Monday, July 4, 2016

Before Pink's: Hot Dogs in Southern California Prior to 1939

Just as the East Coast is the bastion of hot dog history, Southern California has traditionally been seen as a hamburger mecca, thanks in part to its car culture and drive-in architectural masterpieces such as Simon’s, Roberts Brothers, and Bob’s Big Boy. Alternately Southern California has a few beloved hot dog emporiums that still draw a crowd half a century or more after they opened. Pink’s has been in business 77 years; Art’s (the proclaimed birthplace of chili dog) also opened in 1939; Cupid’s just celebrated their 70th anniversary; and [Der] Wienerschnitzel is celebrating their 55th anniversary on Monday, July 11, 2016 with 55¢ chili, mustard, or kraut dogs. But what was southern California’s relationship with the hot dog in the years before 1939?

Whether called a hot dog, red hot, wienerwurst, or frankfurter, Los Angeles had a love affair with the wiener by the 1890s. A September 1894 article in the Los Angeles Times noted a high concentration of food carts and could be found near Main and First, thanks in a large part to the proliferation of saloons in the area. The wienerwurst carts competed alongside the popular tamale men and oyster carts. By 1896, Cline Bros. grocery was selling 3 cans of imported frankfurters for $1.00 (comparable to a little over $27 today, no word on how many franks were in a can). Purchasing in this quantity would have been attractive to hot dog vendors. The following year Cline’s advertised the price of frankfurters per can, instead of as a bundle. This suggests more families were buying hot dogs for home consumption.

Hot dog for the masses

As early twentieth century Los Angeles grew into a metropolis, it was already a city of incredible diversity and varied socio-economic backgrounds. The hot dog was cheap and easy to eat, a combination that drew its share of fans especially among working class Angelenos and tourists. Stands and carts that sold the delicacy could be found anywhere there was a crowd—in the city, at the beaches, at sporting events, and even feeding those attending the areas many religious revivals.

City governments in southern California were not fans of hot dog enthusiasts, nor were they amused by the variety of slang terms for a “frank.” During the summer of 1920 Venice city trustees passed an ordinance that all Venice “red hot” stands (as hot dog stands were known in Venice) would be banished by the following year. Los Angeles City Council followed suit in August 1920 and held a public hearing that proposed the banishment of food carts that the health department deemed unsanitary. Councilmen Frederick C. Wheeler and Ralph Luther Criswell were the only two city officials that defended the carts. Slang, and those that used it, were an affront to decency. In 1916 the Pomona City Council objected to a Ganesha Park concessionaire who advertised hot dogs, “bow-wows,” “ki-yis” and “red hots.” The Pomona Police Commissioner complained that “such terms as ‘hot dog’ are beneath the dignity of the people who pay taxes to keep up this beautiful resort.” By the early 1920s, San Fernando Valley residents were complaining that hot dog stands along Ventura Boulevard were creating an eyesore and should be removed.
Ugly hot dog stands were not merely a local problem. In 1928, Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr. sponsored a contest to “oust the slapstick, three-for-a-nickel hot dog stands along highways, and to encourage the high-grade stands to become more beautiful to blend with the landscape.” The contest offered $1000 in prizes. W.H. Young’s hot dog stand in Ontario (CA) one third place, he was beat by a stand in New York and a stand in New Jersey. It was not just the stands themselves that were a problem—hot dog sellers, and buyers, were often seen as a nuisance.

Occasionally the Los Angeles Times reported the behavior of those associated with frankfurters. These incidents no doubt shocked the city’s Anglo-Saxon Protestant majority. For example, it was a “hot dog” sandwich (quotes included, in the parlance of the time) that led to a 1910 lunch stand brawl at Central and Fifth Street. The fight left one allegedly drunk and belligerent man dead, and the other—a sober cigar store owner—claiming self-defense. Hot dogs were also an accomplice in the arrest of Dan Boggie and Ben Dunkle in April 1922. Boggie and Dunkle ran a hot dog stand under the Savoy Hotel. Their specialty was—Prohibition be damned—a ginger-ale highball and a hot dog for 60 cents (approximately $8.50 today). The Times noted that the arresting officer had been a patron every day for a week.

Hot dogs came to the rescue of “thirsty” Angelenos in the days before the Volstead Act. A large number of saloons existed in pre-Prohibition Los Angeles alongside an even larger congregation of temperance minded people who were both politically active and vocal. One 1901 jury verdict had the teetotalers up in arms. Section 34 of the city ordinance, which addressed the terms under which saloons could operate under on Sundays, stated that a bona fide meal should consist of a quantity and quality of food that might serve as a meal in hotels and restaurants. Those in violation faced arrest or the loss of their operating license. In November 1901 a jury disagreed with the City Council and Police Commission (who were both Section 34 defenders and authorities of the “bona fide meal”) and decided that a “kiln-dried wienerwurst and stale bread” was sufficient enough to constitute a lawful bona fide meal and thereby satisfied the rules of the Sunday Law. This verdict allowed many a saloonkeeper to keep his doors open and the liquor flowing on Sunday.

