James M. Cain, on his trouble with L.A. restaurants (“Paradise,” The American Mercury, 1933)
You can go from Santa Barbara to the border, and you will not strike one place where you can get a really distinguished meal. There are, to be sure, the various Biltmores, and in Los Angeles the Ambassador, a restaurant called the Victor Hugo, a hotel called the Town House, and Bernstein’s sea-food place. All of them have their points, and the Town House, I must say, really knows how to put a meal together. But they suffer from two circumstances. The first is that they can’t sell liquor. If you want food and drink at the same meal, you have to go to a speak, and a California speak is so bad that there is nothing to say about it. The other is that they really have nothing to make a distinguished meal with. Meats are obtainable here, and vegetables, the best you can get anywhere; but when it comes to fish, and particularly shellfish, those indispensable embellishments that transform eating into dining, they are simply not to be had. Brother, God hath laid a curse on this Pacific Ocean, and decreed that nothing that comes out of it shall be fit to eat; and anybody who tells you different has simply never fished in another ocean.
(below is a shot of Cain, not eating anything, at a restaurant with Lana Turner)