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The Top 10 Historical Restaurants In Los Angeles
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The Top 10 Historical Restaurants In Los Angeles

Picture of Brenda Garcia-Davidge
Updated: 9 February 2017
Los Angeles has no shortage of great places to eat. However, there is something magical about a spot that not only boasts delicious fare, but is rich in history and reminiscent of a bygone era. These restaurants have stood the test of time and are waiting you for to stop by and relish in their grandeur.

Clifton’s Cafeteria

After several years of renovations, Clifton’s re-opened on September 22, 2015. It originally opened in 1935, at the height of the Great Depression. At the time, Clifton’s boasted a simple policy – if you couldn’t afford to pay for the food, you didn’t have to. Not only was it a welcoming respite to everyone who walked through its doors, but you were instantly transported into a magical place. Much of the restaurant’s original decor remains, including a giant redwood that stretches three stories, passing several ornate bars, lounges, woodsy murals, a 250-pound meteorite, and several wildlife displays. The revamped Clifton’s will house its original cafeteria, a restaurant, and five bars.

Clifton’s Cafeteria, 648 South Broadway, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 (213) 627-1673

Cole’s

Established in 1908, Cole’s prides itself on being the oldest public house in LA. Located in the dimly lit bottom floor of the Pacific Electric Building, you get the feeling that if the bordello-red wallpaper could talk you’d walk away with some serious knowledge about early Los Angeles. Sitting in the cozy red booths you can almost visualize gangster Mickey Cohen, a regular at Cole’s, making deals in the next booth over. While the menu proclaims Cole’s to be the originator of the French dip sandwich – a hotly contested topic by Philippe’s – the old timey feel of the place evokes the time of prohibition speakeasies and secret dealings. So before stepping back into the present time be sure to get yourself one of their historical cocktails to complement that French dip.

Cole’s, 118 East 6th Street, Los Angeles CA, USA, +1 (213) 622-4090

Engine Co. No. 28

This former Los Angeles Fire Department station was built in 1912 and operated until the 1960s. It’s currently firing up some great dishes, while staying true to its historical roots. The original brass pole draws your eyes upward, where you’ll find the original tin ceiling. Vintage fire extinguishers and firehouse memorabilia line the walls. Archways on the exterior of the building frame the entrances and exits – those selfsame archways saw the comings and going of fire trucks and, prior to those, the horse-drawn units that called this place home. This classy joint offers something for the firehouse aficionado, and will satisfy your hankering for comfort food. And no, you cannot slide down the brass pole.

Engine Co. No.28, 644 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 (213) 624-6996

Traxx

Although Traxx has been around since 1997, it still remains one of Los Angeles’ well-kept secrets. Located inside the historical Los Angeles Union Station (built in 1939), Traxx feels perfectly at home in its art deco environment. Traxx Bar, which was formerly the telephone room, is located in the interior part of the station. It’s a perfect spot to people watch and admire the splendor of Union Station. Directly across from the bar is the restaurant. Both locations offer stunning views of Union Station’s breathtaking architecture. On balmy summer nights you don’t want to skip dining outside under the jacaranda trees, while soft bubbling fountains serve as your evening’s soundtrack.

Traxx, 800 North Alameda Street, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 (213) 625-1999

Philippe The Original

Established in 1908 by Frenchman Philippe Mathieu, who also claims to have invented the French dip – Philippe’s is a true throwback. You line up at the counter and one of the ladies in a vintage blue waitress outfit is waiting to take your order. The family-style seating, featuring long wooden tables and stools, gives it a home-away-from-home feel. The sawdust on the floor, working telephone booths, and 45-cent coffee are all bygone touches that make this place so unique. Be sure to check out the upstairs, where the exposed brick offers any patron the opportunity to etch or sign their name on the wall, forever remaining part of Philippe’s history.

Philippe The Original, 1001 North Alameda Street, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 (213) 628-3781

Nickel Diner

If you’re searching for a tucked away establishment dating back to the 1940s, look no further than Nickel Diner. It re-opened its doors in 2008, but the site itself is that of a long forgotten diner. During the remodeling, original hand-painted wall menus were discovered advertising 1940s prices, such as 25-cent hamburgers and 19-cent hot dogs. You won’t find those prices today, but you will find classic 1940s wallpaper, floor tiles, welcoming red booths and mouth-watering donuts. Their maple glazed bacon donut is a must-have, as is their Bettie Page Cheesecake. Whatever you do, do not pass up their desserts.

Nickel Diner, 524 South Main Street, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 (213) 623-8301

Idle Hour

There was a time in Los Angeles when novelty architecture was a popular way of attracting drive-by customers. These larger than life-sized structures are known as programmatic or mimetic architecture, and there are only a handful left in Los Angeles today. Idle Hour is one of them. Built in 1941 in the shape of a barrel, which served as a taproom, it’s been recently restored back to its former glory. Step inside the barrel and pull up chair at the bar, which also happens to be barrel shaped. The drinks are a blast from the 1940s past – be sure to order up an Old Fashioned done right. Make time to lounge around in their patio and get acquainted with yet another version of mimetic architecture in the shape of a bulldog; a replica of the 1925 Bulldog Café.

Idle Hour, 4824 Vineland Avenue, North Hollywood, CA, USA, +1 (818) 980-5604

Sweetie Pie’s (Phil’s Diner)

It is believed that Phil’s Diner may very well be California’s oldest dinning car. Built it 1926, is has undergone lots of uprooting and resettling, and now it has finally found its home on Vineland in North Hollywood. The interior of the diner is just what you’d imagine it to be; wooden panels, arched ceilings, doors that slide open, and even the original wooden icebox. The atmosphere in the dining car feels genuine, right down to the limited-yet-cozy eating areas. Even though it still has the original Phil’s Diner logo on the exterior of the car, it’s now home to St. Louis’ famous Sweetie Pie’s. And although you may not find some of the original greasy spoon fare, you will find some seriously yummy made-from-scratch soul food.

Sweetie Pie’s 5230 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA, USA, +1 (818) 761-1325

Yamashiro Hollywood

Looking for a place with culture, glamour, history and excellent views? Yamashiro is all that and much more. Nestled atop a hillside in Hollywood, it is the epitome of Japanese splendor. Built in 1914, this mountain palace originally housed priceless collections of Japanese treasures. In the 1920s it was the home of an elite Hollywood club, later it transformed into a military school for boys and eventually became apartments. Today it’s a go-to dining spot if you want to see or be seen. Enjoying your moment of zen in the interior court, with its tranquil pond and manicured garden, makes its hard to image that you’re standing in the very spot where Uma Thruman killed the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill. You also don’t want to miss the 600 hundred-year-old pagoda on the terrace either. It overlooks the pool that was once a lake occupied by rare black swans and offers breathtaking views of the Los Angeles skyline.

Yamashiro Hollywood, 1999N Sycamore Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 (323) 466-5125

Tower Bar

If Hollywood glamor is your thing, then a stop by the Tower Bar is in order. Located within the Sunset Tower Hotel and what was once mobster Bugsy Siegel’s old apartment, this cozy restaurant is a reminder of the golden era of Hollywood. The Sunset Tower Hotel was once a luxury apartment building and everyone who was anyone was a resident there, including Marilyn Monroe, Howard Hughes, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Diana Ross, and even Iggy Pop, who enjoyed jumping from his window into the pool below. Today you are still likely to see Hollywood A-listers wining and dining in the tucked away seating of this swanky joint. Tower Bar not only offers stunning views of Los Angeles, but it’s an elegant escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Tower Bar, 8358 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA, USA, +1 (323) 654-7100