’s that was funded by the stacks of Kelbo’s bucks that we amassed over the years. Korla Pandit presided over the event from the head of the table. Too many story’s and the hour is late…thanks for your forum. –P. Tango

  • Len B. says:

    Kelbo’s must of been around in the fifties because my friend and I used to go there after ball games at the old Gilmore Field off of Beverly. We were around 16 at the time so it must of been around 1956? It must have been because I told my dad about it and since he loved Hawaian BBQ we went there often in the ’60′s and it became a family hang out. After I got out of the Airforce in 1965 I took my dates there often and when I got married in 1n 1977, my wife and I lived in the valley and we went there many times until we found it closed. Then we would drive from the Valley down to Pico just to go to the one there, until it closed around 1992 I think… There is no place I know of that has ribs like we had at Kelbos thu the years….Love’s was my second favorte but not as good as Kelbos. An ashtray solen from there around 1982 sits on my desk and I cherish like it was gold. My boys are grown now with kids of their own and I wish I could of taken my grandkids there. They would of loved it.

  • PHILLIPE A CATILLO says:

    THAT PLACE WAS THE BOMB SPECIALLY MR COCOBOWL AKA GEORGE HERNADEZ THAT WAS THE PLACETO MEAT THE BEST OF THE HOLLYWOOD ACTORS ALL THE SEASON WRAP UP PARTYS I REMEMBER BAY WACHT, THE SIMPSONS, BEVERLY HILLS 90290 AND OTHERS ELTON JOHN , MICHAEL KEATON ,, BOBCAT THE COMEDIAN, AND MANY MORE AS I RECALL WALTDISNEY COPY THE KELBOS CONCEPT AND MADE IT THEIR OWN AS MR HERNANDEZ TOLD

  • Brant says:

    Great memories from this place. Especially the “Co-Co Bowl” room, which played old swing tunes and had a huge half coconut shell over the dance floor. Also fond memories of the “Flaming Fun Bowl” – a huge tropical literally on-fire drink with straws coming out in every direction…

  • Kiliwia says:

    My husband and I first kissed in Kelbo’s parking lot, in 1982. I belonged to an organization that used to get coffee after meetings. One night we went to Kelbo’s instead (Fairfax) and the rest is history,
    I used to favor a drink called “The Thing – dark rum and something.” I suspect the “something” was prune juice, but couldn’t prove it.

  • Paul Stern says:

    Ran into the actor from the show Silver Spoons there…

  • Sunny says:

    Good GOD. “Sexist, misogynist…” SERIOUSLY???? Holy poop. BUY A SENSE OF HUMOR, ’cause dude, you sorely need one. (You’re the type of person that ruined the “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride as well when they had to change it so that the pirates weren’t chasing the women any more because it was “sexist”.) I GREW UP at the Pico location. I never saw it as anything but a good time–and I’m a GIRL. There was nothing “offensive” about it–it was all good fun. I don’t see anyone whinig about Hooters’ , and they don’t have anywhere NEAR the imagination of this place.

    My parents practically owned a booth there since we spent SO much time in it. They knew the owners, Jack & Tom. I even remember some of the cooks & waiters. I learned how to drink rum there. Who cares about the light-hearted drawings on all of this stuff? They were cute and funny. I never saw it as sexist or anything close to it. People like you and the uber PC bulls*** police are the reason we can’t have nice things any more. All of this “political correctness” is much ado about NOTHING. Lighten up, dude—like, nut up or shut up. Kelbo’s was a great place and a fun time—I miss it and about barfed when I went there one time years later and found out it had been turned into a strip joint. They should have turned it into a historical site or something and preserved it—there’s no place like it around any more, and that’s just SAD. I miss their great ribs and they had a salad dressing that my dad’s been trying o recreate for YEARS to no avail. The drinks were out of this world, and the atmosphere was like nothing in this world–I remember trying to figure out what all the stuff was in that resin wall thing.