On a less ominous note, wieners were perfect holiday fare! In 1912, the Times commented that Venice’s shoreline “where dwells the elusive pink lemonade and hot dog” was packed on Easter Sunday. Over the 1913 July 4th holiday weekend it was estimated that 150,000 visited Venice, Ocean Park, and Santa Monica. The famished visitors caused provision houses to run out of supplies and hot dog stands to close down without a way to replenish their precious commodity. Who doesn’t love a PE car to the shore on a holiday weekend? In January 1918 one vendor in Venice at Windward Avenue and Trolleyway sold his spot and his kettle for $400 ($6000ish today). His friends said he earned $15 to $25 a day in the spot ($200-300 today). Popularity and profit margin assured that the hot dog business was profitable.

It was this supply and demand that had stands popping up overnight at popular events throughout the southland. During the mid-1910s there are descriptions of several events, such as the Rose Parade and the auto races, that actually mention the price of a “hot dog” was ten cents, double what it was everywhere else though ‘nobody kicked’ about the inflated rate. The flipside of this coin is the fact that bread men stocking said hot dog vendors at Ascot Park in March 1916 were actually helping to smuggle people past the admission gate.

Today, hot dogs are a ubiquitous 4th of July foodstuff but they were not always nationalist fare. During World War I, it was one’s patriotic duty to eschew hot dogs on both ‘meatless Tuesday’ and ‘wheatless Friday.’ Unfortunately for Pasadena-bound vendors, the normally lucrative Rose Parade fell on ‘meatless Tuesday’ in 1918. There were also dangerous hot dog mishaps in Pasadena. Onlookers were horrified when the gas stove of a hot dog vendor exploded during the 1925 Rose Parade in Pasadena. Five people were severely injured and “burned a score of others.” The accident prompted the Pasadena City Manager, C.W. Koiner, to consider an ordinance banning gasoline stoves and ovens on the streets of the city.
It’s a wonder there were not more instances of fatalities when stoves were surrounded by crowds of people. In the early 1920s, miracle man and healer Brother Isaiah drew crowds of curious people to a hill opposite Lincoln Park. Hot dog man C.L. Rising set up his stand on the aptly dubbed Miracle Hill and as you can suspect he was not the only concessionaire. Unfortunately for Rising, a Hughes ice cream truck backed into his stand, causing a chain of events that led to an explosion of his gas stove, burning Rising and the $200 profits (approximately $2800 today) he had in his pocket. The Los Angeles Times makes no mention of the price of his dogs but the profits indicate they were popular.

Hot dogs were popular enough that they became the target of thieves. One case in October 1924 took place near Simons brickyard. A man padlocked his fully stocked hot dog stand and left his bulldog inside to protect it. He returned to find the padlock broken, his dog still inside, and $76 worth (approximately $1000 today) of wieners missing. He promptly gave the police the short list of people his bulldog would not attack.

Frankfurters and fundraisers!

Well-to-do Angelenos favored wieners for their events. Hot dogs were on the bill of fare at the big Actors’ Fund Festival in June 1921. Most motion picture studios participated in the fundraising event that benefitted “actors of yesteryear” (and was a precursor to the Motion Picture and Television Fund). One impressive offering was the “Adornment of Woman” pageant, which featured “700 motion picture stars” wearing fashions “back to the age of Eve.” Society women, clubmen, and authors were also involved in the event that took raised $100,000 (approximately $1.3 million today). The hot dog stands were hosted by Mrs. Granville MacGowan who persuaded society girls to dole out the dogs. (Fun tidbit: Mr. MacGowan was the founder of the Los Angeles Health Department!) Hot dogs also fed attendees of the Society Circus in September 1921. Every dollar earned at the event was added to a fund to build the Hollywood Bowl. The Los Angeles Times noted, “The pedigree hot-dog stand, under the care of [Hollywood Chamber of Commerce member] Edward Bogardus, is said to have on hand 4000 pounds of meat.” Hot dogs were the food of choice at a noon to midnight Ebell Club fundraiser at the West Adams home of oilman Chester Wallace Brown. Money was being raised for a new and larger “Ebell Rest Cottage” (the cottage would go on to be designed by architect Julia Morgan according to the Ebell Club website). The hot dog stand was under the care of Mrs. C.R. Luton (Mr. Luton was the president of Tip Top Oil Company). The event raised $8000 (approximately $114,000 today). Perhaps sponsors of tonier events appreciated the frugality of the hand-held delicacy but more likely, everyone loved hot dogs.

