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A roadhouse you may have passed many times on Pacific Coast Highway but never stopped at, a coffee shop at the end of Ventura Boulevard where they line up for breakfast on the weekends, a Cajun place with the friendly name of Uncle Darrow's. We call them dives in the most affectionate way -- meaning they feature good, inexpensive food, have a history of pleasing customers and may be undiscovered, except by regulars in their own neighborhoods.

But they won't be undiscovered for long. A Food Network show, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," hosted by Sonoma County restaurateur Guy Fieri, is shining a spotlight on these American treasures.

Fieri recently cruised down Pacific Coast Highway to Patrick's Roadhouse in Santa Monica in his '67 fire engine-red Camaro convertible to film a segment for his show, which premieres at 10 p.m. Monday.

"These diners, drive-ins and dives are places from the '50s, '60s and '70s that people remember going to," says Fieri. "Family-owned, community-supported restaurants, these food establishments have endured time and lived through changes and transitions. We are there to highlight the specialties."

Although much of the food is American, there are no ethnic barriers. "The paint may be peeling off the wall, and the linoleum worn out, but they have to have good food -- and that means a quality product made correctly," Fieri says.

"Guy has a larger-than-life personality, and we wanted to give him a show that would allow him to interact with a wide variety of people," said Bob Tuschman, Food Network senior vice president for programming and production.

"There are so many emotions about this show, stories behind (the places), people living their passion," said Fieri, adding that the show was an outgrowth of a popular, extremely well-received one-hour special he did last year on the same topic.

For this series, Fieri generally interviews the owner for a couple of hours, then spends four or five hours cooking and talking to customers for what is boiled down to an eight-minute segment. "The shows are not scripted; we don't write anything ahead," he added, noting that they showcase his style. "They allowed me creative flexibility -- it was a pretty real-deal production."

Fieri owns Tex Wasabi's Rock-N-Roll Sushi BBQ in Santa Rosa and Sacramento, and Johnny Garlic's California Pasta Grill in Santa Rosa and Windsor. He won the Next Food Network Star contest in 2006 and is in his second season hosting "Guy's Big Bite," which airs at 10 a.m. Sundays.

We followed Fieri in his food travels and discovered some favorite dives of our own. Here are just a few.

PATRICK'S ROADHOUSE / 106 Entrada Drive / Santa Monica / (310) 459-4544 When Guy Fieri popped into Patrick's Roadhouse on Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica last month to film a segment for his Food Network show, "It was a weird feeling for me," noted Silvio Moreira, the restaurant's current owner. "He said, 'Hi, my name is Guy -- what's up with this place?' " They cooked an incredible Getty Burger together, and some other items, and then Fieri bit into the burger.

"You should have seen Fieri's face. He absolutely didn't like it because it contained caviar. It's one of those comic moments -- and the camera is running." It probably won't make the cut on the show.

The Roadhouse began its life in the early 1900s as a Red Line train depot, said Moreira. It then went on to become a hotel and, allegedly, a brothel and eventually housed a hotdog stand called Roy's.

In 1974, while Bill Fischler was walking on the beach with his kids, he walked across the street, bought a hotdog at Roy's that was the worst hotdog he'd ever had and bought Roy out on the spot.

"Bill was cooking the next day," said Moreira. He renamed the place Patrick's Roadhouse after his youngest son, who's an actor now (in movies such as "The Black Dahlia" and "Muholland Dr.").

"Today the dining room with antique furniture looks like a poor man's Getty Museum," Moreira said.

After Bill died 10 years ago, his daughter, Tracey, took over, but four years ago Moreira became the owner/manager, with the family still involved.

"Although Bill is gone, I still feel his presence around here.

Bill gave me my first job (as a waiter 17 years ago) in the United States -- I'm from Lisbon, Portugal -- while I was studying at Santa Monica College," Moreira said.

The restaurant has endeared itself to many over the years due to the "personality of the owners, the quality of the food, the ambience and the view," he said.

"It's a super-friendly place. It is like the set of 'Cheers.'

Funny enough, we had Ted Danson in here recently. He ordered an egg-white vegetable omelet -- and said, 'It was spectacular,' and he cleaned up the whole thing."

