Long lost LA restaurants from the 1940s and 1950s

I’m a bit of a collector of vintage cookbooks, mostly from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and I recently picked up a copy of the Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places, initially published by the Ford in the late 1940s.  It’s a fascinating little book – each page has a recipe from a different restaurant somewhere in the U.S.  The book is organized by region, and was, apparently, designed to fit in the glove compartment of your car, so in addition to being a recipe book, it’s a travel guide.  The book is also beautifully illustrated, with a picture of each restaurant by a different artist, so it’s also a neat little anthology of mid-century design.

Los Angeles restaurants are extremely well-represented – below are some of the images and recipes from the book of L.A. restaurants of the past. Most of these are now long gone, but we can now re-create them in the comfort of our own kitchens, thanks to the magic of used bookstores and the internet!


First Look: La Plaza De Cultura Y Artes

First getting shpritzed with some holy water during Saturday’s Blessing of the Animals and next dutifully adjourning to a patio table at Olvera Street’s La Golondrina where we watched the parade of animals and peoples pass while partaking religiously of our own personal Blessing of the Margaritas, Susan and I decided afterward to wobble along the cobbles and across Main Street to check out the freshly opened La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in the awesomely restored Brunswig and Garnier Block historic buildings just south of La Placita Church.

On a side note, seeing how it’s not a whole lot of people who arrive bearing reptiles, I’m pretty sure we made museum history as being the first (and perhaps only) people to visit the place with a tortoise in tow, and Buster was warmly welcomed (and admitted free of charge).

What an amazingly interactive and fantastic place — long overdue — and I greatly enjoyed the inaugural exhibition of “LA Starts Here,” an exploration of Mexican and Mexican-American history and culture spread throughout the expansive first floor, while wonderfully occupying the second floor was “Calle Prinicipal,” a hands-on re-creation of 1920s-era Main Street, at that time the heart of Los Angeles’s growing immigrant community.

Flickr photoset of the above thumbnails are viewable here.

What surprised me the most was how moved I was by a simple exhibition showcasing what I feel was one of the greatest injustices perpetrated by this city upon its citizens: the eviction and destruction of Chavez Ravine. The installation, consisting of a high chain link fence, through which pictures and quotes are visible under the heading of “Urban Renewal: Division of the Barrios,” left me deeply touched, especially by the following two statements:

“I don’t want to be responsible for taking another man’s private property through the use of eminent domain and giving it over to another private individual for his private gain.”

— De Witt McCann, aide to the mayor, resigning his job

“You may call this blight, but we call it our neighborhood.  Sure, we say get out if you can. But why not pave our streets? Give us decent streetlights like they have in Westwood or Pasadena. What gives you the right to take our land away from us? We didn’t sign on to ’eminent domain.’ It’s unspeakable the way your dragged Mrs. Aurora Archega out of her very own house in Chavez Ravine — and put her in jail! You call it progress. We call it injustice.”

— Camos Vecinos

There’s much to see and experience and enrich yourself with at La Plaza. I highly recommend a visit. It’s open noon to 7 p.m., Wednesday through Monday. Closed Tuesdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors, college students and military, $5 for children 5 and up, and free for children under 5.

Making Dinosaurs

I’m totally geeking out over these few photos of the Cabazon Donosaurs being built. As you should know Claude K. Bell started building these things in the 60’s and for many years they were quite the tourist attraction along that strip of the 10, and then of course there was this – though I still attest that Tim Burton’s version how how they should have been lit is by far the greatest. As I mentioned when I blogged about these back in 2006, they are now owned and operated by creationists so if you visit you can learn a little bit about how medieval knights had to fight dinosaurs to protect their families and how God killed them all in a “world wide water disaster.” Which is honestly so goddamn amusing it’s worth it. What sucks is that so much got built up around them which completely kills the effect of giant dinosaurs roaming the desert.

Long Beach Airport: Here’s Looking at You, Kid

For LAers traveling on JetBlue Airways, Long Beach Airport (official initials LGB, not to be confused with sexuality categories) is often the only departure option. I don’t mind that at all. Pulling up to LGB always reminds me of the final scenes of “Casablanca”, which is appropriate given the airport’s extensive history.  For instance, the airport’s main terminal was built in 1941, making it a year older than the release of “Casablanca”, and the airfield itself dates back years earlier. Continue reading “Long Beach Airport: Here’s Looking at You, Kid”

A little lovin’ for L.A.

