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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(1943) Twohey’s, Alhambra

Twoheys ysignWhen I learned that Twohey’s was closing at the end of January, I decided to go there for lunch while I still had the chance. Twohey’s is right near where I lived in South Pasadena years and years ago, but I never went —never even knew it existed. As soon as I saw it I started kicking myself; it is the sort of old coffee shop/diner I most love. I would have been there every day, if I’d just paid a little more attention to what was around.

-Big and roomy, walls and ceilings done in turquoise and orange, with a large waiting area in the front, a counter with stools beyond that, and booths and tables in the room to the left. Hanging lamps, some red and cylindrical and others white and angular, hanging from an arching ceiling with lots of curves and slopes. The exact coffee shop I imagine when someone mentions a coffee shop. It was late December when I went, so there were Xmas decorations everywhere, including an enormous nutcracker soldier guy by the door, and several more nutcrackers in the window between the kitchen and the serving area. I’ve always liked nutcrackers. They look so silly and yet so earnest. Continue reading


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(1927) Barney’s Beanery, West Hollywood

yBBeanery sign02It’s a chain (of “gastropubs”) now, but the original Barney’s Beanery is in West Hollywood and was the only one for more than seven decades. I was in the area and wanted lunch, and it seemed like a good idea to go during the day instead of at night when it was so full of people I’d feel weird sitting alone in a booth taking pictures and writing in my notebook.

-Fantastically busy decorations, signs everywhere including on the ceiling, dozens of license plates over the bar, full-size motorcycles on the low walls separating sections, rainbow-striped booths, tables with collages of celebrity pics and newspaper clippings, something wonderful everywhere you look, lots of TVs hanging from the ceiling, hardwood floors and walls, a gaming area in the back with a Ms Pac-Man and air hockey and a basketball hoop game and some wooden game I can’t identify, and three pool tables. The atmosphere is almost 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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(1939) Harbor House Cafe, Sunset Beach

SignHarborhouseI headed down to the Harbor House Cafe because I’ve been worrying about how many restaurants on the list are south of L.A., where I don’t go very often these days. I used to; I lived in Orange County for years, but now that I’m in the valley I almost never get that way anymore. So when I found myself already fairly far south for a doctor’s appointment that didn’t take as long as I’d expected, and with a particularly good audio book to listen to, I decided to drive down to Sunset Beach. I used to eat at the Harbor House Cafe all the time, when I lived in Huntington Beach and worked at Quicksilver Software, because it was open all night and I kept odd hours back then. I’m not sure I’d ever seen it during the day before. I was less than halfway there when there was an accident or something and traffic on the freeway, all but stopped. So I got off at a random exit and told my GPS to take me on surface streets. It was delightful. Didn’t take much longer and I got to drive past all 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