    RIP, Kelbo’s. You will never be forgotten. ♥

  • steve colene says:

    If anyone knows the salad dressing recipe please let me know

  • steve colene says:

    its the bomb

  • Norman Drexel says:

    Wow, my wife and I went to Kelbo’s on Pico in West LA. We loved it. The food was good too. My wife always order Sangria. I did not know there had been other locations

  • John Kaufman says:

    I lived on King’s Road and worked at Bakshi Productions on Melrose at Crescent Heights in the mid-seventies. My friends and I often went to Kelbo’s on Fairfax opposite The Farmer’s Market. I’m a fan of tiki kitsch, of drinks in skull mugs with umbrellas, of good BBQ and great swing music so Kelbo’s was a little slice of faux Hawaiian heaven.

  • Bob Hougland says:

    Kelbo’s on Pico is still my all-time favorite L.A. restaurant. For years, I felt cheated if I didn’t get my Coco Bowl along with their house dressing on my salad and a barbecue entre at least a couple times a month. The great food and drink in that “yesterday” atmosphere was truly unique. I still don’t understand why someone didn’t find a way to keep at least some of the locations running. The place was always full, so they had to be turning a profit.

  • Carlos Buenrostro says:

    The only place i enjoy food & drinks with the beautiful
    yesterday’s atmosphere i still miss that place hasn’t
    Been one like it

  • Dennis Yamzaki says:

    My favorite restaurant, we use to work at the Akron Store down the street on Sepulveda and would hang out there for lunch and drinks at dinner. Very friendly staff and wonderful food, liked those varnished hatch table tops LOL!

  • The ChocolateDoctor says:

    What can you say about Kelbo’s? It was all about the sticky, red island ribs and the great Polynesian “frou-frou” drinks. I can’t remember much else distinctive about the menu, but when you have ribs like that, that’s all you need.

    When I opened up my south seas-style waterfront restaurant in Northern California I wanted to serve ribs just like Kelbo’s. I offered to buy the recipe from Jack, but no dice. I even tried to bribe one of the cooks, but he was having none of it. We must have flown back and forth for 2 or three months with a couple of our chefs and our R&D director tasting the Kelbo’s secret recipe ribs. Why was this so damn hard to duplicate? We made ribs in the test kitchen for a year before I thought our ribs were good enough to put on the menu. I called them $100,000 China Red Ribs, because I spent that much money to duplicate them. It may not be a dead match, but it was certainly pretty damn close.

    Okay, I’ve read on blogs that people who remember Kelbo’s would like to have those wonderful ribs again. The owner’s families have stuck fast to not sharing their recipe. That’s their right, I can’t blame them but I am happy to share my recipe for the sticky, caught under your fingernails sweet red ribs we served.

    6 quarts Soy Sauce
    2 quarts sherry wine
    6 quarts granulated sugar
    6 quarts red wine vinegar
    2 quarts ketchup
    2/3 cup garlic powder
    1/3 cup five-spice seasoning
    2-1/2 tablespoons Wrights liquid smoke (it’s gotta be Wrights)

    To make the sauce: Measure all the ingredients into a large kettle. Stir to combine well. Place over heat and bring to a gentle boil. Allow to boil gently for 30 minutes until the sauce thickens. Stir occasionally in order to prevent scorching. Transfer to a storage container. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

    To cook the ribs: Remove excess fat from back of pork ribs. Place ribs on sheet pans cover with foil. Bake in a 350º F oven for 40 minutes. Leaving the ribs intact at the top cut between the bones into individual ribs. Dip the ribs in sauce being sure to coat all side lightly. Return the ribs to oven and bake uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover and refrigerate—this is an important step, don’t leave it out. When ready to serve, dip the ribs again into the sauce being certain to coat all sides lightly. Place in a 350º F oven, bake uncovered for 7 to 10 minutes unto the ribs are hot and the glaze has set.

  • M Carpenter says:

    Our first date was dinner at Kelbo’s followed by 45 years of marriage and 5 kids before he passed away 5 years ago. After dinner we went to La Cienega to the Roaring Twenties and the place across the street. (the Gay Nineties?)
    LA was great in those days!!!

