Tom Bergin's may have been the latest old school casualty, but Musso & Frank's is still around after 94 years and has never changed its menu, something that could also be said for Lawry's The Prime Rib, the granddaddy of what we now know as Restaurant Row -- until now.
Hundreds of hungry people recently lined the streets in blistering temperatures for a shot at a $1.25 rib dinner on the steakhouse's 75th anniversary, and now they're taking a big leap across the river of tradition and adding their first new entrée in 20 years -- something Ryan Wilson, VP and executive chef, said was "not without a fight."
As we enter the gateway to summer, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the Los Angeles Public Library menu collection for a historical perspective on the foods of summer: barbecue, hot dogs and ice cream.
First we turn to barbecue, where we have a 1965 menu from Stern's Famous Barbecue in Culver City. The restaurant, which opened in 1922, was located at 12658 West Washington and had quite a following. There are internet forum threads dedicated to the deliciousness of the sauce. I was able to find out that the restaurant was started by Isadore Stern, who originally ran a butcher shop in Texas but on slow days would barbecue meats out back. The barbecue became more popular than the butcher, and when he moved to L.A. Sterns Famous Barbecue was born. It was attached to a motel.
Less clear is when or why the restaurant closed. Also, check out the "Counting Calories?" section of the menu -- proving that even in 1965, and even at a barbecue joint, there was the drudgery of calorie counting.
This week, movie folk -- both celebrities and cinephiles -- will flock 95 miles north to the 28th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Running in conjunction with the festival is Film Feast. In its third year, Film Feast is not your ordinary restaurant week.
There's a catch: All of the participating restaurants must showcase a local ingredient or cinema star. Starting today and running through Feb. 3, 21 eateries are offering prix-fixe menus. Turn the page for five reasons to step on it to Santa Barbara for Film Feast.
"The smoother the skin, the juicer the pulp, especially with limes and lemons," says Taylor Boudreaux, the chef at Westwood's Napa Valley Grille. Boudreaux is walking around the Original Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax, picking up produce. It's not his usual shopping spot, but Boudreaux is a busy man, and not just in the kitchen.
The second week of January was occupied by jury duty and at the end of the third week he was in the Bahamas for the Tavistock Top Chef Semifinal Competition at Tavistock's Albany Resort. Fortunately, he's back just in time for dineLA 2013.
Starting today and running through Feb. 1, people who love to eat out can experience more (and new) restaurants for less. Napa Valley Grille is one of over 200 restaurants participating in the 12-day dining event.
In the 1920s, the Santa Monica beachfront looked very different than it does today. For one, there were multiple piers in the early 1900s (one of which we wrote about in another LAPL menu exploration). Between 1915 and 1930, a number of beach clubs were also established, most of which have since been demolished (although The Beach Club, established in 1923, still exists, and others, such as the Casa del Mar, became hotels or apartment buildings).
One of these beach clubs was the Deauville Club, which was established in 1927 and demolished in the mid-'60s after a fire. The club sat right next to the still-standing Santa Monica Pier -- in some 1950s films of Muscle Beach you can see the club in the background.
The menu we're looking at today is exciting because of the history of the Deauville Club and the Santa Monica beachfront, but also because of the person this menu celebrates: Irvin S. Cobb.
The tradition of New Year's Eve Champagne dining extends back at least as far as the menu archives at the Los Angeles Public Library -- that is to say, over 100 years. This week we take a look at that tradition through the last century in Los Angeles. Read about those menus below, and scroll down to see images of them.
In 1911, one of our favorites, the Nat Goodwin Cafe in Santa Monica, served a 12-course meal that included filet of sole and sweetbreads en cases. You could purchase champagne by the quart or pint, for around $5 and $2.50 respectively.
On New Year's Day in 1927, the Cafe Montmartre in Hollywood served a $3 menu with lobster Louis and "consomme grand mere."
When researching the restaurants responsible for the menus found in the LAPL menu collection, many times the trail leads to the uncovering of a whole world of Los Angeles history, a look into the past that reveals the dramatic life of owners and customers, and the city changing around the restaurant in question. And sometimes, it only leads to more questions.
Such is the case with Barclay Kitchen, a restaurant with a menu so fun and uncommon I was immediately drawn to it. Presented as a rolled up scroll, the menu unfurls to a few feet in length.
The library dates the menu sometime in the 1970's, although I can find no other indication that the restaurant was indeed open so recently. What information could I find about this restaurant? Not much. It was located at 8438 W. 3rd Street, near where the Beverly Center now looms. The address no longer exists, eaten up by an office building. And there are only a few clues on this menu to give us much more insight.
In recent years, the cocktail revolution has pushed bartenders and booze hounds online, to eBay and Alibris, searching out vintage cocktail recipe books. A look through the Los Angeles Public Library's menu collection shows that old menus ought to be just as prized a source for classic cocktail inspiration.
Today we're looking at a menu that might provide such inspiration -- a 1953 menu from the Luau in Beverly Hills. The Luau was open from 1953 to 1978 on North Rodeo Drive, and has no relation to the bar of the same name in Beverly Hills that opened and closed in recent years. Owned by actor, restaurateur and onetime husband of Lana Turner Stephen Crane, the Luau is given much of the credit for establishing Polynesian food and drinks as a trend in Hollywood. From critiki.com, a website dedicated to the fetishism of all things tiki:
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.
As the first in our series exploring the LAPL's menu collection, we're looking at a very early Spago menu. The Beverly Hills restaurant reopens this week after a renovation and reinvention that has taken a little less than three months.
The library dates the menu "early 80's" but gives no exact date. On the front of the menu, the colorful drawing is signed "Wolfgang Puck 1981." Spago didn't open until 1982, so we can assume that this menu would have been among one of the first.
So, what was Spago serving in those early days? Fairly straightforward appetizers, pastas, pizzas and entrees. The famous smoked salmon pizza isn't on this menu -- instead, smoked salmon shows up as an appetizer served with "golden caviar cream and a small baked potato." The duck sausage pizza, another of Puck's signature dishes, is on this menu.