H.M.S. Bounty, Los Angeles, California

Le Continental is a big fan of nautical themed restaurants and bars. Not the contemporary type of brightly lit rooms with furnishings in light oak, blue, and white, but the rich, old nautical style of dark varnished woods, brass fixtures, and lots of flotsam. The HMS Bounty is fairly well known as a dive bar, but I think of it also as a restaurant. It has been one of my favorite places to dine at in Los Angeles for many years.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

The HMS Bounty was opened in 1962 by restauranteur Gordon Fields in the Gaylord Hotel, which opened in 1924 on rapidly growing Wilshire Boulevard. The hotel was named after land developer Henry Gaylord Wilshire, who everyone called ‘Gaylord’. The 1920s were certainly roaring along this stretch of Wilshire, with the opulent Ambassador Hotel and Coconut Grove nightclub opening in 1921 (across from where the Gaylord stands,  demolished in 2006), the first Brown Derby restaurant opening down the street in 1926 (demolished in 1980), and the spectacular art deco Bullocks Wilshire department store open for business a bit farther east in 1929 (still standing). The Gaylord was a luxury apartment building which was the first co-op (like condos, the tenant owned each apartment) apartment building in the west, however the co-op model was a failure in Los Angeles at the time so eventually most of the units were rented out.

 

image by Gaylord Apartments' facebook page

image by Gaylord Apartments’ facebook page

 

Before the space in the hotel became the HMS Bounty it was the Fountain Room, a lounge and ballroom (1924-1948), The Gay Room cocktail lounge (1948-1951), Dimsdale’s Secret Harbor (1951-?), and the Golden Anchor. When Gordon ‘Gordie’ Fields opened the HMS Bounty he already had success with his olde English Bull ‘n’ Bush steakhouse a block away on 6th and Kenmore streets, which he opened in 1956. He was a big sports fan, so he filled his first restaurant with sports memorabilia, which, along with the great steaks, attracted a clientele of sports personalities and celebrities (such as Jack Webb). The Bull ‘n’ Bush expanded down Kenmore Street and Fields (along with some partners) opened the HMS Bounty to accommodate even more diners.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

In a short time the Bounty became a power lunch spot and a popular cocktail lounge at night, where people had martinis before having dinner at the Brown Derby, the Windsor (now the Prince), or The Cove. The story goes that there was even a secret passage from the Coconut Grove across the street to the HMS Bounty. Some of the celebrities who frequented the HMS Bounty are Winston Churchill, William Randolph Hearst, Walter Winchell, Wilbur Clark, and Jack Webb (his booth was the last booth on the right after entering the bar, the one with the Bull ‘n’ Bush sign mounted above it). Gordon Fields passed away in 1998 and Ramon Castaneda, an employee at HMS Bounty since it opened, took over the restaurant.

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

 

The bar at HMS Bounty is a great place to get a highball. It has the original red naugahyde booths and chairs, a model of the HMS Bounty behind the bar, and a jukebox stocked with 45s of pop standards and big band that only costs a quarter (they also have a CD jukebox on the wall). But I like to eat in the quiet dining room in back that has no TVs (it seems that every time I return to the bar there is another TV added, though at least they are small TVs). The same dark red vinyl booths, white linen tablecloths, simple nautical decor, and very dark (with no TVs).

 

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

(guess what time of year I took that pic?)

 

The menu is very reasonably priced (all entrees under $20; sandwiches under $10) and includes steaks (8 types), chops, and seafood. The food is classic and good.

Make sure you use the bathroom during your visit, which is in the basement of the Gaylord Hotel, so you can see the 1920s opulence of the lobby and display case of hotel memorabilia.

 

H.M.S. Bounty
3357 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 385-7275
Open Mon-Thu 11:00am-1:00am, Fri-Sat 11:00am-2:00am, Sun 12:00pm-1:00am

 

John’s Oyster Bar, Sparks, Nevada

Recently Le Continental reported the imminent closure of Trader Dick’s at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Hotel in Sparks. Personally, it will be hard for me to return to Reno once Trader Dick’s is gone since I have so many good memories there. But I’m sure someday I will go back because I’m quite fond of the area. And when I do you can bet I will eat at John’s Oyster Bar in the Nugget, which has been one of my favorite seafood restaurants in the country for several years. I know what you’re thinking: “seafood in Nevada?!”. I usually stick to my rule of ordering seafood in coastal areas, but this classic nautical seafood restaurant is an exception because of their fresh seafood served in classic preparations that you can only otherwise get on the east coast.

 

main dining room - image by The Jab

 

John’s Oyster Bar was opened in 1959 by Dick Graves, original owner of the Nugget, after visiting the Grand Central Oyster Bar in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. In 1960 the Nugget’s manager John Ascuaga took over ownership of the casino and hotel. I don’t know when the restaurant was named John’s, perhaps early on but possibly in 1979, when it was relocated to its present location near the casino entrance on Victorian Ave (there is a small parking lot there which is very close so you won’t have to walk by what was once Trader Dick’s). In any case, the restaurant’s wonderful rustic nautical decor in dark woods appears to date back almost to the beginning (as do some of the staff!). As noted in my post on Trader Dick’s the hotel was recently purchased from John Ascuaga by a large corporation and will undergo some remodeling. Although they have been open about their plans for the Trader Dick’s space (it’s going to become a Gilly’s chain restaurant) they have not announced any plans to remove or remodel John’s Oyster Bar (or the steakhouse). When I was there earlier this month I asked some of the staff at the oyster bar (who still wear sailor outfits!) if the company was going to change or remove the restaurant and they replied emphatically “no”. Let’s hope they are right!