  • Susan Lillis~Bouck~ Smith says:

    for; The Old Chocolate Dr.
    My cousin sent me this article, and being the daughter of Jack Bouck, who compiled his receipes while being a musician and playing on the south seas cruise lines….I have to say that you are not too close on the ingredients, however I do like you method of cooking the ribs. It is not the way Dad did it…
    but it is a good way when you don’t have a pit…So many people have comment to me on Kelbo’s and missing those ribs…even though I have the receipe..no one cooked them like Dad.

  • Brian says:

    Loved how dark it was and the waiters would seem to appear out of thin air!

  • Stacey says:

    First off, thank you to Mark E. for creating this wonderful web site and treating me to a trip down memory lane!
    now, come on Susan Bouck! PLEASE don’t let your father’s recipe die out. One day you and the rest of your family will all be gone. There’ll never be another Kelbo’s which is a tragedy. I have so many fond memories of Kelbo’s (on Pico – I too never realized there were four other locations)! A bunch of families used to go there together with lots of kids. I was one of those kids. We LOVED playing “I spy with my little eye…something [blue/fill in the blank]” because there were so many cool things hanging all over the walls, ceiling, etc. to look at. Even waiting for a table was no big deal. We’d never complain about long waits for a table ‘cuz we were thoroughly entertained by all the odd doo-dads embedded in the resin walls (although we never noticed – or recognized – the condoms! OMG). We loved looking the backlit drink menu at the booths – especially the one in the skull, the coconut and the flaming bowl. I think they put little plastic monkey’s on the side of the Shirley Temple glasses (not sure). The best time of all was my mother’s 50th birthday party in 1986 held in the Coco-Bowl room. Mom had saved a copy of the Kelbo’s menu from the 50′s (the miniscule prices were fun to compare to the ’86 prices); and we all dressed in 50′s garb and had a blast dancing the night away. Every time I drive by the old Pico location I feel sad and nostalgic. I’m almost 50 now and only WISH my own children could experience Kelbo’s…sigh :0(

  • Marie says:

    It’s surprising to me that it seems all these Kelbo’s forums have family members who swear they know the recipe but keep it secret. Why would they not share this recipe or at the very least approach investors to open a new restaurant or mass produce the sauce for sale? I don’t understand this as it would be not only something that back then could have kept them from going under, or now could help bring them back.

  • Larry Olson says:

    My sister and I were frequent patrons of Kelbo’s on Fairfax since the late fifties. For those of you who fondly remember this place, you should definitely check out Bahooka on Rosemead Blvd (across the street from Rosemead High School). This is a virtual clone of Kelbo’s restaurants – down to the glass fishnet floats, old street signs, old diving helmets, etc. Likewise, the menu is very close to Kelbo’s – rib platters, Hawaiian BBQ sandwiches (of course with a slice of fresh pineapple) and that fabulous smoky BBQ sauce. Even the bar drinks are similar (Co Co Bo is now the Ko Ko Nut – same taste). The salad dressing (thousand island type) tastes like the real thing. I live out of town now, but every trip to LA includes a stop at the Bahooka restaurant. It’s very highly recommended for your next trip down memory lane.

  • Sam Powell says:

    Went to St. Joan of Arc Catholic school down the street in the 50′s and grew up in West LA. Every month I would take a portion of earnings from my Evening Outlook paper route, ride my bike over and devour a rack of those amazing ribs. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

  • Anna Anghioiu says:

    I grew up on Gateway Blvd.,West Los Angeles. Kelbos was on the corner of Gateway Blvd.,and Pico. What a great place to eat,dance,awesome drinks and loved their ribs and appetizers. I have had many memorable dates and get togetherness there. Unfortunately ,Kelbos is long gone,now it’s a strip joint called Fantasy Island. Thank you Kelbos for terrific memories that will live forever in my mind. U guys rocked! Anna Anghioiu

  • Harley says:

    Kelbows was probably the first restaurant I ever went to. The Pico location was right around the corner from where I lived in the 50s. It was just a counter…might have been a couple tables. We little kids would go in and order “one water please” and the nice waitresses would serve us. Then the owner bought a bunch of tikis and Polynesian decor and expanded. He packed it full of the stuff. Huge tikis with glowing eyes. I thought it was a priceless collection. Better than Disneyland. Then one day maybe around 1960 when I was 9 or 10 it burned down. I thought it was a disaster. I thought that this priceless collection of island artifacts was lost forever and that would the end of Kelbows. But then like magic (no doubt the magic of fire insurance) it came back. Then, years kater, as a young adult I was actually able to go there and buy these great big bright blue cocktails with fruit and umbrellas. It’s long gone now. I’d love to go back there to Kelbows.