Arnold Schwarzenegger also frequents the place with wife Maria Shriver and their children -- and his favorite dish is the Governator Special, a farmer's breakfast with all kinds of meats, vegetables and potatoes scrambled together with eggs.

BOBBY'S COFFEE SHOP / 22821 Ventura Blvd. / Woodland Hills / (818) 225-1324 When it was opened in the late '40s by the late Robert Perkins, a World War II vet, Bobby's Coffee Shop was located on a dirt road on the far west end of Ventura Boulevard. Fifty-nine years later, it's become a Valley institution. Warren Akop of Glendale, the current and third owner, attributes the restaurant's longevity to its friendliness.

"The environment is like a neighborhood place to hang out, and customers feel like it's home," he noted, adding that "about 60 percent of the clientele is 45 years or older.

It's nothing fancy -- just plain American coffee-shop food that resonates with locals for breakfast and lunch seven days a week (6 a.m. to 3 p.m.) 364 days a year -- Christmas Day is the one day of the year Bobby's is closed. "Some regulars eat here five to six times a week," Akop said.

On Saturday and Sunday mornings, you'll likely find a long line outside by about 10:30 a.m. "You might have to wait five to 10 minutes for one of the 100 seats" -- 14 at the counter, the rest at tables.

Breakfasts range from $4.99 (french toast with eggs) to $6.50 (vegetable omelets), but most popular is the $5.50 ranch breakfast (it used to be 99 cents in the '50s) that includes two eggs, hash browns, three strips of bacon, toast and unlimited coffee, tea or iced tea. "A local television station (KTLA) has twice named Bobby's as a best value breakfast (choice), noting you get your money's worth here," Akop noted.

Richard Florczak of Agoura Hills, who has been frequenting Bobby's for 20 years, said, "They have the best pancakes I've ever eaten."

"Steak-Cheese-Onion Philly Sandwiches are the most popular lunch item," added Akop, along with the daily lunch specials.

UNCLE DARROW'S CAJUN/CREOLE EATERY / 2560 S. Lincoln Blvd. / Marina del Rey / (310) 306-4862 Uncle Darrow's Cajun/Creole Eatery in Marina del Rey grew out of a wholesale pecan candy business that four cousins -- Norwood J.

Clark Jr., Ronald Washington, Ronald Smith and Samuel L. Small Jr.

-- started in Los Angeles in 1988. Packaged and sold under the Uncle Darrow's Cajun Pecan Candy label, the product utilized a special recipe that had been in the family for generations, noted Clark, a Louisiana native.

The quartet ended up in the restaurant business by default, parlaying their love of Cajun/Creole foods into a restaurant. It opened in Los Angeles in February 1994, shortly after the Northridge Earthquake.

The tradition continued with a second location in Marina del Rey in 1999, a funky place with a large hand-painted mural of a bayou on the wall. You order at the counter, and the food is delivered to your table. The original location closed in 2002, after an eight-year run.

"I think we're popular, and have lasted, because we give you as authentic Cajun/Creole cuisine as you can get here in Southern California," said Clark. "We also treat people with Southern hospitality. We don't use any beef, pork or lard -- because I lost a cousin at age 33 to a heart attack and another at 29 had a stroke."

Instead they opt for vegetable oil, chicken, turkey, farm-raised catfish, black tiger shrimp and oysters in their dishes.

"When Guy Fieri filmed here last month," said Clark, "he commented, 'This is amazing. I've never seen a concept like this -- Cajun/Creole fast-type dining.' He loved the seafood boil -- blue crab, crayfish and shrimp with red potatoes and corn on the cob."

To maintain consistency and flavor, the restaurant makes many of its signature creations, including red beans, jambalaya, gumbo and beignets in a 1,200-square-foot commissary in Los Angeles.

Open for both lunch and dinner on weekdays (and breakfast on weekends), prices range from $5.95 to $23. Lunch (and breakfast) specials are also available and include items such as biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, catfish and cheese grits.

-------------------------- CAPTIONS DINERS-1 Photo by Tina Burch/Los Angeles Daily News Silvio Moreira, left, of Patrick's Roadhouse in Santa Monica, Calif., serves some diner fare to Guy Fieri of the Food Network.

