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) Jolly Jug, El Monte

ysignJollyJug10My friend Ari and I drove out to El Monte to visit the Jolly Jug. It ended up being a longer drive than expected, because of traffic, but it was ok because I taught him the car game “Botticelli” and that makes any road trip delightful. The sign over the Jolly Jug is one of my favorites. It took us a while, staring at it, to notice that the man’s head has a stopper at the top, like you might see on a jug. Nothing else about his head looks like a jug. It’s confusing.

-Light brown booths with beige wood panelling on some walls and exposed brick on others, hanging Tiffany-style lamps and lots and lots of decorations. Knick-knacks everywhere, a big display window when you first come in full of turtle figurines plus, for some reason, a couple of cows, a tall thin aquarium with koi, many many beer signs all over the walls. It’s wonderful; it feels kind of like being inside a cozy curio cabinet, or a dollhouse owned by a lady whose only hobbies are her dollhouse, and beer. Every where I look I see Continue reading

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(1926) Greenblatt’s Deli, Hollywood

ysignGreenblatts027I’d been to Greenblatt’s Deli before, but not recently, and I hadn’t written about any places in Hollywood in a while, so I decided to head over for lunch. I always like that section of Sunset because I stayed very near there on my first ever trip to L.A., more than twenty years ago. I remember going for a long walk right past there, but I think I was more interested in looking at the Laugh Factory next door than at Greenblatt’s; at least I don’t remember it. The front of Greenblatt’s is all brick and carved stone, a really gorgeous old building, but someone put a gigantic, garish digital sign on the front of it. I wish they hadn’t, but I suppose if it attracts business that they need to stay open it’s worth it?

ywindowGreenblatts003-The first floor is the deli and wine shop, with some booths, but mostly the deli counter and lots and lots of wine bottles. There’s more seating upstairs so I went there. Big, heavy wood beams, solid wood stairs and floors, a terrific white tile ceiling with broad beams, brown booths that match the wood in a very pleasing way, and two huge, oval stained glass windows that are a perfect colorful counterpoint to all the dark brown wood. I sat facing the windows because it made me happy to look at them. There are lots of plants in front of the windows too. On the walls are black-and-white photos of Continue reading


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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