  • barbara douglas says:

    I am soooo sad….Bahooka was a great substitute for Kelbos…now they both are gone..What is this world coming to???We need to have a fabulous tiki type resturaunt for awesome family fun, our kids deserve that wonderful feeling of the islands…My parents took us to Bahooka about twice a month in the 60′s..and my friends and I always went to Kelbos after the Prom and other high school dances…….We need more tiki bars!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Eric Bagai says:

    Loved it, though the only one I knew was on Fairfax. Took my date there for my senior prom, and was not disappointed (heh heh).

  • Emilio Gomez Varela says:

    Specially for Susan Lillis Bouck Smith:
    Sussy:
    My name is Emilio; and at Kelbo´s they used to call me Spike.
    I worked at Kelbo´s since the very beginning. I have very fond memories of your dad and also of Tom Kelley. I am 86 years old and Jack Bouck and Tom Kelley still are some of my very favorite people. I knew you, when you were a beautiful little girl; your mother, Betty used to bring you to Kelbo´s. of course I knew Bob and Dick Bouck .
    Very many nights after hours Mr Bouck and I, worked at prepearing a fresh batch of goop, as we called, to marinate the ribs. So, as you see I know the recipe for making ribs. I am sure, I can cook a pretty good rib. (of course not as good as Mr Bouck)
    Sussy, You just can´t imagine the flood of memories that were open when I read your comments here.
    I hope you read again, these comments and if so happens to read these lines so we can (if you wish) get in touch my Email is: emilio1927@gmail.com

  • carol says:

    My dad was a short order cook at the Fairfax Kelbos’ in themid to late 60s’. He would sometimes bring us stuff…I would often wonder what happened to this place. I never knew what it looked like inside.

  • Cathie English says:

    Thank you for this!!! Kelbo’s was my absolute favorite place when I was little. My dad had a sheet metal shop down the street on Pico and it was such a treat to go to work with him and then go to lunch there. The decor was the best. One of my most treasured items is a Kelbo’s ashtray! It is sitting in a place of honor on a shelf in my living room. Every time I see it, it makes me smile. Like many of you, I didn’t know there was more than one!

    I have never had ribs as good as those and really wish the family would post the recipe here where true Kelbo lovers could enjoy it.

  • Cathie English says:

    Oh, does anyone know where there are pictures of the inside? The resin squares seem almost like something I made up.

  • Shel Talmy says:

    I, like everybody here, “loved” Kelbo’s, spent many happy hours munching on the ribs, BBQ sandwiches and as a couple of commented on, the salad dressing! I’ve also tried to recreate it or find a recipe for it without success and if anybody has it, please post it.
    Oh yeah, the Scorpion bowls were my favorite!
    And agree with so many of you that a modern Kelbo’s would be a huge success.

  • Daniel Soderstrom says:

    So the Bouck family won’t give the rib recipe, understood but how about the coconut fried chicken? That is a recipe I would love to have as well.I will definitely try the rib recipe above.What will it take for the Bouck family to share the rib recipe.It would be ashame for it to disappear forever?

  • Joseph says:
  • Ronnie Sperling says:

    You must add King’s Tropical Inn to your site. Located on W. Washington near La Cienega in Culver City. Looked like the Taj Mahal. Unforgettable. Best fried chicken in town. Always had live parrots when you entered. Stars were painted on the ceiling. A different time. A different era. Plenty of info and photos on line.