Movie people and businessmen were both fans of frankfurters. A functioning hot-dog wagon had a bit part in a 1919 film starring J. Warren Kerrigan and directed by Ernest C. Warde. The smells from the cart teased the 200+ hungry extras to the point that they stormed the cart and divvied up the fifty-ish hot dogs it held. The following year the Los Angeles Times ran a photo essay on titled, “Many men of many minds eat lunch in different ways. How do you eat yours? At the Alexandria [Hotel] or at a hot dog wagon the street?” The caption for the wagon reads: ‘Hot Dogs are always popular and help keep down old H.C.L’ (assuming that means high cost of living). In a city filled with quick lunch options, such as dairy lunch spots and cafeterias, the hot dog part was even quicker.
Early southern California fraternal orders realized the power of the hot dog too. The Los Angeles Elks held a “Country Fair” in April 1900, throwing open the doors to the Elks Hall on South Spring. Three popular food booths were described by the Times—one had wiener wurst, pickles and horseradish “for those inclined to German diet”; one booth served tamales “where the desire for food of the Spanish order could be satisfied”; there was also a Country Kitchen that served up coffee and donuts, milk and gingerbread, or sandwiches and root beer. Events such as the Country Fair generated goodwill and helped the Elks grow their organization.

Of course kids loved them!

The frankfurter devotion of one young lad cannot go unmentioned. In July 1926, ten year old Sidney Chupack was thoroughly engrossed in the consumption of his hot dog while standing on the Union Pacific tracks near Pasadena Avenue and Arroyo Glen. That’s where he was picked up by the cowcatcher of (I’m assuming) slow moving train and deposited 100 feet from his original location. He was still holding his hot dog at the end of the unexpected ride and walked away with just a small scratch on his elbow.

In 1916 there are instances of hot dog vendors being banned from selling their products near some Los Angeles high school campuses. In the case of Polytechnic High School, the Board of Education was shown what the profit margin would be if they began selling hot dogs in the Polytechnic cafeteria (it would cost them 1.33 cents to prepare and would retail for 5 cents). A ban was quickly ordered on hot dog vendors on that campus and I’m assuming the cafeteria began serving hot dogs themselves. In 1921, Van Nuys High School freshman hit upon the idea of selling hot dogs to boost their treasury. They netted $10.68 in profits with their first try, during a game against Lancaster.

Bill Friend, a tackle on USC’s varsity football team, put himself through college by operating a hot dog stand across from the campus’ Administrative offices. Friend had an assistant that manned the booth while he was in classes. He also had assistants who oversaw his four auto parking stands and his shoe shine stand. Mr. Friend attended high school in Phoenix, where he established a student book story that was given to the student body of Union High School before his move to USC.

College kids and hot dog entrepreneurship apparently went hand in hand in the mid-1920s. An article in the Los Angeles Times tells of an unnamed “college boy” in Zelzah (aka Northridge) who would open self-serve hot dog stands at “leading intersections” in the San Fernando Valley. The idea was that patrons would pay for a hot dog at the unmanned stand and help themselves to the “sandwiches done up in a neat package.” “From daylight to dark each day [the young man] plans to travel through the valley, replenishing “honor” stands as fast as tourists ride by and eat up the supply.” No word on how the hot dogs would be kept warm. Perhaps just by the heat in the Valley.

How were they served?

In 1923, Young’s Market advertised their store-made weiners [sic] or frankfurters were 18 cents per pound for those that wanted to cook their own at home. By 1927 Young’s was marketing their “Barkies” as a healthful foodstuff, dubbed “the aristocrat of frankfurters,” and they price had jumped to 25 cents per pound.

Cookbooks of the period merely mentioned how to cook the frankfurters. The 1936 edition of Good Cooking, acknowledged that they were “usually boiled 5 to 10 minutes, or split and broiled 7 to 10 minutes according to size, and served with mustard in a long roll.” The 1937 edition of The Household Searchlight Recipe Book takes it one step further, noting that they should be cooked until tender by steaming, boiling, or broiling. They include a recipe for an ersatz SOS, stating that the cooked frankfurters could be “sliced and combined with a generous amount of well-seasoned white sauce and served on toast.”

Despite the ease of preparation and the profitability of frankfurters, few Los Angeles restaurateurs served frankfurters. Even modest restaurants chose to serve cheese sandwiches or peanut butter sandwiches as their easy to prepare, low-cost dining option. Notable exceptions included the Hofbrau Garden, a German restaurant that morphed into a Swiss-American restaurant during WWII, which served imported frankfurters with hot potato salad and sauerkraut.

