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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(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


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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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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. 

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(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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(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


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(1972) The Shack, Playa del Rey

shacksignHoping to escape the horrible heat, I headed towards the beach and ended up at The Shack. It didn’t have air conditioning, but lots of fans and open windows and the ocean breeze made it much cooler than Burbank.

-Just inside is a counter where one can Continue reading