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.

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

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 Tripadvisor.com

photo by Zen905 on Tripadvisor.com


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)

Barone’s Famous Italian Restaurant, Valley Glen, California

The story about Barone’s Famous Italian Restaurant, still owned by the Monteleone family (since 1950), is actually a story of three restaurants. Two are now history, but the story has a happy ending.


photo by baronesfamousitalian.com

photo by baronesfamousitalian.com


The original Barone’s restaurant was opened in 1945 at Beverly Glen and Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks by Tony and Frank Arpaia, Jerry and Josephine Barone, and Joe Izzo. It quickly became popular so had to move into a larger building at 14151 Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks (where it remained until 2006). In 1950 more members of the extended family, Frank (Josephine’s brother) and Mary Monteleone joined in the business. According to Frank Monteleone‘s son Tom, who now runs the restaurant, the Dead End Kids would come in all the time to eat after a day’s work filming (Lucille Ball, John Wayne, and Jane Russell were also regulars). One day they asked why Barone’s didn’t serve pizza. The owners told them they didn’t know how to make pizza because they were from Buffalo. The Dead End Kids showed them how to make a good sauce and a New York style thin-crust, but the restaurant didn’t have mozzarella so they used Monterey Jack cheese. The Jack came in square blocks, so they made a rectangular pizza covered with square slices of jack cheese. It was the first rectangular Neapolitan style pizza in California and to this day the restaurant still makes the pizza the same way, with Monterey Jack cheese.


Barone's, Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks - photo by city-data.com

Barone’s, Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks – photo by city-data.com


The second restaurant involved in the story of Barone’s is a German restaurant, Hoppe’s Old Heidelberg, which opened in 1958 at 13726 Oxnard St. in Van Nuys (now Valley Glen). Old Heidelberg was decorated with modern stained glass windows to filter out the light, dark carved wood walls, deep red leather booths, and Teutonic bric-à-brac. The waitresses wore dirndls. After over 36 years of serving German specialties, it was purchased by award-winning Swiss chef Ueli Huegli, who came with experience from a long list of European and Southern California restaurants. He renamed it Matterhorn Chef (the third restaurant in our story) and added Swiss dishes to the menu.


Barone's dining room - photo by The Jab, 2013

Barone’s dining room – photo by The Jab, 2013


In 2006 the Matterhorn Chef closed. Barone’s moved out of the Ventura Blvd. location and into its space on Oxnard St. So when you go to Barone’s today you are actually in the original Hoppe’s Old Heidelberg, which thankfully has not changed much since 1958! Perhaps the German/Swiss decor was replaced with Italian paintings but the red booths, woodwork, and stained glass windows are all intact (the lighting is newer). I went once to the Barone’s location on Ventura Blvd before it moved and I admit that I like the “new” Old Heidelberg/Matterhorn Chef/Barone’s space better. Good news for Matterhorn Chef fans came in 2010 when Ueli Huegli opened a new restaurant in Valley Glen called Swiss Chef, with many of the famous dishes that were on the menu at Matterhorn Chef.


arty stained glass windows at Barone's - photo by The Jab, 2013

arty stained glass windows at Barone’s – photo by The Jab, 2013


The menu is long at Barone’s, with pizza, Italian specialties, and steaks. I had the “famous” New York pepper steak (USDA Choice grain-fed, aged 21-days), which was good as I recall. But you really should try the pizza because that is what they are famous for. Barone’s has long been famous for its old school entertainment, and the tradition continues every Friday and Saturday night after 8:30, when performers playing jazz, standards, and oldies get people of all ages in the bar cuttin’ a rug on the dance floor. It’s a lively scene I experienced back when I visited the old Sherman Oaks location and again in 2013 at the Valley Glen Barone’s.


scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High filmed at Old Heidelburg (now Barone's)

scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High filmed at Old Heidelburg (now Barone’s)


You may recall a funny scene in 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High (one of my top-ten favorite 80s films), where Mark “Rat” Ratner (Brian Backer) and Stacey Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh) had a date, but Rat forgot to bring his wallet. That scene was filmed at Old Heidelberg (now Barone’s). You can clearly see the red booths and stained glass in the above still (I think this is the same room that I snapped a photo of but looking towards the front of the restaurant instead of the back). Too bad the high-backed leather chairs are gone today (though similar ones are still used at The Imperial House In San Diego and at the Sycamore Inn in Rancho Cucamonga). The restaurant has been used in other films as well.


Barone’s Famous Italian Restaurant
13726 Oxnard St, Los Angeles, CA 91401
Open daily at 11:00am, lunch served Mon-Fri 11:00am-3:00pm, dinner Mon-Thu until 9:30pm, Fri-Sat until 11:30pm, Sun until 9:00pm
Live entertainment Friday and Saturday 8:30pm-12:30am




La Dolce Vita, Beverly Hills, California

I first heard about this hidden gem of a restaurant on the defunct web site latimemachines.com by a man named Jonathan M., who I never had the pleasure of meeting, but I felt a kinship with him through our shared love for time-travel restaurants. Sadly, he closed his website a few years ago and I don’t know what became of him. I was able to print many of the pages from his site before it went down, which grew very extensive in its last years of 2009-2011. He championed La Dolce Vita as one of the Top 10 Time Machine Restaurants in Los Angeles. Perhaps it was even #1 on his list (though I seem to recall that Musso and Frank Grill had that well-deserved spot). Anyway, I finally was able to visit La Dolce Vita recently with friends and now I know what Jonathan was raving about. Even after a minor remodel in 2013 and without long-time maître d’ Ruben Castro, who retired the same year, it was a wonderful dining experience, so now it is one of my favorite overall restaurants in California.


photo by The Jab, 2014

photo by The Jab, 2014


Near the busy intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, La Dolce Vita was opened in 1966 by two waiters from Patsy D’Amore’s Villa Capri, Jimmy Ullo and George Smith. The legend goes that Frank Sinatra and actor George Raft helped fund the restaurant. You will hear many restaurants claim that Sinatra was a regular, but at La Dolce Vita it’s a fact. It was his main hangout until his death. He liked to sit at table #2, a small table for two near the bar with a view of the front door and the entire restaurant (table #15 was his regular booth for entertaining, and is now marked with a brass plaque with his name). Other regulars included Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gregory Peck, Don Rickles, Anthony Quinn, and every President (today, photos and brass plaques honor its previous celebrity clientele)..


