Taix French Country Cuisine, Los Angeles, California

For a long time I’ve been wanting to dine at the venerable Taix French Country Cuisine (the official name, though everyone just calls it “Tex”) in Echo Park in Los Angeles. Recently I passed through town during Los Angeles Restaurant Week and they were offering a special 2-course lunch for $20 (weekends included) so I jumped at the chance and had Saturday lunch in the bar (the dining room isn’t open for lunch on Saturday).

 

original Taix - photo by L.A. Public Library Archives

original Taix – photo by L.A. Public Library Archives

 

The original Taix restaurant was opened in 1927 by Marius Taix, Jr. in the ground floor of his father’s hotel, the Hotel Champ D’Or, at 321 Commercial Street in the French district of downtown. I believe that the hotel was a Basque boarding house, because the original Taix served food in the style of the many Basque hotel restaurants which still exist in California and Nevada.

 

original Taix - photo by L.A. Public Library Archives

original Taix – photo by L.A. Public Library Archives

 

As could be seen on the above sign food was served table d’hôte – multiple courses with a choice of entree – “family-style” on long tables. Taix specialized in roasted chicken dinner (50 cents in 1928) served with salad, a large tureen of soup, potato, vegetable, and French bread. When the restaurant would fill up at dinner time food was served until everyone was satisfied. So a single seating like some Basque restaurants still do today, such as at Noriega in Bakersfield.

 

Taix on Sunset Blvd - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

Taix on Sunset Blvd – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

matches

In 1962 Julius Jr.’s sons Raymond and Pierre, who started washing dishes at Taix when they were children, opened Le Frere Taix (The Brothers Taix) with some family partners on Sunset Blvd. (U.S. 66) in Los Angeles. The original downtown restaurant closed in 1964 to make way for a parking structure for the federal building. Raymond eventually became sole owner of the new restaurant and the name reverted back to Taix.

 

Raymond’s son Michael Taix runs the restaurant today, though Raymond remained involved in running it until he passed away in 2010. Next year it will be 90 years in operation by the same family! Speaking of longevity, many of Taix’s staff have been working there for decades. Three men, Jose Fragoso (banquet waiter), Fernando Gomez (bartender), and Bernard Inchauspe (dining room waiter), have worked there over 50 years!

 

Inside the Restaurant

 

321 Lounge - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

321 Lounge – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

The bar and restaurant are suitably dark. There is a large TV at one end of the lounge and a small TV over the bar, but where I was sitting for lunch on one of the banquettes along the wall they weren’t obvious or annoying. The bar has entertainment on Wednesdays and Fridays so if you’re looking for some action those are the nights to go (or avoid if you’re looking for a quiet repast).

 

fireplace in waiting room - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

fireplace in waiting room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

There is a nice waiting area with some leather couches and a great fireplace which made me wonder if it is ever used anymore in the cooler months.

 

dining room - photo by Ruth V. on Yelp

dining room – photo by Ruth V. on Yelp

 

The dining room was remodeled recently but it still has nice tin ceilings and chandeliers (though I don’t understand why they partly covered them up with shades – see photo below for before picture). There are booths upholstered in a floral fabric and fresh flowers in vases decorate the room. I think they have additional dining rooms but they may be for large parties and I didn’t get a good look when I was there because the lights were turned off.

 

2007 photo of chandelier and ceiling by Jessica Watkins on Flickr

2007 photo of chandelier and ceiling by Jessica Watkins on Flickr

 

The Menu

 

1962 menu - photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

1962 menu – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016

 

As you can see above in the original menu from 1962 they still served primarily table d’hôte, with a choice from 4 entrees (pot roast, roasted chicken, filet of sole, or steak) or the daily special, which came with hors d’oeuvres, soup, salad, vegetable, potato, cheese, coffee, and sorbet. A lot like classic Basque restaurants in the West.

Today’s menu is much longer and a la carte, with several choices of entrée, including a different special each day, that comes with soup du jour or salad. For my lunch I had the excellent Moules Maison (mussels with leaks, wine, butter, and cream) and the Ahi tuna tartare, which was the perfect dish for a summer lunch.

 

duck a l'orange - photo by Taix restaurant

duck a l’orange – photo by Taix restaurant

 

The dishes are tried-and-true classic French country cuisine (no haute cuisine here), such as duck a l’orange with wild rice (Saturdays), rabbit with mushrooms, pearl onions, and mustard (Thursdays), veal stew (Sundays), oven braised oxtail (Tuesdays), escargot, frogs legs Provencales, and steak frites. And the prices are reasonable.

