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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(1946) Billingsley’s, West L.A.

billssignSunday dinner with David (my husband) and my in-laws, Jim and Keren, at Billingsley’s in West L.A.

Billingsley’s was started by the husband of Barbara Billingsley, the mom in “Leave it to Beaver,” and the restaurant is now owned and operated by her sons.

-Just inside the brick entrance is a beautiful stone fountain. On the wall leading inside are wooden prints, pictures of spices and handwritten instructions on how to use them; they look like they came straight out of Continue reading


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(1973) Izzy’s Deli, Santa Monica

izzyssignDrove out to Santa Monica to have dinner with my friend Ari at Izzy’s Deli.

I used to live not far from there, and I don’t know why I never went. It should have been my regular late-night place, but somehow it was never on my radar. The place has a very nice, friendly feel to it, much more Continue reading


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(1969) Lancers Restaurant, Burbank

lancerssignI woke up early on Saturday and walked to Lancers to have breakfast before work. I’ve driven past Lancers many times, and while the turquoise roof and sign are kind of neat, the way they keep the shades mostly down on the windows always made it seem very plain and possibly not open. So I was surprised to find it crowded. It was much bigger inside than I’d expected, but not very interesting. This place might be the prototype on which all Continue reading


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(1957) Norm’s Restaurant, West Hollywood

normssignAfter a surprisingly uneventful dentist appointment, I stopped by the original Norm’s for a late lunch. Norm’s has a sign that always shows up in pictures of cool L.A. signs–for good reason, it’s neat–and the building is the quintessential Googie diner.

The inside doesn’t exactly look like the Jetsons, but it looks like it was designed and decorated by someone who thought the Jetsons was incredibly awesome.

-Sharply slanting ceiling, floor tiled to look like red brick, a gray counter with seats that are bright green with orange piping. The two long walls (which are crooked in a deliberate, interesting geometrical way) have one long Continue reading


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(1949) Miceli’s Pizzeria, Hollywood

micelis signI met my friend Jenelle at Miceli’s Pizzeria  for dinner. I’d never noticed before that “pizzeria” is part of the name. It seems like such an old-fashioned Italian restaurant, I never thought of it as being a pizza place in particular.
-Brick walls, ornately carved wooden pillars and booths,  red, white, and green Christmas lights, hanging tiffany lamps (they seem to be in almost  every place I go), lamps that look like old-timey street lamps with red, white, and green glass panels. Covering the ceiling are those straw baskets they put around the bottoms of wine bottles, signed by customers. It feels very cozy and warm. There’s a short staircase up to another level where a piano is playing.
-Jenelle and I split the mixed green salad which, she says correctly, comes with the best bleu cheese dressing in the world. It’s amazing. We also split a Continue reading


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(1953) James Restaurant, San Fernando

jamessignMy friend Ari, David (my husband), and I drove out to San Fernando and had dinner at James Restaurant.

By far the best sign yet. And underneath the sign, for no reason I can fathom, are two statues: a horse, and a lady holding what looks like a horn of plenty. There seemed to be a space for a third statue, but really, aren’t those two enough?

-the walls inside are rose stone with brown tiles making star patterns, to extremely pleasing effect. Reddish-wood tables, hanging Tiffany lamps, striped curtains,  paintings on the walls. Our U-shaped booth had a painting on either side, one of seaside scene in what we think was Greece, and one of a deer at a stream near a house. Not necessarily great art, but very nice to look at.

-as we sat down I was exclaiming over how much I loved the place, and the woman finishing her Continue reading


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(1964) Foxy’s Restaurant, Glendale


“Crystal chandeliers,” is not, it turns out, a selling point of restaurant. There’s a chandelier shop that shares the parking lot.

Sunday brunch with my friend JT. We chose Foxy’s because it’s near her house and was very obviously a place that would have great breakfast food.

I was a bit surprised, maybe confused, by Foxy’s. That might have been partly because it was crowded to the point of chaotic so I had a hard time getting a handle on it. But I expected it to be a straight-forward diner, and it seemed very determined to show that it was not that. Lots of “we’re mature now” vases of chic flowers and red cloth draped over the entrances to the kitchens and many, many tasteful art prints of wine bottles on the walls. Also a wine-bottle shaped wine rack. This is a place that wants you to know it’s old enough to drink.

-long A-frame structure with a sharply peaked Continue reading