A Taste of Old Hollywood

Because the Hollywood Newshawk series takes place in an actual city (and in a specific time period), I get to use a lot of real-life locations for settings. The Tick Tock Tea Room and King’s Tropical Inn were real restaurants. I did a lot of research (many thanks to Martin Turnbull and his fantastic website!) to accurately describe the decor and menus.

When planning a trip with my family, one of the first things we decide is where to eat. I love historic restaurants, especially if they’ve been open for more than 100 years. I figure they must be doing something right.

Sadly, the Tick Tock and King’s are no longer around, but there’s more than a few joints still open that can give you a taste of Old Hollywood. Most of which are definitely worth a visit.

Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood (1919)
On my very first trip to LA decades ago, Musso & Frank was top on my list. It’s the oldest restaurant in Hollywood (almost as old as the town itself), sits right on the Boulevard, and was popular with many stars of the Golden Era. Like the other places cited below, it really is like stepping back in time. This is Old Hollywood at its finest. When I returned last year, I was glad that nothing had changed. Quite appropriately, the entire opening sequence of Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood takes place there.

The Formosa Cafe, West Hollywood (1939)
The Formosa was a favorite of LA gangster Mickey Cohen, along with all of the Golden Age stars who’s photos adorn the walls. It was top on my list for my second trip to Hollywood, and appears in LA Confidential (and The Red-Headed Ruse). Sadly, I haven’t made it back since. This is partially because the Formosa was closed for several years following a misguided renovation to erase its storied history. The good news is that it recently re-opened following a dedicated restoration. And hopefully will again post-pandemic.

The Tam O’Shanter, Glendale (1922)
The Tam was a favorite of Walt Disney and his first band of Imagineers. After one step in the door, you can see why. There’s a clear inspiration for Epcot. You can request Walt’s table and check out the scratched-in doodles, plus the hand-drawn Disney artwork. And the food is great, too! Which is why we keep going back.

Chili John’s, Burbank (1946)
Another favorite of Walt Disney, we finally made it over to Chili John’s after seeing it in I Am the Night (and Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood). Sadly, the place could use a little sprucing. But if you’re looking for a great bowl of chili in a historic setting, try the lemon pie instead. I assume the chili was better back in Walt’s day, but the pie is pretty good.

Damon’s Steakhouse, Glendale (1937)
If you want to experience the tiki vibe of King’s Tropical Inn, head over to Damon’s. You won’t find the $1.25 squab dinner, but the steaks are excellent and the decor is like gloriously retro. Like the Tam, this is one of our favorites. Not even the pandemic could keep us away (thank goodness for takeout). And there are monkeys on the menu!

Foxy’s Restaurant, Glendale (1964)
Foxy’s is the youngster on this list and a little outside the Golden Era, but I couldn’t leave it off. The early 60s decor is wonderfully kitschy, they serve breakfast all day, and every table has its own toaster. Who doesn’t want their own toaster?

For more classic LA restaurants, be sure to check out the wonderful Remains of LA blog, in which writer Sarah McKinley Oakes details her quest to visit 300+ vintage eateries.

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