  • Michael Ward says:

    I grew up in L.A. in the 60s and Kelbo’s was one of my favorite places to eat there. The kitsch decor was highly entertaining, the Co-Co Bowl was always fun, the Flaming Fun Bowls were…well…Flaming Fun Bowls – no more need be said. :-D The ribs were awesome, but my favorite thing on the menu was the honey-pineapple glazed chicken that got rolled in coconut shavings. Many thanks to any and everyone ever involved with Kelbo’s for some of the best memories I have of growing up and living in L.A.

  • metal mark says:

    the best eggrolls I’ve EVER had. They came with a sweet dipping sauce that was to die for…………..and the drinks
    …..ahhhh those drinks….heaven

  • Bonnie says:

    I have so many great memories of Kelbo’s, I don’t know where to start. The one that stands out though, was when I was going to UCLA. We would jump in the car and go to Kelbo’s on Pico for their wonderful ribs, and to get away from the dorm. I wasn’t 21 yet, so couldn’t have a drink, but my birthday wasn’t far off, so I waited. The evening before my 21st birthday I arranged a party to go to Kelbo’s at 11PM. We ate our ribs, and then at exactly midnight I announced that I could now have my first real drink as a 21 year old, and ordered the Cocobo, which was two kinds of rum and coconut milk, served in a fake coconut shell.

    That was my favorite drink for years afterwards, and whenever we went to Kelbo’s I would order it! I remember also going to the one on Fairfax with different dates, and loved that one as well.

    Thank you for all the memories!!!

  • Greg Godsey says:

    I, like most people here, grew up in LA and went to Kelbows quite a bit. We loved it. My cousin, wife and I went to Kelbo’s just prior to the closing to get one last dinner there. It was great as usual. I never knew what they did with that building, so to read they made a strip club out of it really sadden’s me. I too wish I had the Rib recipe…they were the best!

  • Vince Silis says:

    Started going to the Kelbo’s on Pico in the late 70′s while I was in High School. Kept going while in college. Had my wedding rehersal dinner in the Coco Bowl Room in 1991; most memorable dance was with my 5 year old god-daughter, who was our ring bearer a few days later. Wedding was at Yamashiro’s – another great LA landmark, which I believe is still open in some form. Losing Kelbo’s was a tragedy.

  • ArchiesBoy says:

    Kelbo’s on Fairfax and Kelbo’s on Pico. Nothin’ like ‘em. I took our family to both of ‘em for over 30 years. Just about always had the same thing: Chopped BBQ beef sandwich (with the pineapple slice inside) the salad with that wondrous secret dressing, and a couple of those marvelous tropical drinks! What fun to try to figure out what was in them! What fun to explore the place, so fabulously beautiful — tiki inspirations!

    I remember when the newly refurbished Kelbo’s opened on Pico: we were there for opening night. God was that gorgeous inside! The decor was so transcendentally tiki and complex that most of it was made in their own shop, and was powered by their own separate generator. I spent quite a bit of time that night talking to Jack Bouck, who was greeting guests at the door, and dressed in the by-goddest aloha *tuxedo* you have ever seen!

    Wonderful wonderful times there!

    And then — in time, over the years — it degenerated into that crappy strip joint…how the mighty have fallen! (But then, there’s still the Tiki Ti: rough around the edges, but still serving the mightiest Tiki Drinks in Southern California!)

  • Sharon says:

    My husband, of 52 years, and I had our first date night at Kelbos. Just yesterday he was lamenting that he missed having ribs from Kelbos. So I decided to try to look up the recipe.

    I had no idea that I would find so many people longing for these ribs so many years later. What a tribute. I agree it is a tragedy to lose this recipe. What a way to be remembered. Way to go Jack and Tom!!

