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Los Angeles' Oldest Restaurants

(credit: Canter's)

Although the restaurant industry is cyclical in nature and trends come and go, there are certain restaurants that stand the test of time in Los Angeles. Some restaurants, for example, still remain in place today. Cole's (or Philippe's, depending on who you ask), the birthplace of the French dip, remains in place today after over a century in business. Los Angeles is home to many other legendary restaurants. We dug deep to find the oldest and most nostalgia-worthy restaurants across Los Angeles.

Cole's restaurant
(credit: Cole's)

118 E 6th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 622-4090

Cole's opened in 1908 on the ground floor the Pacific Electric building and is L.A.'s oldest public house. Henry Cole, who opened the restaurant and saloon and hung three Tiffany glass lampshades over the massive 40-foot mahogany bar, built tables from the sides of old trolley cars. These tables still stand today. Adding to the mystery of the origin of the French dip, legend has it that a customer came in and asked that the chef to put some sauce on his sandwich to make it easier to bite into, as he had a tooth ache. The chef dipped the sandwich in au jus and the rest is history. In 1989, Cole's was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and after serving continually for 99 years, Cole's briefly shut down in 2007 and re-opened in 2008 to much acclaim. Along with still serving their classic French dip sandwich, you can get a great cocktail in their backroom speakeasy The Varnish.

(credit: Philippe the Original)

Philippe The Original
1001 N Alameda St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 628-3781

Philippe Mathieu opened one of L.A.'s most historic restaurants Philippe The Original (known as Philippe's) in October of 1908, but it wasn't until 1918 when true history happened. While making a sandwich for a customer, Mathieu inadvertently dropped the sliced French roll into the roasting pan filled with juice still hot from the oven. And, so was born the French dip sandwich. The origin of the name has been lost in history, but it either came from Mathieu's French heritage, the French roll the sandwich is made on, or because the customer's name who happened to be a policeman was French. In 1951 Phillipe's relocated to their present location and today the Martin and Binder family, including some 4th generation managers and partners, run the landmark restaurant. The house specialty consists of either roast beef, roast pork, leg of lamb, turkey, ham or pastrami and is served on a lightly textured, freshly baked French roll which has been dipped in the natural gravy of the roasts. Guests can add cheese and ask for it single or double-dipped, or wet. The restaurant serves somewhere around 2,000 to 3,500 French Dipped Sandwiches a day while about 100 gallons of Philippe's Hot Mustard is prepared weekly for patrons to enjoy at the restaurant, or buy from the candy counter or online.

(credit: Musso & Frank Grill Co., Inc)

Musso & Frank Grill
6667 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 467-7788

Musso & Frank Grill has been a Hollywood mainstay since 1919, four years before the iconic Hollywood sign was built. Passed down through three generations, Hollywood's elite of past and present have made Musso's a Hollywood staple. They are known as much for their commitment to tradition as they are for its superior food and classic ambiance. In fact, Musso's looks the way it did when Charlie Chaplin used to dine there and their classic menu has gone virtually unchanged for nearly 100 years. When you step into the restaurant, you are set back into another time of classic Hollywood. At Hollywood's oldest eatery, guests sit back in red booths and choose between some of their classic dishes like the Grenadine of Beef Filet Mignon served Au Jus and the Chicken Pot Pie.

pacific dining car
(credit: Pacific Dining Car)

Pacific Dining Car
1310 W 6th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 483-6000

Fred and Grace "Lovey" Cook opened the original Pacific Dining Car restaurant in 1921 in a railway train car parked on a rented lot in downtown Los Angeles. The restaurant is now in their fourth generation of ownership and has a second location in Santa Monica. Among many other unique features in the restaurant, they are the only fine dining restaurant in Los Angeles to serve guests 24 hours a day. Pacific Dining Car serves only the best U.S.D.A. Prime American Corn-Fed Beef and all of their steaks are aged on the premises to enhance their flavor and tenderness. Along with the steaks which are cut by their butcher and then uniquely grilled under a specialized open flame, other specialties include their breakfast menu which includes a plethora of egg dishes like the Eggs Blackstone.

Tam O'Shanter
(credit: Lawry's Restaurants, Inc.)

Tam O'Shanter
2980 Los Feliz Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 664-0228

Established in 1922 by Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp, Tam O'Shanter is Los Angeles' oldest restaurant. Operated by the same family in the same location, the Scottish inspired restaurant serves pub fare with Scottish influences while family tartans decorate the walls of their several dining rooms. In the early days of the restaurant, Walt Disney was a frequent patron and in 1968 the restaurant was renamed the Great Scot after a revamping of the menu and a major remodeling. In 1982, in honor of their 60th anniversary they decided to change the restaurant's name back once again to Tam O'Shanter. The restaurant is now run by second, third and fourth generations of the Frank and Van de Kamp families who remain Scots by affection and serve guests popular items like the hand-carved roasted prime rib, a brisket sandwich, the Toad in the Hole, CC Brown's Hot Fudge Sundae and an amazing chocolate soufflé.

