Chef Roy Choi has been our “spirit guide” since this project began, looking through the archives with me, meeting with students, and writing the Foreword to the book. Here is another shot from the LA Times story on our Book Festival conversation: Roy with a 1946 menu from Van’s Louisiana Barbecue on E. Florence (between Main & San Pedro).
In a conversation Sunday at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, author Josh Kun and author and chef Roy Choi discussed food, politics and L.A. history while offering a fascinating, in-depth preview of the book “To Live and Dine in L.A.: Menus and the Making of the Modern City.”
No wonder the Adams-Sheetz “drive-in” restaurants were called “Drive Inns” in the 1940s. With offerings like these (from a location on 8th & Maple downtown), a nap before driving-out was probably in order. The great mobile promise of L.A. automotive culinary culture was perhaps nowhere better workshopped than with a plate of bacon-stuffed Welsh Rarebit eaten over a steering wheel.
‘Tis the season to think about Christmas menus past. Here’s two glimpses into L.A. culinary Christmas history. Start with a 1906 menu from the restaurant of the Hollenbeck Hotel on Spring and Second, and then move to Glendale in 1928, where you’ll see four different Christmas menu advertisement lures (apparently 1928 'twas the year for eating Christmas dinner in Glendale). Hanukkah has rarely come with a similar culture of dining out– the candles could burn the house down!- so it’s no surprise that none seem to show up in the Library’s collection (then again, there are so many ways to spell it that I could just be searching wrong).
At the turn of the twentieth century, when L.A. was the premiere sanatorium destination for the infirm and the invalid— a TB tourist hot-spot— the restaurant dishes L.A was notorious for were vegetarian. At early health-conscious haunts like the Vegetarian Restaurant (which opened at the bottom of Bunker Hill in 1903) and the Nut Kettle in the 1930s (home of the nut burger), plant and vegetable dishes fed the city’s thriving vegetarian and raw food movements.
Home of: The Mutt, The Dachsund, The Chihuahua, The Boston Bull, The Husky, The Beagle, & The Keeshond. In 1949, no dog over sixty cents.
Camera: iPhone 4S
Focal Length: 4mm
Where to eat in downtown L.A. in 1910.
When heading to Montebello for French cuisine didn’t raise an eyebrow…
The Clock, declaring its love for Southeast LA, 1940s.
Ito and Minoru Matoba opened the Atomic Cafe in 1946. For the next forty years they served teriyaki dinners, chow mein, and chop suey alongside in-house creations like the mysterious Hamburger Gacha to an ever-changing downtown crowd. When the Matoba’s daughter Nancy took over the jukebox and the front of the house in the late 70s, the Atomic– for most of its run at 1st and Alameda– became the L.A. punk scene’s after-hours headquarters. Little Tokyo old-timers rubbed elbows with members of X and The Germs as the restaurant filled with songs by Roy Rogers, Yuzo Kayama, Henry Mancini, and The Weirdos. The jukebox became as famous as the food and by the 1980s listings for pork chop suey and a side of kamaboko were printed atop faded 45s by the B-52s and The Selecter. In 2009, “Atomic Nancy” stopped by Dublab to spin a set of some of her favorites from the legendary jukebox. Click above to listen.