The Good Doctor

Growing up, I was once told that the two topics you don’t bring up during tableside conversation amongst strangers (or even amongst some friends) are religion and politics. Lips tighten, brows crease, forks grasped more tightly, and its just not good for digestion to bring up such decisive subject matters for a festive supper. I’d argue there is a third topic of discussion potentially as inflammatory that has nothing to do with deities or party lines, but is just as touchy a topic for many: BBQ. Or bar-b-que. Or barbecue. Or simply ‘cue for those too preoccupied eating their share of the good meaty stuff to waste an extra couple of syllables inbetween bites. Mention barbecue and words like “original”, “proper”, “real”, “authentic” and “serious” are guaranteed to pepper the discussion. Direct or indirect cooking. Dry rubs or sauced. Southern or Northern or Texan style. Swine or beef. Only the kama sutra has as many listed techniques of meat handling as there are of regional varieties of barbecue preparation/technique.

Rare is the time that the words “barbecue” and “California” are uttered in the same sentence. Its like mentioning “sushi” and “Bakersfield” in the same breath for most. But for the dedicated carnivore, there are indeed some outposts of properly prepared smoked ribs, briskets, links, country sliced ham, and chicken within city limits to satiate your hunger. One of my favourites since childhood is Dr. Hogly Wogly’s Tyler Texas Bar-B-Que in Van Nuys. Yes, Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley (in fact, there is another notable barbecue establishment just 3-4 miles north in Mission Hills, The Bear Pit). Named after former Texas native Johnny “Hogly Wogly” Green, the down home meat mecca has been serving up Texan sized portions since 1969 in a very humble Valley location (the ambiance is currently livened by a large Spearmint Rhino “Gentleman’s Club” billboard overlooking the restaurant). The interior completes the real deal feel, with wall to wall wood paneling, red vinyl booths, leathery skinned waitresses who might not even afford you a glance while ordering, and paintings adorning the wall you’ll probably recognize from your grandparents’ rumpus room art collection. If you’re looking for linens, proper lighting, and attentive service, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for brisket that has been slowly smoked over cherry and oak to perfection and beef spareribs that are slightly charred with smoky flavour, then do your time and get in line with the rest of the rainbow coalition of rib and meat lovers that wait 30-45 minutes outside with eager anticipation (locals knowingly come with playing cards to pass the time).

By definition, Dr. Hogly Wogly’s isn’t Texan barbecue, which is most often defined as dry rub marinated and smoked indirectly for eons, served with perhaps with a smidgen of sauce as condiment but often not necessary such is seriousness of the dry spices. While vacationing in Texas several months ago, I assumed the role of gastronomic Caligula at the roadhouse favourite Rudy’s Bar-B-Q just outside of San Antonio, stuffed myself silly with hot links, chicken, baby back ribs and spare ribs, sitting on long communal tables, and forever was my definition of barbecue changed (and I say this knowing I have yet to try even superior Cooper’s Old Time Pit BBQ in Llano or Smitty’s in Lockhart). Dr. Hogly Wogly’s, despite its Texan pedigree, is more akin to the “wet” style ribs and meats most people outside of Texas equate with the word “barbecue”. I opted for the “2 Way Combination” plate with Beef Brisket and Spareribs, accompanied by a side order of home baked beans, potato salad and a loaf of bread. Looking around, despite the mammoth amounts of food of my order telling me otherwise, this was a medium sized plate. The baked beans were slightly mushy, sweet and delicious, with strands of pork cooked in, rewarding your each bite. The potato salad was the creamy-smooth variety I prefer, and the macaroni salad and cole slaw (* which vegetarian Emily ordered) were both above standard fare. The spareribs and brisket came swimming in a shallow pool of barbecue sauce, with just enough grease exuded from the meat mixed in to make for perfect bread sopping liquid. But like a prize fighter zoning himself for a knockout, I tried to avoid focusing on the extras, and dive bombed into the meat itself with the veracity of a woman at a shoe sale. The brisket was tender…tender like a Teddy Pendergrass slow jam, and the half pound of slow cooked meat disappeared in about 3 minutes, since it didn’t require chewing. The spareribs were a bit more tough and stringy, the meat perhaps a little on the dry side. But dipped into the oily sauce, the ribs didn’t survive my longer than the beloved brisket. Wetnaps and a pile of napkins will punctuate your meal most definitely, and you’ll be flossing flesh like a South Beach thong for the next couple of days.

