Love’s

There was a time when Love’s Wood Pit Barbecue restaurants dotted the California landscape and seeped into other states, as well. Some folks believe it’s impossible to get decent barbecue in a chain. You need a small, one-of-a-kind restaurant in a building that used to be a welding shop and was converted by some guy who’s obsessive about good bbq and has been doing it all his life. I’ve been to some great places that fit that description and also some where the food was close to inedible.

Love’s fell somewhere in-between but they were always conveniently located and there are times you need to eat and you can’t find one of the “other” kind of bbq joint, or maybe you’re just not in the mood to gamble. Love’s had decent ribs, great chicken, terrific sandwiches and easily the best beans I’ve ever had in my life. I used to go to every Love’s I ventured near and for a time, I had a running correspondence with a gent who was either the president of the company or very close to that. Each time I ate at a new (to me) Love’s, I’d send him a critique. He’d write me back a nice letter and toss in coupons for free meals. A fine relationship.

But I liked Love’s for other reasons beyond the coupons. They were friendly and dependable and the food was pretty darned good. So you could often find me at the one on Pico Boulevard near Beverly or at the one on Hollywood Boulevard at Cherokee or at the one in Encino or the one in Pacific Palisades or any other one. I probably went to twenty different Love’s including the one Love’s Junior they operated (briefly) on Ventura Boulevard in Van Nuys. It was an attempt to repackage their cuisine into something that functioned like a fast food outlet. Had that experiment succeeded, I assume we’d have seen them in locations too small to handle a full-sized Love’s or in food courts.

Alas, over the years the chain just lost business and got smaller. The one on Pico, which had once been a kind of “flagship” Love’s and was used as a model and training facility for others, turned mysteriously one day into a place called Noonan’s. Noonan’s was the name of the company that supplied uncooked ribs to many L.A. restaurants and they went into business in some kind of partnership with Bob Morris, who had founded R.J.’s for Ribs, Gladstone’s and other popular Los Angeles restaurants. (Morris now operates the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe in Malibu, which is not covered on this site because it’s open and thriving.) Then it became Bob Morris’ Beverly Hills Cafe even though it wasn’t really in Beverly Hills…and it may have changed names one or two more times before closing down. The building is now the office of a limousine company. The Love’s on Hollywood Boulevard changed identities at least ten times and is now a restaurant called the Geisha House.

There were some changes of ownership and some lawsuits in the Love’s operation. A lot of them closed and the ones that didn’t changed names. The Love’s in Brea, for instance, changed its name to Riley’s and went on serving the exact same menu for years. The one in Chula Vista renamed itself The Great Rib Restaurant, which was a subtitle that Love’s sometimes used in its advertising and on its signs. Eventually, all such after-life Love’s closed. According to the company website, there’s still a Love’s in Jakarta, Indonesia but I’m skeptical that’s so. If it exists, it’s the only one.

Click above to enlarge

Folks who loved Love’s still love it…and miss it. If you do some Googling, you’ll find a number of different recipes that purport to be the secret to replicating Love’s Beans and others that teach you how to make the sauce. Since the recipes differ, some or all of these are obviously wrong. I haven’t tried making any of them but the recipes for beans (which is sometimes attributed to the L.A. Times) strike me as dead wrong. Some of the sauce recipes seem credible, especially this one…

2 cups cider vinegar
3 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons celery seed
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons lard
1/4 cup pickling spices

Place lard (not shortening) in a pot. Add sugar and then other ingredients. Cook over a low flame stirring occasionally until sauce reaches the desired consistency.

As I said, I never made this but it sounds like it might be the secret. And the reason I’ve never made it is that every three or four years, I order another case of the genuine article from the Love’s website. I have no idea why they’re still bottling this stuff if there are no restaurants to sell it in. Maybe there is one in Jakarta and it’s thriving. Anyway, it’s been more than two years since I ordered any of it. I don’t guarantee that the site is still active but you can inquire there if you long to get some. As you might imagine from all that brown sugar, Love’s sauce was very sweet but it was awfully good.

