The Porterhouse Rules
Time hasn’t exactly stopped in the San Gabriel Valley, but we can slip through the looking glass into a sort of vast, living history museum of old-fashioned food and drinks. Compared to their Gilded Age forebears, these restaurants and bars were, in their prime, the apex of modern and snazzy in the Valley. Some have the bones of Depression-era dives and Route 66 roadhouses, with others dating from the tiki and steak-crazed ’50s and ’60s. Gone are Starks, The Trails and El Encanto, but still percolating are a number of classic joints where Frank and Dean used to stop for drinks, along with racetrack sharpies, auto-plant workers, Okies and their descendants.The Dal Rae (9023 E. Washington Blvd., Pico Rivera, 562-949-2444) has been renovated over the years but still serves oysters Rockefeller, Chateaubriand and cherries jubilee straight from the 1958 food transporter. Gentlemen in suits and ladies wearing wigs and sparkly outfits slow dance to live music and get decorously bombed at the horseshoe bar. So this is where Dad was hanging out that time he was supposed to be taking us to the Alligator Farm. The Tamarack Inn (9257 Slauson Ave., Pico Rivera, 562-949-1668) is a classic from 1962, with its lush wood interior and American comfort food. It’s just down the road from the Dal Rae so you can visit them both on the same field trip. Unlike at the Dal Rae, you won’t have to pawn your car to pay the check. The Golden Spur (1223 E. Route 66, Glendora, 626-963-9302) used to be a ride-up hamburger stand for people on horseback, which is an indication of its vintage and general vibe. The exterior has been refurbished, but it still has its original neon sign, in the shape of a cowboy boot. The outside of the Embers Lounge (11332 E. Washington Blvd., Whittier, 562-699-4138) doesn’t hint at what you are met with on the inside — large-scale oil paintings of old movie stars portrayed as demons in hell, frolicking in the flames, sporting horns, tails, etc. Actually, you have to kind of guess who they are — the renderings are less realistic than disturbingly heartfelt. A popular, well-lit local watering hole. Bahooka Ribs (4501 N. Rosemead Blvd., Rosemead, 626-285-1241) is described as “a native land” by its owners, and clever natives do flock to one of the Southland’s last original ’60s tiki bars. Polynesian-style ribs, shrimp, grog, things with umbrellas, etc., served up in a maze of cozy booths arranged among 105 aquariums make for a tropical tête-à-tête, miles if not decades from Tiki Ti. At Clearman’s North Woods Inn (7247 N. Rosemead Blvd., San Gabriel, 818-286-8284) you can relax in the snowy mountains in one of the hottest parts of Southern California. Within its concrete-icicle-festooned portals you can order food that is manly and meaty and good, food that comes with gravy, cheese and butter. Big food. Steaks the size of messenger bags. Potatoes as big as your nephew. If you are eating in the past before they invented calories, do they count?
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