  • Gloria says:

    My husband & I had just been to the “Fabulous Forum” to see a Laker game, but they were sold out. We went to Kelbo’s to cheer up, and met Mr. Bouk, who was at the bar working on a new drink: Coffee Grog. He asked our opinion. I loved it! Mr. Bouk told us how the restaurant started. He’d developed the rib recipe while he was in the service stationed in Hawaii. Friends said it was so good, he should open a restaurant. Back in the States after World War II, he and Mr. Kelley bought the property at Pico & Gateway, which was cheap because the area was just a wasteland. People somehow came to the opening (they ran out of ribs because they didn’t expect such a crowd). The decorations were amazing. In later years, the Pico restaurant burned down, but they rebuilt and managed to add new kitchy decorations, including a home-made panel (I think it was a door) with everything embedded in it, including a half-eaten piece of toast with jelly!

    Mr. Bouk died of a heart attack right in the Pico restaurant. The place was never the same after that. He loved everybody and everybody loved him.

  • Paul Goolnick says:

    Try to contact some of these people if you are still looking for a Kelbos Photo.

    Paul Goolnick

  • Kenneth H. Fleischer says:

    I’ve been here since 1944, and I remember Kelbo’s very fondly from many decades of pleasure, there. By the way, theirs were the second-best Hawaiian-style spare ribs in Los Angeles; my Mom made the best, and I still have her recipe. Those at Kelbo’s were a close second, though, and their bar was first-rate. I was enough of a regular, there, that I was recognized and addressed by name. There are tales I could tell …

  • Kathie says:

    I came to California (Santa Monica) with my parents at age 4 1/2 in February 1954. One of my FIRST memories is of Kelbos (and of The Golden Bull down the street), which at that time was a little place with a counter and a drive-in on the side. They had a teeny room off the counter area that had the beginnings of what Kelbos would eventually become, with all the stuff hanging on the walls and from the ceiling. When my parents divorced, Mom and I would go to the drive in on the side and get “Rib Bits” to go and take them with us to the Olympic Drive in. I learned to LOVE yams there. Everything they made had a distinctive taste. Someone once told me that you can come CLOSE to the salad dressing by adding garlic to a standard Thousand Island. I tried it using Bob’s brand and it was CLOSE, but no real cigar. I can’t count the number of special occasions and just everyday dinners I had there over the years. I know it lasted me through three marriages (LOL). I’ve spotted celebrities at the next table. I live in Las Vegas now….went to a local Japanese teppan/sushi restaurant and ordered egg rolls. With my first bite of them I suddenly felt so happy and couldn’t get enough of them. My companions weren’t nearly as enthusiastic as I was and it took me a while to realize that they tasted JUST like Kelbo’s!!!!!

  • john turner says:

    looking for photographs of Korla Pandit playing at Kelbo’s

  • Robert Teitelbaum says:

    I remember Kelbos from the early 1940s. I am now 80. When I was a boy I used to visit my (divorced) father in L.A. and after the first time he took me to Kelbos, I always asked to go back for those wonderful ribs, whenever I visited him. To this day, barbequed ribs are my favorite dish, although none have been as good as Kelbo’s Hawaiian ribs. Since my wife and I will be in L.A. soon to visit a grandson who is law clerking for a federal judge there, I googled Kelbos on the very small chance that it would still exist some 70 years later. At least I found this website, which brings back beautiful memories. Thanks for that.

  • Alex Walker says:

    I’m 61 now and recall my parents taking me with them to the Kelbo’s on Pico in the mid to late ’50′s before the freeway took our house on Corinth Avenue near Pearl – now where the southbound transition road of the 405 connects with 10. We moved to The Valley in 1960 so that was my last tour of the great Kelbo’s experience. I remember now those sketches, particularly the pontoon boat and the one with the fat Hawaiian and the pretty girl in the bikini. My God, what a flashback this is – I just stumbled upon this, recalling the name of the place so I did a search for Kelbo’s after taking a tour of my childhood neighborhood and the Richland Avenue Elementary School on Google Earth.

    I was always fascinated by the back-lit menus on the walls of the booths with photos of the various dishes. I remember license plates among the nets and glass floats and other island decor in the darkness. I think I would’ve enjoyed going there as an adult. I think they may have been ahead of their time, given what you see now in various restaurant chains. I too remember it seeming to burn down periodically and yet the place looked almost the same once it was back up – back lighted menus on the booth walls and all. My parents apparently knew the owners by name as I recall them bantering and occasionally speaking in “pig Latin” instead of covering my ears as to what they were talking about. My parents were Alex & Velma Akoury. I go by a different name now. Not sure if Emilio or any of the others recall them or not. They have both passed on.

