Remains of L.A.

Traces of L.A.'s past can still be found, in the kitsch of '50s diners and the decayed glamour of '40s hotspots… and sometimes the food is good, and there are nice people.

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(1928) La Golondrina Mexican Cafe, downtown L.A.


lagon sign3David (my husband) and I were in the mood for Mexican, so we decided on La Golondrina Mexican Cafe on Olvera street downtown. The restaurant has been there since 1928, but it’s in the oldest brick building in L.A., built in 1855.

We were going to sit on the lovely outdoor patio, where the tables had vibrant colored tablecloths and the air smelled like the best air possible, but I wanted to see the inside of the place, and it turned out to be even lovelier than outside.

-brick walls, mostly but not entirely painted white, bright paintings everywhere, a large stone Continue reading

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(1977) Buchanan Arms Restaurant & Pub, Burbank

buchoutside Walked to the  Buchanan Arms Restaurant  & Pub for lunch. I love London more than anyplace in the world (I keep hoping a mysterious benefactor will decide I really should do this blog there) and going to “British” pubs always makes me a funny combination of happy and wistful. Cause it’s almost like I’m in England, but of course I’m not. Luckily where I am is L.A., and that’s good too.
-light wood tables, pushed together for friendliness, booths with Continue reading

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(1974) French Quarter Restaurant, West Hollywood

frenchmarketsignI got off work a little early, so I decided to have lunch at the French Quarter Restaurant. I’d been meaning to go there because I’d heard it was closing, but now it seems like maybe it’s not? Hard to say. Certainly there are changes happening.

-It’s an adorable set up inside, designed to look as if it’s outdoors, with white wrought iron fences and twisting Continue reading


(1956) Beeps, Van Nuys

beepsMy friends Corey and Suze had both expressed an interest in going to Beeps, so David (my husband) and I arranged to meet them there for dinner. Then we were really late because we hadn’t counted on traffic being as rough as it was. There are few things I hate more than being late.

Beeps had been described to me as a diner, but it’s really more of a sandwich/burger stand with a tiny indoor eating area and a slightly less tiny patio. The counter has an order window both on the inside and the outside, and if you’re eating there they’ll bring you your food.

-I got a patty melt and onion rings. I’ve never had a patty melt with tomato on it before, and if I have my way Continue reading


(1967) Dinah’s Chicken, Glendale

dinahssignI walked to Dinah’s Fried Chicken for lunch; I figured I’d need the exercise to make up for the eating I was about to do. I grew up on the edge of the South, and sometimes right in it, and Dinah’s made me feel wonderfully comfortable and happy. Everything that is charming about southern decorating is crammed into this one room.

-Red walls and wooden tables, pretty wooden chairs, ceramic chickens and pictures of chickens everywhere. Painted along the top of the wall are pictures of open windows with flowerpots, which should be corny but somehow isn’t at all.

-I got two pieces of fried chicken, dark meat, and corn on the cob. It took a good deal of effort to not get mashed potatoes, but I did it. Everything is exactly perfect, down to the Continue reading

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(1915) Watson Drugs & Soda Fountain, Orange

watsonsignDavid (my husband) and I were going to a play in Anaheim, so I looked to see what places on the list were nearby, and settled on Watson Drugs & Soda Fountain.

I love drugstore lunch counters. They were on their way out when I was a kid, but I have dim memories of them, of regular plain old drugstores where you could get grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and milkshakes. In old books they’re always such a staple, and take on a sort of romance for me in how very prosaic they are. I once told David (my husband) that my dream writing space would be a small apartment upstairs from a drugstore with a lunch counter, and he asked if the apartment would have a place for clients to sit when they came to ask me to solve crimes, because I was clearly getting being a writer confused with being a private detective in the forties.

–long counter with stools, and also lots of Continue reading

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(1946) Original Tommy’s Hamburgers, Los Angeles

tommy signThere are lots of Original Tommy’s Hamburgers stands around L.A., but this is the original one. I’ve never been to a Tommy’s, but David (my husband) is a fan so we stopped by late(ish) Saturday. The parking lot made a square, with two places to order and get food, one in the wall and one in the stand-alone shack near the street. The counter at the wall had a long line, with none at the shack, which was where I wanted to get the food anyway, so we walked over to find out why. The counter guy explained that they wouldn’t be opening for five or ten minutes. The line looked longer than that so we decided to wait. It was maybe three minutes, and by the time our food came there was a long line behind us. All the people made it feel like a party. Possibly because so many of them were at least a little drunk.
-Bare bones steel and formica, but somehow charming nonetheless. It smelled good, and the lights made Continue reading

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(1956) Little Toni’s, North Hollywood

It was incredibly hard to get a picture of this sign to show up on my camera as anything other than a block of light. But I stuck with it.

It was incredibly hard to get a picture of this sign to show up on my camera as anything other than a block of light. But I stuck with it.

Wasn’t planning on going to another place Friday night, but we went to a party at a bar and when we got there the kitchen was closed and I was hungry and Little Toni’s was just down the street, so David (my husband) and our friend Corey and I walked over. I had always assumed, for some reason, that it was a pizza-by-the-slice type place, with a counter and rickety tables. Turned out to be a sit-down restaurant, much nicer than you usually see open till 2 a.m.

-Getting there was confusingly difficult; it sits on a wedge-shaped corner where three streets cross at odd angles and none of the crosswalks seemed to lead there. We were finally forced to nervously jaywalk.

-Light wood walls and exposed Continue reading

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(1959) Red Lion Tavern, Silverlake

red lion signRed Lion Tavern today. According to the website it started as a British pub, and became German in the ’60s. I haven’t eaten much German food, but seem to remember liking what I have eaten.

When I walked in it was almost too dark to see, but the waitress/bartender (I think I’ll just call her the barmaid, that’s sort of what she was dressed as, and while she brought the food she seemed to spend most of her time behind the bar, and I like the word “barmaid”) called out in a cheery way that I could sit anywhere.

-I’d heard that upstairs was very different so I checked it out first, and it was–a bright beer garden with a sky light and lots of loud people who all seemed to be sitting Continue reading

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(1908) Cole’s, downtown L.A.

coles signI went to Philippe’s yesterday, so it seemed only right today to go to Cole’s— the other downtown restaurant opened in 1908 that claims to have invented the french dip sandwich.
I took the bus, partly because parking’s a pain and gas is expensive, and mostly because it’s fun to sit and read and look out the window at neighborhoods I don’t often see. I got off the bus a little early and went to see the mural commemorating Biddy Mason, a former slave who became a midwife and wealthy landowner in 19th century Los Angeles.
Cole’s could not be more different than Philippe’s, with its waiters and wallpaper, and yet it manages to look exactly as ancient-without-being-decrepit. Lovely and cozy and Continue reading