The city of Los Angeles is fairly old, but it doesn’t always seem that way. Its history goes way back to 1781, when 44 settlers came to the area with Father Junipero Serra and named the place, “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula.” The City of Angels as we now know it wasn’t incorporated until 1850, however, and today a lot of Los Angeles looks like it was built so recently that the paint might still be wet.
Constant real estate churn and a fetish for modernity is a hallmark of California in general, and Los Angeles in particular. That makes landmarks disappear pretty quickly as new ones are established. It also makes Los Angeles seem sort of timeless. Our customers rely on us for car rental near Disneyland, and they often ask us to suggest historical landmarks of interest in the area. It’s fun to see how a city has grown over the years, and Los Angeles has a lot of points of interest that are worth a visit.
Perhaps one of the best time machines to discover the real Los Angeles are its many historic, iconic restaurants. Los Angeles isn’t as old as cities like New York or Boston, but it has a rich history of eateries and nightspots that make a great story all by themselves. It even spawned its own architectural style for eateries: Googie Architecture. Visiting one or more of L.A.’s famous restaurants might give you a better idea of the history of the city than any museum tour could. Enjoy our list of the Top Five Historic Los Angeles Restaurants:
The Tam ‘O Shanter
You might think a Tudor-style Scottish-themed restaurant looks out of place in today’s Los Angeles. It fit right in back in 1922 when it was founded. Not only has the Tam been going strong for almost 100 years, it’s still run by the same family.
Back in the 1920s, Los Angeles was filled with movers and shakers in the booming movie industry. Many preferred some old world charm over the Art Deco style that was also en vogue just after World War I.
The Tam ‘O Shanter was especially popular with Walt Disney and his workers. The restaurant still has a plaque at Walt’s favorite table (Table 31), and you can find Disney drawings scratched into the tables here and there.
The Pig ‘N Whistle
Many old timers used to call any nightspot that served liquor and food a “pig and whistle.” That generic name for a casual eatery/pub was made popular by the Pig ‘N Whistle on Hollywood Boulevard, next to the famous Egyptian Theatre. The Pig ‘N Whistle is almost as old as the Tam ‘O Shanter. The Pig ‘N Whistle opened in 1927, designed to feed theater-goers before and after shows at the Egyptian.
The restaurant has had its ups and downs over the years, and changed hands several times. Its elaborate interior was mostly covered over at one point. It was restored to its original splendor with a complete renovation in 1999, so you can really get a flavor of old Hollywood along with your cocktails and meals. It’s not a stodgy place, however. The renovation also included updates that make it a fashionable destination for hip party crowds from the neighborhood. There’s a Back Room with live entertainment, and Karaoke in the main room twice a week.
Pacific Dining Car
The original Pacific Dining Car opened up in in 1921. It moved to its current location in downtown Los Angeles two years later. It also has a satellite location in Santa Monica. The restaurant has a fascinating decorative motif. It looks like the inside of a railway dining car. Comparisons to diners stop there. It’s about as plush a restaurant as you’ll find in the city, and it has prices to match.
Superb food served in elegant surroundings make the Pacific Dining Car a Los Angeles favorite. It’s their night owl hours that make them a Los Angeles icon. Where else can you get a filet mignon at 4 AM for forty bucks? It’s a great place to see plenty of late night movers and shakers in the entertainment industry after a night of clubbing.
The Musso & Frank Grill
Plenty of things in Hollywood are old. The Musso & Frank Grill is older than the Hollywood sign up in the hills. It’s been a fixture in the area and the entertainment industry since 1919. It changed hands in 1927, but it’s been in the same family since then. It’s an entirely old-school steakhouse, but over the years it became so square that it’s entirely hip again. Everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Steve McQueen has held court in one of Musso & Frank’s booths, and untold Hollywood deals have been made under its beamed ceilings. It even boasted the first payphone in Hollywood.
The menu isn’t adventurous, but their open-fire grill turns out steaks and chops to perfection. It’s a worthy destination for a cocktails and conversation, too.
El Paseo Inn
The El Paseo Inn opened its doors in 1930, but its vibe is much older. It has more in common with Father Serra and his settlers than the naugahyde booths of some of the other old restaurants in town. The Inn is near the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument on Olvera Street. The whole neighborhood is basically a slice of Old Mexico, and a haven for tourists.
The building that houses the El Paseo used to be a winery, and it has a casual indoor/outdoor ambiance. The dance floor in the photograph above is gone, but the restaurant has strolling mariachi players and folk musicians. For down home Mexican cuisine and authentic decor, the El Paseo can’t be beat.
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