L.A. has been the topic of more than a few songs over the years because there is so much to love. What’s your favorite love song to the city we live in? You need to click the headline to get to the Sinatra vid. Hat Tip to Hidden LA who found this great old video.

Happy Valentines Day to the city I love.

Breaking My Bob’s Big Boy Cherry

I finally checked off an item that’s been at the top of my Los Angeles area to-do list by going to Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank/Toluca Lake.  And what better way to be introduced to this new pleasure than a meetup with my fellow blogging.la-ers?

I think I just sucked on a lemon

We got together last Saturday afternoon in summer-like weather.  Almost all of the b.la bloggers made it there, and we had a table of 10 or so.  Some of these folks were obviously Bob’s veterans, such as Will, who ordered an elaborate-looking double burger from memory, then scarfed it in record time (though, to be fair, he bikes everywhere & is entitled to replace those burned calories), and Jodi, who lives nearby and wrote a great post last August about how Bob’s is one of L.A.’s greatest landmarks.

Bob from the side, sporting his 80s Morrissey 'do

Although Bob’s seems to be most famous for burgers, fries, and shakes (I know, chili spaghetti too), some of which were represented at our table, I opted for pancakes.  Mine were very good, although the “fruit” on the side consisted of “Caine Mutiny“-style canned strawberries.  Quick, somebody call Captain Queeg.  We also learned some interesting Bob’s trivia.  For instance, there may or may not be a secret dessert there called “Ross’s Ass.”  Supposedly, a server named Eli can hook you up, but really, do you want him to?

Check out Bob checking out Tammara

When we finished, we took the obligatory photo with Bob.  It was a great get-together at a well-deserved L.A. area landmark.  And fear not, readers, Bob’s is still high up on our list of future Classic Eats candidates.

The Epic Saga Of How It Took 10 Years To Get My Favorite Sunglasses Fixed In An Hour By The Greatest Eyeglass Repair Shop In The History Of History

Allow you me this story. Apparently I don’t search hard or well enough. When my 12-year-old favorite pair of sunglasses broke at the frame just above the nose piece in 2000 I did what I thought was my best to seek out a place to get them fixed. I failed. Every place from Lenscrafters to the jewelry repair guy my mom swore by said “nope,” in part because they were just a pair of off-the-shelf frames I’d purchased during a mostly senseless spree at Needless Markup back in the summer of Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Eight. The so-called experts would look at the glasses, look at me, and tell me either it wasn’t possible or occasionally they’d say how much they’d need to overcharge me to maybe make it possible.

Facing an amount that was more than the shades cost new, at one point I even bought a soldering gun and sat there with the thing in one hand and the spool of metal in the other trying to convince myself I could somehow immediately acquire the skills required for such pinpoint detail work. Wisely I put down the gun and stepped away from that fiasco-in-waiting before I could entirely fubar them. Instead, I put them away where they lived with a sliver of hope in a series of drawers.

Why? Well the broken glasses became somewhat representative. I won’t bore you any more than I already have with the details of their symbolism other than to say they cracked at a time when a lot of other things broke — most of them intangible stuff like relationships and dreams, but all of them pretty much beyond repair. Suffice it that Y2K may not have fucked up my personal computer but it wreaked havoc on my personal  life, and out of that annus horribillus these beloved glasses became one of the few things I could fix — or so I’d hoped. And hoped. And hoped.

And hoped. Fast-forward to this summer when it had been literally four or five years since I’d given the glasses a thought and Los Angeles magazine’s “Best of LA” issue arrived. Flipping through it I found a write-up extolling the miracle work done by a humble gent who goes by the name Paul Gross in his humble hole-in-the-wall on Wilson Avenue in the Jewel City and I thought my long-dormant prayers had been answered — except when I went hunting for the shades they weren’t a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e to be found and I became dejectedly sure it was because at some point a few years back I’d extinguished that flicker of hope kept burning for so long and pitched them in the trash.

Continue reading “The Epic Saga Of How It Took 10 Years To Get My Favorite Sunglasses Fixed In An Hour By The Greatest Eyeglass Repair Shop In The History Of History”

L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks: The La Brea Tar Pits

Click to see the Original Painting.
Why would you do that?