Bradley's 5 and 10 served their hot dog with a pot of beans.

The Nut Kettle on the Sunset Strip served "Barkies" in addition to their famed nutburger, which according to a hand-written note was a small amount of chopped nuts on a normal hamburger. Harry Carpenter's Drive-In, Sunset Bowling Center, and Globe Coffee Shop served hot dogs on buns, and Eddie Brandstatter's short-lived Bohemia Grill on Vine served a "Chicago Frankfurter."

In 1924, the Los Angeles Times notes that visitors to Venice (CA) consume 3.5 tons of hot dogs weekly. Carts had been supplanted by hot dog “palaces,” which numbered more than fifty and many seated more than 300 people. The Times describes the dogs as cooked on a griddle. They were served with mustard, two slices of pickle, a crisp piece of lettuce, and delivered on a napkin. Their fans included clerks, schoolboys, bankers and motion-picture celebrities.

Just as elsewhere across the country during the early twentieth century, hot dogs were enjoyed by young and old, rich and poor. In the number of establishments and visitors, the popularity of a year-round seaside hot dog rivaled Coney Island. A uniquely southern California twist on frankfurter lore is the fact that, even before Pink’s hit the scene, hot dogs helped fund the Hollywood Bowl, and retirement accommodations for society women, and motion picture veterans. Hooray for Hollywood hot dogs!

SOURCES: Los Angeles Times, Van Nuys News, Ontario Daily Report (thanks to Kelly Zackmann), Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection, and USC Digital Library. All menus and cookbooks from author’s collection.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What Went Before? 2312 W. 7th Street

Before Wilshire Boulevard cut through Westlake Park (now named MacArthur Park) in 1934, Seventh Street facing Westlake was a shopping and dining destination for the inhabitants and tourists of Los Angeles. I have been fascinated with Seventh Street for years and am always on the lookout for postcards, matchbooks, and other paper ephemera that have a Seventh Street address. It was one postcard in particular that set me on the path to find out what establishments had occupied 2312 W. Seventh during the years it stood.

The building, which occupied the southeast corner of Seventh and Grand View, was designed by Morgan, Walls & Morgan and, according to the Los Angeles Times, was slated to be completed in November 1922. In 1923, the dining and dancing establishment Richelieu Café opened its doors at 2312 W. Seventh. The décor, carpets, tapestries, tables and chairs for the café were installed at a cost of $27,834 (almost $388,000 in 2015 dollars). Problems set in quickly. In order for the restaurant to allow dancing they needed a dance hall permit, and the entity governing such things (Board of Police Commissioners) dragged their heels. Without a dancing permit, the cafe's owner Maurice Weiner was unable to operate the cafe at a profit and was forced to close the cafe for several months. It was costing him almost $1000 each month it remained closed - $750 for rent and $200 to employ watchmen to safeguard the building.

Fast forward to February 1925, the location changed owners and was opened by Harry M. Miller (former maitre'd at Brandstatter's Montmartre Cafe) as Miller’s Cafe Lafayette. Even though it was a new building, an additional $50,000 (a little over $600,000 in today's money) was spent in decorating and furnishing the new cafe. Cafe Lafayette was an early adopter of valet parking. According to the Los Angeles Times, guests could park at the entrance where a uniformed chauffeur would whisk it away to a parking lot behind the building. Guests sent their car number to the door when they were ready to leave and the valet would have the car “warmed up and ready for the road” by the time they exited the building.

The large sums of money spent on decorating appeared to be well spent. According to the Los Angeles Times, in the first 8 months after its debut/opening, Miller's Cafe Lafayette had been used as a restaurant/club location twelve times by five different motion picture companies. Cafe Lafayette passed for locations in Paris, New York, Vienna and San Francisco. One juicy tidbit in the Times in 1927 describes Miller as such a movie fan that he has his own camera and projector and invites “the artists” that visit Café Lafayette to pose in Westlake Park for his own personal collection of photos. If that is true, it would be great to find those photos today!

