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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(1964) Giamela’s, Atwater Village

yGiamelas b sign-04My friend JT and I wanted both lunch and exercise, so we decided to walk the two miles from her place in Glendale to Giamela’s in Atwater Village. It’s a lovely walk, and it was one of those beautiful warm sunny winter days that make you remember why you moved to Southern California.

-One big room, bright and airy, with a scuffed red floor and white ceiling, and seven tables, covered in those red-and-white-checked tablecloths, with straight-backed red chairs. Most of the walls are white plaster, but the wall with the door and the one big window is red brick. Directly across from the door is the counter where you order, with racks of chips to the right and a large orange-and-white sign on the wall listing all the different types of sandwiches and pastas and pizzas and things. Hanging from the ceiling over the counter is a sign that says, “Now Serving Snake River Farms Wagyu Beef for all our Pepper Steak Subs” plus a picture of the Instagram logo, I guess to remind people to Instagram their sandwich. On the walls Continue reading

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(1936) Tom Bergin’s Public House

Bergins smlrysigns 135When the news came that Tom Bergin’s was shutting down  (or maybe staying open but not serving food anymore)? Or maybe shutting down but not quite yet? It was all very unclear) I was horribly sad. I hadn’t been in years but I’ve loved it every time I’ve gone, and I know a lot of people who call it their favorite bar. I called my friend Suzy —who has spoken fondly of the place — and asked if she’d liked to pay last respects, and we headed over one Wednesday night after work.

-From the outside, it looks like an Irish tavern, with brick on some parts and white walls and heavy wood beams on others and a dark green sloping roof, and stained-glass windows. One enters through a door off the parking lot and finds themselves in a sort of an entry way… really it’s just an in-between space —to the right is the Horseshoe Bar (actually more of an oval) and to the left is the restaurant part, just a long room with booths for eating, and beyond that the back room with a red-felt pool table and huge fireplace, and more tables. Every inch of the ceiling, throughout the bar and front room of the restaurant, is covered in paper shamrocks with people’s names written on them. It’s a cacophony of shamrocks —I know cacophony usually refers to noise but you’ll have to trust me. Thousands of Continue reading


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(1943) Twohey’s, Alhambra

Twoheys ysignWhen I learned that Twohey’s was closing at the end of January, I decided to go there for lunch while I still had the chance. Twohey’s is right near where I lived in South Pasadena years and years ago, but I never went —never even knew it existed. As soon as I saw it I started kicking myself; it is the sort of old coffee shop/diner I most love. I would have been there every day, if I’d just paid a little more attention to what was around.

-Big and roomy, walls and ceilings done in turquoise and orange, with a large waiting area in the front, a counter with stools beyond that, and booths and tables in the room to the left. Hanging lamps, some red and cylindrical and others white and angular, hanging from an arching ceiling with lots of curves and slopes. The exact coffee shop I imagine when someone mentions a coffee shop. It was late December when I went, so there were Xmas decorations everywhere, including an enormous nutcracker soldier guy by the door, and several more nutcrackers in the window between the kitchen and the serving area. I’ve always liked nutcrackers. They look so silly and yet so earnest. Continue reading


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(1927) Barney’s Beanery, West Hollywood

yBBeanery sign02It’s a chain (of “gastropubs”) now, but the original Barney’s Beanery is in West Hollywood and was the only one for more than seven decades. I was in the area and wanted lunch, and it seemed like a good idea to go during the day instead of at night when it was so full of people I’d feel weird sitting alone in a booth taking pictures and writing in my notebook.

-Fantastically busy decorations, signs everywhere including on the ceiling, dozens of license plates over the bar, full-size motorcycles on the low walls separating sections, rainbow-striped booths, tables with collages of celebrity pics and newspaper clippings, something wonderful everywhere you look, lots of TVs hanging from the ceiling, hardwood floors and walls, a gaming area in the back with a Ms Pac-Man and air hockey and a basketball hoop game and some wooden game I can’t identify, and three pool tables. The atmosphere is almost Continue reading


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(1971) Pinocchio Italian Restaurant, Burbank

yPinocchio's sign 01I went to Pinocchio Italian Restaurant in Burbank for lunch. I’d been there before, years ago, and really liked it, and always meant to go back, and somehow never did until now. It’s one of those places where half the space is a deli/wine store, and the other half is a restaurant. The seating looks like the sort you’d find in a sit-down restaurant where waiters take your order, but in the front there’s a food counter and a pile of trays. I got kind of confused looking around, and couldn’t remember if the counter was just for take-out or what. Luckily some people came in at the same time as me, and confirmed that you take a tray, get your food served cafeteria-style, then pay and take your tray to a table. A bit later, Continue reading


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(1969) Don Cuco, Toluca Lake

ysdoncucossignI was in Hollywood when I heard that Debbie Reynolds had died, so after work I went and visited her stars on Hollywood Boulevard. Then I called David (my husband) and begged him to meet me somewhere we could get comfort food. Since I was already driving back over the hill, we decided on Don Cuco in Toluca Lake. Don’t know if Debbie ever ate there but she grew up in Burbank and Warner Bros. Studio is less than a mile away, so it seems likely, or at least very possible, that she did. There are three Don Cucos; we’d been to the one in Burbank several times because it’s close to where we live, but this one, in Toluca Lake, is the original.

-It’s all wonderfully warm and cosy, with red lights and red booths and tables, each booth is separated from the others with wooden railings and pillars, and there’s a fake roof overhead — the kind with those rounded clay tiles — so it’s like everyone is sitting on the front porch of a house. Because we were there in late december, there were lots of Christmas decorations everywhere, tinsel and fake snow on the fake roof, blending nicely with the Continue reading


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(1952) Melody Bar & Grill, Westchester

ymelodythesignI was picking up friends at the airport and got there early so I could have lunch at the Melody Bar & Grill. In the evenings they have live music and I thought that if I visited then, with the noise and the dim lights and the crowds, it would be a lot harder to take notes and pictures. So I went just before noon, right after they opened, and it was nice and quiet and nearly empty.

-The main room has a long bar in the center, light-colored wood surrounded with tall chairs, tall dark tables along the walls with the same tall chairs, wonderful red wallpaper on the walls that weren’t rough stone, a fire pit with a lovely fire roaring away, pictures of Continue reading