Lawry’s Prime Rib restaurant in 1938. Lawry’s original location was on La Cienega Boulevard where the current Lawry’s sits. Credit: Lawry’s the Prime Rib
While trendsetters and foodies might relish seeking out the latest celebrity chef-owned eatery or unearthing the next best-kept-dining-secret, for some meals, only a classic restaurant will do – one whose food, décor and beehive-crowned waitresses have stood the test of time. These are the fine dining establishments that never let us down, nor does their signature dish: Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s, prime rib at Lawry’s, Zombies at Don the Beachcomber.
There are a few key elements to mid-century classic dining: the white tablecloths, the dark, buttery leather booths, the film noir lighting. The wacky theme décor – north woods cabin, Polynesian Tiki hut, French Quarter bordello. The banquet rooms, where generations of families might have celebrated birthdays, graduations and weddings – and perhaps still do. And of course, the food: steaks, shrimp, baked potatoes, wedges of lettuce, jumbo-sized cocktails, flaming desserts.
Peter Moruzzi’s new book celebrates iconic mid-century restaurants from Miami to San Francisco, Chicago to New Orleans, with intoxicating photographs and mouth-watering menu descriptions. Although many of them are long gone, this world is far from extinct – here in Southern California you can still dine out ‘Mad Men’ style at old-world joints like Musso & Frank’s, The Smoke House and Pacific Dining Car, or impress a first date by singing along with Marty and Elaine at The Dresden Room.
What’s your favorite classic watering hole? Which bygone restaurants do you miss the most? (Tell us below)
Peter Moruzzi, author of “Classic Dining: Discovering America’s Finest Mid-Century Restaurants” (Gibbs Smith), author of pictorial histories including “Havana Before Castro: When Cuba Was a Tropical Playground” (Gibbs Smith)
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