Harry Miller picked up many ideas working for Eddie Brandstatter, one of Los Angeles’ most publicity minded restaurateurs. Miller’s Café Lafayette similarly named dishes after studios and movie stars to garner their business (‘Chicken Sauté, Paramount’ and ‘Filet Mignon, Gloria Swanson’), plus it featured the noontime dansant, and catered to the college crowd with dance contests and trophies. At Halloween, cinema stars were urged to submit their best recipe for pumpkin pie with the winning entry being added to the menu. However, there was one event that even Eddie Brandstatter had not attempted. In May 1925 Miller sponsored a ten-day California Valencia Orange Show that persuaded California cafes to feature Valencia oranges in their dishes (sauces, cocktails, sherbets, jellies, marmalades, salads and drinks). Throughout 1925 news of Miller’s Seventh St. café was rarely out of the “News of the Cafes” column in the Los Angeles Times for more than a couple of days in a row. Additionally, Café Lafayette was one of nine restaurants, alongside the popular Montmartre and Paris Inn, that served as a Yellow Cab station.

Miller’s hospitality/stewardship also extended to his staff. He offered one hour of study each morning with roundtable discussions, lectures and demonstrations on methods employed by the famous maitre'ds of Europe. By June 1925 he was outfitting his waiters with a summer wardrobe - black silk suits embroidered in gold with the official crest of the Cafe Lafayette.

Whether to compare to, or learn the successful strategies of, Harry Miller soon embarked on a tour through the cafes and cabarets on the East Coast. When he returned he told everyone that would listen (i.e. the press) that New York cafes were 'gougers' and that typical cover charges in New York and Chicago ranged in price from $2 to $10 per person, as opposed to 50 cents to $2 per person in Los Angeles.

Clubs, cafes, and restaurants that kept their customers entertained made the most money. Music and dancing assured they would stick around post-meal. The Café Lafayette hosted a long succession of great dance bands. Formerly with the Biltmore, Roy Fox and his Orchestra played Harry Miller’s well-publicized opening night. Fox was a composer as well as a conductor. According to a May 25, 1927 blurb in the Los Angeles Times, Fox visited the “Indian Village in Hollywood” as inspiration for creating novelty fox trots for Café Lafayette. Two days later an article titled “Indians’ Music Provides Ideas for Composers” shows up in the Times. The article, which goes into detail about Sid Grauman’s Indian village on Hollywood Boulevard near Highland, and Shave Head, the Shoshone warrior “genius of the baton who sets the tempo for the great four-man Shoshone war drum.” Miller must have appreciated that Grauman was not one to miss an opportunity for publicity.

A quick glance at the early twentieth century dining and dancing ads show a thirst for novelty and the rapid succession of entertainers through the venues. Harry Owens obituary notes that it was at the Café Lafayette that Owens was heard performing “Aloha Oe” which garnered him a position as the leader of the Royal Hawaiians orchestra in Waikiki and led to his “Hawaii Calls” broadcasts. It is noted in the Times in March 1926 that Harry Miller consented to allow Harry Owens and the Lafayette orchestra to use the restaurant, between luncheon and evening dance concerts, to ‘make trial records for a nationally known concern.’
Soon cabaret star Jane Green was providing entertainment, followed in early May ‘after a lively exchange of telegrams’ by Henry Halstead. [Albert Haim posted a great photo documenting this engagement at his Bixography Discussion Group] In June 1926 when Halstead wanted out of his Café Lafayette contract in order to play the Edgewater Beach Club in Santa Monica, Miller advertised it to his own advantage. It was noted in the Times that it was ‘through the courtesy of Harry Miller’ that Halstead would be allowed to play the Edgewater Club. Perhaps Miller aspired to join the impressive list of those that could enjoy club life, and its private beach, for a base membership rate of $400. Ray West became the leader of the Lafayette orchestra in May 1927. The Times mentions that his vibraphonist Manilla Le Mori, “the jada girl,” with “her exotic hair bob” would appear in a ladies’ tuxedo. Keep in mind the sensation Dietrich caused more than two years later by wearing a tuxedo in the film “Morocco.”

Mentions of Miller’s Café Lafayette become fewer and farther apart until July 1929 when another former Montmartre maitre’d, Paul Perrot, takes over the location. (Just prior to the takeover Perrot had partnered with fellow restaurateurs Nick Krause and Bob Cobb to open the Nikabob Cafe.)
Renamed Paul Perrot’s Café in August 1929, Perrot follows the established musical mold and installs the Laughner-Harris band (Carroll Laughner and Phil Harris), and adds fashion shows and bridge luncheons with dancing. Luckily Dick Whittington captured the Paul Perrot Café during its short life. Advertisements for New Years Eve at Paul Perrot’s Café do not mention it is closing.
Beginning in January 1930 Ray West takes over, renames it the Ray West Café, but he too left for good in June 1930.

