Seeings Stars: Thunder Roadhouse


Seeing Stars: Restaurants Owned by the Stars..

8371 Sunset Boulevard,
West Hollywood, CA. / (323) 650-6011

Update: In July of 1997, Thunder Roadhouse suffered $500,000 in damage in a major fire, apparently started by an electrical short, and the restaurant closed.

Back then, t's owners hoped to have it open again soon.  But plans are uncertain. Back in April of '98, they told me they planned to move their location to Hollywood - the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Poinsettia, to be exact. But it didn't happpen - only the motorcycle dealership was relocated to that area, not the restaurant...

But meanwhile, the old Thunder Roadhouse building on Sunset has re-opened as the Saddle Ranch Chop House, a new country & western-themed restauarant & nightclub with a mechanical bull, a rock 'n' roll attitude and a 60-foot circular bar. The L.A. Times says it's "Like going to Knott's Berry Farm without the drive..."

(Interestingly enough, the same Saddle Ranch Chop House replaced yet another celebrity restaurant in 2003, when another branch moved into the space at Universal CityWalk formerly occupied by the old Country Star Restaurant.)

The Thunder Roadhouse Cafe on the Sunset Strip always has a line of shiny chrome Harley-Davidson motorcycles parked out front. You'll also find a tall wooden Indian, a covered wagon, and other western/biker stuff decorating the parking lot. The owners bill the place as "America's First Motorcycle Theme Restaurant."

Key investors in Thunder Road include movie stars
Dennis Hopper & Peter Fonda, as well as country & western singer Dwight Yoakam.

You'll remember Fonda and Hopper from that classic 1969 biker film "Easy Rider" - they've been Harley-lovers ever since! (That movie's famous theme song, "Born to be Wild," contained the line "...heavy metal thunder.") They were even grand marshals at the annual "Love Ride" motorcycle parade.

Actually, this new restaurant on Sunset seems to be an extension of the motorcycle dealership right next door: Thunder Road Classic Motorcycles. Buying a big bike has become fashionable lately for Hollywood celebrities; stars including Harrison Ford, Axl Rose, and even Bruce Springsteen himself bought Harleys here. (Come to think of it, Bruce had an early hit with a song called "Thunder Road"...) With so many stars shopping here, I guess they thought that it only made sense to add a restaurant to feed the stars here as well.

Don't let the Hell's Angels facade frighten you away. This is an upscale restaurant as much as it is a biker hangout, attracting lots of RUB's (Rich Urban Bikers). Inside, it's a Hollywood biker fantasy, filled with antique bikes, biker memorabilia, and Old West/Navaho touches. There are two rooms: the main room in the front is dimly-lit, resembling a hunting lodge, with Lumberjack tables and lots of flashy motorcycle posters and leather jackets hanging on the wood-paneled walls. The one in the back resembles a bright 1940's diner, complete with a Formica counter.

They couldn't resist an occasional stylistic touch: the light fixtures are made out of motorcycle gas tanks, and the cocktail tables are made from motorcycle tires. A blue motorbike (cut in half) seems to be coming through a brick wall in the bar.

The food? Strictly American, of course. (After all, Harley-Davidson is the only American-made motorcycle!) You can get two kinds of meat loaf: "The Wild One" (named after a 1953 biker film starring Marlon Brando) or "Evel Knievel's" (named after the famous daredevil who jumped his motorcycle over cars and canyons). You can also get fried chicken, steaks, "kick-ass chili," corn on the cob, etc. Pecan pie is listed in the menu as "The Camshaft," and drinks are called "lubricants." Dinner entrees range from $8.95 to $14.95. They serve breakfast, lunch & dinner daily, from 7 AM to 1 AM. Valet parking.

Getting there: Thunder Road is located on the Sunset Strip, east of La Cienega Boulevard, at Kings Road (between Olive Drive and Sweetzer Ave.) / From Hollywood & Vine, take Vine Street two blocks south to Sunset Boulevard and turn right (west). Go west on Sunset (a little less than three miles) to Kings Road. The restaurant will be on your right (north) side. Look for the bikes - you can't miss it.

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