Thursday, May 26, 2011

Historic L.A.: from Ansel Adam's Brown Derby to Senor Pico

Brown Derby on Wilshire, Ansel Adams
I'm still recovering from jet lag, so it's nostalgia time at EatingLA. I'm glad Ansel Adams took time out from Yosemite to shoot the Brown Derby. While searching online, I was surprised to find this letter to the editor I wrote to the L.A. Times back in 1994. Do any of these places ring familiar?
Thanks for your great section on restaurants of L.A. past. As a child, I too was taken to many of the places mentioned and several other favorites.
At the Brown Derby, my favorite meal was a plate of mini-hamburgers topped with various sauces, with plenty of pumpernickel toast for starters. My favorite meal of all was eggs Benedict and fresh raspberries with cream in the garden room of the Polo Lounge.
After Sunday school with Jimmy Stewart's children at Beverly Hills Presbyterian, we always repaired to Linny's Deli, the deli of choice in the dark ages before Nate 'n' Al's.
For my birthday, I usually wanted to go to the Luau and throw money in the lagoon. After downing a copious selection of fried appetizers covered in duck sauce, my father always joked that we didn't need to order anything else, but of course we always did.
In the 1970s my boyfriend, no doubt seeking to corrupt an innocent 16-year-old, introduced me to Nanki-Poo's on La Cienega. It was a "waterfall Chinese" place, as Jonathan Gold says, but its main attribute was its willingness to serve multiple daiquiris to teens out for a night on the town.
Another favorite spot was Chez Puce, a quirky creperie in a ramshackle part of Pico Boulevard (across from Santa Monica High). I seem to recall Madame Puce boisterously presiding over the kitchen, a generally raucous atmosphere, and a huge pan of free brownies at the door. Puce's crepes were enormously doughy things stuffed with garlic butter or ratatouille. Madame surfaced briefly at the Mayfair Music hall when it was still open, but where is she now?
Los Angeles
Also, if you haven't checked out Facebook's Vintage Los Angeles group yet, do not delay, it's full of movies and photos of departed restaurants and wonderful street scenes.


Miles said...

Fun letter! Two things: 1. It's been a very long time since the Times published letters that long. 2. what did you mean by the "dark days before Nate n Al's? Surely, it was there when you were a kid. It opened in 1945.

L.A. Story said...

What a great letter and love the pic! Hope CC will have fun LA stories like these when she's a grown-up. :)

Ellen Bloom said...

Hey Miles! Nate 'n Al's was a very small take-out deli with only a few tables until the late 60's or early '70's when they expanded their place. Linny's was THE deli to go to on Beverly Drive. It was huge with big booths and a revolving cake stand!

Welcome back, Pat!

Miles said...

Thanks Ellen. I grew up there in the 70s and 80s, but had always thought it had existed as it does now. Who knew?

The Suzzzz said...

My paternal grandfather was an actor in Hollywood in the early 3os. I still enjoy reading newspaper clippings from his era from the society pages saying which hollywood so-n-so was seen dining where. It is sad that so many of these icons have disappeared or are in danger of disappearing. My 19 year old niece and I are flying to LA in 2 weeks for my birthday and are hoping to hit a couple of the old school spots, so far Phillipe's is the only one on the must eat list.

Anonymous said...

chez puce was my grandparents restaurant madame puce or grandmere has I called her passed away in 2003 of cancer