Though LA may not be known for the same long, rich restaurant history enjoyed by our East Coast brethren, we've still got plenty of iconic restaurants, some of which are old enough that it probably wouldn't be fair to have some 30-something dude rank them. And that's exactly why I decided to ask my 86-year-old Grandma Connie -- the awesomest octogenarian ever (seriously, that's her in the dune buggy) -- to do the honors.
So here it is, a power-ranking of LA's 10 most iconic restaurants, transcribed from my Grandma's notes -- which were written in cursive. Remember cursive?
10. The Apple Pan
The lowdown: You're intimate with their steakburger and hickory burger. So's my Grandma.
Grandma Connie says: "Everybody went to to the Apple Pan at one time or another in their life -- if you never went to the Apple Pan, I feel bad for you. There's also another place nearby called Marty's, next to the fire station on Pico. When your Grandfather and I didn't have any money or time we'd stop at Marty's for dinner. I can't tell you how many times I had a hamburger there -- in the old days it was really good."
The lowdown: You've probably driven by this under-the-radar, old-school steakhouse on Pico hundreds of times without even glancing twice, but someone's definitely going there: it's been open since 1946.
Grandma Connie says: "It's the opposite of some of the other places on this list: if you DON'T want to be seen, you go there. It's like an old shoe, or an old pair of jeans you won't give up -- the food's pretty good, though!"
8. Polo Lounge
The lowdown: As classy as it gets -- the gold standard, for decades.
Grandma Connie says: "I used to go there to see famous people, but I was never good at recognizing them. I would sit at a table with your Grandfather and say: 'who's that?', 'who's that?', 'who's that?' He didn't know either. I never had your Aunt with me to tell me who it actually was."
7. Brent's Deli
The lowdown: The Valley deli standby fits the Jewish food stereotype so well, it may as well wear a yarmulke.
Grandma Connie says: "Get corned beef in an omelette... mmm. Lots of my friends prefer Nate 'n Al or Canters, but honestly, I think that those places are pretty crummy."
The lowdown: The 30+ year-old Wolfgang Puck flagship is the youngest restaurant on this list, though it may be the most famous.
Grandma Connie says: "My friend Patty used to drink at the Sunset Strip location, but before it was Spago, when it was called Johnny Walsh's Cafe Gala. Back then, there was lots of drinking there. Lots."
5. Dan Tana's
The lowdown: There may be no more iconic destination restaurant than Santa Monica Blvd's Dan Tana's: it screams Rat Pack and martinis and mystery.
Grandma Connie says: "When I was a little girl, I'd ride the street car down Santa Monica Blvd, right by there. My friends all love Dan Tana's. When I was there recently, I saw Hugh Hefner with a bevy of girls, and was thinking 'They all look good... except for Hugh.' "
The lowdown: This 24-hour steakhouse near Downtown used to also have a hopping bar scene, although it has kind of died down these days.
Grandma Connie says: "My father was an architect, and he had meetings with city officials at Pacific Dining Car, which is where he proposed putting a parking garage underneath Pershing Square. The city officials thought it was a horrible idea and poo-pooed him out of the building. Seems like he won that battle, eventually!"
The lowdown: This Lawry's-owned barstaurant has been a Los Feliz staple since before Grandma was born. Seriously!
Grandma Connie says: "When your Grandpa and I were first married, there was a two-story building that we were the supers of in Los Feliz, with a driveway through the middle. It was an awful place, but there were washing machines in the back: when there were enough quarters in them, we'd go to dinner at Tam O'Shanter's as a treat."
The lowdown: The original Farmer's Market-adjacent outlet's famous pancakes have allowed 'em to expand to Studio City, Pasadena, and, uh, Vegas.
Grandma Connie says: "When I lived on 6th St with my parents, they used to shop at the Farmer's Market -- this was the '40s, when it was actually a 'farmers market' -- and we'd eat at Du-par's. The food's still the same!"
The lowdown: Hollywood's kind-of-greatest spot for martinis and prime rib since 1919.
Grandma Connie says: "I went there recently and I think I had the same server I had when I was a little girl. Everyone there didn't die. They just reinvented themselves."
