John O’ Groats, named for a city in the far north of Scotland,  opened on Feb. 26, 1982, by Angelica Jacoby and her husband, the late Robert Jacoby,  owner of  “Bit ‘o’ Scotland.” The original John O’ Groats restaurant was located at the southwest corner of Manning Avenue and Pico Boulevard, in a 750-square-foot building with a 20-seat counter in West L.A., serving breakfast and lunch.

In the summer of 1984, John O’ Groats relocated to its second location, where it remains today in Rancho Park, down the road from Fox Studios, and son Paul Tyler began taking over the reins after attending Cornell University’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration starting as a busboy and dishwasher.

Still just serving breakfast and lunch, the ever-expanding location has been featured in  Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David, and with Jonah Hill and Oprah Winfrey in an Oprah Winfrey Presents the Oscars Special, as well as several episodes of The New Girl and The Agency. 

Jerry Seinfeld, right and Larry David (Courtesy John O’Groats)

“One of my fondest memories is of a regular customer of ours named Elliot Handler,” Tyler tells L.A. Weekly, who warmly greets every single guest who comes through the door by name, whether it’s a millionaire widow or the dishwasher from across the street.  

“I had no idea what he did. He would come in every Monday, and have a tuna melt and an iced tea. This was right after I got out of college and we’d talk. He had a little art studio down the street and would come in here for lunch. Over time, I got to know his family a little better when we did dinner for 10 years, back in 1994, three nights a week. One day somebody says to me, you know what Elliot does, right? I had no idea. He co- created Mattel and his wife Ruth Mosko created the Barbie doll. They came in for dinner then, Ruth would come in for breakfast, and they’d bring their daughter Barbara, who was the famous namesake. Their son Ken was the inspiration for the Ken doll. Elliot came here for dinner the night that Ruth passed away and had meatloaf. Here’s a guy who can have dinner anywhere in the world, but he always found comfort here.”

Many other generations of celebrities and civilians alike have passed through the diner’s doors over the years, including Robbie Krieger of the Doors and his dad, which left Tyler a little starstruck. Robbie  asked if he could get their famous pancake batter to go for the elder Krieger, at which point Tyler offered to cook a large stack himself for the Kriegers. 

Paul Tyler on the patio (Courtesy John O’Groats)

Other loyal regulars include Jason Schwartzman and mom Talia Shire, Lou Adler, Michelle Philips, Billy Baldwin and Chyna Phillips. Life in Hell budding cartoonist and L.A. Reader contributor Matt Groening would come in every Monday for 10 years, while he was developing The Simpsons across the street at Fox. Jonah Hill has been a regular with his parents since he played in the bathroom with sister Beanie Feldstein.

Of the roughly 600 people that might come into John O’ Groats on the weekend, Tyler will know about 80% of them by name, many of whom knew him when he was playing football at Loyola High School, and coached off and on in the ‘90s.

“But my fondest memory of all is having lunch with my Dad every day for over 30 years,” says Tyler. “My wealth isn’t in my dollars and cents, my wealth is in my relationships, and they are golden.”

The restaurant will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a special promotion on Saturday, Feb. 26 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., by giving out 40 $40 gift certificates to the first 40 parties who enter the restaurant.

Eggs, bacon and pancake breakfast (Courtesy John O’Groats)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LA Weekly