Cafe La Maze, National City, California

Marcel Lamaze was a famous chef and maître d’hôtel in Hollywood during the heyday of the 1930s through the 1950s. He opened his Cafe La Maze on the Sunset Strip in 1938. It was a popular celebrity hangout, with regulars including James Cagney, Spencer Tracy, and Pat O’Brien.


Cafe Lamaze, Hollywood

Cafe La Maze, Hollywood


Marcel Lamaze was also maître d’hôtel at the Earl Carroll Theater and at Ciro’s (formerly Lamaze’s Club Seville). He was chef at The Kings restaurant from 1951 to 1954, then maître d’hôtel at the Moulin Rouge, which replaced the Earl Carroll Theater, until his death in 1960. In the 1940s his Cafe La Maze in Hollywood became Sherry’s, later the Plymouth House, Gazarri’s, Billboard Live, and finally the Key Club, which closed recently (no relation to the Key Club bar at Cafe La Maze in National City – see photo below).


Cafe La Maze, National City, 1949 - photo by Cafe La Maze

Cafe La Maze, National City, 1949 – photo by Cafe La Maze


According to the web site for Cafe La Maze in National City, Marcel Lamaze opened the restaurant in 1940 to serve Hollywood celebrities who traveled across the border to gamble in Tijuana. However, there is no evidence of Marcel Lamaze’s connection to the restaurant in National City and city newspapers show that the restaurant was opened in 1940 by Jimmy Thompson. Nevertheless, reportedly it was a popular gambling stop with a secret gambling den on the second floor (in 1947, Thompson was arrested in a midnight raid on the establishment to enforce ant-gambling laws) and had a reputation for excellent food so it became a special destination for a fancy night out.



Cafe La Maze, National City, today


In the 1960s it was briefly renamed Plantation Restaurant and remodeled, probably close to its present look, but in 1967 it was named Cafe La Maze again. In 1969, Freddie Evarkiou bought the restaurant and owned it until 2004. In 2008, Evarkiou stated that Marcel Lamaze had no direct connection to the National City location, though he admitted  the restaurant obtained recipes from Marcel Lamaze, who was a well-know chef (and maître d’hôtel). So, Le Continental believes the restaurant was named Cafe La Maze as a tribute to the Hollywood location, with possible involvement by Marcel Lamaze.


interior - photo by Cafe La Maze

interior – photo by Cafe La Maze


In 2008 Adam Cook and Cuong Nguyen bought the restaurant. Their designer Michele Gonzalez has done a wonderful job redecorating the restaurant into a classic steakhouse with acknowledgements to the history of Marcel Lamaze as a Hollywood host. There are tufted red booths, red and gold flocked wallpaper, mid-century chandeliers, and photos of Hollywood celebrities from Marcel Lamaze’s era. The menu specializes in Prime Rib and steaks, which are hand cut, as well as seafood. The restaurant makes its own blue cheese dressing and soups from scratch. Despite the foggy history of the place, it is a fact that it is a historic restaurant in San Diego and we are grateful that it has survived for 75 years, and we hope it keeps going for a long, long time (maybe to 100 years old!).


Cafe La Maze
1441 Highland Ave, National City, CA 91950
(619) 474-3222
Open Sun-Thu 11:00am – 9:00pm (bar at 11:30pm), Fri-Sat 11:00am – 10:00pm (bar at 12:30pm)


Offbeat L.A.: The Oldest Surviving Los Angeles Restaurants

Source: Offbeat L.A.: The Oldest Surviving Los Angeles Restaurants… A Master List of the Vintage, Historic and Old School | The LA Beat

Recently an incredible list of classic, vintage restaurants in Los Angeles and vicinity (up to an hours drive away), sorted by year opened at current location, was posted on The LA Beat blog.

Le Continental thanks Nikki Kreuzer and the folks at the LA Beat for all the research and work that went into this list!

The Jab has eaten at 81 of the restaurants on the list, but that leaves plenty more to do! Here are my top picks on the list that I have not visited yet (descriptions by the LA Beat):

Golden Spur, Glendora – 1918

photo by Zen905 on

photo by Zen905 on


Classic mid-century steakhouse on Route 66 that started as a horse ride-up burger stand. Amazing vintage sign of a cowboy boot with spur attached & great vintage interior.

