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.

(1955) Fox’s Restaurant, Altadena

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Foxssign2Fox’s Restaurant is only open until 2 p.m., and I’m bad at leaving the house early, so I wasn’t sure how I’d ever eat there. But I needed to go by a sheriff’s station (they have drop boxes for disposing of old medications, which you’re not supposed to just throw away. They also have drop boxes for illegal drugs, which are right next to the prescription boxes. I bet people mostly just put everything in the legal-drugs box) and the station nearest me was in Altadena, just a couple blocks from Fox’s. So I made a special effort and got there in time for lunch.

-Sweet, homey place with red-checked curtains, red and black chairs, red tables, rough wood halfway up the walls, lots of framed pictures of foxes, white ceiling with ceiling fans, exposed brick on the back wall, an antique dresser for the cash register. The whole place has a friendly, country feel to it that made me feel very comfortable. The waitresses were all friendly too, not in a big smile way, but like they’d known you for years, saw you often, and were pleased to see you again.

-I got a patty melt and a fruit cup. The patty melt was truly, honestly, amazing. I mentioned it to the waitress, how great it was, and she said, “Oh good, I’ve never had it here, I’ll have to try it.” The menu isn’t huge, and I can only imagine she eats here a lot, but maybe she is one of those people who usually sticks with a few favorites.

Foxs interior 02-There are two wooden signs on the back wall. One, very large, says “Three fourths of the earth’s surface is water and one fourth is land. t’s clear the good lord intended a man should spend three times as much time fishing as he does working-“  The other, smaller one, says “The flavor of onions is improved by adding steak-“

-Had to go through the kitchen for the bathroom; it was very complicated to find it but all along the way people gave helpful directions and the kitchen wasn’t gross like at some restaurants. The bathroom doorknob, and the switch plate next to the bathroom, were very pretty, white china with blue flowers. I found them charming and calming after the difficulty getting there. I liked imagining someone finding them, maybe at an antique shop, and getting excited because they were so perfect for the restaurant.

-On the ceiling were three long poles with what I thought were rings with hooks; I didn’t really notice them at first and assumed that they were for hanging lights or something. When I eventually focused, I saw they were antique fishing rods, much longer than any I’ve ever used, dark wood and deeply cool looking.

-A woman sitting near me, talking to her friend, seemed to have just realized that her boyfriend is never going to leave his wife. It sounded like they’ve been together for a decade. I kind of wanted to go hug her, but also to shake her. Then, right as I was in the middle of eavesdropping, he called on her phone! Her voice got all high while talking to him. I wanted to take the phone and talk to him myself. I bet her friend wanted to, too.

-On a wall near the kitchen is a bulletin board covered in photos and some kids’ drawings of foxes. They’re very good drawings. I wondered if they were drawn by customers, or the children of the waitstaff. They also could have been drawn by the waitstaff–I only said they were kids’ drawings because they were crayon or maybe marker on paper, but I can’t draw a fox that well so who knows.

FoxsFoxPicturesnl-Sitting in front of me was an elderly man and woman, possibly brother and sister. The sister spent quite a lot of time telling her brother that it is absolutely outrageous that Adderall is only available by prescription.

-There is a poster on one wall for a production of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” at the L.A. Opera. I would have liked to have seen that–it’s one of my favorite Roald Dahl books. The production was in 1998, though. In the same frame, under the poster, is a letter on L.A. Opera letterhead. I crossed the room to read it before I left: “Fox’s, Having breakfast most weekends at your restaurant, looking at the fox photos on your walls–why didn’t I send you this sooner? (No publicity needed, we’re selling out most performances.) Thought you’d like to know that your mascot is starring in his own opera, right here in L.A.!” I couldn’t read the signature; it might have been Riuanl Atkires, but probably wasn’t.

