These places may or may not have good food. That’s not the point, even though this is a guide to eating. The point is that they are super-historical and often have the waitstaff to match (as in the curmudgeonly 90-year-old “waitresses” at Canter’s Deli). If you’re a real Angeleno, you have to go just because you love your city and everything involved in its history. Wait, people actually love this city? Anyway…
BOB’S BIG BOY RESTAURANT
When they move to LA, young punks like to have their picture taken with Bob. He’s like a gigantic beacon of welcomeness, hoisting his burger high over his head, his hair artfully sculpted. The original Bob’s in the Valley opened in 1949 and is definitely
diner food—but on the weekends there are classic car shows in the parking lot, if you’re into that sort of thing. 4211 W. Riverside Dr., Burbank, 818-843-9334
Canter’s has been a historic late-night scene for ages. Ben Canter opened his first Canter’s in 1924 and moved to the Fairfax location in 1948. If you stick to the bean-and-barley and the chicken-matzo-ball soups, you should be fine. Do not dare ask for your check. Do not dare ask where the bathroom is. Do not dare ask for a refill on your coffee before your 95-year-old waitress is ready to give it to you. She’s as sassy as the most clever 18-year-old and can freeze you like Medusa with just one glance. 419 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax District, 323-651-2030.
An awesome Mexican restaurant in the Valley that is so dark you can barely see who’s sitting across from you. So imagine your shock when you drunkenly run straight into Suge Knight. Do what you’re supposed to do: Keep your eyes down and claim you saw nothin’. 13301 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-788-4868.
CLIFTON’S BROOKDALE CAFETERIA
Since 1935, Clifton’s has been the spot to go to for old-people cafeteria food in a forest setting. No shit. The interior looks like a forest, with trees and fake flowers and moose heads and friggin’ boulders. Tip: Everyone is nice to you if you speak Spanish. The “Best in the West” for more than half a century may be a bold claim, but that’s OK. You don’t argue with your elders. 648 S. Broadway, Downtown, 213-627-1673.
COLE’S PE BUFFET
Along with Philippe’s, Cole’s is the oldest LA restaurant to exist in the same location since 1908—although, sadly, it’s recently been gutted and remodeled and will open again soon, hopefully with the same crusty French dips. Sigh. Kids today—they hate history. 118 E. 6th St., Downtown, 213-622-4090.
Yes, you already know about the pancakes, and yes, you already know that it’s been gutted and redesigned. But did you know it opened in 1938? That’s all we got for ya. 6333 W. 3rd. St., Farmer’s Market, La Brea, 323-933-8446
If you don’t know by now that Sharon Tate ate here the night she was murdered by Susan Atkins and that the only reason to still go here is for the margaritas and not the microwaved slop on a plate, then you’re stupid. 7312 Beverly Blvd., W. Hollywood, 323-939-2255.
This is the oldest Italian restaurant in Hollywood, dating back to 1949. The old-ass waiters will sing to the tunes the live piano man (although “live” may be stretching it) bangs out. The red, green, and white interior awning may seem cheesy, but keep in mind it was constructed back when people craved stereotypes. 1646 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood, 323-466-3438.
MUSSO & FRANK GRILL
Musso & Frank’s is the most classic LA restaurant we can think of. When you imagine the Black Dahlia picking up sailors, you think of Musso & Frank’s (even though she did it at the Florentine Gardens). We swear on Bob Hope’s grave that the place has not been remodeled since 1919, when it opened. Lots of big writers used the back room as their own personal office, and it’s rumored that Raymond Chandler wrote some of
The Big Sleep
there. 6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323-467-7788.
PACIFIC DINING CAR
Opened in 1921, Pacific Dining Car is—you guessed it—a dining car that was once on an old train… at some point, maybe, we think. The two cows mounted on the sign outside promise meaty goodness to come, although it’s best to visit around 3 AM (yes, PDC is open 24 hours), ’cause the prices are going to kill you faster than the 16 oz. New York strip steak with truffle butter. 1310 W. 6th Street, Downtown, 213-483-6000.
Patty melts, onion rings, and fried chicken in a totally
setting. This is another place where people claim the opening and closing diner scenes from
were filmed, but we’re gonna break it to you—they were really filmed at some place in Hawthorne that’s been torn down. But keep on impressing your naive friends with your film-school knowledge, big guy. 6710 La Tijera Blvd., Inglewood, 323-776-3770.
PHILIPPE THE ORIGINAL
For all you neophytes, hundred-year-old Philippe’s claim to fame is that they created the French-dip sandwich. What’s that, Cole’s PE buffet? You say you created the French-dip sandwich? Well,
been gutted and redesigned, so whatever. Philippe’s still has that gross sawdust on the floor, communal picnic tables, soggy French dips, old-people food like stewed prunes, awesome coconut-cream pie, and 9¢ coffee all served cafeteria style. 1001 N. Alameda St., Downtown, 213-628-3781.
PINK’S HOT DOGS
This is like the In-N-Out of hot dogs, except even more historical—it’s been in LA for 70 years at the same locale. There is always a line down the block, and it usually takes at least half an hour to get through it at peak hours. You can put a million things on top of your hot dog. You can get crazy things like a bacon-burrito dog or a pastrami-Reuben dog or the Martha Stewart dog (it’s ten whole inches, can you take it?). In 17 years of living in LA, we’ve eaten there once. 709 N. La Brea Ave., W. Hollywood, 323-931-4223.
RAINBOW BAR & GRILL
Is that the ghost of Lemmy Kilmister growling sweetly in our ear, “If you like to gamble, I tell you I’m your man”? Oh. Wait. It actually is Lemmy, still hanging at the bar after all these years. Sometimes Joey Buttafuoco works the door in snakeskin cowboy boots, and on occasion you may bump into the withered shells of the 80s metal stars who still hang on the walls (coughSebastianBachcough). But the garlicky pizza and Caesar salad are pretty Paradise City. Check out the tiny little bird’s-nest loft at the very top. It can only fit about five people, and Axl Rose used to get BJs there. 9015 W. Sunset Blvd., W. Hollywood, 310-278-4232.
THE SMOKE HOUSE
Since 1946, the Smoke House has been serving up “Fine Food at a Fair Price,” AKA red meat in the form of steaks, chops, and prime rib. It’s a Warner Bros. standby that looks like a hunting lodge—from the outside and the inside. Supposedly Errol Flynn, Judy Garland, and Robert Redford would get their carving station on between shoots on the WB lot. 4420 W. Lakeside Dr., Burbank, 818-845-3731.
There is only one reason to visit this mediocre red-sauce Italian joint: fusilli à la Robert Blake. That’s right—this is the place where Blake “forgot his gun” and Bonnie Lee Bakley just “happened to get shot when he went back inside to get it.” Right out of a David Lynch movie. 4349 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818-769-0905.