148 Responses to Love’s

  • Michael says:

    (prior post continued). The Chula Vista Love’s was serving a two-color sweetbread that was better than their beans! People would come in just to buy loaves of bread to take home. After I moved back to the LA area, I would stop to eat at the Chula Vista Love’s every time I drive to San Diego (frequently due to Naval a reserve Duty). Even if I didn’t have time to eat there, I always stopped in to pick up two loaves to take home. A few years ago, I drove down to San Diego to pick up a few loaves and was shocked to find them closed. I was heartbroken

  • Michael says:

    During the 1980’s I remember seeing the Chula Vista Love’s coctail waitress wearing an awesome outfit. It was the same uniform the Charlie Brown’s waitresses wore in the late 1960’s. The only difference was the color of the dress. The dress was cut very low ine the front with white ruffles (almost showed as much cleavage as a playboy bunny). The short dress was open at the front exposing the huge white petticoat under the dress. It was awesome! Anybody know where I could find pictures of this uniform? Anybody know who manufactured the outfit & is it still available to be purchased??
    FOR Cherie: I still sing the Stanley Chevrolet jingle. Best ad of all time! I can still recite the address after fifty years – that’s one effective ad!!!

  • Jeff Strain says:

    We had a Loves in our neighborhood in Sacramento, during the 70s would go with my family and order the children’s chicken leg meal – every time! There didn’t need anything else on the menu. During the 80s I worked there, started as a bus boy, worked my way into the kitchen, then became that franchises first waiter. Lots of great memories, and still friends with a couple of the young ladies I worked with over 30 years later.

    As for the beans, I made countless punds of that slop during my years in the kitchen, and if you actually saw the meat that went into those giant aluminum pots, you would not be asking for the recipe. It was the trimmings of mostly fat and gristle from the pork and beef roasts and leftovers that were no longer fit for serving, run through a meat grinder, before mixing with the brown sugar, beans and other ingrediants, then cooked for hours in the wood pit. But I must say, customers always commented on how much they loved them.

    Personally, I favored the pork sandwich topped with that awesome sauce. I still barbeque ribs at home and have not been able to replicate the flavor of that sauce. Maybe I will have to purchase a case from the website.

  • Bill C. says:

    I too used to try every Love’s I would come across. My absolute favorite Love’s happened to be in La Mirada though.

    When I first began dating in the early to mid 70’s, I would take my dates there and then go to the theater at the the mall.

    I continued to eat at them until I moved to Arizona in 2000. I really miss that place.

  • Cherri says:

    Hi I’m looking for dishes from the restaurant. If you know of any please let me know. Thank you. Cherri

  • Michael says:

    I grew up pretty close to the one on Pico, between Beverwill and Roxbury. Went there a few times back in the 80’s and 90’s. It was really good! I miss Love’s!

  • Frank says:

    In the early 70s I worked at Buena Park, Aurora Colorado, Harbor Island-San Diego, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, La Mirada, Ventura…Good times

  • Dana McLemore says:

    Ah, when you were in Loves the whole world was delicious. Mom and I used to have lunch there and we grew up with the taste in our mouths. The countless dates I took there and remember many locations from Torrance to LAKEWOOD, then a couple in San Diego. Great food, ambiance and our favorite server Gus, who works now in another diner in Lakewood. Its a shame all great things from our memories are taken away except that of our memories; a simple place, great meal and great service with a smile. The best beans, pork sandwiches and ranch dressing around. Bless the memories of Loves. You truly were a staple in my families life, and many others I know-

  • Mike Harrington says:

    I worked as a busboy at the Love’s restaurant on San Vicente in Brentwood in the mid-sixties. I’ve seen recipes posted for their BBQ sauce, but the truth is, the sauce was bought from a supplier. It came as a concentrate in a giant can. It had the consistency of thick tomato sauce and we mixed huge batches of it with gallons of oil. After a while, I couldn’t stand the smell of it!

    However, to Love’s credit, the meats were of good quality, the behind-the-scenes operations were clean and healthy and the general theme was to give great, personal service.

  • Jory Adamson says:

    I grew near the one on the corner of Rosecrans and La Miranda Blvd

  • Jeff Stone says:

    I too like a lot of previous posters very much miss Love’s Wood Pit Barbecues. I tried to duplicate the sauce from a recipe I found on the internet and it seemed fairly close. It’s a mystery to me how such a great restaurant is out of business when so many mundane restaurants continue to flourish. with a dedicated following of customers still talking about Love’s after all these years, perhaps it doesn’t need to stay that way.

