Smokehouse in Burbank is old school Hollywood. Opened in 1946, it’s the kind of place you could picture Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman or Audrey Hepburn eating a steak. New Hollywood has embraced it as well, and apparently it is a regular stomping ground for George Clooney. I don’t fit into old or new Hollywood, but Smokehouse is a steakhouse and I certainly fit into that crowd.
LA is a huge place and just when I think I know all I need to, it hits me with a surprise. Sometimes that surprise is unwanted, like closing a lane on the highway that I take to work every day. But more often, it is a pleasant surprise like Handy Market. This local market in Burbank has all the looks of any regular, old-fashioned grocer, but if you head to the back, that all changes. Back there is one of LA’s best-kept secrets, a meaty sandwich lover’s dream.
But first, I want to say that this place reminded me on many levels of another meat paradise called Superior Meats in Wisconsin. Whether it was the grill out front that supposedly is used in full force over the weekends, the friendliness of the staff, the selection of meats or the prices, I kept seeing signs of Wisconsin and the simpler life everywhere I turned.
There’s something about a gimmick that alienates people. You go to Hooters and while they have good wings, a small part of you feels dirty because it was a gimmick that brought you in in the first place. Many times I drove by Tinhorn Flats in Burbank and wrote it off because it looked like an Old Western saloon, which to me screams out gimmick. Little did I know that Tinhorn had been around since 1939, which makes it one of the oldest things in LA. If it was simply a gimmick, it never would have lasted these 70+ years. So when my coworker encouraged me to check it out, I roped in the troops at work to head east on Magnolia – straight for the Old West.
Up in Burbank is a classic-looking hot dog shack called Larry’s Chili Dog. They have an awesome neon sign that looks like it was built in the 1970s at the earliest, but likely goes back even further. The true age of the joint is bit difficult to ascertain, for while another, smaller sign says “SERVING BURBANK FOR OVER ’50 YEARS,'” I’m not really sure what 50 years amounts to when you put them in quotes. Whatever the case, this place was definitely old and old school.
In secret corners of Los Angeles, there are places that just scream, “Old Hollywood.” You know, the Hollywood before organic Whole Foods soy milk took over, when hot dogs were chock-full of nitrates and the only conceivable burger was of the “ham” variety. Vestiges of this near-forgotten time still exist, as proven by Irv’s Burgers, which I visited a few months ago. But Irv’s is not alone, as I recently discovered a similarly classic-looking place called Papoo’s Hot Dog Show in Toluca Lake.
Long before there was a Disney movie called Pinocchio, there was a classic Italian story featuring that classic wooden toy. Pinocchio’s (no relation) in Burbank is much more about those Italian roots than it is about the Disney story. And although that Disney classic has stood the test of time, there is one thing it certainly cannot do – feed you. That’s where Pinocchio’s comes in.
On our way out of town via the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, we were in need of a convenient place for a bite to eat. Across the street from the airport, we found the Daily Grill, an mid-level restaurant chain for American food that can found throughout California and a little beyond. As we needed to catch a flight, there was little time to dilly dally and I quickly scanned the menu and found their Penne Pasta with Chicken.
Typically, I’m not much a sweets guy. Give me a choice between cake and burger and I will always choose the burger. Well, almost always. Sometime ago, I was introduced to a Cuban bakery called Porto’s in Burbank when someone brought me some of their delicious pastries. I fell in love instantly and ever since then I have had a dream to visit this place of pastry delights. In time, I learned that they were not simply a sweets shop and also messed around with the savory end of the taste chain. This only fueled my desire for Porto’s even more. Finally, I got my opportunity to head there for lunch and went off full of excitement.