Oldest Restaurants in Los Angeles

10 Oldest Restaurants in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is one of the best food cities in America, with countless restaurants serving cuisine from virtually every country in the world. While many restaurants have come and gone over the years, all of the restaurants on this list have become Los Angeles staples. Almost all of the restaurants are at least 100 years old and appear to be going strong. Additionally, for the most part, these restaurants have not changed their menus and some are even run by the original families.

As of December 2019, the information on this list is as accurate as possible and these restaurants are still in operation.

10. Pacific Dining Car

Year Established: 1921
Founder(s):  Fred and Grace Cook
Location:  1310 West Sixth St, Downtown Los Angeles
Cuisine Type:  Steakhouse and Classic American
Operating Hours:  Monday – Sunday: Open 24 Hours

photo source: Pacific Dining Car

Pacific Dining Car is one of the few old Los Angeles restaurants on this list that is still run by descendants of the original founders. The restaurant was started in 1921 by Fred and Grace Cook and is currently operated by their grandson Wes Idol III. The Cooks were inspired to open their own railway dining car restaurant after visiting one with a similar concept. Today, Pacific Dining Car is one of Los Angeles’ most iconic restaurants and has numerous high profile clientele.

Did You Know?

During the Great Depression, Pacific Dining Car staff would invite the hungry to eat for free in the evenings and the leftover food was donated to a nearby mission.

9. Barney’s Beanery

Year Established: 1920
Founder(s):  John “Barney” Anthony
Location:  8447 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood
Cuisine Type:  Classic Bar Food
Operating Hours:  Monday – Friday: 11AM – 2AM; Saturday – Sunday: 9AM – 2AM

Barney's Beaneryphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Barney’s Beanery began as a single restaurant in 1920 in Berkeley, California, but has now grown into a small chain of gastropubs. The original Barney’s Beanery, which was moved to its current location in 1927, is still open and was founded by John “Barney” Anthony. The restaurant’s current location on Santa Monica Boulevard used to be part of Route 66, which led to the popularity of Barney’s Beanery. Today, Barney’s Beanery has locations in Burbank, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Westwood, and Redondo Beach.

Did You Know?

Unfortunately, for several decades, the original Barney’s Beanery restaurant displayed a vulgar homophobic sign that warned gay people to stay out of the restaurant. Founder John “Barney” Anthony was notoriously homophobic and the sign was not completely removed until 1984.

8. Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain

Year Established: c.1920s (1915 as a pharmacy)
Founder(s):  Unspecified
Location:  1526 Mission St, South Pasadena
Cuisine Type:  Ice Cream
Operating Hours:  Monday – Thursday: 9AM – 7PM; Friday – Saturday: 9AM – 10PM; Sunday: 11AM – 8PM

photo source: Roadtrippers

As its name implies, Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain began as a pharmacy in 1915 in the same location it’s still in. It was initially called the South Pasadena Pharmacy and its named changed once more before settling on Fair Oaks Pharmacy. A soda fountain wasn’t added until later and a few lunch items were introduced in the 1920s. Today, Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain only serves ice cream and non-alcoholic drinks.

Did You Know?

When Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain first opened, Mission Street was a part of Route 66, making the pharmacy a popular place to stop.

7. Musso & Frank Grill

Year Established: 1919
Founder(s):  Frank Toulet and Joseph Musso joined not long after
Location:  6667 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood
Cuisine Type:  Steakhouse and Classic American
Operating Hours:  Monday: Closed; Tuesday – Saturday: 11AM – 11PM; Sunday: 4PM – 9PM

Musso & Frank Grillphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Musso & Frank Grill is the oldest restaurant in Hollywood and was initially opened in 1919 by Frank Toulet as Frank’s Café. Not long after, restaurateur Joseph Musso joined the business and he and Toulet renamed the restaurant Musso & Frank Grill. They hired French chef Jean Rue, who created the menu for Musso & Frank Grill, which largely remains unchanged 100 years later.

In 1927, Toulet and Musso sold the restaurant to Joseph Carissimi and John Mosso (no relation to Musso). A few years later, they expanded the restaurant and Mosso’s descendants still own and operate Musso & Frank Grill.

Did You Know?

On the 100th anniversary of Musso & Frank Grill in 2019, the restaurant received its very own Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, just outside of the restaurant’s entrance on Hollywood Boulevard. This honor is the first-ever “award of excellence” from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

6. Magee’s Kitchen

Year Established: 1917; moved to current location in 1934
Founder(s):  Blanche and Raymond Magee
Location:  6333 West Third St, Los Angeles Farmers Market
Cuisine Type:  Classic American and Mexican
Operating Hours:  Monday – Saturday: 9AM – 9PM; Sunday: 10AM – 7PM

photo source: TripAdvisor

Magee’s Kitchen originally opened in Los Angeles’s Grand Central Market in 1917. After noticing all of the farmers selling produce out of their trucks, co-founder, Blanche Magee, decided that they looked hungry and sold them sandwiches and coffee. Along with her husband Raymond, Magee started a little restaurant. A few decades later, Magee’s Kitchen became the first restaurant at the famous Los Angeles Farmers Market and is the only original tenant remaining. The Magee family continues to run Magee’s Kitchen today.

Did You Know?

Magee’s Kitchen co-founder, Blanche Magee, continued to work at the restaurant well into her 90s and passed away in 2000 at the age of 102!