Come for the Lush Scenery and Wildlife, Stay for the Hot, Molten Asphalt that won’t let you go!

I’m basically a little kid thinly disguised as an adult. Very thinly. So, when I go to write about The La Brea Tar Pits, my initial reaction is to jump up and exclaim, “Dey gots the Saber Toothed Tigers an’ dey goes, ‘Rraawrr!‘”

In fact, they are more properly known as Saber Toothed Cats, not Tigers, as they have far more in common with other of the Big Cats than modern tigers, and more than 2000 individual specimens of the Smilodon Californicus have been uncovered at the site. Evidence does, however, support the supposition that the beasts, indeed, did go, “Rraawrr!

The site is one of the largest sites in the world for uncovering Ice Age Mammalian fossils. The sheer volume of bones from the vast span of years has brought invaluable insight to scientists the world over about our planet and how the ecosystem has adapted and flourished (or not) over the centuries. William W. Orcutt was the first man to take a scientific interest in the tar pits, gaining permission to excavate in 1901 from Rancho La Brea’s owner at the time, Henry Hancock.

That’s the Hancock family that Hancock Park is named for, while W.W. Orcutt got the local species of coyote named after him, Canis orcutti. The word “Brea” literally means “tar” or “pitch” in Spanish, so Rancho La Brea itself simply means “Tar Ranch.” I gotta admit, it sounds way cooler in Spanish. (Most things do: Consider “Antonio Banderas” versus “Tony Flags.” Seriously, he’d have no career.)

Anyway, the place is pretty cool, and cheap. Seven bucks, lots of cool fossils, and “The Fish Bowl,” where you can watch actual Paleontologists get their Paleontology on; this is a working fossil site, kids. They’re still digging stuff up and putting more and more together.

There are huge Mammoths assembled, of differing varieties, American Lions, Dire Bears, thousands of Dire Wolves, (Which, apparently, are not just D&D monsters.) and, of course, our friend, Smilodon Californicus, the Official State Fossil. “Smilodon” sounds so friendly, doesn’t it?


Main image above courtesy of Ian Coleman, used with permission; tho’ it being turned into a “Saber Tooth LOL Cat” is entirely my fault. Don’t blame him for that! He was very kind to let me use his picture. Please visit his site to view amazing wildlife paintings at http://www.colemangallery.com/Welcome.html.

This post is part of the L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks series – click here for the rest of the series!

Back To School: Tell Me Your Old Skool Shopping Stories

I was at a westside Bed Bath and Beyond* today and noticed many moms with their college aged sons or daughters. There was much buying of twin sized bedding, laundry hampers and shower caddies. Over the weekend a friend posted about where to buy school supplies in Culver City and it brought back a touch of affectionate nostalgia. (Of course back in the day, the phrase “Back To School” mostly brought on panicky feelings of “NOOOOOOOO! NOT YET!”)

I grew up in a small town and Back to School shopping meant the one drugstore for school supplies and the one local department store (no longer in business) for clothes. I didn’t get to LA until 1985 so I was trying to imagine LA in the late 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s, back before Super Targets and BB&B, and Office Depot and Old Navy and wondered where you Angelenos bought your school supplies back then. Was Target the original place to go? Were there special clothing stores in your neighborhood you always went back to as you grew taller?  Were there type specific stores (the valley chicks, surfer dudes, etc) that people went to? Places you wouldn’t be caught dead? Before mega mall and chain stores took over, where did your Pee-Chee and loose-leaf binders come from? What was your favorite back to school outfit? Worst?

Share please! I want to get an image of Old Skool Back To Schoool in Los Angeles!

*Also affectionately known as Bloodbath and Beyond, Bed Bath and Beyotch, etc.

Really great burger stand neon in Van Nuys!

I’ve found one of the most wonderful examples of mid-century signage in the entire universe.  Or at least in the entire Valley.  Just look!  Look at how fantastic this sign is! 

This is at Beeps Fast Food, in Van Nuys, which I stumbled upon completely by accident a while back.  As is my want, I stopped in for lunch based solely on the calibre of that truly amazing sign. There are so many things to say about it!  I like the pink and turquoise (an altogether underused diner color scheme, if you ask me), I like (make that really like) that googie typeface, and I like (make that really really like) promises of large, thick malts and shakes.  And Beeps did not disappoint in the slightest:  inside there was more pink and turquoise and more retro lettering and an utterly scrumptious butterscotch shake.  And the cheeseburgers are really solid, too.  So obviously, you should go.

