City’s famous and legendary restaurants celebrated in book

| December 28, 2023 | 0 Comments

COVER of new book.

Those with a love of Los Angeles history, food or architecture — or those who just enjoy eating out — are sure to have an appetite for the compendium of facts, stories, recipes and photographs found in chef, author and food historian George Geary’s newest book, “L.A.’s Landmark Restaurants: Celebrating the Legendary Locations Where Angelenos Have Dined for Generations.”

A follow-up to Geary’s popular “L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants: Celebrating the Famous Places Where Hollywood Ate, Drank, and Played,” which focused on celebrity haunts, the 51 iconic restaurants in his latest work are places with long local histories where regular Los Angelenos returned again and again. Geary covers the length and breadth of Greater Los Angeles, providing detailed accounts about the original owners, clientele, menus, recipes and even architectural styles of restaurants from the Dal Rae in Pico Rivera to Geoffrey’s in Malibu, Joe Jost’s in Long Beach to the Original Pantry Café Downtown and the Googie-style Pann’s near Los Angeles International Airport. Although some of the featured eateries are gone, such as Nickodell (which had locations on Argyle Avenue and on Melrose Avenue, adjacent to Paramount) and the Sportsmen’s Lodge (now a shopping complex), other restaurants, including Cole’s, The Apple Pan and Casita del Campo, are still going strong. Our neighborhood is well-represented with stalwarts Canter’s Delicatessen, El Cholo, HMS Bounty, Tom Bergin’s and El Coyote, among others.

Historic photos


Geary has amassed hundreds of historic photographs and mountains of fascinating information about Southland restaurants. In 1944, he recounts, 20 loyal customers hand-carried Tom Bergin’s horseshoe-shaped oak bar from its original Wilshire Boulevard location to its new home on Fairfax Avenue. A Barney’s Beanery ad in the 1970s touted its burgers as a “perfect gift for your Valentine” and listed options including the “soaked” wine burger and the “intellectual” mushroom-and-egg burger. Few know that a pickle room exists in the bowels of Canter’s Deli, where approximately 55 gallons of cucumbers and green tomatoes are brined every day — and yes, their pickle recipe is included in the book.


“L.A.’s Landmark Restaurants” recounts its share of scandals, disputes and tragedies. Original founders of the Dal Rae, Owen Dalton and Rae Harris, had to sell their place after Dalton’s divorce following his notorious affair with a burlesque dancer. El Coyote has the ghoulish distinction of being the last place Sharon Tate and friends dined before their murder by the followers of Charles Manson; fans honor them yearly on the anniversary at the booth where they sat that fateful night. In a scene worthy of an old-time comedy two-reeler, two men drinking at the bar at George Petrelli’s Steak House in Culver City just weeks before Christmas in 1954 pulled out guns and robbed the restaurant of $3,612, a bottle of scotch and the drinks they were in the process of imbibing, all while one complained that the steaks they had eaten earlier were too expensive, while the other defended the price, noting that for $15 they had had three steaks and wine.

CANTER BROS. DELICATESSEN original location in Boyle Heights.

Author George Geary discovered his culinary passion when he was 12 and helping a political campaign by handwriting address labels for them. He was paid 25 cents and given lunch at Philippe the Original, which impressed him greatly. “This place is magical!” he thought at the time. “There’s sawdust on the floor!”

Recently named Culinary Educator of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Geary has been a pastry chef for the Walt Disney Company, created all the cheesecakes for “The Golden Girls” series, consulted or judged such television shows as “Hell’s Kitchen” and “The Taste” with Anthony Bourdain, taught cooking classes aboard Holland America Lines and has written nine cookbooks.

EL COYOTE’s original location on La Brea Avenue.

This delicious history sounds like a sweet deal, but his foray into the world of competitive cooking went sour. When Geary was the culinary coordinator of food contests for the Los Angeles County Fair, he needed a bodyguard after his life was threatened twice. Once a husband showed up late to the fair with his wife’s entry and harassed Geary when he wouldn’t accept her dish after the judging started. Police later told him his car might have been tampered with. Another time, the mortician spouse of a contestant menacingly measured Geary “Just in case.”

Ever the fan of culinary and restaurant history, George Geary says, “I write about them because I love what I do and want other people to love what I love.” Asked which new restaurants will be landmarks tomorrow, he sighed, “They don’t last the way they did in the past. More conglomerates and investment companies are backers. We don’t see families opening a restaurant and multi-generational families running it any more”

The 272-page hardcover book is published by Santa Monica Press and sells for $50.

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Category: Entertainment

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