Valley Inn, Sherman Oaks 1947

Old school steakhouse with round black leather booths and an attached vintage bar.

Steven’s Steakhouse, Commerce – 1952

Steakhouse with spectacular signs, leather booths, beveled glass & a vintage bar.

Ernie’s Mexican Restaurant, N. Hollywood – 1952

Classic mid-century Mexican with two dining areas & a bar; dimly lit with leather booths.

Little Toni’s, North Hollywood 1956

Opened in the mid-’50s in place of Cottage Italia and serving Italian-American food, this restaurant has an authentic old school vibe. Dark, with red leather booths, stained glass, wood & Italian inspired decor.

Corky’s Restaurant, Sherman Oaks – 1958

Authentic Googie diner with river rock exterior, vintage interior and cocktail lounge.

Tortilla Inn, Northridge – 1959

Old school, family-owned Mexican restaurant with a dimly-lit atmosphere, red leather booths and separate bar.

Arthur’s Restaurant, Downey – 1961

Authentic ’60s diner with wood paneled walls, olive green leather booths, wood laminate tables and original front sign.

La Cave, Costa Mesa 1962

Old-school steak and seafood. Dark and romantic, located downstairs in a cellar. John Wayne was a regular.

The San Franciscan, Torrance – 1963

Old school steakhouse. Vintage signage, red leather booths, classic early 1960s.

Taco Lita, Arcadia – 1967

Americanized fast-food Mexican served in a spectacularly original late ’60s building. Bright orange tiled floors, blue molded plastic seats and original signs.

The Backwoods Inn, Canyon Country – 1968

Rustic mid-century steakhouse with saw dust on the floor, wood, antiques & a bar built in 1978.

Brolly Hut, Inglewood 1968

Spectacular vintage building shaped like an umbrella, serving fast-food hamburger fair. Upside-down umbrellas serve as light fixtures, vintage mosaic tiles, amazing original sign.

La Villa Mexican Restaurant, Gardena – 1969

Mexican food in a bright brick & shingle building. Original neon sign; interior decoration leans toward late ’60s country cottage with a Southwest flavor.

La Poubelle, Los Angeles – 1969

Classic French bistro food in a space with a solid wooden bar, dim lights and European inspired decor.

Spaghetti Bender, Newport Beach – 1969

Italian restaurant with an old school country kitschy dining room that hasn’t been remodeled since 1976.

Antonio’s Restaurant, Los Angeles – 1970

Opened before Melrose became trendy, this Mexican restaurant is dark, with an old school feel, including wrought iron, Mexican tile and walls full of old photos.

Alfredo’s Granada, Burbank – 1971

Early ’70s decor with a tile-roofed Mexican hacienda disguising the kitchen.

Gardens of Taxco, West Hollywood – 1971

Mexican food. Prix fixe menu recited by a waiter. Dark interior with red leather booths.

El Compadre, Los Angeles – 1975

Classic Mexican food. Dark, with an old world hacienda feeling, leather booths and flaming margaritas.

Don Antonio’s, Los Angeles – 1982

Dark and cozy, red leather booths and a “cave room” complete with stalactites.

Paoli’s, Woodland Hills – 1984

East coast Italian feel. Small piano bar with a vintage feel and a separate bar area.


A lot of old school Mexican restaurants to try (one of my favorite kinds of restaurant)! And those are just a few of the ones I have not been to yet. There are also loads of quick meal type places I need to try (like hamburger and hot dog stands). For the curious, here is my list of visited restaurants on the list (if city not noted it’s in Los Angeles):