I’m curious to drive past this place at night because I want to know if they still light the sign, and if the lights are also in pink and turquoise.  The fabulousness extends down the entire side of the building, too:

Beeps Fast Food is at 16063 Sherman Way, Van Nuys, for all you milkshake aficionados out there.

Bike Every (Satur)Day In May: Black Dahlia/West Adams Ride

Well the first four are behind us: 10 Bridges, then Watts Happening, then the Frank Lloyd Wride, followed by last week’s 70-mile Two Rivers trek to Seal Beach and back.  But there’s one more Saturday left in May and I’ve saved what I hope is the best for last. Full of history and mystery, the Black Dahlia/West Adams Ride will feature landmarks of triumph and tragedy as we work our way back in time and across town:

We’ll head out from Silver Lake to the Biltmore Hotel, the last place Elizabeth Short was seen alive. From there here’s some of what we’ll bike to and see:

  • Stimson Residence
  • St. Vincent de Paul Church
  • Chester Place/Doheny Mansion
  • 2nd Church of Christ Scientist
  • Jackie Robinson’s 1947 Residence
  • Diamond Widow Murder Site
  • Leimert Park Site where Elizabeth Short’s remains were found
  • Black Panther Mural
  • Marquis Residence (“Six Feet Under” House)
  • Medal of Honor Recipient Walt Ehler’s Post-War Residence
  • Marvin Gaye Murder Site
  • Rindge Residence
  • Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery

After visiting the cemetery there’s a change in itinerary. Originally I was planning to go grab a lunch of my favorite tacos at the awesome El Parian in Pico-Union before heading back to Silver Lake, but since Bike Town Beta (some more info here) is taking place that afternoon in the neighborhood surrounding Pan-Pacific Park, I’m  heading over there instead and see what’s up with that.

As usual, we will gather Saturday morning at SilverSun Plaza (Sunset Boulevard & Parkman Avenue, Silver Lake) for a 10 a.m. departure. The route (mapped here) between Silver Lake and Pan-Pacific Park is about 23 miles. If I had to guess I’d say it’s going to take somewhere between four to five hours to cover all those places along the way. Hope you can join me.

Classic Eats Blog-A-Thon Update

As you already know and have put into your calendars, next Saturday and Sunday, May 22/23, is the Very Special Classic Eats Blog-a-thon at Canter’s Deli and Bakery.

Your humble* LA Metbloggers are going to take turns at a booth at Canter’s, blogging about the people, the ambiance, the kibitizing, and the noshing. We will get a 24 hour view of a piece Los Angeles, via Canter’s. Starting at noon on Saturday and ending at noon on Sunday, we’ll see the weekend lunchers, the early bird-specialers, the post movie noshers, the “What’s open after 10?” crowd, the post-club hangover avoiders, the pre-dawn transition crowd, the Sunday breakfast, then Sunday brunch crowd.

We are also blogging for a good cause. We want to raise $1000 in cash and 200 canned food items for the LA Foodbank. For every $1 donated, the LA Foodbank is able to acquire and distribute 4 meals. $1 = 4 meals. $1 = 5 pounds of food. (And you thought a dollar didn’t go very far these days.) Please stop by the Metblog table and drop whatever you can into the collection jar. Canter’s will also donate all their leftover bakery goods on Sunday.

Canter’s is old school, in case you weren’t aware. They originally opened in the 40’s in Boyle Heights then headed west to Fairfax after WWII where they have been ever since. Canter’s is still old school and doesn’t have wifi or internet of any kind. But we are not letting that stop us because Verizon very kindly donated a set of Mifi Mobile Hotspots to us to achieve our blog-a-thon dream. For 24 hours, you can enjoy free internet access with us at Canter’s. That’s a worth a buck in the Foodbank donation jar, right?

Free wifi, donations for a good cause, amazing food — there are no excuses for you not to be there!

*I know, “mostly” humble.