The location set vacant for more than a year before restaurateur Carl Jahnke signed a five-year lease and opened the new Jahnke’s Tavern in September 1931.
Jahnke hired Chris Schonberg and his orchestra to fill “the largest café dance floor in the city.” For the next two months the “News of the Cafes” column in the Times reminds potential patrons of Jahnke’s Tavern that their food is good, the music is “snappy,” there is ample free parking, and never a cover charge. Right before Thanksgiving, Jahnke reminds vegetarians that fresh vegetables can be substituted for meat dishes, and Glenn Edmunds and his Collegiate Orchestra begin an engagement. An ad for New Years Eve 1931 is the last mention of Jahnke’s Tavern.

Café De Paree opens in October 1932. Orchestras change even faster at Café De Paree. Chico de Verdi and his orchestra followed by Orville Knapp from New York, Ray West (!) and his Café de Paree orchestra take over in mid-1933, and Giggie Royse and orchestra take over in September 1933. Manager Pete Dokos announces Eugene Stark (formerly of the Roosevelt Hotel’s Blossom Room) will be in charge of the cuisine. Joe Pirrone is the associate manager. Another announcement says Dokos ‘toured the continent’ for several months in early 1935, presumably gathering successful practices of similar establishments abroad.

The location served again as a backdrop for motion pictures. This time it was featured prominently in the 1935 film “Skybound.” Approximately the first ten minutes of the movie takes place in the Café De Paree and shows the dance floor, orchestra (not sure which), hat check area, and bar area.

The fee received as a filming location may have convinced Dokos that the time was right to build an extension. In August 1935, the neon-lit Club De Paree “one of the largest and most beautiful bars on the coast” joined the café and welcomed “registered members and guests only.” By December 1935 “drop-ins” are now invited to enjoy the “cozy corners” of the new bar area. Fast forward to October 1937 when the short-lived “The Drunkard’s Child” opens (perhaps a companion piece to the popular “Drunkard” show that played for years at the Theatre Mart?).
Orchestras and dancing do return by late October 1937. They make it through the obligatory New Years Eve celebration and by April 1938 are featuring the Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton.
New (unnamed) management takes over in October 1938 and implements a “sparkling French revue” with can-can dancers and “swinging hulu [sic] girls.” The Café De Paree limps along through the first week of 1939 before the location opens as the New Lakeshore Café (alternately listed as the New Lake Shore Café) in February 1939 featuring the American debut of Bob Belasco and his West London Orchestra. The location sees one more New Years Eve before that café is gone as well.

Before being demolished in the late 1980s the building, which housed the addresses 2300-2316 W. Seventh, held the longtime central office of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The MacArthur Park Primary Center School now occupies the land that once held a long succession of beautiful dining and dancing spots in the 1920s and 1930s.

Sources: Los Angeles Times, Inside Facts of Stage and Screen, Hollywood Vagabond, Los Angeles city directories, and City of Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety. Music from some of the orchestras mentioned can be heard on You Tube.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

To Live and Dine in L.A. - More than an exhibit to many Angelenos

We were lucky enough to make it to the To Live and Dine in L.A. exhibit during the week. It was relatively quiet (except for the piped in restaurant/diner/cafeteria/lunch counter din) so we were able to spend time taking it all in. The exhibit has been written up numerous places online so I'll spare you the blow by blow. Just go and check it out for yourself, before it ends in November.

And read the book. I'm enjoying the book and it has pushed me to revisit half-baked/half-written/half-thought out ideas that have been laying around for years waiting for the time to polish them and post them on Hollywood Gastronomical Haunts. Life is too short to polish everything, so I'll be posting a few of "those" things over the summer.

One thing I have enjoyed about the To Live and Dine in L.A. project is the way it melds three of my favorite things: Los Angeles, the city's restaurant history, and libraries. Most importantly Los Angeles Public Library is held up as both a repository of awesome things (i.e. menus) and as an organization that is creating a dialogue about food inequality and offering places to get information. In addition to some events at the branches and Library Foundation events that 'sell out quickly,' there are links to community based food organizations in Los Angeles and great essays from Culinary Historians of Southern California president Charles Perry and Los Angeles Food Policy Council's Alexa Delwiche. It is difficult to find if you don't know what to Google but THIS IS THE WEBSITE you want if you are looking for food resources in Los Angeles.

Its only one of the many website tie-ins from both LAPL and the Library Foundation.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A sad year-end for many historic Los Angeles restaurants

The end of 2012 sees the closures of Junior's Deli in Westwood, Sierra's restaurant in Canoga Park, and possibly Henry's Tacos in North Hollywood.

The White Horse Inn on Roscoe, which sat empty for over a decade, was torn down recently.

