Upon first passing through the doors at Charlie Brown Farms, you'll probably feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. Way back when, two-lane highways dominated Southern California, and along those roadsides produce stands sprang up. Later, some of these stands expanded to include prepared food and gift shops — efforts to convince travelers to stop.
Even after freeways came along, these roadside stops continued on along highways through the 1970s. There are still a few scattered around the deserts, most notably Hadley Orchards. But for the most authentic roadside attraction experience, head to the Los Angeles County portion of the Mojave Desert, where Charlie Brown Farms opened as a roadside produce stand in 1929. Charlie Brown Farms expanded over the years to its current 6-acre spread that includes three buildings and two patios. It still sells local produce, such as peaches from a nearby orchard, but you’re here for the brisket.
Billed as “Real Texas-Style BBQ” (cue the Texas ’cue snobs, fingers on their keyboards for the comments section), Charlie Brown Farms has tri-tip, chicken and pulled pork in addition to the more touted brisket. Any of these meats can be had in sandwich form, and various combos are available, as are ribs. Be sure to ask for your sauce served on the side, as it rightfully should be.
Sides are the fairly standard selection of coleslaw, cowboy beans, potato salad and macaroni salad. The only concession to modernity on the barbecue menu is the vegan section, with options of vegan chili or vegan chili over a vegan patty.
White waiting on your order, wander around and admire the trinkets, curios, foodstuffs and collectibles in the narrow aisles. You'll find more than 20 varieties of fudge, joke-shop novelties, jams and jellies, local honey, nuts and, in a separate room, a ridiculous array of sodas, many of them obscure. The scope of the whole place is rather overwhelming. You really will think you traveled back in time, at least until you see the Meeseeks pin in the Rick and Morty section.
As you might expect, there is a selection of deep-fried fair food, including fried Hostess Ding Dongs. There are the standard beverage options, along with a wide variety of shakes, but why not pick up a rare bottle of soda to go with your barbecue. Hmm, Judge Wapner Root Beer or Nesbitt’s Peach? Choices, choices.
Will the brisket here make anyone forget L.A. standouts like Bludso’s, Maple Block or Horse Thief? Probably not. But the brisket is good — moist with a pure beef flavor. Charlie Brown Farms might not be a destination for the food alone, but it’s a great option for travelers on Highway 138 and a worthwhile stop if only to experience what's one of the last real highway stands in Los Angeles County.
Charlie Brown Farms, 8317 Pearblossom Highway, Littlerock; (661) 944-2606, charliebrownfarms.com.