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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(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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(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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(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


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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. 

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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