Philippe the Original 1908
Cole’s 1908
Watson Drugs, Orange 1915
Musso and Frank 1919
Pacific Dining Car 1921
Tam O’Shanter 1922
The Pantry 1924
Joe Jost, Long Beach 1924
Formosa Cafe 1925El Cholo 1927
Casa La Golondrina 1930
Clifton’s 1931
Canter’s 1931
El Coyote 1931
Mrs. Knott’s Fried Chicken, Buena Park 1934
The Galley, Santa Monica 1934
Tom Bergin’s 1936
Damon’s 1937
Du-par’s, Farmers Market 1938
The Derby, Arcadia 1938
Harbor House Cafe, Sunset Beach 1939
Pink’s Hot Dogs 1939
The Sycamore Inn, Rancho Cucamonga 1939
The Polo Lounge 1940
Hop Louie 1941
Snug Harbor, Santa Monica 1941
Bun ‘n Burger, Alhambra 1941
Nate ‘n Al, Beverly Hills 1945
Barone’s, Valley Glen 1945
The Smokehouse 1946 (current location 1949)
Billingsley’s 1946
Tommy’s 1946 – original location on Beverly
Chili John’s, Burbank 1946
Clearman’s Steak ‘n Stein, Pico Rivera 1946
Rod’s Grill, Arcadia 1946
Casa Escobar, various 1946
Gus’s Barbeque, Pasadena 1946
Langer’s Deli 1947
Apple Pan 1947
HMS Bounty 1948
Bob’s Big Boy Burbank 1949
Miceli’s 1949
Crab Cooker, Newport Beach 1951
The Hat 1951 – Alhambra location
Johnnies Pastrami 1952
Tony’s on the Pier, Redondo Beach 1952
The Bear Pit, Mission Hills 1953
Taylor’s 1953 (current 1970)
Dresden 1954
The Venice Room, Monterey Park 1955
Casa Bianca Pizza, Eagle Rock 1955
The Magic Lamp 1955
La Palma Chicken Pie Shop, Anaheim 1955
Casa Vega, Sherman Oaks 1956
Safari Room, Mission Hills 1957
Norm’s Restaurant, West Hollywood 1957
Pann’s 1958
Dal Rae, Pico Rivera 1958
Rae’s Coffee Shop, Santa Monica 1958
Chez Jay, Santa Monica 1958
Titos Tacos, Culver City 1959
Ports ‘O Call, San Pedro 1961
Viva Cantina, Burbank 1962
Dear John’s, Culver City 1962
El Cid 1963
Pie ‘n Burger, Pasadena 1963
Dan Tana’s, West Hollywood 1964
Tony Bella Vista Restaurant, Burbank 1965
The Steak Corral, Whittier 1965
The Prospector, Long Beach 1965
El Chavo 1965
Clearman’s Northwoods Inn, San Gabriel 1966
La Dolce Vita, Beverly Hills 1966
Clearman’s Northwoods Inn, Covina 1967
Brent’s Deli, Northridge 1967
Casa Escobar, Santa Monica 1967
Dinah’s Chicken, Glendale 1967
Don Cuco, Toluca Lake 1969
Pinocchio Italian Restaurant, Burbank 1971
Oomasa, Little Tokyo 1972
The Prince  1991 (in the French Windsor, 1949)

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


Postcard Panorama


Trader Vic's Oakland“The Deck” overlooking the bar, Trader Vic’s, Oakland – from The Jab’s collection

This location, the first Trader Vic’s, closed in 1972 – more info

Alfred’s, San Francisco, California – CLOSED

For years when someone asked me what is my favorite steakhouse in San Francisco I’ve answered “Alfred’s”. There is no better combination of vintage atmosphere, a classic steakhouse menu of dry-aged steaks with traditional sides, and great service, all at reasonable prices. When I want to splurge on the best steak in the city I’ll go to Harris’ (look for it in a future post), but Alfred fills the bill for a great steakhouse experience without breaking the bank.


photo by Dean Curtis, 2015

photo by Dean Curtis, 2015


Alfred’s was opened in on Vallejo Street in 1928 by Alfredo Bacchini from Cattolica, Italy, who had worked his way up from a busboy to opening his own restaurant at 27 years old. He moved the restaurant to Broadway Street a year later, where it remained for seven decades, though it was moved a bit in 1952 for construction of the Broadway tunnel. Click on the following photo of Broadway looking west to see an enlarged view and see if you can spot Alfred’s next to the tunnel entrance. Jack Kerouac went there for dinner in his book On The Road.


