It was fun reading in today's My Favorite Weekend that Peter Bogdanovich used to hang out with Orson Welles at Senor Pico in Century City. I love that Boganovich "doesn't think it's there anymore." Yes, Peter, it was torn down probably around 1980 or so. As a Westside white kid, Senor Pico was one of the few "Mexican" restaurants available to my family until my high school friends started driving me to El Tepeyac. It was surely not very authentic, but I hadn't realized that Senor Pico, which was and still is owned by Trader Vic's, was quite influential in popularizing the Cal-Mex food that so many restaurants serve today. And Senor Pico survives to this day in Bangkok and I think Dubai or somewhere. I can only imagine what the Thai version of Cal-Mex food might look like.
Here's an excerpt from an article in Nation's Restaurant News about the history of Cal-Mex:
Another creator and popularizer of Cal-Mex food was Victor J. Bergeron, known as "Trader Vic," who in 1933 founded what would become his eponymous restaurant chain in Oakland, Calif. After several Trader Vic's outlets were up and running, Bergeron looked around for other possibilities. He later wrote that he'd had "a mad-on for Mexican food for a thousand years," but he found the real thing "primitive," "greasy, hot and not well prepared." Bergeron spent a couple weeks in Mexico and Texas looking for recipes that he could adapt to the tastes of mainstream Americans. He also popularized the margarita, a drink that likely was invented in bars in Mexico that catered to American tourists.
Bergeron opened a restaurant called "Senor Pico" in San Francisco in 1964 and another one in Los Angeles three years later. By 1973 the Senor Pico restaurants sold more tequila than any other restaurant in the world. The margarita became a foundation stone of the Cal-Mex culinary tradition and a fixture in restaurants and bars throughout the United States.
(menus from the LA Public Library)