Guy Fieri hits the 'dives' worth the drive

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.

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