Downtown's Grand Central Market has an appointment for an 'upscale makeover' according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles Times also reports the 80+ year old Canter's Deli recently received a makeover of their menu options.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

R.I.P. - Milton Weiss 1918-2012

I was sorry to read about the passing of Milton Weiss, restaurateur and son of the venerable Mama Weiss. I recently read his 2001 book titled, Star Grazing in Hollywood: A Reminiscence of a Beverly Hills Restaurateur about the restaurants he owned, and growing up in Mama Weiss' restaurants. This entertaining read can be found at the Beverly Hills Library (call number 647.9579 Weiss). Mama Weiss' Csarda restaurant was the restaurant celebrities came to for the food,the atmosphere and Mama Weiss' hospitality. One guidebook, Key, dated August 31-September 7, 1950, praises 'Mama's superb borscht, blintzes and cherry strudel' and notes that gypsy music 'adds to the pleasure of dinner by candlelight.' Mama Weiss charmed television audiences in the 1950s with a cooking show on KHJ before branching out with her own product line. A coupon in the Los Angeles Times from March 19, 1959 touts 6 cents off Mama Weiss' roquefort dressing, bleu cheese dressing or horseradish sauce, available 'at food stores everywhere'.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Preserve Los Angeles restaurants!

This week is Preservation Week. With various events nationwide, the American Library Association and partners such as the Library of Congress, are hoping to shed light on the importance of preservation (see the Preservation Week website for more info). Reading the Preservation Week materials it got me thinking about doing what I could by patronizing my favorite restaurants that have stood the test of time.
I've written about it before but the Safari Room never disappoints. It's definitely on my calendar for this week.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Clifton's Brookdale original facade unveiled

KCET's LA as Subject blog did a great write up on today's unveiling of Clifton's Brookdale cafeteria original facade. Can't wait for it to re-open!

UPDATED - The Los Angeles Times had the story this morning as well. Check it out on their website, and have fun with the slider before and after photos!

Friday, January 13, 2012

What Went Before? 6530/34 Sunset Blvd

I've written before about the restaurants that preceded the Cat & Fiddle on Sunset Blvd between Schrader and Las Palmas. It started life as the Mary Helen Tea Room, then the Gourmet restaurant and the polynesian restaurant Mouling. While looking through a Chamber of Commerce publication from 1927, I recently found some great renderings of the building as it was being built.

The popular actor Fred Thomson (husband of screenwriter Frances Marion) was the driving force behind this building, which was being built next door to the (then) Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. According to the Los Angeles Times, Thomson's Spanish shopping court and patio building (seen below) was patterned after Santa Barbara's De La Guerra Plaza.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Years Eve in Los Angeles 75 years ago

As 1936 gave way to 1937, a precursor to Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve held court in Los Angeles. NBC radio networks, along with KFI and KECA, broadcast the 'sounds of America dancing, shouting and singing' from such locales as New York, Chicago, Denver, Honolulu, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Locally KHJ broadcast both Phil Harris's Palomar Orchestra, and Duke Ellington's Orchestra performing at Sebastian's Cotton Club.

Just as in decades past, Broadway was blocked off from First to Ninth streets to the delight (and safety) of the teaming throngs. The Los Angeles Times noted that it was 'the greatest New Year's Eve celebration the city had seen in many years.' It was also noted that the crowds were orderly and 'according to police observers, there was a marked absence of destructive rowdyism, public drunkenness and crime'.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Happy 80th birthday Canter's

The Los Angeles Times had a nice story on Canter's today, they covered their 80th birthday on July 12 which was celebrated with 80 cent sandwiches just for the occasion. Last weekend I visited their original Boyle Heights location at 2323 Cesar Chavez (formerly Brooklyn Avenue). Its now a Kids Dental office complete with scary people dressed as clowns out front.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Enjoy L.A. - Eat Out More Often! - 100 things I love about the historic restaurants of Los Angeles

For my 100th post I decided to list 100 things I love about the restaurants and bars of Los Angeles that have been in operation for over twenty-five years. In no particular order.