The Original Pantry Cafe
(credit: The Original Pantry Cafe)

The Original Pantry Cafe
877 S Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 972-9279

The Original Pantry started with five employees in 1924 in a one room / 15-stool counter restaurant. The restaurant, which claims to have never closed its doors since opening, expanded a few times between 1930 and 1950 and moved into its present location at the corner of 9th and Figueroa street after 1950. The casual diner offers guests an atmosphere rich in character and history. From having the same specials for decades to being a cash only restaurant where you pay the cashier in a secure glass booth, it'll definitely bring back memories of the olden days. While history is paramount here, the menu is nothing to scoff at. With delicious items, the menu includes everything from breakfast selections to steaks, sandwiches, cakes & pies. All items are served 24 hours a day with thick-cut sourdough bread and a saucer of coleslaw, too. And, on their blackboard, specials include the roast beef hash, country-fried steak, pork chops among other items.

An undated photo of Canter's Deli in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles. (credit: Canter's Deli)

Canter's Deli
419 N Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 651-2030

Whether you're a local of L.A. or not, chances are you've eaten at the legendary Canter's Deli. The Deli originally opened in 1931 in Boyle Heights, and later moved to the Fairfax District of Los Angeles in 1948 taking over the old Esquire Theatre. Since then, it has remained and aside from its delicious deli food, it is known for its old decor. Since 1953, they have expanded a few times and it is now one of the largest delicatessens in the country measuring over 14,000 square feet. The Deli is open 24 hours a day and 363 days a year, (closing only on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) and has fed many of Hollywood's elite over the years. Widely known as the most famous Jewish Delicatessen in LA serving its classic chicken matzah ball soup, the bakery goods are prepared fresh twice daily on the premises and favorites such as potato salad, coleslaw, egg salad, knishes and more are also prepared daily. Along with an expanded menu, other special items include the "Buck Benny" and a "7 for 1" lox platter and most popular items include the huge delicious pastrami and corned beef sandwiches and the irresistible Reuben sandwiches.

(credit: Derek Schreck)

Tom Bergin's
840 S Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 936-7151

February 11, 1935 marks the day in which a lawyer named Tom Bergin unlocked the doors on the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Fairfax Ave.. With a liquor license on the wall - the second oldest in Los Angeles County, he opened Tom Bergin's Old Horseshoe Tavern & Thoroughbred Club. Drawing on his family roots from Boston, Bergin sought to create an authentic pub, defined by warmth, great food, and exceptional hospitality. It became a nexus for the LA community and has been popular ever since. In 1949 the restaurant moved down the block to a larger space, which they still occupy. Over the years, Tom Bergins became a Hollywood hangout which can be seen by the thousands of shamrocks affixed to the ceiling commemorating friends and loyal regulars. Today, it is a regular hot spot for sporting events, theater and art lovers looking for a dinner spot that is is both centrally located and offers great food. The restaurant makes everything in house including their pastas, cheeses, ice creams, breads, meats and more. Items including the Duck, Duck, Goose, the lamb t-bone, and the Not-Your-Father's Root Beer Float have become fan favorites.

credit: Lawry's Restaurants, Inc.)

100 N La Cienega Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 652-2827

In 1938, Lawrence L. Frank and his brother-in-law Walter Van de Kamp opened the first Lawry's The Prime Rib on La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Today, it remains in the same spot as a testament of time and of its popularity. Initially created to serve just their famous prime ribs of beef, Lawrence designed special carts to come tableside and let guests watch as it was carved. He also began to experiment with how to properly season the beef he served, and today the formula he created, Lawry's Seasoned Salt, is the world's most popular blended seasoning. After achieving much success, restaurants soon copied the menu of Lawry's, including the sides of baked potato, creamed spinach, and whipped cream horseradish. While roasted prime ribs of beef continue to be the centerpiece of their menu 78 years later, they also offer lobster, fresh fish and vegetarian specials daily.

