Check out the slideshow: Great Shuttered Restaurants of Los Angeles
Near LAX, next to a Circle K gas station, stands a faded version of what had been one of the longest operating steakhouses in Los Angeles: the Buggy Whip
. Opening in the early 1950s and closing around September of 2013, the Buggy Whip - or the Whip, as the regulars called it - was known for its warm and personal dining experience. In 1977, Mr. Paul purchased the steakhouse.
Mr. Paul is a restaurateur who had owned other popular Los Angeles-area restaurants: The Old Virginia and Chez Paul, both in South Pasadena. To this day, he remains proud that customers dining at the Whip felt like family, being acknowledged by employees and knowing staff by name. The Whip was also known for its Green Goddess salad dressing. Travelers would often stop on their way to LAX to pick up a bottle before getting on the plane. For over 28 years, diners were treated to the musical stylings of piano man Peter Wagner, who, according to Mr. Paul, was "an asset to the operation." Under Mr. Paul's ownership, the Whip racked up quite a few awards including multiple "Best of L.A." honors in Los Angeles Magazine
: the Best Steak Dinner in L.A. in 2003 and the Best Piano Bar in town in 2008.
Mr. Paul sold the Whip in 2012, and from that point on, business declined. Even with its celebrity clientele and long residency, the Buggy Whip surprisingly doesn't have the same name recognition as restaurants like the Brown Derby or Chasen's. Mr. Paul said the restaurant was a little secret spot, almost like a clubhouse, and the regulars liked it that way. Wagner said of the Buggy Whip's closing: People "can't believe it closed, and [they] would like to see it open again and brought back to its heyday."
One casualty of neighborhood gentrification and doubling rent was El Conquistador
, a 40-year-old Mexican restaurant on Sunset Blvd. in the heart of Silver Lake.
El Conquistador opened on Dec. 7, 1973, by Jesus Pinto, who owned the restaurant along with Salvador Barajas - who passed away about 10 years ago - until its closing. Albert Curiel, another co-owner of El Conquistador, said, "the potent and killer margaritas were the main attraction. That and, of course, the garish, colorful and festive decorations." Many of the El Conquistador staff had grown up while working there. They welcomed new generations of their families all while being employed at the restaurant.
As for the closure of this Silver Lake institution, Curiel said that the building had been sold, causing the rent to double - and reinventing the restaurant was not something he or Pinto wanted to do. "The restaurant had its time. We were at the top of our game and felt it was the perfect time to leave," Curiel remembered. "It was our customers and their support that made El Conquistador extra special, and we will always remember and be thankful for that."
The restaurant closed on Dec. 22, 2013. The future is still uncertain for El Conquistador. There have been rumors as to what it will become, most likely another restaurant, but nothing has been confirmed.
See also: Silver Lake Landmark El Conquistador Closing: What Happened?
It's unfortunate that we sometimes lose our most beloved and most frequented neighborhood restaurants. Why does a well-established eatery, with years of operating experience and a loyal customer base behind it, simply close? Sometimes gentrification in a neighborhood makes the rent skyrocket to a price the owner can longer afford. Owners sometimes wish to retire and there's no family to pass the business on to. What may be harder to answer is why some of these long-standing (some historic) Los Angeles restaurants sit empty and vacant for months, sometimes years. It's a rare thing to find in a city that's not particularly known for preserving the past. Here are five of their stories.