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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(1935) Clifton’s Cafeteria, downtown L.A.

sYCliftonssignI’d heard about Clifton’s Cafeteria for years, and always meant to go, but then it closed for renovations, and stayed closed for years. When this blog first started, Clifton’s was still being worked on. It re-opened last fall, and after meaning to go for months, David (my husband) and I finally headed downtown. Clifton’s is tremendous, so tremendous I’m a little overwhelmed at the idea of describing it. I counted how many pictures I took later, and it was more than 200. It is easy to imagine how it influenced Walt Disney when he was thinking about his theme park. I tried
for about two seconds to be cynical and jaded but it didn’t work out. It is probably my favorite place on earth. It is truly, breathtakingly, wonderful.

sYCCfirstfloorcliftons190-The first floor has a large eating area, lots of long tables and chairs, with rock walls, pillars like tree trunks, rock archways and a big rock fireplace, a meandering waterfall coming down from the second floor, and forest murals on the walls that aren’t rock. Also lots of flowers. In one corner, almost at the level of the second floor, is what looks like a castle tower carved out of the rock. It is immense and amazing. The cafeteria, which you get to by walking through a gift shop section full of mugs and books and old postcards, is behind the first floor eating area. It’s like a combination of a school cafeteria and a Vegas buffet, with salads and sushi and pizza and meats.
The second floor has a redwood tree with a fireplace in it. There is a grand piano and a bar near the redwood, and sitting areas with chairs and sofas in semi-circles, and lots of tables and chairs like on the first floor. Some of the tables appear to be large slices of redwood tree. The third floor is all old Hollywood glamour, with another bar and a large room with a bandstand. All over the place are stuffed animals on display in dioramas, and all sorts of awesome things to look at. I felt like I could have spent days there and not Continue reading


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(1937) Damon’s Steak House

DTH Damons sign 01I’d wanted to go to the old Tiki-themed steakhouse Damon’s in Glendale for a while, but the dinner menu is a bit pricey (I really, really can’t afford to have a blog like this). The lunch menu, however, was surprisingly affordable, so I headed over one day around noon.

DTH interiorDamons07-Palm fronds on the ceiling and bamboo everywhere, lots of unreal palm trees and intensely busy, colorful murals of Polynesian scenes on all the walls, and lots of masks and pictures of things like mermaids hanging on the walls that didn’t have murals, it is wonderful, like being inside an incredibly fake Tiki hut. Here and there there were stuffed monkeys, the kind with long arms and velcro hands, hanging off of pillars. So many details, more to see everywhere you look. I want to live there. All the hanging lamps are different, odd shapes. There is a big Continue reading


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(1949) Bob’s Big Boy, Burbank

BBBneonsignI felt a little silly going to a Bob’s Big Boy for my blog, since it’s a huge chain, but this was one of the very first ones, built in 1949, and the oldest still around. At some point in the ’90s someone bought it and started making it more like it was in the old days, with car-hop service on the weekends and a classic car show every Friday (which, I’ve been told, Jay Leno attends). My friend Terry and I decided to check it out but didn’t go on a Friday or a weekend, because it’s supposed to be extremely crowded then.

-Curvy walls with tall windows, Googie-style, a neon “Take-Out” sign just inside, pictures of classic cars everywhere, a large “Bob” statue inside, almost as Continue reading


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(1955) Fox’s Restaurant, Altadena

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 Continue reading


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(1971) Granada Restaurant, Burbank

Granadasign02My friend Kate and I wanted Mexican food, so we headed over to Granada in Burbank. I’ve driven past it thousands of times at least and never noticed it; the outside is sweet but unassuming. The interior, however, was fabulous.

-Incredibly busy and bright, full of paintings and flowers and, above the cash register, a huge parrot hanging from the ceiling. Easter decorations (this was two days before Easter) were everywhere; bunnies and eggs and all sorts of things, but even aside from the seasonal stuff, it was a blast of color. There was what appeared to be a large wood recreation of the Mayan calendar, and ornate gold mirrors, and murals and plates and giant butterflies and fancy hanging lamps. Best of all was a fake house exterior hiding the kitchen; with fake brick under fake stucco and fake curtains inside the fake windows. I don’t know if I could have loved the place more. It would have been wonderful even without Continue reading


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(1957) Art’s Delicatessen, Studio City

artsneonsign1I got hungry while running errands in Studio City and stopped at Art’s Delicatessen for lunch. I was fairly certain I’d been there before, but when I went inside it didn’t look at all like the place I was remembering, so maybe I hadn’t.

-Large, airy room, with a large deli counter in the front and, beyond, a classic coffee shop; rows of maroon and brown booths with beige tables, black and white tile floor, an acoustic-panel ceiling, hanging lamps with green shades, wood-paneled walls, a long row of giant pictures of sandwiches across the back wall, plus one picture of matzoh ball soup. Except for that one, every picture in the place seems to be of a sandwich, or sometimes a cartoon character with a sandwich.

-A little startled to see that the sandwiches were in the $16-dollar range, I got a cup of beef vegetable soup and a fruit bowl. Both were great; the soup in particular Continue reading


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(1960) Yamashiro, Hollywood

yamashirosignWent with David (my husband) and his mom Keren and his stepdad Jim to Yamashiro for his birthday (this was a while ago; I went back to school and have been remiss with my blogging). Yomoshiro is a shockingly beautiful Japanese-style building in the Hollywood Hills just above the Magic Castle. You drive up a sort of circular driveway and have to let the valets park your car, which I generally hate but it was fine. Below the building, across the driveway, are Continue reading