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1. The Apple Pan10801 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles
2. Billingsley's11326 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles
3. The Polo Lounge9641 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills
4. Brent's Deli19565 Parthenia St, Northridge
5. Spago Beverly Hills176 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills
6. Dan Tana's9071 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood
7. Pacific Dining Car1310 W 6th St, Los Angeles
8. Tam O'Shanter2980 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles
9. Du-par's6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles
10. Musso & Frank Grill6667 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood
This West LA diner has been serving burgers, pie, and classic American sandwiches at its U-shaped counter since 1947. Not much has changed about The Apple Pan since it opened: the registers are mechanical, the cooks wear soda jerk paper hats, and the red counter stools are still intact. Thankfully, the menu is pretty much the same too, and the signature Hickoryburger, Steakburger, and banana cream pie are as popular as ever. Fun fact: Diner chain Johnny Rockets is modeled after The Apple Pan.
Glenn Billingsley Sr. opened the West Los Angeles location about 1946 as Billingsley's Golden Bull. The under-the-radar steakhouse on Pico has some pretty good food and is open for lunch and dinner.
Tucked away in the Beverly Hills Hotel, The Polo Lounge is an iconic restaurant in on Sunset Blvd. with Old Hollywood glitz and glamor. The elegant art-deco theme of the hotel carries through to the restaurant and its pink,floral-heavy patio. With over 75 years of service under its belt, The Polo Lounge remains at capacity on a daily basis, full of Hollywood hotshots and industry movers and shakers. You’re here to see and to be seen, but also to enjoy the classic American dishes that have aided in making the landmark restaurant what it is today.
Brent's has free WiFi! Oh, and they also have some of the best sandwiches you'll ever taste, which are absolutely loaded with delicious meats and cheeses and served fresh every day, not to mention a full breakfast menu and other non-sandwich related offerings.
Spago is the Wolfgang Puck restaurant that started it all. Synonymous with Southern Californian cuisine, the restaurant first opened in 1982 on the Sunset Strip before decamping to posher environs on Beverly Hill's North Canon Drive in 1997. Throughout the years and various chefs, Spago has consistently maintained Puck's brand of California cooking, which calls for the use of local ingredients in European- and Asian-inspired dishes. If you want to know what (upscale) Californian food tastes like, this is where you'll find out. And you might see some celebrities while you're at it.
Dan Tana's has been around for 50 years and counting, largely due to its family-oriented, intimate environment -- and the fact that it offers up classic Italian dishes like chicken Parm and linguine with clams. It's also open until 1am Monday-Saturday, and until 12:30am on Sundays!
Open since 1921, Pacific Dining Car in Downtown LA (it has a second location in Santa Monica) is a timeless steakhouse that's open 24 hours. The best part about the standard chophouse menu is that you can get a quality filet mignon at 3am, and an extra late-night menu features diner-style eats like egg specials and reuben sandwiches. The 1950s-style decor is outdated in a charming way and you definitely get the sense that the place was hoppin' in its heyday.
Part of the Lawry's family, Tam O'Shanter is an old-world Scottish tavern in Atwater Village with storybook-reminiscent architecture. The traditional pub menu includes haggis (be bold, it's the national dish of Scotland), plus more universally appealing plates like prime rib and fish & chips. The "Toad in the Hole" is a Tam O'Shanter signature, made of filet mignon, Yorkshire pudding, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and Guinness gravy. Have it with a pint of Guinness... or really any beer, and enjoy the bar's aged charm.
This is the original Farmer's Market-adjacent outlet, famous for pancakes, classic sandwiches, and delicious pies, plus their late hours.
This old-school steakhouse has been frequented by the who's-who of Hollywood for years. When a restaurant that doubles as a historical landmark employs bartenders who’ve worked there longer than you’ve been alive, this is a true Hollywood staple. The steakhouse, right in the heart of the most touristy section of arguably the most touristy city in the world, has been virtually unchanged since the days when the Rat Pack spent their off-time there, dining on prime rib and sipping martinis.