5. Watson’s Soda Fountain & Cafe

Year Established: 1915 (1899 as a pharmacy)
Founder(s):  Keller Watson
Location:  116 East Chapman Ave, Orange
Cuisine Type:  Classic American and Breakfast
Operating Hours:  Sunday – Wednesday: 7:30AM – 9PM; Thursday: 7:30AM – 9PM (bar open until 10PM); Friday – Saturday: 7:30AM – 12AM

Watson's Soda Fountain & Cafephoto source: LA Times

Watson’s Soda Fountain and Cafe started out as pharmacy in 1899 and was owned by Keller Watson. In 1915, Watson added a soda fountain and began selling ice cream sodas, sundaes, and phosphates. Eventually, Watson expanded the menu to include American-style comfort foods.

The Watson family continued to run the pharmacy and cafe until 1971, when Keller Watson, Jr. sold the business to a young pharmacist named Scott Parker. Along with his son, Steve, Parker ran the business for the next few decades (they got rid of the pharmacy in 2011). Finally, in 2015, the Parkers sold Watson’s to Bill & Laurie Skeffington, who did a complete renovation and continue to run Watson’s as a full-time cafe.

Did You Know?

Watson’s Soda Fountain and Cafe is a historical landmark and has been featured in numerous films, including the Tom Hanks movie “That Thing You Do” and “The Bench Warmers.”

4. Cole’s

Year Established: 1908
Founder(s):  Henry Cole
Location:  118 East Sixth Street, Downtown Los Angeles
Cuisine Type:  Classic American (famous for French Dip Sandwiches)
Operating Hours:  Monday – Thursday: 4PM – 2AM; Friday: 12PM – 2AM; Saturday – Sunday: 11AM – 2AM

Cole'sphoto source: Flickr via Alejandro De La Cruz

Cole’s is one of two old Los Angeles restaurants that claims it invented the famous French Dip sandwich in the early 20th century. According to a previous Cole’s owner, the restaurant’s founder Henry Cole, first dipped French bread in jus (beef broth from cooking the sandwich’s meat) – not long after the restaurant opened in 1908 – because a customer had just had dental work and the bread was too hard. However, there are no written records or first hand accounts of this incident, so no one will ever know for sure whether or not Cole’s or rival Philippe’s invented the French Dip.

Did You Know?

In addition to being one of the oldest restaurants in Los Angeles, Cole’s has a sign out front that boasts it is also Los Angeles’ oldest public house (pub/bar).

3. Philippe’s The Original

Year Established: 1908
Founder(s):  Philippe Mathieu
Location:  1001 North Alameda, Downtown Los Angeles
Cuisine Type:  Sandwiches (famous for French Dip Sandwiches) and Breakfast
Operating Hours:  Monday – Sunday: 6AM – 10PM

Philippe's The Originalphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Although rival French Dip sandwich restaurant Cole’s claims to have invented the French Dip first, Philippe’s The Original has the stronger claim and is better known than Cole’s. French immigrant Philippe Mathieu first opened Philippe’s in 1908, but did not create the French Dip until 1918. According to the widely told story, Mathieu accidentally dropped a French roll into meat juices and the customer, a policeman, said that the soaked sandwich was fine. The policeman liked the dipped sandwich so much that he returned with his friends the next day.

The sandwich was then named the French Dip either because Mathieu was French of because the officer’s last name was French, no one is sure. Regardless of how it happened, Philippe’s is now known as the home of the French Dip sandwich.

Did You Know?

Philippe’s The Original has been owned by the Martin and Binder families since the Martins first purchased the restaurant from Philippe Mathieu in 1927.

2. Big Dean’s Ocean Front Café

Year Established: 1902
Founder(s):  Unspecified
Location:  1615 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica
Cuisine Type:  Seafood and Casual American
Operating Hours:  Monday: 12PM – 10PM; Tuesday – Friday: 11AM – 10PM; Saturday – Sunday: 10AM – 10PM

Big Dean's Ocean Front Caféphoto source: Wikimedia Commons via Clotee Pridgen Allochuku

Big Dean’s Ocean Front Café is so old, that it predates the building of the Santa Monica Pier by seven years! The restaurant is located at the foot of the Santa Monica Pier and was opened in 1902 as Laring’s Lunch Room. In the 1970s, Big Dean’s took over the cafe and restaurant has been a Santa Monica institution for over 100 years. Big Dean’s Ocean Front Café has been frequented by many celebrities over the years, including Cary Grant, Robert Wagner, Natalie Wood, Evel Knievel, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Did You Know?

In 2017, Big Dean’s Ocean Front Café announced sought approval from the city to expand into the building next door, which is nearly just as old as the restaurant and was constructed in 1917.

1. The Original Saugus Café

Year Established: 1886
Founder(s):  James Herbert Tolfree
Location:  25861 Railroad Ave, Santa Clarita
Cuisine Type:  Classic American and Mexican (Cali style)
Operating Hours:  Sunday – Wednesday: 6AM – 9PM; Thursday: 6AM – 12AM; Friday – Saturday: open 24 hours

The Original Saugus Caféphoto source: The Original Saugus Cafe

Although The Original Saugus Café is technically located closer to Santa Clarita, it is the oldest restaurant in Los Angeles county as it was first opened way back in 1886. It is also the oldest restaurant in Orange County. Saugus Café was originally called Saugus Eating House and was part of the Saugus train depot, which was part of the greater Southern Pacific railway.

Saugus Café was moved to its current location in 1905 and the building was completely remodeled in 1952.

Did You Know?

In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt stopped by The Original Saugus Café and enjoyed a special New York steak, which according to local legend, he said was “splendid.”



Spread the love

Related Post

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *