Friday, October 10, 2008

Gus's BBQ

A lot of friends have piled into cars and headed out Route 66 toward California. Not all of them stop, stay, and create a legendary restaurant. That’s exactly what happened here in 1946. In that heady post-war boom of entrepreneurial spirit, three friends left Cleveland and ended up in South Pasadena. An old diner called Hamburger Mac’s was for sale on Fair Oaks Avenue. The buddies scraped together the cash, became partners and created Gus’s– simply the yummiest place for traditional BBQ in the Los Angeles area. And that tradition continues. (In fact, ABC Channel 7 agrees and included Gus’s BBQ in their top 7 BBQ joints in Southern California.)

Ribs, pork, chicken and brisket are on the menu, along with all-American favorites like burgers, chicken fried steak, flat iron steak, chili, fried catfish and a few contemporary items like a pesto chicken sandwich and jambalaya pasta. Traditional sides abound. (Did someone say sweet potato fries!?)

The original sign competes each night with the neon across the street at Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain making this downtown spot a comfort food lovers dream.

Needless to say, it’s kind of hard to stick to a diet in South Pas…

(Hat tip to Pasadena blogger Ben Wideman, whose series over at the sky is big in pasadena inspired today's neon sign shot...)

29 comments:

Tanya said...

That's a great sign and I enjoyed the story. In El Cajon, outside of San Diego there is a great bbq place called The Wrangler BBQ, been there forever, it's a landmark. If your ever down there you have to try it. They have great fries too that are yummy dipped in the bbq sauce :)

Tanya said...

Actually it's called The Wrangler BBQ Pit, left the pit off :)

Webradio said...

In 1946 !
Old, isen't it ?
Thank for the explain, but the food in not good for me (I'm a french, and a "little" farmer"...).

Nice photo with neons...
See You Later Laurie.

Virginia said...

Because you are from Texas and know what good bar b que tastes like (even if it's beef), I will give this place the benefit of the doubt. That said, I am very leery of a bar b que joint that sells the likes of pesto chicken and jambalaya pasta. Sounds a little too West Coasty for moi! But I am taking you word for it and I do love those neon signs.

Yakpate said...

Beautiful tower of color!

An ordinary eye might walk by without noticing, but as usual, YOUR eye captures the moment and shares it with us.

I am going to check into an atmospheric South Pas hotel and spend a week visiting some of the wonderful places you feature here!

Wanna join me, Dixie?

Mister Earl said...

The thing everyone seems to like best about the sign is the little chickens and pigs that go around the edge of it.

I'm sure you know the story about how Gus's was destroyed in the 1987Whittier quake and had to be completely rebuilt. The big question was what to do about the original sign, which was so loved by everyone. There was a new sign ordinance in South Pas that technically prevented the original sign from being put back up. The city passed a special law to allow the sign to be put up, but they still objected to it jutting out as far as it did originally. That is why the front of the new Gus's is recessed, as you see in the photo.

I've only eaten at Gus's once, and it was over 25 years ago. For some reason, when I think of local restaurants, I never think of eating at Gus's.

Knoxville Girl said...

Love that neon, and the 'que sounds pretty enticing too.

Trish said...

Ditto what earl said about the quake damage, sign and rebuilding of Gus's. BIIIIG Bruha-ha over the sign. Seriously. Take small town politics to an extreme.

I have been there numerous times. I am not particularly a BBQ, or drippy sauce on meat type person. But I ***LOVE*** Gus's!

The menu has adapted over the years to serve a wider crowd than just the dead meat crowd. Someone once told me they put "west coasty type froo-froo" stuff on the menu so that guys could bring their wives with them to eat and have something to choose from on the menu.

Take a tip from an old SoPas'er, GO TO GUS'S! Seriously!

Great pic Laurie---you caught the farm animals running around the outside of the sign, the part that ALWAYS fascinated me as a kid!

ZIP said...

I have been wanting to try Gus's for years....drive by it all the time....maybe this weekend...

Hope said...

Love the neon and all the little farms animals all 'round!

Wouldn't it be a dream to "take a trip down Route 66" with a camera. It's good to see a business from the heyday to have survived and thriving still to this day!

Love your blog lots!!

I also visited your sister's blog! Amazing and inspiring for certain!

ben wideman said...

Laurie, I've been looking for some good BBQ! Thank you so much for pointing out this place. I'm going to have to go check it out the very next time we need somewhere to go eat.