Bike Every (Satur)Day In May: The Frank Lloyd Wride

If you were with me on last Saturday’s “Watts Happening” ride you were a treasured part of something pretty damn awesome if I do say so myself. And I do.  Trust me when I say that I went a little crazy putting in a fair amount of effort  researching Google skimming to pull together info for the places we visited. And trust me when I say everyone in attendance was very patient and appreciative of my longwindiness. If you don’t believe me you can read my copious notes cribbed from the internest.

But that was last Saturday and with next Saturday rapidly approaching we will be venturing forth on the Frank Lloyd Wride, featuring bike-bys of the four Hollywood residences Wright built between 1921 -1924: Hollyhock, Ennis, Freeman and Storer houses. Along the way we’ll be stopping at Frank’s son Lloyd Wright’s Sowden House (1926), and paying a visit to the Monastery of the Angels for anyone who’s always wanted to get a loaf of the nuns’ famous pumpkin bread. After the ride, anyone who wants to join me at Musso & Frank’s for brunch (flannel cakes!) is totally welcome. Distance is 18 miles with some short but relatively steep climbs so geared bikes are highly recommended (tentative route map is here).

Trust me when I say I’m not going anywhere near as crazy with the factoids this week, in part because I’m honored that members of the architecturally astute cycling group Bikehaus will be in attendance (including my friend Mike Kwan who’s celebrating his birthday that day!). And since those folks know their architectural shizzle and I’m just at best a Wright fanboy with a hooligan’s defensive adoration but nothing more than a cursory level of knowledge about the man and his manses I’m more than likely just gonna STFU then blather.

We shall gather at SilverSun Plaza, the stripmall at Sunset and Parkman Avenue in Silver Lake, for a 10 a.m. departure.

Saturday at Pehrspace: Dresses!!

If you’re looking for something fun to do tomorrow (ie: Saturday) night, Pehrspace, that neat little performance space that always has quirky and amazing stuff going on, is hosting the Dress Show.  Curator Dawn Anderson asked several of her local artist friends, including people working in fashion, advertising, music, and acting, as well as the visual arts, to create dresses out of beautiful, eclectic and unconventional materials.  I sent Dawn a quick email and asked her what kinds of dresses will be on display – she told me that there are dresses made out of bamboo and rope, out of onion and garlic skins, and that many of the pieces are multimedia and interactive.  DJ Mike Bell from Lymbyc Systym will be spinning during the show, and later, the bands Hot TV and Moses Campbell will play sets.  Pehrspace is really wonderful – if you’ve never been, you should go, because they showcase a lot of new, local bands, and bring in cool artists, and are non-profit and awesome!  It’s one of my favorite places to hear music.

As an unrepentant fashionophile, I am particularly excited to check out the Dress Show, and I also thought this would be a great moment to talk LA dress shops!  So, dear, readers, where are your favorite places to go dress shopping in Los Angeles?  I tend towards vintage shops myself – I love, love, love Ragg Mopp Vintage in Silver Lake (because they always magically have wonderful things in my size) and I’ve been known to wander between the racks at Golyester on La Brea, mostly just coveting things because they tend to be slightly out of my budget.  And I love digging through the racks on Sunday afternoons at the Melrose trading post, and since I’m known to be marginally handy with a sewing machine, when I’m feeling crafty I scour the fashion district for fabric on the cheap.  What are your favorite frock shops?

The Dress Show runs from 7pm to Midnight, on Saturday May 8th, at Pehrspace (325 Glendale Blvd., 90026), and admission is free so you have no excuse!

Classic Eats #10: Westside!

The voter turnout was not very high, but a decision, with 51% of the vote, has been made! We will hit the Westside this Saturday, April 24. Here’s the plan:

5:00pm at Johnnie’s Pastrami for some outdoor lounging near their firepit, some meaty meat sandwiches and apparently chili cheese fries to melt for. (I’ll be saving up my weight watchers points for the rest of the week!) If you recently tried the pastrami at Langer’s, then you can make an official comparison.

6:30 or 7 we will mosey over to the Apple Pan for dessert. The Apple Pan will be a tad tricky as it is not a small place and seating will be hard to come by. We may need to order “to-go” and eat our pie on the sidewalk outside. No matter what, it will be a great time!

Important Fact for both establishments: they take CASH ONLY!

Johnnie’s Pastrami
4017 Sepulveda Blvd
Culver City, CA 90230

Apple Pan
10801 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90064

See you on Saturday!