Longtime Restaurateur Updates Local Eatery


Skoby's Bar & Grill in Chatsworth has a new lunch menu and a new facade--to go along with a history going back more than half a century.

Proprietor Chris Skoby came to California from Michigan to serve as a flight instructor during World War II. He himself flew B-26s over Germany, and when the war ended, he and his brother John high-tailed it to the coast to open up the first Skoby's, a Burbank drive-in with an indoor dining room and bar, in 1946.

Three decades later, Hollywood used shots of the exterior for the cafe in which Richie (Ron Howard) and "the Fonz" (Henry Winkler) pondered the ins and outs of American adolescence in the popular TV series "Happy Days." (Trivia fans recall the cafe as Arnold's.)

By then Chris and John Skoby, who had the restaurant business in the blood, had long since moved on.

"We had nine restaurants in all, so this is No. 10 for me," Chris Skoby says. "For a while there, we had three at the same time."

"Then we sold out and retired 14 years ago. I had always wanted to have a big boat, so I got a 57-foot Chris-Craft, and you know what? All you do with a boat is work on it. I figured I'd have more fun back in the restaurant business, because I could be with people."

Chris Skoby bought the Chatsworth site eight years ago. Brother John went on to pursue the restaurant business outside of Southern California.

"I'm 74 going on 75 now," Skoby says with a laugh, "and I guess I plan to keep at it awhile yet--maybe till the end of the century."

Skoby's new lunch menu ranges from meatloaf to a simple cheddar cheese omelet. Dinner is traditional American fare--pan-fried chicken, steaks, ribs and seafood. Prices are under $15.

The restaurant offers live entertainment six nights a week, including, on Wednesdays, what must be the one-and-only San Fernando Valley Banjo Band. Chris Skoby's son Lou joins the band in a set playing the bouzouki, an eight-stringed Greek instrument, somewhat larger than a lute, with an exotic sound.

Skoby's is at 20419 Devonshire St., Chatsworth, (818) 718-0433.

Bring in the New: Levon "Leon" Topchian, who runs the Epicure Inn in Canoga Park, plans to overhaul his menu after the New Year, adding as many as 15 or 16 new items.

The restaurant has served a traditional French continental menu, complete with all the classic sauces and dressings, for two decades, and now Topchian wants to toss some light dishes into the mix--pastas, chicken and fish, barbecued ribs, and steaks.

Topchian, Armenian by birth, bought the Epicure Inn three years ago. His father, Telman Topchian, shares duties as chef with Fidel Garcia, who has cooked at the restaurant for six years.

Epicure Inn draws a regular crowd from Chatsworth, Granada Hills, Canoga Park and other areas in the West Valley. It is at 7625 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park, (818) 888-3300.


Juan Hovey writes about the restaurant scene in the San Fernando Valley and outlying points. He may be reached at (805) 492-7909 or fax (805) 492-5139 or via e-mail at 103254,3561@compuserve.com

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