Gary Bric's Ramp is an old steakhouse on North Hollywood Way in Burbank wedged underneath an I-5 on-ramp. A lighted sign identifies it as a place where you can get lobster, and a lighted parking lot identifies it as a place where you can park your car if you panic right before getting on the freeway. The first time I heard about it, a patron at another Burbank landmark, The Smokehouse, hollered across the bar to see if anyone knew the mayor of Burbank.
He was having problems with his neighbor's hedges. Another guy let him know that he should take his hedge problems to the bartender at Gary Bric's Ramp, because you guessed right, eagle-eyed LA County civics enthusiasts: Gary Bric is that Gary Bric, the longtime city councilman and former mayor of Burbank. And as the aggressive, racecar-red branding on the glassware reminds you: this is his Ramp.
You guessed right, eagle-eyed LA County civics enthusiasts: Gary Bric is that Gary Bric, the longtime city councilman and former mayor of Burbank
Gary Bric has not only owned the place since 1993, he also tends bar three nights a week. His delightful wife Shelly is a waitress. So it's not surprising that the Ramp has a chummy community feel. When you walk in the front door, expect to turn some heads — mainly because it opens into the middle of the first of three dining rooms, with no hostess stand to take the edge off your entrance.
And from the sports-watchers eating steaks solo at the bar, to the two-tops of decked-out dates, the multigenerational families at cobbled together tables, and the high school cheerleaders sullenly eating post-game salads with their parents, everyone seems to have been here many times before.
It's an otherworldly pocket of LA — my dining companion one night likened it to the nicest restaurant in whatever small town you're stranded in during a road trip through Vermont. It's not usually very crowded. Sit at the bar. People will talk to you, and it won't be about their podcasts. The Hollywoodiest thing I heard was that they filmed some bar scenes for the Rockford Files there in the 70's.
Apparently when the Ramp first opened in 1962, it was a real aerospace hangout — lots of people working in "screws and rivets." Now that's all gone. Nobody works in screws and rivets anymore. For instance, on a Thursday night recently, one guy at the bar was telling another guy he worked in "coatings and adhesives." His new friend responded, "So...you glue things together?" Burbank has changed.
Frogs' legs are on the menu, though they only go through about ten orders a week.
The bar is definitely the heart of the Ramp, but few people are just drinking. The place burns through broiled strip steaks and Alaskan halibut, with a rotating list of seafood specials and one of the finest examples of Burbank's unofficial city dish: garlic cheese bread. Frogs' legs are on the menu, though they only go through about ten orders a week.
Here's my non-restaurant critic's take on the food: it's...pretty good? It's the sort of food that comes with a mystery garnish that you think might be a beet but is definitely not a beet, and half a head of steamed broccoli covered in Hollandaise, and there are bottles of wine under $30, and come on, guys, when you go to a place like this you know what you're getting into: warm merlot, a sauced steak, a twice-baked potato, and a doggie bag.
Sure, one night, the restaurant was...I'd like to say slammed, but it was just teetering over the edge of busy, and our order — one strip steak, one steak with pepper sauce, crabcakes, stuffed mushrooms, and house salads, all seemed tragically under-salted and massively over-blue cheese dressing'd (somehow blue cheese seemed to crop up everywhere that night, even, we suspected, inside the crab cakes).
But I've also had excellent rack of lamb, and a perfectly charred and seasoned steak the size of a hubcap.
But I've also had excellent rack of lamb, and a perfectly charred and seasoned steak the size of a hubcap, expertly steamed Alaskan king crab legs that wanted not for the ramekin of butter, and tender, decadent escargot. And it all arrives from the kitchen by way of silver trolley. Have you ever eaten escargot under an on-ramp? It's just like eating escargot under an off-ramp: Delicious.
Come for the food, come for the drinks, come with city-related complaints before Gary retires from the council in May, but really, come for the experience. Sometimes something weird and magical happens. One Saturday not too long ago, a longtime server who'd moved on to show biz success came to the rescue when the restaurant was short-handed. He was a conquering hero.
All of the waitresses had stars in their eyes, explaining to my friend and me that if we stuck around late night, a dance party would break out. It always did, when Anthony's back. And sure enough, when the clock turned to...oh, about 10 or so, the music was cranked up to noticeable, a couple of waitresses ducked out for a quick costume-change, and the family restaurant turned into a family dance party.
It was not unlike a beautiful dream. Also not unlike a beautiful dream? This amazing promotional video, which could have been made in 1978, 2014, or any time in between http://www.garybricsramp.com/video.html
Gary Bric's Ramp: 7730 N Nollywood Way, Burbank, CA; 818-768-6499