    I am proposing that here the hardcore fans of Love’s start to form a group to

    plan thr come back of this business. really all I want out of it is the chance to be able to go to lunch at a Love’s again.

    so if you agree with me and would like to start this discussion, please contact me at [email protected] if you have anything that you might contribute to this cause. It could be anything from just volunteering to assist in the formation of this group and planning, who having recipes or the ability to formulate and adjust just recipes, having restaurant management experience, to knowing investors who might be willing to want to take on a project like this to virtually anything that would support this cause. I know a lot of you out there probably think I’m crazy but what the heck, this is something that I would like to see happen. I welcome all comments, constructive criticism, and most of all volunteered support.

  • Jeff Stone says:

    Sorry for some of the typos in my previous post, but posting on this forum gets rather difficult when your message gets that long. — Jeff

  • John Hindsill says:

    Jeff, you and Gary (see post March 2014) ought to get together.I responded that they are still sort of around. There seems to be one store in Indonesia, and I guess they’re looking for franchisees. I wish you good luck. Their offices are southern California local.

    LOVE’S 1948 FRANCHISE GROUP LLC
    556 N. Diamond Bar Blvd.
    Suite 213
    DIAMOND BAR, CA. 91765

    Telephone (909) 860-7865
    Facsimile (909) 860-6514

    PS – I am not now, nor ever have been in any way affiliated with Love’s except as a diner.

  • Kim says:

    My dad used to own a Loves in Huntington Beach on Brookhurst. My brother was a cook and my dad met his future wife there who was a hostess. Great food and memories…

  • dale says:

    As a kid in late 70s used to dine at Loves in Fresno, CA on Blackstone Ave.
    I remember the beans the most and how they only served you a small cup of them and always wanting more. I also think it was a bit pricey – at least based on my recollections of my parent’s complaints. A few years ago I drove by what looked like an old abandoned Love’s off I5 in SoCal (Orange County ?) .. I think the Fresno location closed in the early 80s.

  • Matt says:

    to Dale: There was a Love’s on El Camino Real at Red Hill in Tustin, and the location is very visible from the I5 northbound. It has been a Denny’s for a long time though, so probably not the one you recall seeing in OC.

  • Lee White says:

    I was the waitress in the Loves commercials…

  • Jeff Brodbeck says:

    I’m feeling wistful reading these posts. I used to take my wife on weeknight dinner dates to the Loves on Hollywood Blvd. We absolutely loved the food and the service was always great. Later we often ate at the one in West Covina. I can’t believe they are all closed (except for Jakarta). How does that happen? Sure hope somebody will get a franchise soon in S. Calif. Happy to read all your great memories here.

  • Frank says:

    There was a Love’s on East Sahara Avenue in Las Vegas. Does anybody remember that one? What year did it close? It opened in 1970.

  • Frank says:

    Does anybody have a copy of the “When You’re in Love’s, The Whole World’s Delicious” commercial? There are none on YouTube. I’m very surprised. Someone must have it. If you do, please post on YouTube. Thank you.

  • maria leveratto says:

    Kim please who are you? What year did you work there please respond love to talk.

  • maria leveratto says:
  • Melanie says:

    You can still order their BBQ sauce from their website. http://www.lovesbbq.com

  • ERNIE KUCHWARA says:

    would love to the location of the love’s in brea, ca.

  • Debbie says:

    I used to eat at the one on Pico and was thrilled when I moved to the Valley that there was one on Reseda. I think the 1994 earthquake took care of that. Has anyone tried the bbq sauce that you can buy from their website? I was just wondering if it really tastes the same?

