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From the Los Angeles Public Library Menu Collection: Nat Goodwin Cafe, a Glittering 1913 Restaurant on a Private Santa Monica Pier

The Nat Goodwin Cafe, as seen on the front of one of the menus of the LAPL collection
The Nat Goodwin Cafe, as seen on the front of one of the menus of the LAPL collection
B. Rodell

Exploring the LAPL menu collection is an ongoing project in which we'll take a close look at the menus owned by the Los Angeles Public Library. Read about the project here.

Adorning the cover of one of the menus in the Nat Goodwin Cafe folder at the Los Angeles Central Library is a picture of a grand restaurant, built on a pier that hovers over the ocean. The folder is dated 1910s and houses menus from a restaurant that opened in Santa Monica in 1913: the Nat Goodwin Cafe.

Nat Goodwin was a vaudevillian who in 1913 decided to also become a restaurateur. An article in the Pittsburgh Press reads:

Los Angeles, Cal., May 31. -- Nat C. Goodwin has decided to devote a part of his time to the lost art of domestic science and last night on Bristol Pier, he opened the Cafe Goodwin.

Mrs. Goodwin, formerly Marjorie Moreland, who Nat says is the most beautiful woman and the best cook in the world, has concocted several new dishes for the opening, the piece de resistance being "Skouse."

If you don't know what "Skouse" is, Nat says, you will have to come to the opening to find out.

Built on a pier in Ocean Park, the Nat Goodwin Cafe was an incredibly swank operation that included a cabaret, a ballroom and a roof garden. Goodwin renamed the pier the Crystal Pier, then sold the restaurant to Baron Long, at which time it became the Sunset Inn. Goodwin died in 1919 from shock after having an eye removed.

So what is skouse? It appears it didn't go over so well -- by June 23, 1913, the restaurant's menu showed no sign of the dish, nor do any of the subsequent menus in the library's collection. It does show that you can get a filet mignon for $0.75. But a quick Internet search shows that he was probably referring to scouse, a type of lamb or beef stew, according to Wikipedia.

The menu pictured below is probably from a slightly later date, after the pier had been renamed Crystal (the pier was demolished in 1949). The menu had become huge, and offers everything from Half Lobster a la American ($1) to "grilled sardines sur toast" ($0.40). You can also find plenty of Nat Goodwin Cafe postcards around the web -- check out this one, which pictures the incredible dining room.


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Los Angeles Central Library

630 W. Fifth St.
Los Angeles, CA 90071

213-228-7000

www.lapl.org