Broadway Street, 1957 - photo by Charles Cushman on

Broadway Street, 1957 – photo by Charles Cushman on


In 1958 Alfred’s was remodeled from its original look with dark wood walls and booths, similar to how Tadich Grill looks now, into a “continental” style with tufted leather (or vinyl) booths, white linen tablecloths, mirrored walls, and three chandeliers, which are exact replicas of the ones in the Vienna Opera House (as Alfred was a big opera fan). In 1973 Arturo Petri, a North Beach native by Italian parents, purchased Alfred’s and ran it with his son Al.


Blue Fox restaurant, San Francisco

Blue Fox restaurant, San Francisco


In 1997 Alfred’s decided to relocate due to losing the lease on their valet parking lot. They moved into the world-famous Blue Fox restaurant’s space. The Blue Fox opened in 1920 (in a different location) and closed in 1993. Alfred’s booths, bar top, and chandeliers were all moved from the restaurant on Broadway into the new location. In 2010, Al Petri’s son Marco bought into the business and Al retired. The new generation of the Petri family thankfully has kept Alfred’s pretty much the same. The menu changed a little, but all of Alfred’s steakhouse classics remain and the decor and atmosphere have not changed.


entrance - photo by Dean Curtis

entrance – photo by Dean Curtis


When you enter the restaurant through the grand doors you enter the foyer (be sure to check out the vintage menus on display) and up a couple of steps to the host stand. Continuing to your right you pass the refrigerated cases where the meat is dry-aging and into the bar and lounge. There is a cocktail menu these days with some fine choices, but I usually order a martini or Manhattan with a premium spirit (they have an excellent liquor selection). The cocktails are very generous, which usually isn’t my preference because they can get warm before you finish, but here they give you the shaker so you can medicate at your leisure, so I approve.


steak dry aging cases - photo by Dean Curtis

steak dry aging cases – photo by Dean Curtis


Alfred’s has two dining rooms: the main dining room with the original booths and chandeliers…


main dining room - photo by Dean Curtis

main dining room – photo by Dean Curtis


…and the side dining room. As you can see in my photos, the lighting is dim, just how Le Continental likes it.


side dining room - photo by Dean Curtis

side dining room – photo by Dean Curtis


Alfred’s serves beef that is from the upper one-third of the USDA Choice grade. There is a lot of variation in the Choice grade and the “High Choice” grade can be practically as good as USDA Prime when it comes to flavor and tenderness. The menu offers about seven cuts of steak (some in two sizes), including a bone-in New York, Porterhouse, Ribeye (with or without the bone), and USDA Prime New York. All the above steaks are corn-finished and dry-aged 28 days. They also offer a grass-fed, wet-aged filet mignon. They have other entrees, such as lamb, chicken, and lobster. Entrees come with one side so, although the steaks are not inexpensive, they are a good value. Homemade sauces are only $1.50 extra. Excellent sourdough bread comes with your meal.


Caesar salad - photo by Dean Curtis

Caesar salad – photo by Dean Curtis


On my recent visit I tried the $55 School Night Supper (Sun-Thur), which comes with a salad or soup, a choice of one of three of their regular steaks (bone-in New York, ribeye, and filet mignon), any side, any sauce, and any dessert. Doing the math, this is a good deal if you want (and will have room for) dessert (which is basically free). But without dessert it is slightly cheaper to order the items separately. I miss their early-bird special 3-course prix-fixe dinner, which was under $40. But even at $55 the meal was wonderful, with a tasty salad, fresh vegetables, a flavorful steak that was cooked perfectly (medium rare, which I find, frustratingly, can vary a lot from steakhouse to steakhouse), and a delicious dessert.


bone-in New York steak - photo by Dean Curtis

bone-in New York steak – photo by Dean Curtis


Alfred’s adds an 18% gratuity to every check and distributes it among staff in both the front and back of the house, which is clearly stated on the menu (so don’t give them a bad review on Yelp because you didn’t know, OK?). But if you have good service (like I’ve always had) you can always (and should) give a few percent more.


659 Merchant St, San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 781-7058
Open for dinner daily 5:00pm – 9:00pm, lunch only on Thursday 11:30am – 2:00pm