(credit: The Beverly Hills Hotel)

The Polo Lounge
9641 Sunset Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 887-2777

Since its christening in 1941, the iconic Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel, has always had deep roots in Hollywood and its golden era. From Charlie Chaplin, and Marlene Dietrich to Elizabeth Taylor, Hollywood royalty has long held court at this power dining spot in LA. The Lounge features three dining areas complete with their signature pink and green motif and features an American cuisine from Chef Kaleo Adams. The menu reflects a culinary philosophy centered on sustainable cooking and sourcing from local farmers markets. Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, as well as a delicious Sunday brunch, long-time patrons can spot fondly-remembered dishes as the Polo Lounge "favorites." Included are The McCarthy salad, the beef sirloin burger, steak tartare, the tortilla soup. For dessert the Chocolate Soufflé is a must!

(credit: John Reneaud)

The Dresden
1760 N Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 665-4294

The Dresden has been a family owned and an iconic, Hollywood landmark since the 1954. Along with cocktails served at the bar with live entertainment, they also present classic food and drink options in the formal dining room. In the lounge there is music from 9pm - 1am throughout the week, while the dining room gives patrons an old school dining adventure in an retro-style period setting. Resident musicians Marty and Elayne Roberts recently celebrated their 35th anniversary of performing at The Dresden. Not a lot has changed at this Hollywood lounge since it was remodeled in the '60s. It's the way Angeleno's love it. While you sit in the lounge, try a Dresden's Old Fashioned, which is one of the more popular drinks, while the chateaubriand is highly recommended in the dining room.

(credit: Jared Cowan)

Tito's Tacos
11222 Washington Pl.
Culver City, CA 90230
(310) 391-5780

Tito's Tacos is an iconic fast-food restaurant which has been serving up traditional Mexican Food cuisine to hungry Los Angelinos since 1959. It's Mexican Food is made fresh everyday and is based upon original recipes which have been improved upon over the past years. Tito's Tacos longstanding popularity is attributable to the fact that the industrious employees at the eatery are knowledgeable on how to properly prepare each and every menu item in such a way as to achieve the utmost flavorsome results for the restaurant's beloved and loyal patrons.

(credit: Ryan Tanaka)

La Dolce Vita
9785 Santa Monica Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 278-1845

Since opening its doors in October of 1966, La Dolce Vita has served fine Italian cuisine in an intimate atmosphere giving the feel of a nostalgic club. Originally owned by George Raft, George Smith, and Jimmy Ullo, the restaurant became a favorite hot spot for Hollywood's royalty, including the the Sinatra family (Frank's favorite dish was the veal Milanese), the Reagans (Nancy has a dish named The Reagan Sand Dabs dedicated to her), the Fondas and many more. In 2003, the new owner Alessandro Uzielli gave the restaurant a face lift, but made sure to keep the old Hollywood glamour and charm of La Dolce Vita alive. For its 50th anniversary, the Beverly Hills Hollywood Commissary will be offering a 3-course anniversary menu celebrating the restaurant's most classic dishes. Those include the caesar salad, their spaghetti bolognese, a delicious tiramisu and a glass of Chianti.

DanaTanas1964 1
(credit: Dan Tana's and Peter Valli)

Dan Tana's
9071 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 275-9444

After finding himself in Hollywood playing bad guys in movies, Dan Tana, a former professional soccer player from Serbia, founded Dan Tana's in West Hollywood in 1964. The Italian restaurant, which is famed for its celebrity clientele and being open late, has been and continues to be an insider's place for Hollywood royalty. Located just two doors down from the legendary Troubadour nightclub, the old-school Italian restaurant is known for its dark red booths, checkered table-cloths and Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling. The restaurant is also known for its delicious cuisine, including the famed chicken parmigiana, New York steak, white fish and Caesar salad. Chef Neno has been serving stars from Frank Sinatra to Richard Burton and Liz Taylor as well as valued regulars since 1967. In 2009, Dan Tana sold the restaurant to his good friend Sonja, and she has preserved all its traditions while also adding some personal touches.

(credit: Barney's Beanery )

Barney's Beanery
8447 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Phone:(323) 654-2287

A list of the best oldest restaurants in Los Angeles could never be complete without the addition of Barney's Beanery. For over 90 years, Barney's Beanery has been a L.A. favorite and has served up delicious foot for patrons. Opening their first location in West Hollywood in 1927, this L.A. fixture has since expanded to other areas of the city, including Burbank, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Westwood, and Redondo Beach. Serving gastropub style food, the eatery has been a welcoming place for locals and celebrities alike, and has also been featured in several films and tv shows such as Oliver Stone's The Doors and many others. In the 50's, it was a Route 66 diner which served as a Beatnik hangout and a place where screenwriters, authors, rockers and pop artists could let loose. Back then, the area surrounding the restaurant was just a huge poinsettia field!

Article by Jarone Ashkenazi is a freelance writer who covers: restaurants, bars, dating, relationships, sports and other lifestyle topics. More of his work can be viewed at Connect with him on Twitter: @JaroneAsh.
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