For the five years I’ve lived in Los Angeles, I’ve been driving, biking and walking past El Cid, the 47 year-old restaurant on Sunset in Silver Lake. That all finally changed on Saturday night when a group of friends gathered there to celebrate a birthday.
Eight of us wound down the labyrinthine stairs from Sunset into the seemingly subterranean theater restaurant. Although there is a same-level entrance from Myra St., the sense that your burrowing into times past matches well with El Cid because the building itself has a story to tell:
Built as a movie theater around 1900 by early movie director D. W. Griffith, it was where his notoriously racist silent film, Birth of a Nation, first played in 1915.
Converted into a cabaret theater in 1950, it became known as a hangout for actors of the day. In 1961, the building was converted into a 16th century Spanish-style tavern and the El Cid restaurant was born.
A few nights per week or month are given over to comedy, burlesque and country music, but El Cid’s mainstay is the Flamenco Dinner Theater that has been running for the past 40 years. And whether you pay $34.95 at the restaurant or $25 in advance through Goldstar Events, it’s a bargain that includes a three-course dinner along with the dance performance. Drinks and tip are extra; but still, dinner and a movie comes in at around the same price. (New Year’s Eve suggestion after the jump.)
Let me be clear: This is not your grandparents’ dinner theater. We were all happy with the surprisingly good food and sangria, but Flamenco is the thing at El Cid and the show did not disappoint. It was spirited and at times moving. Some of the music was prerecorded, however the live musicians and singer brought an extra dimension of excitement to the evening.
Since then, I’ve been trying to think of an excuse to go back with another large group of friends but with New Year’s Eve looming, one isn’t needed. El Cid is having two seatings for dinner that night; one at 7 PM with an 8 PM show ($50 per person, includes a five-course meal) and a later seating at 10 PM with an 11 PM show that will include the same meal and also a champagne toast at midnight ($80 per person.)
At the time of this post, El Cid still had New Year’s Eve reservations available (as did Goldstar.) Valet parking is available, along with plenty of free street parking along Sunset.
El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles 90039; phone 323-668-0318
Photograph by Kristin Bedford