It’s always fun to try a new restaurant, to be one of the first to “discover” the latest trendy spot. However, there is something to be said for history, too. Restaurants that have stood the test of time are rare in an industry that sees a 60% failure rate in the first year.
Southern California has dozens of restaurants that have existed for more than 50 years. Some may surprise you for their longevity. Others, you may not have heard of … yet.
I was surprised at how many historic restaurants in the San Fernando Valley I’ve actually eaten a meal. Here’s a list of some of my favorites.
Opened in 1926
The Original Martino’s Bakery
335 N. Victory Blvd., Burbank, 91502
I first heard about Martino’s from my friend, Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a Southern California refugee living on Whidbey Island, Wash. She told me about this wonderful bakery where her late mother would purchase the “most divine” teacakes for special occasions.
The world-famous teacakes are still baked using the original recipe. A few years ago, I purchased some teacakes and packed them in my luggage to bring a box to Elizabeth. She cried when she saw the box. It brought back many happy memories of her youth and of special times with her mother.
Opened in 1947
Valley Inn Restaurant and Bar
4557 Sherman Oaks Ave., Sherman Oaks, 91403
This restaurant is a landmark in the Valley. Check out the custom-crafted bar made in the 1800s. Sophia and Boris Brodetsky have owned the restaurant since 1998 and have kept some of the classic menu items from 1947 including:
Beefeater Sandwich, sliced prime rib in a grilled sourdough bread with Jack cheese, and
Original Monte Cristo Sandwich, layers of ham, turkey, Swiss cheese, white bread and batter dipped and deep fried. Served with sour cream and fruit preserves.
The Valley Inn’s famous Garlic Cheese Bread brings me back again and again, when the craving hits. Try the bread with the Classic French Onion Soup topped with baked Provolone cheese.
A signature entrée from 1947 is “The Best Country Fried Chicken.” Half a chicken dipped in special spices and baked. It is served with homemade country gravy mashed potatoes and chef’s selection of seasonal vegetables. Allow 35-40 minutes for preparation. The Oven Roasted Chicken is also from an original 1947 recipe.
Opened in 1949
Bob’s Big Boy
4211 W. Riverside Drive, Burbank, 91505
This Bob’s Big Boy restaurant is the oldest remaining Bob’s Big Boy in America. Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, Debbie Reynolds, Jonathan Winters, Dana Andrews and Martha Raye once were regulars. Located not far from Warner Bros. Studios, it still attracts stagehands and other industry professionals.
The Beatles dined at the Burbank Bob’s Big Boy location during their 1965 U.S. summer tour. Fans and tourists from around the world now come to this restaurant, just to dine in “The Beatles Booth.” The table is the last booth on the right as you enter, where the windows face out towards Riverside Drive.
Customers have been known to wait for hours just for a chance to order a Bob’s Original Big Boy Combo (double-deck burger with cheese, mayo, lettuce and special “red relish”) from the same booth where The Beatles dined.
The building’s most striking feature is the 70-foot tall freestanding Bob’s sign. The sign, with its attractive pink and white neon lettering, is visible at night from far down Riverside Drive.
Opened in 1954
The Bear Pit Bar-B-Que, 10825 Sepulveda Blvd., Mission Hills, 91345
This is one of my favorite BBQ restaurants anywhere in Southern California. The restaurant’s history actually began in the late 1940s, when original owner Ben Baier moved from Missouri and started a small barbecue shack in Newhall. After several years, the popularity of his food spread, so he decided to move to the northern San Fernando Valley town of Dennis Park (later Mission Hills) and start a small take-out restaurant.
Country singer Tennessee Ernie Ford touted the restaurant in its early days.
The restaurant still uses the same low-and-slow pit BBQ cooking method and recipes. Over the years, new owners took on the restaurant but all maintained the integrity of the food, while adding new menu items.
Opened in 1956
16063 Sherman Way, Van Nuys, CA 91406
Famous for its soda fountain, Beeps is just a fun place to visit. You can’t miss the place – it’s painted bright pink. Fountain treats include milkshakes and malts, freezes and floats, smoothies, ice frappes and more. Have a scoop of ice cream, a sundae or a banana split. Breakfast foods include waffles and omelets, while the classic diner fare includes burgers, hot dogs, sub sandwiches and a hot pastrami dip to die for. You can also find tacos, tostadas and burritos on the menu.
Opened in 1956
The Munch Box
21532 Devonshire St., Chatsworth, 91311
My husband, who attended nearby Chatsworth High School, took me to The Munch Box shortly after we first moved to SoCal in 1976. He wanted to show off his high school “hang out.”
The modest little burger joint which serves up tasty burgers just inches from the side of busy Devonshire Street is now a Los Angeles Historical-Cultural landmark. It was dedicated as such in 2003. We recently had the opportunity to pay a visit and have a couple of cheeseburgers. My husband said it is just as he remembers it from the early 1970s.
Opened in 1960
10001 Riverside Drive, Toluca Lake, 91602
This remodeled retro diner, just a few miles from Warner Bros. Studios (and a few blocks from the historic Bob’s Big Boy) is often patronized by celebrities including Bob Hope, James Garner, John Wayne, Johnny Carson, Debbie Reynolds and Jonathan Winters, just to name a few. Current celebs who work or live nearby, like Zack Efron, Vannesa Hudgens, George Lopez, Steve Carell and others, continue to make it a trendy-yet-classic landmark eatery.