    I live in Florida now, and you’d think there would be a place like Kelbo’s here but I’ve yet to see one. In doing some of the street tours on Google Earth, I was amazed at how much that part of L.A. looks like parts of Florida, especially the palm trees and the little houses with hip roofs which they have here as they are resistant to hurricanes. It’s been a long, strange trip, and this little jog of my memory bank was greatly enjoyed.

  • Marshall says:

    Mr. Riddle was a nice guy

  • ted says:

    Does anyone know the recipe for the drink Kelbo’s called “The Thing”?

  • Richard Maxwell says:

    I haven’t lived in California since the mid seventies but when I did live there Kelbos on Pico was my favorite restaurant. I loved their baby back ribs. It was great food and a great atmosphere. I guess that in this day and age with all of the PC goons running around getting upset about any and all things they would be upset by some of the menus, decor and so forth. Fortunately back then we didn’t have any of that lunacy. People were a lot calmer probably because there wasn’t the internet where the rabble rousers could get everyone stirred up. Great memories. Too bad it shut down.

  • Steven Gross says:

    Try this one! Does anyone remember that on napkins, bar coasters, matchbooks, etc appeared the letters: IITYWIMWYBMAD? Post here if you recall or email me for the answer! stevenp.gross@gmail.com

  • Loro says:

    Bamboo Ben is the grandson of Eli Hedley and he carries on the family business of creating tropical paradise in restaurants, bars and private homes.

  • The Management says:

    It stood for IF I TELL YOU WHAT IT MEANS, WILL YOU BUY ME A DRINK?

  • bobbi k says:

    On a warm summer nite in 1957 — Ihad dinner with my roommate at the Fairfax location & after ordering the big drink that came in somesort of a bowl at the bar we were seated in a booth in the diningroom. Kiddycorner across from us was a group of guys having dinner. a tall goodlooking guy walked over to us-said hi & asked if we’d like to go for a ride in a convertable. I told him no thnks as I had my own—–parked outside. They soon left and we continued our dinner & then left. Gathered around my blue ford convert were allthese guys & of course we started to flirt & converse.so to make this long story shorter if I didn’t love Kelbos ribs & coleslaw—–I would’nt have met my husband of 55 years.

  • Bob Pegram says:

    I remember going to Kelbo’s as a kid with my parents in the early 1960s. Did it later become Billingtons’ or was that on Olympic? It was about the same distance from the freeway on the south side of the street. It was owned by the husband of the woman who played the mother on Leave It To Beaver and was later run by their sons.

  • Carol says:

    What fun to have run across this website, sure brought up many happy memories of great food and great dates . Lots of thanks to the owners and their families who shared their special meals with us. I live in Montana and recall my nursing school years a lot of which was spent at Kelbo’s. For sure nothing remotely like it here!

  • Cindy says:

    It’s amazing to read all these comments, really brings back lots of memories from the 50′s. We lived on Sawtell Blvd. and my dad would take the family to Kelbo’s often. Besides the ribs we would always get a side of cole slaw and the baked beans which must have soaked and cooked in molasses for hours. I also remember the great pickle spears that came with probably everything. It was so dark but the lighting was selective and mysterious. I was fascinated by all the decorations and always found something new to look at and I thought it was real. I walked to Richland Ave. and later Daniel Webster Jr. High with my best friend Virginia who lived on Corinth around the corner. I remember the Santa Ana winds that roared through the summer. Our house also got taken by the freeway and I wound up in Canoga Park for high school, later the east coast and now Humboldt County, too far from Kelbo’s to return until about 1990-1 with my boyfriend. Thanks “ChocolateDr”, (earlier post) for the ribs recipe, gonna give it a shot with a bit less sugar. Hope to find a recipe to duplicate those beans! I think the pickles were kosher – great combinations of food.

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