Los Angeles has a long and storied history when it comes to food – and the best way to experience it is by eating at some of the city’s long-standing restaurants. Here are the 10 best historical restaurants in LA that have withstood Angelenos’ changing tastes.
Restaurant, American, $$$
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Flaunting panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, Geoffrey’s Malibu was designed by Richard Neutra after World War II. Formerly known as the Holiday House, this historical restaurant is a mid-century relic that welcomed big names like Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe in its heyday. Today, the beloved patio is sought out for special occasions like weddings and charitable events. The cliffside beauty, the Hollywood mythology and, of course, a breakfast menu loaded with three kinds of eggs benedict, all make for a memorable visit.
Established in 1908, Cole’s prides itself on being the oldest public house in LA. When you’re seated in the dimly lit bottom floor of the Pacific Electric Building, you get the feeling that if the bordello-red wallpaper could talk, you would walk away with some of Los Angeles’s best-kept secrets. Here, the early-20th-century vibe evokes an era rife with speakeasies and secret dealings. But before stepping back into present time, order one of their historical cocktails to complement their much-loved french dip.
Despite the slew of tourist traps and tacky shops that line Hollywood Boulevard, Musso & Frank Grill is a bona fide relic of 1920s glamour. It is worth a visit merely for the impressively preserved vintage interior: lush, red-leather booths, an antique phone booth and wood ceilings. Plus, the waiters look as though they stepped out of an early silent film, sporting red coats and crisp bow ties. With a true dedication to authenticity, their menu has hardly changed in the 100 years it has been open. Take a peek at their made-to-order classics menu, featuring the beloved Grenadine Beef: three filet medallions soaked in gravy and béarnaise sauce.
Olvera Street is one of the oldest boulevards in Los Angeles, replete with a town plaza and several buildings straight out of the early 20th century. Both tourists and local people visit Olvera Street for the cultural events, busy marketplaces and the best Mexican cuisine. Cielito Lindo – easy to find on Olvera with its colorful facade – has maintained its reputation since 1934 as the premier destination for taquitos. Before touring Olvera Street’s Avila Adobe, the oldest standing residence in LA, grab a couple of plates of taquitos swimming in bright green avocado sauce.
Yes, Pink’s usually touts a long line. But what began as a humble hotdog stand by Paul and Betty Pink in 1939 has since grown into a prodigious franchise with multiple locations across the country. The interior of Pink’s is adorned with signed photos, a celebrity endorsement of the restaurant’s innovative hotdog selection. Their menu includes a mix of both classics and avant-garde creations, like the Guadalajara Dog, a hotdog crowned with relish, onions, tomatoes and sour cream. Another favorite is the Rosie O’Donnell Long Island Dog, which arrives flush with mustard, onions, chili and sauerkraut.
Those seeking a dining experience reminiscent of the early 20th century certainly won’t be disappointed by Pacific Dining Car. The elegant steakhouse, modeled after a classic railway dining car, has served filet mignons since 1921. It opened at the height of Hollywood glamour – construction had just begun on the Hollywood Bowl, and the iconic Hollywoodland Sign was erected in 1923. Today, it is the only 24-hour fine-dining establishment in LA; its dining room brims with those leaving work late, partiers and Hollywood executives.
Few restaurants in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles are given the same respect as The Original Pantry Cafe. The classic, 24/7 cash-only diner has served loyal patrons on the same corner of Figueroa and James M Wood Boulevard since 1924. Repeatedly ranked as the most famous restaurant in LA for its unchanging approach to good food and authentic 1950s diner decor, the restaurant is now owned by former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan. If you don’t mind a little wait, slide into a booth at this cavernous diner and expect servers to shuttle out towering stacks of pancakes and platters of biscuits smothered in gravy.
Canter’s Restaurant, Bakery, Deli and Bar, North Fairfax Avenue
Restaurant, American, $$$
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Canter’s Delicatessen originally opened in 1931 in Boyle Heights, but later moved to its current location near Hollywood in 1948, serving the many Jewish communities who had migrated west post-World War II. Over the years, Canter’s has attracted a mix of rock stars, Hollywood giants and local people simply seeking a pastrami sandwich. The enormous menu boasts Jewish classics like kashka varnishes, pink sheaths of lox on bagels and potato knishes, as well as a handful of traditional deli items like pancakes, salads and burgers. Guests may also enjoy a beverage at the adjacent bar, dubbed the Kibitz Room, which features live music by rock bands.
Nickel Diner is found on an old stretch of Main Street in Downtown Los Angeles, in a space dating to the 1940s – a site of a long-forgotten diner that opened in the mid-20th century and then abandoned until it was reopened in 2008. During remodeling, original hand-painted wall menus were uncovered, advertising 1940s prices, such as 25-cent hamburgers and 19-cent hotdogs. Although you won’t find those prices today, you will find authentic 1940s wallpaper, floor tiles, welcoming red booths and indulgent maple-bacon donuts – a sentimental nod to the American diner of the 1940s and ’50s. For something a little less sweet, try the grilled flatiron steak with a wedge of iceberg lettuce drizzled with blue-cheese dressing, or a stack of fried catfish with corn pancakes.
The Taix family immigrated to Los Angeles from southeastern France in 1870. In 1912, they opened their first French cuisine restaurant downtown. The Taix French Restaurant (pronounced “tex”) moved to its current location at the intersection of Silverlake and Echo Park on Sunset Boulevard in 1962. Still owned and operated by the Taix family, the restaurant dishes up French bistro plates like baked french-onion soup, cassoulet and escargot de bourgogne, plus they boast an award-winning wine list.