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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(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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(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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(1973) Rib Ranch BBQ, Woodland Hills

Rib Ranch y sign 2Went to Rib Ranch, one of the newer places on the list, with my friends Ari and Corey. We foolishly decided to meet there during rush hour, which meant the drive was roughly three times as long as it should have been, but the barbecue sauce made it all worth it.

-There were two lovely patios, all bricks and trees, but it was a tiny bit chilly so we opted to sit in the small indoor seating area. It felt like being inside a stable in the best imaginable way; walls and ceiling of rough-wood planks, large wooden booths with–confusingly–formica wood-look tables, windows painted with 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