DINERS-2 Breakfast is the main event at Bobby's Coffee Shop in Woodland Hills, Calif.Evan Yee/Los Angeles Daily News -------------------- RECIPES These recipes represent the style of food found in dives and diners: KILLER INSIDE OUT BURGER WITH WORCESTERSHIRE TOMATO KETCHUP 1/4 pound bacon, chopped 1/2 cup minced red onions 3 tablespoons fresh uncooked chorizo, out of casing 2 pounds ground chuck (80/20 mix) Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/2 pound Swiss cheese, thinly sliced, about 8 slices 4 kaiser rolls, split and toasted Worcestershire Tomato Ketchup In a medium pan over medium to high heat, add bacon and onions; cook until bacon is rendered but not crisp. Add chorizo and cook until done. Remove bacon mixture to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool.

Mix ground chuck with salt and pepper to taste. Divide into 8 equal parts. Form each into a loose ball and then make each into a 4-inch patty. Layer 1 piece of cheese onto center of 1 patty. Top with 1/4 bacon mixture, another slice of cheese, then add another patty on top and gently seal edges and form into a single large patty, about 4 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches high. Repeat with remaining patties to make a total of 4 large patties.

Heat a medium to large saute pan over medium heat. Place all 4 patties in pan and cook 3 to 4 minutes on 1 side, then gently turn over and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat, cover and pop pan into a 250-degree oven 10 minutes. Remove from oven, place on rolls and serve with Worcestershire Tomato Ketchup.

Makes 4 servings Recipe from Guy Fieri.

WORCESTERSHIRE TOMATO KETCHUP 3 tablespoons olive oil 1/4 cup diced red onion 8 Roma tomatoes, skinned, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch pieces 1 tablespoon chopped garlic 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 2 tablespoons sugar 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste Pinch allspice Pinch celery salt Pinch mustard seed In medium saute pan over medium heat, cook oil and onions together until brown and caramelized. Add tomatoes and garlic and cook a few minutes, just to soften vegetables. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 30 minutes. You can either serve ketchup chunky or puree it in a blender first and serve it smooth.

Recipe from Guy Fieri.

FRIES FOR JULES 4 sweet potatoes 3 tablespoons canola oil 1 teaspoon granulated garlic 1 teaspoon granulated onion 1/2 teaspoon paprika 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 tablespoon seasoned salt (Lawry's recommended) Peel skin off sweet potatoes. Cut them into 3/4x1/4-inch wedges.

Place wedges on a baking sheet and toss with oil. Spread out wedges, making sure they don't overlap. Mix remaining ingredients and dust over top of potatoes.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 20 minutes. Remove from oven, turn potatoes; return to oven and bake another 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, remove wedges from baking sheet and let stand uncovered 10 minutes. Then return to oven 3 minutes to reheat.

Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings Recipe from Guy Fieri.

CORNBREAD STUFFED MEATLOAF STUFFING 2 large OR 5 small corn muffins, crumbled by hand (2 to 3 cups) 1/2 pound bacon, chopped 1 red bell pepper, diced 1 tablespoon seeded and minced jalapeno 2 tablespoons minced garlic 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley Salt and pepper 1 egg, beaten MEATLOAF: 6 tablespoons olive oil 1 cup diced red onion 1 tablespoon seeded and minced jalapeno 2 tablespoons minced garlic 2 pounds ground beef 1 pound ground pork 2 teaspoons sea salt 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves 1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves 1 teaspoon dry mustard 1/4 cup ketchup 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 2 eggs 6 ounces sliced Cheddar cheese For Stuffing: Spread cornbread crumbs on a sheet pan and toast in a preheated 275- to 300-degree oven about 20 minutes or until lightly toasted and dry. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees.

In a skillet brown bacon until crispy. Drain. To same skillet, add red pepper, jalapeno and garlic and cook until soft.

In a bowl, combine cornbread crumbs, bacon and vegetable mixture. Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Add egg and mix thoroughly.

For Meatloaf: In medium skillet over medium heat, combine oil, red onions, jalapeno and garlic. Cook until caramelized, remove from heat and let cool.

