Smoke House SignWhen you walk through those double doors, you disappear through a time warp.  The bright California sun outside, a distant memory.  The heavy wood beams, brick, and red vinyl carry you back.  Back to the days when music was not electronic, but rather a cool croon from a talented vocalist with brass and strings as backup in dim comforting circles of light.  Where a Hollywood starlet and her beau  would dine on steak and potatoes rather than iceberg lettuce and saltines or the new fad raw diet.   Where is this place? The answer, is Burbank, and with a heavy heart I acknowledge the Smoke House Restaurant as one of the disappearing classic American eateries.

The Smokehouse RestaurantNow, I’ve lived about two miles away from this place for nearly a year and a half, and never payed any notice to it.  It has somewhat of a nondescript exterior modeled in the Tudor style, that can very easily be overlooked or taken for an old mom and pop hardware store.  Especially when there are other iconic eateries such as one of the original Bob’s Big Boy restaurants in the immediate vicinity with a flashy neon sign and large big boy statue flanking the road.

Nevertheless, when you do finally make it to the Smoke House Restaurant in Burbank, CA, you will quickly realize that the destination, across from Warner Bros. Studios is a true landmark that was once a watering hole to elite Hollywood and music industry royalty the likes of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Errol Flynn, Judy Garland, Milton Berle, and Robert Redford… just to name a few!

{To paraphrase a bit of history from the restaurant’s website}

Danny KayeThe Smoke House was founded in 1946 at the corner of Pass & Riverside in Burbank and later moved to a larger location at 4420 Lakeside Drive in 1948.  This new location, we learn was originally built as a restaurant and dance hall by the darling Danny Kaye (who did a brilliant little film that I love from my childhood called “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”).  I have to admit, I had a little crush even though it was a good 40 years after the film had been released!

{A Swanky Dinner… For Lunch}

So,  if you are going to go to the Smoke House for lunch, I suggest you plan on eating a light dinner, as the portions are quite large. . .well, enormous would be a better fitting word.  I suppose this is where the restaurant’s slogan applies “fine food at a fair price”.  This slogan could roughly be translated to: “the price of two meals for just one really big honker of a meal”.  But I am never one to turn down a generous portion, and in this case, in celebration of three of my work colleagues’ birthdays, the company was as bountiful and as enjoyable as the meal!

Cheese PowderInteresting Fact: The five of us were seated in a large red vinyl booth that on April 25, 1985 played tush cushion to Ms. Helen Hoyt, the Smoke House’s 10,000,000th diner.

We started our meal with a large order of the restaurant’s renowned garlic bread.  As the website tells us, the popularity of this  “unique recipe for garlic bread made the Smoke House the largest purveyor of French bread west of the Mississippi”. So, you have to begin to wonder, or at least speculate as to what the secret might be?  The blog Drink Your Milk. . .and Eat Your Greens! rather astutely notes that the “topping looks and tastes like the contents of those Kraft Macaroni and Cheese sauce packets”.  I’d have to agree, but would definitely suggest, as an alternative, the other processed cheese “delight”, cheese wiz.  I’m definitely not one to usually partake in eating a packet of cheese powder or a can of swirly cheese, however, exceptions must be made!  So, with a few pieces or ten of this wonderful lip smacking bread behind us, we continued on to the main event: Dinner-lunch!

My colleagues partook in (and kindly let me sample) the half rack of the BBQ Baby Back Ribs, the Fillet & Shrimp Skewers, the Chopped Loin, and the Pulled Pork Sandwich.  The latter was definitely the star of those particular selections.  And, upon the recommendation of our server, I ordered the Steak Sinatra which was comprised of Tender Pieces of Fillet Sauteed with Tomatoes, Sweet Onions, Tricolor Peppers, and Mushrooms. This delectable mix was served over perfectly cooked Linguine and tossed together table side YUM!

match-flame-smoke{The Unfortunate Down Side}

While the food was quite good on the whole, I do feel it necessary to share a few critiques with you, so you may become informed diners if you choose to partake in the Smoke House experience.  Starting with the BBQ Baby Back Ribs.  Let’s call her ‘Colleague A’, who had dined there several times before, mentioned that they were unusually dry. . .perhaps the victim of overcooking.  Although, despite their dryness, I did happen to really enjoy their flavor (the next part is what makes me cringe).  I asked our server what wood the ribs were smoked over, and she replied, “they are cooked on a gas grill”.  Not certain if this was a misspeak or not (I mean come on the restaurant is called the “Smoke House”) I did a little investigating.  It turns out, they age their own meat and cook it over a hickory grill.  Tsk Tsk Tsk server lady!

Colleague B, who dined on the Fillet & Shrimp Skewers was quite happy with her meal, and rightly so! It was delicious, and the shrimp was cooked to perfection and joined by the ever-delicious skewer compliment, grilled pineapple.  But, unfortunately, this success can be balanced out with a few other faux pas.  Colleague C’s Chopped Loin (Hamburger-esque minus the bun) was sadly way overcooked beyond the medium-rare that was requested.  **I must wonder though, if it cannot be served medium-rare due to cooking temperature health restrictions for E-Coli and the like?

Colleague D’s pulled pork sandwich was far and away the most delicious food that appeared on the table that afternoon, and although I only had a little taste, would recommend it to anyone.  The only downfall to this succulent pork-wich was the unusual peanut topped coleslaw that accompanied it.  So in an effort to spare you from the peanutty-ness,  I recommend that you partake in a different side dish.

Birthday Candles{Birthday Cake}

Last but not least were the three squares of white birthday cake laced with raspberry reduction that the restaurant supplied us free of charge.  I have three words for you: cream cheese icing!!!! And, had I not been completely stuffed full of my Sinatra dish, I definitely would have taken larger and more frequent bites.

Smokehouse Interior{Conclusion}

The Smoke House was definitely a blast from the past where I could absolutely see the Hollywood greats arriving for a whole evening of cocktails, dinner, and music.  Although it wasn’t a true supper club, I definitely got the feel of what one might be like with  its “simple” menus featuring prime rib, steaks, chicken, and fish.  On a general eatery scale, I give the Smoke House a 6.5 out of 10 possible points (due to a few slip ups), but on a vintage eatery scale the Smoke House comes in strong with an 8.5.

If you are interested in more vintage eateries check out LA Time Machines!

As usual:

{Till next time: Eat Well, Stay Safe, Be Happy!}

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