My only real complaint, and its more than minor, is the horribly inattentive service. We’re talking about sitting 20 minutes for the check, no refills and nary a “how ya’ll doing?” during our whole time there. Its not so much that the waitresses are lollygagging as much as the small restaurant is overpacked with ravenous carnivores all wanting to get their meat on, and you can sometimes feel the tension of men and women who want their food, right then and now all at once. It was such bedlam during our visit, the power went out twice. I’d recommend if you’re one to easily complain in regards to service, the take-out route might be your best bet. Me? I’ll be back, ready to wait in line, be ignored, and pay $19 to eat in the dark all over again because the ‘cue is that good.

*Its an amusing to note that it was my vegetarian girlfriend’s request we hunt down a proper barbecue establishment that evening because of the patriotic nature of the weekend. God bless America, and open minded vegetarian girlfriends!

18 Replies to “The Good Doctor”

  1. The good Doctoc (Hogly Wogly) has always seemed just a little too manufactured to me… too theme restuaranty – but that’s probably because it’s in the valley, and has to do with who goes there. I’m kind of a BBQ snob and i look at l.a. BBQ kinda like New Yorkers must look at CPK (which is how i look at CPK for that!), but there are a couple places of note:

    The Pig. Totally inauthentic, totally ‘dick clark rockin retro restuarant’-esque, but A) it’s open ’til midnight which is a plus in this town, and B) they have a thing called ‘Piggy Hour’ betwix 4-6pm M-F whereas you buy any BBQ sandwich and get one free… which is nice.

    Phillips BBQ. Effing good tasting, spicy food, but A) you get a tiny portion, and B) it costs a fortune (which is funny because it looks like a hole-in the wall in the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw area)! Expect to pay $13 for a meal (for one!) and then have to drive 10 minutes to get it to the closest park to eat.

    Barbeque King USA. If you’ve been downtown in the past few years, you’ve probably seen/smelt this place (on Fig & Cesar Chavez, across from the new Orsini). I never thought to go there until i met the owner in costco as he was buying 200lbs of ribs. It’s actually really decent and totally has a mom & pop vibe, plus you can stuff your face on the sampler basket for about $8. It’s funny how few people who live and work in downtown have been here. good stuff.

    There are a lot of places, but they’re mostly corprate chain-ish (which isnt inherently bad, but in this case is) or waay too l.a.-ed out (see Pinks, the Pantry, Fred 62, or in this case Dr. Cecils and Dr. Hogly Wogly). And then there’s Korean BBQ, which is a whole other discussion.

    Go out, find an animal, smother it in sauce and eat it like it’s betwix a sexy vixens thighs damnit!

  2. hoggly woggly a theme restaraunt? you’re kidding me, you must be thinking of the cheesecake factory at the galleria. all i have to say about that is: 1969.

    while i will say it isn’t even the best BBQ place on sepulveda, (at the 118, the bear pit is better but in fairness a different style, and the place on sepulveda south of venice is just killer, but i forget the name) it ain’t bad. i’ve enjoyed ribs usa in burbank too.

    now, “the texas rib joint” that used to be on pico next to the westside pavillion extention, that was heaven…

  3. All you darn Valley snobs. ;-)

    Hogly Wogly’s makes damn fine bbq. There are also a few place’s deep in the west valley for good bbq.

    The real difficulty is finding a good soul food restaurant in the valley that can compete with Roscoe’s in taste, price, and atmosphere.

  4. Ah, Roscoe’s. That’s a topic I do understand. Love Scoe’s #1.

    In LA, with all our health concious attitudes, to eat at a place that serves fried chicken and waffles is just such an indulgence. Unfortunately, with my low carb diet, I have to resist going very often. (But I do cheat every once in a while.)

  5. Big Steve: Too manufactured? Themed? That place has been like that since 1969; the decor and style hasn’t changed all that much (I’ve been going there since I was a wee lad growing up in the Valley). Being too much of a snob about anything, and you end up missing out when it comes to food (i.e. I’m sure americanized pizza is looked down upon by italians to a certain extent, but they shouldn’t deny a proper slice done americano style). I think you should drop the bias and just enjoy Los Angeles food for what it is…cuz it would be like complaining Peter Lugar’s Steakhouse is too themed while dining in New York.

    I’ve had ‘cue at The Pig a few times (and talk about themed/manufactured, so you’ve got your priorities biased), and I liked it well enough. Phillips is delicious. BBQ King is a local favourite, and the man who runs the joint is always as so kind to check up on how we like our meal. The place that supposedly does them all to shame is Woody’s on Slauson, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

    On the korean BBQ tip (kalbi and bulgogi), you’re correct that’s all its own category. You get major props knowing what’s up with my homeland ‘cue. I can make a mean plate of ribs myself, but Soot Bull Jeep is still a longtime fav, though I keep hearing about Tahoe Galbi (Sa Rit Gol is awesome if you like pork).