 

the oyster bar - image by The Jab

the oyster bar – image by The Jab

 

What makes John’s Oyster Bar so unique (and one of my favorite seafood places) is that you can get old-fashioned east coast favorites such as pan roasts and stews, made from scratch to order from the freshest seafood. My favorite dish at John’s is the pan roast, which is a delicious stew made from your choice of oysters, shrimp, crab, or lobster (or in combinations), with white wine, clam broth, cream, butter, cocktail sauce, and lemon juice, all made from scratch in a special steam-heated pan, which swivels so the cook can pour it in a bowl when it’s done without spilling a drop. I love to sit at the bar near the pans and watch them cook my roast. As far as I have found, this is the only place in the west where they cook in these pans and I have never seen a pan roast on any west coast seafood restaurant menu. On my recent visit a couple sat near me that drove all the way up from Sacramento just to get a pan roast!

 

pan roast preparation - image by The Jab

pan roast preparation – image by The Jab

 

The restaurant’s menu also offers seafood stews with butter and cream (made in the special pans), seafood cocktails and Louie salads, fresh oysters on the half shell, steamed clams, cioppino and bouillabaisse, as well as seafood sandwiches and some fried platters, and the Seafood Extravaganza of Maine lobster, jumbo prawns, scallops, calamari, crab, clams, and mussels sautéed with tomatoes, garlic, shallots, & herbs, finished with white wine and lemon juice ($23.50). But I’ll have a pan roast, if you please.

 

pan roast - image by The Jab

pan roast – image by The Jab

 

John’s Oyster Bar
1100 Nugget Ave, Sparks, NV
(775) 356-3300
Open daily 11:00am – 9:00pm

 

Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, Portland, Oregon

On this New Years Eve for my last post of 2013 I thought I would wrap up coverage of my recent visit to Portland, Oregon, with a post on another venerable seafood restaurant in Portland, Dan & Louis Oyster Bar. Because oysters and champagne go great together! And I believe Dan & Louis is open on New Years Eve (always call first).

 

image by The Jab

image by The Jab

 

In the 19th century the first oyster farm in Oregon, at Yaquina Bay, was started by Meinert Wachsmuth from Denmark. His son, Louis Wachsmuth, opened a small seafood shop and oyster bar in Portland in 1907, expanding into the former Merchants’ Exchange Saloon in 1919. To accomodate the demand for his popular oyster stew, Louis added a wonderful nautical themed dining room complete with a mast and porthole windows in 1937 and a ‘reserve’ dining room with a boat-shaped exhibition style kitchen in 1940. Both dining rooms and the bar are still in use and are chock full of bric-à-brac, nautical artifacts, and historic photographs of Pacific Northwest fishing and boating scenes, many wonderfully displayed in backlit porthole ‘windows’.

 

main dining room - image by The Jab

main dining room – image by The Jab

 

image by The Jab

image by The Jab

On Dan & Louis’ web site the restaurant claims it is the “Oldest Family Owned Restaurant in Town”. Huber’s Cafe has been in the same family’s ownership since 1912, and claims to be Portland’s oldest restaurant, which is true according to my criteria since it dates back to 1895 as Huber’s. But Dan & Louis technically started in 1907 by Louis Wachsmuth (although not in its present location until 1919) and amazingly it is still owned by the same family. Currently it is operated by Doug Wachsmuth (grandson of Louis Sr.) and his sons Ted and Meinert Keoni Wachsmuth. So, it beats Huber’s by a mere 5 years to have the honor of being Portland’s oldest family owned restaurant. In case you’re wondering where Dan fits in their history, he was Louis and Elizabeth Wachsmuth’s second son (their first was Louis Jr.) who died tragically at only 27 years old, so his name was added to Louis’ name on the restaurant’s sign in memorial.

 

main dining room - image by The Jab

main dining room – image by The Jab

 

Their specialty, oysters, come in several varieties from the Pacific Northwest, which change daily. I ordered a half-dozen oysters on the half shell in an assortment (two of each of three different varieties). All were extremely fresh and tasty. Some of the best oysters I’ve ever had! The price varies but during happy hour (M-F from 4:00pm-6:00pm) you can get a dozen for $15.95 (bar only). I was in the mood for scallops so for my entrée I had the half portion broiled scallops platter (half portions are only on the lunch menu) with a cup of excellent smoked salmon chowder. The scallops were fresh and delicious. They are also famous for their seafood stews (oyster, crab, or bay shrimp), so they are another good choice.

 

reserve dining room - image by The Jab

reserve dining room – image by The Jab

 

Take it from Sebastian Cabot and eat at Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, Portland’s oldest family owned restaurant! Why not go tonight and start a New Years Eve tradition? Dan and Louis offers a good domestic sparkler, Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut, but at a hefty markup – $48/bottle (ouch). I would get a great local beer (also great with oysters) or wine.

 

Sebastian Cabot at Dan & Louis - image by The Jab

Sebastian Cabot at Dan & Louis – image by The Jab

 

 

Happy New Year, dear readers! I wish you many happy dining pleasures in 2014!

 

Vincent Price

Vincent Price

 

 

Dan and Louis Oyster Bar
208 SW Ankeny St, Portland, OR 97204
(503) 227-5906
Open Mon-Th 11:00am-9:00pm (bar opens at 4pm), Fri-Sat 11:00am-2:00am (???), Sun 12:00pm-9:00pm (Le Continental always recommends phoning first to confirm, as I tried to visit on the Sunday before Labor Day a few years ago and it was closed)