1. The beef double dipped sandwich at Philippe's.
2. Bill's hamburgers on Oxnard in Van Nuys. Bill is the best and so are his burgers!
3. Miceli's meatball pizza with extra garlic.
4. Tiki Ti's Bayanihan.
5. My favorite waiter- Bobby at the Safari Room.
6. My favorite waitress- Barbara at Little Toni's.
7. Cassell's potato salad
8. Twohey's Stinko-burgers.
9. The 'medium' chili experience at the u-shaped counter at Chili John's.
10. La Villa Basque's original decor.
11. The #4 scramble at Nat's Early Bite in Sherman Oaks.
12. Hirschfeld mural at the Frolic Room.
13. Philippe's incredible salsa. Its only available during breakfast so make sure to get there before 10:30am.
14. In-N-Out burger's double-double.
15. Pineapple margarita at the original El Cholo location.
16. Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes enjoyed in the redwood forest known as Clifton's Brookdale.
17. Smoke House's garlic bread.
18. Papa Cristo's gyro plate.
19. Langers pastrami.
20. Philippe's hot mustard and the fact that it makes a tasty gift.
21. The ambience of the Las Palmas location of Miceli's. The Pig 'N Whistle booths are a plus.
22. Sunday morning at the Saugus Cafe.
23. Hof Hut's Hofburger.
24. Casa De Pizza's Sinatra night.
25. Black Forest pastrami reuben at Brent's in Northridge.
26. Corn dog with mustard and a lemonade from Hot Dog On A Stick.
27. Prime rib at Taylor's Steakhouse.
28. The incredibly skinny front doors at Bun 'N Burger.
29. Bob's Big Boy Toluca Lake car night.
30. The way Philippe's makes their Dolores chili with beef stock instead of water.
31. Pepperoni pizza with 'extra extra sauce' at Adrian's Trattoria in Reseda.
32. A donut from Bob's at the Farmer's Market.
33. The waitstaff at Musso and Frank.
34. Pann's interior and exterior.
35. Lido's red sauce.
36. The Safari Room's bacon cheeseburger, always prepared perfectly.
37. The atmosphere of Tam O'Shanter.
38. The prime rib cart at Lawry's.
39. Eating a Wienerschnitzel chili cheese dog and fries while standing outside the original location on the PCH in Wilmington.
40. Gyro plate from Firehouse in Reseda.
41. The paper cups at Apple Pan.
42. The original Barney's Beanery's extensive menu.
43. Red Lion Tavern's patio.
44. The Buggy Whip's green goddess dressing.
45. The combined taste of the beef and bun at the Hamburger Habit on National.
46. Tam O'Shanter's Hoot Mon! book.
47. Canter's pickles.
48. Philippe's logo.
49. Hof's Hut onion rings
50. Roma Deli's Italian Combo sandwich.
51. The view at Yamashiro.
52. The exterior of Bellflower's Chris & Pitts location.
53. The jukebox at the HMS Bounty.
54. The Original Pantry has been open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, since 1924.
55. Dagla's burger combo. Where everyday is a 'fry day!'
56. Musso and Frank's bread.
57. Dinah's Fried Chicken's interior at their Westchester location.
58. The roasted serrano pesto burger at Hamburger Hamlet.
59. Domingo's Italian Deli spicy Italian sub with sharp provolone.
60. Fried artichoke hearts at The Dresden.
61. The patio at Cat and Fiddle.
62. Al & Bea's cheap molten hot burritos with a side of Libros Schmibros.
63. Johnie's Pastrami Dip, the name says it all.
64. Palermo's free wine while you wait.
65. The huge bar at Tom Bergins.
66. Pecos Bill's pork sandwich.
67. Garlic cheese bread at Antonio's.
68. Jack and coke at Boardners.
69. Pink's cole slaw dog.
70. Tommy's chili cheese fries. If you don't see the shack... its not Tommy's!
71. Trying to figure out the Sherman Room's hours.
72. Norm's early bird specials.
73. El Indio Mexicano's milanesa burrito.
74. Mike's mammoth hockey burger
75. Gravy fries at The Hat.
76. The huge portions at Andre's Town & Country across from the Farmer's Market.
77. Du-par's pancakes.
78. El Coyote - cheese plus tortilla.
79. Casa La Golondrina's patio.
80. Poquito Mas steak burrito.
81. Dino's Chicken & Burgers, toss up between the burger and the chicken & fries.
82. Barone's square pizza.
83. The Baked Potato's logo.
84. The homemade schnapps at Oyster House in Studio City.
85. El Cid's floor show.
86. Simply knowing that 'Hardy Boys' filmed an episode at 94th Aero Squadron.
87. Pesto rigatoni at Two Guys From Italy in Granada Hills.
88. Meatball sandwich from Monte Carlo's Deli/Pinocchio restaurant in Burbank.
89. Bahooka's fishtanks.
90. Patty melt at Rae's.
91. My Hero Subs turkey sandwich with tomato salad.
92. The murals at the Bear Pit.
93. Marty's 'Home of the Combo' with a side of 50/50 fries and onion rings.
94. Steak Corral's mascot.
95. Dolores restaurant's Suzy Q fries.
96. The eternal quest to figure out what San Fernando's James restaurant lists as 'tasty sauce' on their menu.
97. Early bird specials at Billingsley's.
98. Philippe's cole slaw.
99. Cheeseburger at Russell's in Pasadena.
100. The wiener dog logos of Larry's Chili Dogs and Papoo's Hot Dog Show.