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.

129 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.

    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.


    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! :)

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