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.
At the top of the scroll, you can see an image of a key, with the words “The key to fine foods.” Apparently, in the 1930's and possibly beyond, the restaurant's front door was locked, and you needed a key to get in. Keys were given to regular customers and occasionally show up on eBay. A key to get in? A menu on a scroll? This is a place with a fantastic sense of drama.
Apart from that, there's not much else. In 1962, the restaurant sued the California Bank for allowing an employee to mismanage funds, and the case is referred to in other lawsuits regarding the responsibility of banks in cases where bank protocol has not been followed exactly. In 1944, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan (and the owner of a ranch outside Los Angeles named Tarzana … sound familiar?), wrote home from Hawaii, where he was stationed as a war correspondent. To his stepdaughter Caryl Lee he asked, “I wonder if Barclay Kitchen is still running. Do you know? They used to have wonderful food there.”
Apart from a matchbook popping up in ephemera collections here and there, that's all I can find about Barclay Kitchen. How much I'd like to, as the bottom of the menu implores, “see our newly decorated hunt room.” I wonder which Hollywood movers and shakers held those keys, and what conversations happened over that broiled fresh lobster and cherry jubilee.
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