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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(1908) Philipe the Original, downtown L.A.

philippessignPhilippe the Original, which is always just called “Philippe’s,” claims to have created the french dip sandwich. I say “claims” because Cole’s, which is also downtown and opened the same year, claims the same thing. I’m planning on going there soon. I don’t think it matters a lot who did it first, as long as they’re both delicious. David (my husband) and I got to Philippe’s around noon, wanting to see it during the lunch rush. It was bustling but not overwhelming; he says he’s seen it with lines out the door.
-Everything about this place screams “been here forever” but not like it’s falling apart. It’s all very clean and well kept, just reeking of old-fashioned goodness. Strong wooden booths, long communal tables, sawdust on the floor.
-The counter where customers order food is long and shiny and, for me, almost nose-high. There isn’t really Continue reading