Kelbo's, Los Angeles 1963
Two US Navy veterans, Thomas Kelley and Jacklin Henry Bouck, combined some of the first letters of their last names to invent Kelbo’s, a small chain of ‘Hawaiian’ barbecues. The specialty was sweet and sugary Hawaiian spare ribs, a recipe developed by Mr Bouk when he was stationed on the island during WWII. Friends said it was so good, they suggested he should open a restaurant when he got back to the US.
Most of the menu wasn’t very Hawaiian, of course, but every entrée was garnished with slices of pineapple and customers loved the tiki-inspired rum drinks in lurid colors of green, purple and fiery red and with witty names such the Wiki Waki, the Guided Missile and The Bomb, which came with the warning ‘Away we go!”
Cleverly decorated to make Los Angelenos think they were on an island, the restaurant had thatched booths covered in bamboo, tropical fish tanks and the walls were decorated with fish nets, coconuts and lanterns in the shape of pineapples. There were dance floors, decorated with disco balls in the 70s and 80s. Bar staff were dressed like they’d just come off the beach, in loud Hawaiian shirts and dresses.
There were also black and white murals, created by graphic artist Carolyn Dulay who covered the walls and doors with her amazing and witty art.
There were five Kelbo’s. The one on Fairfax was a popular hangout for crew who worked across the street at CBS Television City in the fifties and sixties.
Another Kelbo’s was on Pico at Exposition and the others were at Brentwood Country Mart, at 2214 Manchester Avenue and at 13562 Ventura Boulevard.
We believe Kelbo’s began to run out of steam in the 70s and all were closed by the early 2000s. But Kelbo’s remains in the hearts of many of those lucky enough to dine there and drink one or two of those flaming cocktails.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.
All printed in USA.