 

 

 

 

Taix French Country Cuisine
1911 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 484-1265
Open Mon-Thu 11:30am-10:00pm, Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat 12:00pm-11pm, Sun 12:00pm-10:00pm, 321 Lounge menu is served Wed-Sat from 10:00pm-1:00am
Note: On Saturdays lunch is served in the 321 Lounge

 

 

Le Chalet Basque, San Rafael, California

A quick post today because I have to pack for a trip to Austin and San Antonio!

Recently a friend suggested we meet for dinner at Le Chalet Basque in San Rafael. I had no idea this restaurant existed (or it was so long ago when I visited that I forgot)! I’m a big fan of western U.S. style Basque restaurants (and Picon punch) and I work in San Rafael, so I have a new favorite local spot!

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

Hidden away between the Marin Civic Center and China Camp State Park, Le Chalet Basque opened in 1962 and is now owned by Roger Minhondo from Irissary, France, who was chef at the restaurant in the 1970s and previously owned The Normandy and Guernica restaurants in Marin. The menu includes many beef, lamb, chicken, seafood, and veal dishes, and French and Spanish Basque specialties such as Rabbit Chasseur, Tripes a La Mode, Sweet Breads Financiere, Lamb Shank with Beans, and Frogs Legs. You will even find some Italian dishes if you’re in the mood for that. Dinners come with homemade soup or salad and for a little extra you can get a family style dinner that includes pâté and delicious rice pudding or ice cream.

 

Sirloin of Lamb Bordelaise - photo by Dean Curtis

Sirloin of Lamb Bordelaise – photo by Dean Curtis

 

There’s a full bar with vintage bar stools, lots of outdoor seating on a lovely patio, and the classically simple dining rooms in white and burgundy linens with mid-century stained wood, open-beamed ceilings and many windows throughout.

 

Le Chalet Basque
405 N San Pedro Rd, San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 479-1070
Open Tue-Fri 11:30am-10:30pm, lunch served 11:30-2:00, dinner 5:00-9:00pm
Sat-Sun 4:00pm-10:30pm, dinner 4:00-9:00pm

 

The Broadmoor Hotel’s restaurants, Colorado Springs, Colorado

On the occasion of Le Continental’s second anniversary I took a couple of weeks off, but I’m back with my first restaurant post of Le Continental’s third year. Thank you for reading, commenting, and especially for visiting the fine establishments I’ve included on these pages.

Recently I was looking at photos from my 2008 visit to Colorado and remembering a wonderful meal I had at The Tavern steakhouse in the historic Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, so I thought I would look up the restaurant and see what its current status is. I was happy to find that the Tavern is still there, but saddened to hear that they remodeled the amazing Mayan Room only this year. Here is a photo I took of the Mayan Room during my visit.

 

Mayan room details

Mayan room, 2008 – image by The Jab

 

 

The Broadmoor Hotel was opened by Spencer Penrose from Philadelphia in 1918 at a cost of two million dollars. It was designed by the New York architecture firm Warren and Wetmore, designers of New York City’s Grand Central Station, Ritz-Carlton, and Biltmore hotels. The grounds were designed by the Olmstead Brothers, who designed Central Park.

 

Early photo of hotel and gardens. Image by Broadmoor History facebook page.

 

The Tavern restaurant (opening date unknown) was remodeled in 1939 and still has many of the original architectural elements on the ceiling and walls. As far as I was able to find out online, it has not been remodeled in this year’s renovations.

 

Tavern at the Broadmoor – Image by WineryExplorers.com

 

bottle chandelier

bottle chandelier – image by The Jab

There are some interesting details at the Tavern, like the lighting fixtures made from old bottles. Spencer Penrose was strongly against Prohibition, so he purchased and stored large quantities of liquors and wines before the law went into effect. In 1933 when Prohibition ended he moved his stockpiles to the hotel. Many bottles from his collection, some quite rare, are on display in the restaurant and in adjacent hallways.

 

booze bottles on diplay in the Tavern

image by The Jab

 

more bottles line the hallways

image by The Jab

 

Chateau Lafite, Pernod, Bacardi, etc

image by The Jab

 

 

How about a 1903 Chateau Lafite?

