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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(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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(1953) Canter’s Deli, Hollywood

y-sizecanters-the-neonI needed to get lunch before going babysitting, and it was noon on a Sunday in Hollywood, and I wanted a bagel, so I went to Canter’s Deli. Canter’s first location was in Boyle Heights (in downtown LA) in 1931; it opened in this location on Fairfax (in Hollywood) in 1953. Often this blog takes me to new and wonderful places, but sometimes it’s about re-visiting places I’ve been a million times. I lived down the street from Canter’s Deli when I first moved to L.A. I was living in a tiny apartment with a couple other punk rockers, and we had almost no money and went to clubs every night, and if we happened to not be completely broke we’d go to Canter’s afterwards, because it was open all night and they were nice to us and you could get really full for super cheap, if you like eating pickles. We were very hungry so we liked eating pickles. I’ve gone to Canter’s fairly regularly since. I saw Liza Minnelli there  once (I was certain it was her and my friend was certain it was not… and then the waiter came over and quietly freaked out because OMG it’s LIZA!!) and I’m pretty sure the last dinner I had with my dear friend Marcia Wallace was at Canter’s. David (my husband) has been going to Canter’s all his life; with his grandfather when Continue reading


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(1975) El Compadre, Hollywood

signelcompadre04David (my husband) and I went to El Compadre with our friends Vanessa and French, and their daughter Helene who is almost three, and who I’ve been babysitting since she was a tiny baby, and who is awesome.

-Lots of xmas lights, some shaped like peppers, dim lighting from large round red and yellow hanging lamps, tables with red tablecloths, lots of dark wood, maroon booths with brass tacks, some of them rectangular and some round and cozy, oil paintings of street scenes and flowers, tall vases of lilies, a bar with  Continue reading


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(1969) Dr. Hogly Wogly’s Tyler Texas BBQ, Van Nuys

Went to Dr. Hogly Wogly’s Tyler Texas BBQHOGLYWOGLY02 with my friends Corey and Michael, and Michael’s two-year-old son Rocco. We were going to go to My Brother’s Barbecue, but it had closed down. Several places on my list have shut down in the year since I started the blog. It is a bit disheartening. But anyway, Dr. Hogly Wogly’s Tyler Texas BBQ turned out to be a great choice for the four of us.

-A few rows of brown and beige booths, with a small room off to the side with another row of booths. Grey carpet and wood walls, some paintings of Continue reading


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Happy… Anniversary? Birthday? Whatever… Happy!!!

One year ago today, I blogged my first restaurant. I’ve now posted about 55 restaurants (and have three more in the hopper!). Doing this blog has made me so happy, has led to so many adventures and places I never would have gone.
Thought I’d list some of my favorites so far, in no particular order:

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(1928) La Golondrina Mexican Cafe, downtown L.A.
A beautiful old Mexican restaurant on Olvera St. La Golandrina has been there since 1928, but the building was built in the 1850s.  Amazing stone fireplace and colored hanging lamps and artwork everywhere.

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(1953) James Restaurant, San Fernando
A perfectly cozy coffee shop way out in the suburbs, full of nice people and comfort food. Hard to put my finger on why it’s one of my favorite places ever, except that I love coffee shops and this has everything I love in a coffee shop.

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(1952) Tony’s on the Pier, aka “Old Tony’s,” Redondo Beach
The best bar I’ve ever been in, stuck on top of the restaurant like an octagonal hat, with windows on all sides looking out over the ocean. Back in the ’50s, a monkey escaped from the circus and lived at Tony’s, stealing sugar cubes from the tables.

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(1946) Nick’s Coffee Shop, Los Angeles
Perfectly wonderful greasy spoon diner, cramped and marvelous. It makes me want to be a private eye just so I could sit at the counter and growl for coffee in between solving crimes.

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(1908) Cole’s, downtown L.A. 

and
(1908) Philipe the Original, downtown L.A.
These places are connected in everyone’s minds because they both claim to have invented the french dip, and I love them both so much I don’t want to play favorites. In fact they are so different it’s impossible to compare; Cole’s is a sit-down place that let’s you dip your own sandwich and Mickey Cohen used to eat there, while Philipe’s has a busy counter where the sandwiches come pre-dipped, with sawdust on the floor and a line of old wooden phone booths. They both say wonderful things about what life was like in L.A. in the early 20th century, and it thrills me that they’re both still open for business.


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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