  • Karen Kinnicutt says:

    Honey Child, I used to love me some Love’s BBQ Restaurant. I would order their BBQ Chicken Salad and I would be in Heaven. I used to eat at the one in Rosemead, CA. I loved me some beans and the Sauce, oh honey the BBQ Loves sauce had that hint of celery and Honey Child it would want to make you slap your Momma. I’m just kidding about Momma, she would have my hyde if I raised a hand to her, but the sause was goooood! I have not seen the Love’s Website yet, but I am on my way there now. Honey, you all have a blessed and peaceful day, Karen Kinnicutt

  • Joan says:

    Oh my God memories. I lived and grew up in Encino and yes Loves was kind of expensive. We only went there for special occasions or sometimes if our parents were going out, wanted to get us something to eat and didn’t want to cook for us, we’d get a kids meal to go. My favorite thing was the love puppy. A yummy hot dog smothered with the baked beans. oh the baked beans. I would love to have a recipe of the baked beans. They were the best I ever have eaten! And yes you were right. I always got an extra side of beans because they gave you this tiny little portion!! So sad!

  • Pamela Boyd says:

    My parents took us to the Lakewood restaurant.. I loved Loves. I have not found BBQ beans that taste as good as Loves. I really hope they bring it back..

  • Barbara L Seman says:

    My son & I were remembering Love’s @the Lakewood Ca. location. OMG we just “loved” that restaurant! It was mowed down & replaced with a Chipolte at the corner of Lakewood Blvd. & Candlewood.
    We would “love” to see Love’s return back to serving the best BBQ beans & the rest of their menu. Please come back! Pretty please with BBQ beans on it! :)

  • Greg Tilley says:

    Ernie- Stop looking for that Brea Love’s- sad to say it has been nuked. The hallowed grounds where I once slaved as a busboy (with vest and bow tie) and dish washer is now part of a parking lot at Brea Blvd. and State College Blvd (it changes names when you get into Brea but its the same street.) The internet says there’s one in Costa Mesa on Bristol anybody been there?

  • John Hindsill says:

    Love’s is now only a purveyor of sauces which can be purchased from their website (see above). They no longer list the Jakarta store for those who had planned to travel to Indonesia. They do aver that they plan to open new stores, but ????

  • Danny says:

    During the 80’s I worked at the Loves in Mission Valley. This was my first job ever. I got to meet a whole bunch of good people there. The waitresses were great too. I’d offer to help them as they were so busy doing their part, I would even go into the bar and assist with cleaning glasses for the bartender. Tips were good. I also got to meet people from all over san diego it was a very busy place to go. There are a few names that I remember, there was Nacho the cook and Debbie a waitress (one of the other bus boys was in love with her lol) geez I can see the faces but I can’t place the names on them, sorry.

    Now for the food, the BBQ was great those sandwiches awesome. Someone mentioned the two tone sweat bread. I couldn’t get enough of it. I wish I could find out where it’s made now a days. Love’s thanks for the memories wish you’d come back.

  • Bill Clark says:

    lets open a loves now. I’ve been building restaurants for thirty years and never have I eaten at a restaurant as good as loves. My family has been a Loves costumer since I was 12 iam now 61, what are we waiting for we all need loves back in business. call me who wants this to happen. 949-600-3088. Bill Clark ,Clark Contractors inc.

  • Chuck Haynes says:

    Love’s “Hearts Delight” sandwich smothered in even more BBQ sauce was as good as any BBQ I’ve ever had. With a side of beans and fries to go along with it……That’s good eatin’. I sadly miss them.

  • Justin R Seaton says:

    Why did LOVE’S go out of business ? They were every where like how, A&W were every where at one time or another

  • Dannette says:

    We moved to Huntington Beach from Houston, tx in ’79 (during the gas shortage) and while we waited to close on the house we stayed at the Holiday Inn on the 405 in Long Beach when Dad came in from work we wanted to go eat at Loves in (Costa Mesa?????) I remember my Dad saying we couldn’t drive that far because gas was too expensive. A whopping 98 cents a gallon!!!!!!!! What I wouldn’t give for that price now.

  • Dave R. says:

    My Love’s was in La Mirada – a family dinner out on Sunday through the 1960’s and 70’s. The beans, BBQ sauce, and great pickles! I did venture to Brea for a Love’s fix (and occassionally West Covina) after the La Mirada location closed. Hey, if Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlors can make a retro come back in Orange County, why can’t Love’s???

    I see that Dicky’s BBQ, and to some extent Lucille’s BBQ, are trying to fill the BBQ vacancy that Love’s left behind, so somebody better get moving and open a location quick!