    Jason, Will, Daryll: get yourself all out to Stevie’s On The Strip in Crenshaw http://www.livejournal.com/users/typefiend/235980.html . Roscoe’s ain’t shit after you’ve tried Stevie’s (not in the Valley, but worth the drive)…the chicken and fries are about as perfect of fried foods as I have ever tasted. They’re on par with perfectly fried tempura at a fine japanese restaurant!

  6. Like I admitted in my first sentence, i am definitely bias because Hogly Woglys is in the Valley… Food’s fine, just not my spot (and Slappin, I am proud to admit that I have never been to a Cheesecake Factory, much less the one at the Galleria – I swear that place was designed as a sting operation for pedophiles (go there on a friday night and you’ll see what I’m talking about). Also, Han, my first comment about The Pig was that it was totally Disneyland… And it’s not great, but has some benefits.
    Funny enough, my favorite Korean BBQ joint is in the Little Tokyo mall (i dont even know what the name is) but big ups to Gyu Kaku – kinda blinged, but during the summer they’ve got $1 Kirin pints and happy hour habachi.
    Roscoes is the shiz (get that #1 smothered in gravy and you’ll never go back!) but I stick to the one on Pico and La Brea. Then again, the undisputed king of chicken is Zankou (the sunset location moreso than the others).

  7. Sorry, to clarify, about ‘Scoes, i mean once you get the chicken smothered, you’ll never go back to unsmothered, not you’ll never go back to the restuarant. my bad.

  8. Meiers (since we’re addressing each other by last names now): why does the location affect whether you like good food or not? Are you that prejudice against the Valley? Go where the good food is at…the Valley has a Zankou too remember. And some of the best sushi joints are in the Valley, alongside some of my favourite mexican taco stand fastfood. Good eats are all around, in almost every neighborhood besides very recent tract home development communities.

    Hmmm, japanese style korean BBQ over the real deal? I’ve had it several times in Little Tokyo and on Sawtelle, and I’m sorry to say its not even close. I go for the food, not for beer or happy hours. And if you’re looking for late night eats, Koreatown is a hardcore foodie’s hood.

    Try Marouch in Hollywood, and Zankou won’t taste nearly as divine (but still stands as one of LA’s institutions and a fast food fav of mine).

    Ritzy P: Tigeorges’ Chicken is on the list now. Thanks for the tip!

  9. Sorry about the name, brotha, i scanned quickly to see whom I was responding to and it was the name that popped out (oh, and i’m dyslexic, but that’s kinda cop-out). my bad.
    The best i can tell you about location (and atmosphere) dictating how much i like a place is that I’m picky… maybe OCD picky, but I guess some things are just more or less comfortable for me, and if I’m not down with a place, then i’m not gonna enjoy the food. I love the Pacific Dining Car, but I probably wouldnt care for it if i had to go to a McDonalds in Chino to get it (no matter how good that steak is). My assessment was notnecessarily of the food, but of the place. That said, I have a lot of valley freinds and some great valley spots, like Ernies in Burbank, which is the closest to New Mexican food i’ve had in california, or the Weiner Factory, where i got the 100% discount for years until my friends were fired.
    Oh, and I’ve had some great Korean bbq in koreatown, but the little tokyo spot happens to be my favorite in that i live 3 blocks from it and it’s more than enough food for $8.
    As for the late-night scene in Koreantown, I just graduated from USC so i’ve definitely been up and down the block… most places don’t blow my whistle though (and some i cant stand, like Hodori, maybe just bad experiences though).

  10. Ahh, OCD…no need to explain any more. I’m the sorta guy who will eat anywhere and anything, both out of desire and curiousity, so we’re likely on different ends of the spectrum about what we’ll eat and what we like. Different strokes fo’ different folks!

  11. actually, the bbq place that i couldn’t remember the name of is JR’s on la cienega south of venice, before the see’s factory.

    and actually, i kind of agree that the zankou in hollywood is better, they have a bigger menu if my memory serves me. the chicken and the shawaerma (sp?) is the same all over though.

  12. Soot Bull Jeep is THE real deal (charcoal, not gas), but the restaurant is quite dirty and smoke-filled – not the most pleasant atmosphere. Also heard very good things about Sa Rit Gol and Chosun Galbi, but I think both places use gas.

    And while I have nothing against yakiniku (Japanese Korean BBQ) in general, Gyu-Kaku is a ripoff, though I suppose the atmosphere might be more comfortable than a hardcore Korean place, and you could say you’re paying for that.

  13. I would actually never go to Gyu Kaku if my friend didnt work there, but I had some great times last summer because they did have $1 pints of kirin and many of their plates which usually cost between $6-9 dollars were only $1-2 for happy hour, so I could go with 7 or 8 friends and leave stuffed and buzzed for about $10 (plus tip)

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