 

 

1955 Cristal anyone?

image by The Jab

 

 

 

 

 

Or perhaps some 1955 Cristal Champagne?

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the Tavern was renovated in 1939 the Tavern Lanai was built next to it, probably in a Hawaiian motif. Hawaii was popular destination for Spencer and his wife Julie so it became a popular theme at the hotel in the late 1930s. in 1938 the Lanai suites were added in the back of the hotel and in 1939 the Hawaiian Village rooftop garden and nightclub opened with live Hawaiian entertainment.

 

Hawaiian Village – Image by Broadmoor History Facebook page

 

 

In 1953 the Tavern Lani was enclosed and remodeled into a mid-century modern version of a an ancient Mayan temple, called the Mayan Room, and the patio at the tavern was enclosed to become the Garden Room, which had plants, trees, and a fountain with two live flamingos! The flamingos occasionally leaped on tables with dining patrons so they had to be moved to the hotel’s zoo (yes, it even had a zoo!). Both of these rooms have been remodeled this year.

 

The Mayan Room before 2013 remodel – image by ForbesTravelGuide.com

 

 

In 1961 the hotel expanded greatly by building a nine-story south tower, crowned with the elegant Penrose Room, which is still open and has been a AAA five-star restaurant since 1977. Jackets are still required for gentlemen diners.

 

Penrose Room, 1977 – image by route40.net

 

Penrose Room, 2011 – image by Elizabeth Dorney at elizabethdorney.com

 

Also in 1961, the modern conference center called the International Center was opened, which included the Golden Bee, an original turn-of-the-century English pub that was in storage in NYC for many years until it was shipped to the Broadmoor and reconstructed.

 

image by route40.net

 

image by route40.net

 

The Golden Bee was most likely relocated because on my last visit there was no International Center anymore, but the pub was still there with all of its hand carved mahogany woodwork. Just last spring it was enlarged and renovated, but from the pictures it looks like it still has much of the original decor and a ragtime piano player still performs.

 

Main hotel bar, 1961, still there but remodeled – image by Broadmoor History facebook page

 

 

Even if you can’t afford to stay at the very expensive hotel, it’s very much a worthwhile visit to walk the grounds and have a meal at The Tavern, Penrose Room, or the Golden Bee, which all still retain much of their classic decor and atmosphere. And there are many fabulous nearby attractions to visit, particularly the cog railway to Pikes Peak (once operated by the Broadmoor), Garden of the Gods, and the town of Manitou Springs for its vintage arcade and small town charm.

 

cheers!

Yours truly enjoying a 16-ounce t-bone steak and a Manhattan in the Tavern, 2008 – note the mini silver ice bucket to keep the rest of your cocktail chilled, a touch I really appreciate! –  image by The Jab

 

The Broadmoor Hotel
1 Lake Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80906
(719) 577-5775
Tavern open daily 11am-11pm
Penrose Room open Tue-Sat 6pm-9pm, closed Sun-Mon
Golden Bee open Sun-Th 11:30am-12:30am, Fri-Sat 11:30am-1:30am

 

 

Brennan’s, New Orleans, Louisiana

UPDATE: When I first posted this Brennan’s had just closed. The restaurant reopened in late 2013 with a completely redone interior. It looks very elegant, with respect for the past traditions of Brennan’s and New Orleans. In 2016 I revisited this landmark restaurant. Meanwhile, Ted Brennan and family, previous owners, are opening Ted Brennan’s Decatur, with executive chef Lazone Randolph, former chef at the old Brennan’s for many years (as seen in the video below), with a more traditional menu than the new Brennan’s.

New Orleans has an incredibly rich history, and no shortage of historic restaurants, some dating back well over 100 years (Antoine’s – 1840, Tujague’s – 1856, Commander’s Palace – 1880, Galatoire’s – 1905, Arnaud’s – 1918, Broussard’s – 1920). Sadly, one of the more recent of the city’s famous classic restaurants, Brennan’s, closed last Thursday, June 26th, 2013, after 67 years in business.

