In Los Angeles as in Paris, August is vacation time, and people disappear. In Los Angeles, of course, the streets and freeways never fall silent, but they do seem quieter than at any other month of the year. Getting out and about becomes easier for a time--good news for folks who, stuck in town, want to sample the goodies available in local restaurants.
And if you live in or near the San Fernando Valley, there's no end of goodies to sample.
My Brother's Bar-B-Q in Woodland Hills is a good place to start. Founded 40 years ago come December by Frank McGuire and his late brother Jim, My Brother's Bar-B-Q serves good food to the suburban family crowd, and there's no big news about the place. Not, at least, of the sort that comes from the trendy places on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks or Encino: no new menu items, no new chef, no special dinners for special guests.
When you run a restaurant for the better part of half a century, you don't mess with success. Frank and Jim McGuire learned the restaurant business in a roadhouse run by their parents back in Minnesota. Kevin McGuire, son to Jim and nephew to Frank, manages the Woodland Hills place, where he's worked for 20 years. Chef Abraham Ramirez has been there 16 years, waitress Mai Smith 30. Another waitress, Sandra Gayton, has been there 14 years, and she's only 29.
Last spring Kevin McGuire started staying open on Wednesdays, traditionally everybody's one day off. Over the years he has also added some items to the menu for the health-conscious--barbecued chicken and turkey, for example, to go along with the beef, ham and pork.
For $4.95 you can get a barbecued hamburger, for $5.75 a sandwich of barbecued beef. If you want to splurge, $14.95 will get you a big plate of ribs with beans on the side.
And if--this being summer, after all--you want to do it yourself in your own backyard, for $2.95 you can buy a bottle of the restaurant's piquant barbecue sauce and take it home.
"The recipe comes from my father and my uncle," says Kevin McGuire. "Actually we've had it for several generations--since my grandparents ran the roadhouse back in Minnesota."
That would take things back a ways, since the McGuires come from hardy stock. Kevin McGuire's grandmother Gertrude--"Mother Gertrude' to family members--worked to age 88 and died at 98. His father Jim died 14 years ago at 61, but his uncle Frank still goes strong at age 73.
"We've kept a good product,' Kevin McGuire says, "and it's a real family business, known by word of mouth. We draw a family crowd, and we've sure seen the Valley change in 40 years."
* My Brother's Bar-B-Q is at 21150 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, (818) 348-2020.
Pasadena's Twin Palms restaurant began offering happy-hour specials every day of the week this month.
Named for the giant palms that grace the restaurant's big patio, Twin Palms offers happy-hour draft beer for $2, wine for $1 a glass, and special martinis for $3--a far cry from the usual prices at most places no matter what the hour.
There's more. For $2 you can have a Caesar salad, a salad of baby greens, fried calamari, a portobello mushroom sandwich, a chicken panini sandwich, a cheeseburger, or a mini-pizza with chicken, pepperoni or vegetables.
Happy hour lasts from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Twin Palms is at 101 West Green St. in Old Pasadena, (818) 626-5772.
* Juan Hovey writes about the restaurant scene in the San Fernando Valley and outlying points. He may be reached at (805) 492-7909 or fax (805) 492-5139 or via e-mail at JHoveycompuserve.com