In a bowl, combine beef, pork, salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and eggs and mix thoroughly Divide meat mixture in half. On a rimmed baking sheet, shape one half into a rectangle, creating a canoe, and then loosely fill with stuffing. Do not pack it in. Use the other half of the meat to fully enclose the stuffing.

Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 1 1/2 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. Layer cheese slices on top and bake another 5 minutes to melt cheese. Remove from oven and let rest for about 10 minutes. Cut into thick slices and serve.

Makes 8 to 10 servings Recipe from Guy Fieri.

THE BOMB BAKERS 1 1/4 cups kosher salt Water 6 medium russet potatoes, rinsed 2 tablespoons garlic salt 2 tablespoons seasoned salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Horseradish Sour Cream In large mixing bowl, dissolve 1 cup kosher salt in 8 cups water. Add potatoes, making sure they are submerged. Brine 2 to 8 hours.

Remove potatoes from brine and liberally coat with remaining 1/4 cup kosher salt, garlic salt, seasoned salt and pepper. Place potatoes on a wire rack in center of a preheated 400-degree oven.

Bake 45 minutes. Do not puncture skin with tongs, fork or tooth picks. Potatoes will be soft to the touch when done. Let potatoes rest 5 minutes before cutting. Serve with Horseradish Sour Cream.

Makes 6 servings HORSERADISH SOUR CREAM: Combine 2 cups sour cream, 1/4 cup prepared horseradish and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste; mix thoroughly.

Recipe from Guy Fieri.

CHICKEN OR TURKEY SALAD SANDWICHES 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken OR 2 cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts OR about 12 ounces cooked turkey breast meat 1 rib celery, chopped, OR 1 small apple, chopped, OR 1/2 cup chopped sweet or dill pickle slices 1/4 small red onion, chopped, OR 2 green onions, chopped 1/2 cup mayonnaise Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 8 slices bread Shred chicken meat by hand, discarding any skin or bones, and put in a large bowl. You should have about 1 1/2 cups meat.

Add celery and onion to bowl. Add mayonnaise and salt and black pepper to taste and stir until evenly coated. Add more salt and pepper, if needed.

Lay out 4 slices of bread on a flat surface; divide salad evenly among them. Top with remaining bread slices.

Makes 4 servings From "Food Network Kitchens: How to Boil Water -- Life Beyond Takeout."

PANCAKES 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 3 tablespoons sugar 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon fine salt Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (optional) 2 large eggs, at room temperature 1 1/4 cups milk Dash vanilla (about 1/4 teaspoon) 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter Canola oil OR other neutral tasting oil, for cooking pancakes Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat eggs. Whisk in about 1/2 of milk and vanilla.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter with remaining milk, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir or whisk into egg mixture.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk just until a thick batter forms (a few lumps are OK).

Heat a cast-iron skillet, nonstick skillet or griddle over medium to medium-low heat (or 350 degrees F, if the griddle temperature can be controlled). If using a cast-iron skillet or an older griddle, brush with canola oil. Keeping the skillet at medium to medium-low heat, ladle about 1/4 cup (for small pancakes) to 1/3 cup (for large pancakes) of the batter onto the skillet. Make 1 or 2 more pancakes, spacing them evenly apart. Cook until bubbles break the surface of the pancakes, the batter loses its shine, and the undersides are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Slip the spatula under the pancakes and flip. Cook about 1 minute more. Serve immediately, or transfer to a heatproof platter (single layer, not stacked) and keep warm in a preheated 200-degree oven. Repeat with remaining batter.

Top pancakes with berries, preserves, real maple syrup, honey, butter, yogurt or a little whipped cream.

Makes 8 large or 12 small pancakes UPGRADES: When a pancake is brown on the first side and the top is bubbly, sprinkle on 2 teaspoons miniature chocolate chips or toasted nuts or 1 tablespoon diced bananas, whole blueberries or grated apple. Flip gently and continue cooking until the pancake is cooked through, about 2 minutes more.

From "Food Network Kitchens: How to Boil Water -- Life Beyond Takeout."

NYT-04-18-07 1832EDT

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