 

Brennan's, New Orleans, December 1964

Brennan’s, New Orleans, December 1964 by Michael Berch on Flickr.com

 

Brennan’s was opened on Royal St. in 1956 by Owen Edward Brennan, who took over the Old Absinthe House in 1943 and opened the adjacent Vieux Carre restaurant on Bourbon St. in 1946. But unfortunately he died of a heart attack in 1955, only months before his new restaurant was scheduled to open. The Brennan family assumed ownership, opened Brennan’s restaurants in Houston and Dallas, purchased Commander’s Palace in 1969, and opened three more restaurants. This growth caused a rift as some of the family thought the quality could not be maintained at the original Brennan’s in such a large corporation. So, in 1974 Owen’s widow Maude and her sons Pip, Jimmy and Ted assumed control of the original Brennan’s, with daughter Ella taking over the remaining six restaurants (of these only Commander’s Palace and Brennan’s in Houston are still open).

 

Vintage Brennan's breakfast menu

Vintage Brennan’s breakfast menu

 

Brennan’s has been famous for “Breakfast at Brennan’s” since the 1950s. It is such a tradition that I had to do it once, so on my last visit to New Orleans in 2010 I decided to take the splurge. The traditional Brennan’s breakfast is lavish. I started with a Brandy Milk Punch, one of their specialty cocktails. My breakfast consisted of turtle soup (a famous New Orleans’ dish), Eggs Hussard, a Brennan’s creation of Poached eggs atop Holland rusks, Canadian bacon and Marchand de Vin sauce, all topped with Hollandaise sauce, and their specialty French bread, brought warm to your table. For dessert (yes, dessert was part of Breakfast at Brennan’s) I had another Brennan’s creation – Bananas Foster.

 

Bananas Foster at Brennan's

Bananas Foster at Brennan’s, photo by The Jab in 2010

 

Brennan’s survived Hurricane Katrina, when they lost their enormous wine collection, but it may not survive the recent takeover. The restaurant was sold at auction recently to Ralph Brennan, a restaurateur and cousin of Ted and Pip Brennan. The restaurant was evicted last week, so it closed with no warning to the employees, many of them having been with the restaurant for decades.

It may eventually reopen as Brennan’s. It may have better food, which frankly wasn’t very exceptional when I went (for the prices). But as I’ve tried to stress in my blog the food isn’t the most important thing when eating in classic restaurants: the time travel experience is paramount, the food secondary. Hopefully whatever Brennan’s becomes it will continue to serve the original Bananas Foster (which was the best thing I had there). Le Continental will keep you posted.

I hope this isn’t a portend of the demise of more of New Orleans’ historic restaurants. When I was there in 1999 most of the high-end restaurants were the historic ones. As far as newer ones, there was Emeril’s and Dickie Brennan’s Palace Cafe (we ate there on that visit, as well as Commander’s Palace). But there weren’t nearly as many gourmet restaurants then as there are now. It seems like it would be hard to compete with new places if you are running an old-fashioned, expensive restaurant with rich French/Creole food in a large space with multiple rooms. In my visits to Tujague’s and Galatoire’s in 2010 it didn’t seem like any younger tourists or locals were eating in those places.

 

Brennan’s
417 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Le Train Bleu, Paris, France

As Le Continental is packing for another trip to the continent, I realized that I never finished posting about restaurants I visited on my last trip to Europe.

Without a doubt one of the most beautiful restaurants in the world, Le Train Bleu is the name given to a restaurant in 1963 which was originally called Buffet de la Gare de Lyon when it opened during the Universal Exposition of 1900 (it opened in 1901). It is a grand example of the Belle Époque style of design, filled with 41 paintings of locations in the French rail system, current events, and buildings from the exposition, and the walls and ceiling are covered with gilt and sculptures.

“The tableau by BILLOTTE above the stairway leading down to the station platforms represents the Alexander III Bridge and the Palaces that housed the Exhibition in 1900, reminiscent of Saint-Mark’s in Venice.” – from the restaurant’s website.

I had some time to kill on a lunchtime layover en route from London to Zurich, so I stopped in for lunch. The steak tartare was excellent, mixed tableside with a dressing the waiter blended from scratch, then rested for several minutes so the flavors would mingle before it was served. You can also get the steak tartare seared (also tableside), which I would have tried if I had known about it (I saw another customer having it this way). The French fries were outstanding as well, very crispy on the outside and creamy inside. Every potato dish I had in Paris seemed so much better than most I’ve had here!

For dessert I had the rum baba, liberally doused with Rhum St. James from Martinique before serving.

the bar

Save your money for this special restaurant (as it is quite expensive) the next time you’re in Paris, or schedule a train connection so you can have lunch there. It will be worth it.

Le Train Bleu
Gare de Lyon – 75 012 PARIS
Tel: +33 (0)1 43 43 09 06