-One of the customers, clearly a regular, asked the waitress where she was going to go for her vacation. The waitress said she wasn’t sure where exactly, but that she was going to go camping and get away from everyone for a while. I completely understand this, except I know I’d go stir crazy in a day and a half. When I was 12 I had a whole plan to live in a little house 100 miles from everywhere, with just a goat and some chickens, and new books dropped from a helicopter once a month. But as an adult, I won’t even consider living anywhere that isn’t easy walking distance to a store.

Foxs interior 03-A woman near me kept moaning loudly–with pleasure I guess–while she ate. At first I found it annoying, but then it occurred to me I only had to hear it once. Her friends and family have to hear it every time they eat with her. Which means she most be a truly wonderful woman, because there were people choosing to eat with her.

-Two women behind me were trying to remember the name of the town right next to Glendale, they knew it started with a B, they just couldn’t think of it. Eventually I turned around and suggested Burbank. But no, that wasn’t it. Finally turned out it was Montrose.

-There’s an area in the back that I guess is mostly for coffee and tea. In the menu it’s called “Fox’s Backside” and a sign on the porch calls it “Backside Coffee Bar.” I poked my head in, and there’s a stuffed moose head on the wall. I don’t mean a part of a real dead animal; it’s a stuffed toy like a kid might play with, only very big and just the head and neck, mounted on the wall. It made me extremely happy.

-A man near me complained angrily–and loudly–about a woman he and his companions all knew. He kept imitating her voice, saying, “Why doesn’t anyone think to give me food?” and then, in his own voice, adding, “Well, she could have ASKED for food!” I felt I needed more information to judge, but he just kept repeating the same bit over and over.

Foxsmoosehead-Two adorable kids, older brother and younger sister in matching school uniforms, came in with their dad. Things turned a little ugly when the older brother got frustrated with the way the younger sister unwrapped her straw. Then, when the dad tried to break it up by asking about their homework, the girl explained, “We don’t have any homework today. That’s why it’s a half day. On half days we don’t have any homework.” I think her logic was a little skewed, but I was glad for her that it was a half day and she had no homework.

-The waitress gave me a sweet compliment–she said, “I have to tell you, you put off a really good vibe.” I feel a bit silly repeating a compliment, except I think that it’s not usually particularly true. I think it’s because of this blog. When I’m somewhere for the blog, I resist my natural shyness because I have work to do. So I am alert, and aware, and ask questions, and am looking to have interactions with people. I think that adds up to “a good vibe.” This might be worth remembering.

-One of the patrons got into a conversation with one of the waitresses about Langer’s Deli downtown, which they say is their favorite place to eat in Downtown L.A., except there’s no parking. It’s on my list; apparently I should take the bus that day.

-The door to the outside has wooden slat shutters that reminded me of the doors in an old west saloon even though they’re really nothing like that. They don’t swing, for instance. They’re just attached to the door.

What I ate: Patty melt, fruit cup

What I read while I ate: The short story “Beyond Lies the Wub” by Philip K. Dick. I then read it a second time, because what the holy heck?

What Sort of Ghost I’d Expect to Find if I Believed in Ghosts Which I do Not: Four women who ruled the Altadena Garden Club with iron fists, who met every week here for lunch, to discuss plans while wearing flowered hats.
2352 N Lake Ave, Altadena, CA 91001
Foxs exterior 02

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4 thoughts on “(1955) Fox’s Restaurant, Altadena

  1. ps you can take the Red Line to Langers, MacArthur Prk station. 15 minutes from Noho.

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  2. I used to hang out there with friends on Saturday mornings drinking way too much coffee, having breakfast and seriously enjoying their fresh baked blueberry muffins. Breakfast was awesome there, coffee not too bad for a diner type breakfast/lunch place. Kenny, the son of the folks who started it ran it. Waitresses were always fantastic. Went there pretty much every Saturday morning, but that was years ago, back in the early to mid ’80s

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  3. I was born and raised in Altadena in the 50’s and 60’s. Going home for a wedding a couple months ago, my brother wanted to treat me to lunch. We decided on Fox’s, but because of their limited parking, we went elsewhere. Apparently they only own half of the available lot designated for parking.

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