  • Lori A. says:

    I use to go to the Love’s restaurant on LaCienega in Ladera Heights, and also the Love’s on Pico just below Century City, CA. Both were frequent stops for me and my family when we were in those areas. I remember walking into the restaurant and getting that good BBQ smell. Always ordered the baby backs and short ribs. After those closed, we discovered that there was still one in Lakewood, CA, and we started driving there. It was out of our way, but because we loved the food so much we did not mind. When that one closed we were very sad. I think we decided to go one evening and drove to the location and it was closed. I hope that you open another location in the future.

  • John Hindsill says:

    Ain’t a’gonna happen any time soon. The company has no stores in operation, and it is not offering franchises at present. It is living off sales of its various sauces, as I have noted here before.
    My suggestion is to open a store called, say, Dove’s. Have a logo of a red bird which is designed sort of heart-shaped. Get a wholesale deal on the sauces, add a touch of lemon juice (or something) so it is sort of your own recipe, but really doesn’t alter the taste, and open up a small Dove’s BBQ stand. If its in the Burbank/Glendale/Pasadena area, I’ll eat there. Good Luck.

  • Dick Skersick says:

    In college in the 60’s, I had a job working for Love’s at their Van Nuys commissary delivering the sauces and beans and printed goods to the several locations in the Los angeles area (also to Santa Barbara). Each delivery day earned a meal at one of the restaurants . Talk about addicted!! I still remember the crew preparing the sauces and beans that would cook in brick ovens overnight and then be put into 40 pound boxes for delivery. The beans? I would pick up the trimmings and fat and meat remnants from the stores and return it to the commissary to be baked with the brans overnight, Yes…the best. I really miss them.

  • Thom says:

    OMG, another incredible memory. The food was great, I was in college and the one in Torrance became our hang out! Wow, have not thought of Love’s in years! These restaurants really do bring back good memories

  • Scott Snyder says:

    I remember the Love’s right off the highway in San Diego right by the Demolay’s Mason facility I this it was near Jack Murphy stadium. I remember going there once a week with my family and ordering the bbq beans, Oh my how they were good, we each got one cup of the beans and all shared a big platter of ribs. It was a great time in a great restaurant. I miss that restaurant and hope to be able to order their bbq sauce here very shortly.

  • Edward A says:

    La Mirada Ca. Love’s was the spot…great food and the best beans around and the BBQ rib’s were out of this word…1975 was the first time I eat there. My parents favorite spot after the walk inn theater at the La Miranda Mall. Star Wars and love’s couldn’t beat it. Great memories

  • Edward A says:

    when your in love’s the worlds delicious …I remember the commercial but i can’t find it on the internet. Great place to eat in La Mirada Ca.

  • Javier Obregon says:

    I grew up near the Rosemead location. My family would dine there a few times a month and the food was so heavenly that I can still distinctly remember the consistency and flavor of all the food I loved from there. Their Original baby back ribs were divine. My ex used to replicate the glaze used on those ribs that consisted of molasses, honey, brown sugar, and coriander/pickling spices…maybe a few other ingredients but it was pretty spot on…the only thing lacking was the wood pit flavor. Amongst my other favorite things there were the pulled pork sandwiches, Santa Maria ribs, 2 color sweetbread (chula vista), onion loaves, their excellent steak fries and their classic and underrated cheese toast. Of course, all of this would be accompanied by their amazing bbq sauce. I really don’t think we have seen the end of this restaurant. There are a great number of us that long for their return and some pretty famous faces out there that share in these memories.

  • Marshall says:

    Does anyone remember a Love’s in Santa Paula, Ca.? I remember eating there as a kid, late 60’s or early 70’s Peck rd. maybe! Nobody can remember but me.
    A lunch is riding on it.

  • Doug says:

    Excellent food…BUT the portions were very tiny.

  • Roger Marcus says:

    Dipping my carrot sticks in a small bowl of BBQ sauced reminded me of doing the same, whenever mom and dad took us to Love’s in Encino back in the ’60s. There was the black top and the red top sauce. And those beans… Take home BBQ sandwiches and ribs, and the oh so wonderful cole slaw. Probably not the most heart healthy food for some of us older types, but I wouldn’t hesitate more than a heartbeat if someone were to offer up the genuine Love’s tomorrow.

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