Sharon said...

Laurie, I am now craving BBQ and it's not even 9:00 AM yet!! This place sound legendary.

-K- said...

The world would be a much duller place without neon.

Dixie Jane said...

Laurie, you do great things with neon. It's comforting to know that places like this still exist.

Yakpate, you are a sweet friend. Of course I would love to stay in an atmospheric hotel with one of the dearest people I know. Gus's sounds, "Finger Lickin' Good". Bib in hand, Diet left behind. What diet? I also want a chocolate ice crea soda at Fair Oaks Soda Fountain. Better make that the next night.

Virginia said...

What farm animals marching around? I have to go back and have another look see. I am LOL at Trish's explanation for the frou frou food on the menu. Makes perfect sense now. Have a rib for me L.
V

THey DO have ribs don't they?

ryanpainting said...

My daughter just came home from a study abroad program in England and said that the moment she came onto the Gus's sign it gave her comfort that she knew she was home.

If you visit Gus's, try the ribs first. Great! Then, proceed to the items marked 'new'. Blackened chicken sandwich has peppers and relish and the jambalaya will wake up your taste buds at lunchtime like nothing else.

So glad for the turnaround at Gus's. The Bicos brothers have done a great job with a local icon.

Wayne said...

Since I don't eat meat I'm completely indifferent to the merits of one BBQ place over another. I just noticed a couple of days ago that old Route 66 runs through South Pas. Remember Martin MIlner and 'the other guy??' in the Corvette?

But the neon sign fiasco is interesting. Here, some years back, council apparently decided there was something déclassé, or satanic about neon signs and they more or less banned new ones. Old one's slowly disappeared with new development or from neglect. The survivors became iconic. Some were rescued and are kept in the museum.

Today, neon is back with a vengeance. Instead of being evil and nasty, apparently council feels it give the city a vibrancy. It does.

The really great signs that had an element of animation to them are few and far between now. Probably just too expensive to build or maintain.

I think I've taken up more than my allotted space on this one. I'll keep it down to 3 word sentences for a while to make up.

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

Thats where MacGyver hung out in the 70's. Richard Dean Anderson lived in South Pasadena's Montery Hills during his General Hospitals days. You know, above the Oscar Mayer Wiener.

Halcyon said...

Still not a fan of the Que, but I like the neon sign. Shiny lights = pretty!

altadenahiker said...

And then somewhere across the street is the place that sells those beautiful old stoves. I wonder how I resisited?

USelaine said...

I'm intrigued by the catfish. I'll have a plate of that.

Kelly said...

Looks like my kind of place, Laurie!

Oooo, Elaine, you are brave...

From de Cafe said...

Oh woman, this is a great BBQ joint!
I'm instantly hungry now!

I can't continue now. I'll have 2 come back 4 seconds later.

Wayne said...

Laurie, did you see NOW on PBS tonight. South Pas is now one thousand times (a ballpark estimate) more well known that it was yesterday.

ken mac said...

can ya fex ex those ribs to NYC?

Sara N said...

Oh,Nice photo an text about it.I think I can not stand sweet potato :P

From de Cafe said...

Back 4 2nds @ Gus'BBQ:
Maybe d best bbq joint in our area. And ye oldest.
It's under recent new mgmt & definitely butter than b4.

L, yes, a bark out 2 the the sweet potato pies, i mean fries. The cole slaw is pretty good too. The pulled pork sandwitch, bbq buger, de soups - all good.
Pretty good parking 2.

If u have to bring back a doggie bag, then bring it bak 4 de dog!

And, a 2nd 2 a 2min piece of SoPasa on NOW on Pbs last nite. De topik was higher gas prices w/ lower home valyous, & m ass transportation. They showed Busters, & a Heirloom from a distance. Laurie, a coinzidense if u sawed it.

Laurie said...

Hey gang,

Thanks for all the comments today! Looks like I'm not the only one craving BBQ...

Judy said...

Oh this is a MUST for my next visit. I love the variety of eateries there. Such fun for a visitor, not to mention for the people who live in the area. Something about neon - it has such a forever quality yet it harkens back to times gone by. I like the buzzing sound it makes on a quiet night when nothing else is around. I'm sure that isn't the case there, but it makes me think of downtown Austin's old buildings with similar signs. I want some of that chicken right now.