La Dolce Vita bar - photo by The Jab, 2014

La Dolce Vita bar – photo by The Jab, 2014


In the 1980s, Ruben Castro was hired as a waiter. His local resume was impressive, having worked at Sunset Strip landmarks Frascati’s, Estephanino’s, La Rue, Nicky Blair’s, and The Saloon in Beverly Hills, since emigrating from Mexico in 1966, the same year La Dolce Vita opened. He moved to captain, then maître d‘, until his retirement in 2013.


dining room - photo by The Jab, 2014

dining room – photo by The Jab, 2014


In 2000 Ullo and Smith sold the restaurant and it started to go somewhat downhill, no longer attracting local diners. The great-great-grandson of Henry Ford, Alessandro Uzielli, an AFI-graduate who works for Ford Motor Company in movie product placement, as well as being a movie producer (Bongwater), purchased La Dolce Vita in 2003 to try to save a fading Hollywood landmark. After a slow start people started to show up again, including Robert Wagner, Jill St. John, Don Knotts, Bob Newhart, and Tony Martin. Today’s regulars include Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Lorne Michaels, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Steve Martin, and Penélope Cruz.


dining room - photo by The Jab, 2014

dining room – photo by The Jab, 2014


In 2013 the restaurant closed for a week for a refurbishment. Not much was changed that I can see from photos taken before the remodel. The original brick walls (which are actually fake), tufted booths, gilt-framed and paned mirrors (which make the place look larger than it is), decorative metal wall dividers, and lamps from the 1960s remain. The only change that is obvious is an acoustic tile ceiling was replaced with a more attractive ceiling (a change for the better). A slight disappointment on my recent visit was the original brass-tacked bar stools (in pic below) have been replaced for some reason with contemporary high-backed bar “chairs” that didn’t look right (strangely, the old ones were still present in the pics on this post-remodel article), though I loved the diamond tufted bar front in gold.


photo by la-confidential-magazine.com

bar with old bar stools – photo by la-confidential-magazine.com


The restaurant has no windows, which makes for a nice dark and romantic atmosphere, just how Le Continental likes it. Classic songs by Sinatra, Dino, and other legendary vocalists plays at a soft volume.


dining room - photo by The Jab, 2014

dining room – photo by The Jab, 2014


Also in 2013, the menu was revised, but most of the restaurant’s dishes are Italian classics (such as chicken and veal scaloppini and steak Florentine), and their famous dishes, such as steak Sinatra (a prime filet mignon with red peppers and a chianti demi glace) and veal meatballs with spaghetti, remain on the menu. All of their pastas are made in house. I had a starter of arancini, followed by a Caesar salad, and steak Sinatra. Everything was excellent and the service was top-notch.


steak Sinatra - photo by The Jab, 2014

steak Sinatra – photo by The Jab, 2014


The next time you’re in the Los Angeles area you owe it to yourself to make a reservation to dine in style at La Dolce Vita. Wear a suit. Dino would have.


La Dolce Vita
9785 Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 278-1845
Open Sun-Thu 5:00pm-10:00pm, Fri-Sat 5:00pm-11:00pm

Happy National Hot Dog Day!

Since it’s National Hot Dog Day I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite hot doggeries around the country. One of my favorite historic hot dog restaurants, and tops in the country for original vintage decor, George’s Coney Island in Worcester, Mass, was one of my first blog posts a few years back.


George's sign


The hot dog was brought over to the U.S. from European immigrants, but its European origins are disputed. Sausage dates back to the 9th century BC (mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey), while the type of sausage used for hot dogs is similar to Weinerwurst or Vienna Sausage, which originated in Austria. However, the city of Frankfurt, Germany, claims it invented the frankfurter or “dachsund sausage” in 1497. Yet another claim is that a butcher in Coburg, Germany, invented the hot dog sausage in the 1600s and brought it to Frankfurt.




In any case the American hot dog on a roll is what we are concerned with here, which was reportedly already a German custom to eat sausage on a roll. It is a fact that hot dogs were first sold in New York City, either by a German immigrant from a cart in the Bowery in the 1860s or by Charles Feltman, a German butcher who opened the first Coney Island hot dog stand in 1871 (his employee, Nathan Handwerker, started Nathan’s in 1916). In 1893 hot dogs became popular at baseball parks and sold like hot cakes (or rather like hot dogs) at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago (sold by a pair of Jewish immigrants from Vienna who later founded Vienna Beef, Chicago’s most popular hot dog manufacturer). Also in 1893 the oldest mention of the term “hot dog” on record occurred in a Knoxville newspaper. (For more hot dog history visit the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council’s web site, where I sourced this info).


photo by The Jab, 2003

Superdawg, Chicago – photo by The Jab, 2003


Which city has the best hot dogs: New York or Chicago? People will argue this forever, but based on my experience Chicago wins hands down for best hot dogs in the country. Then there are the arguments within Chicago about who has the best hot dogs. We won’t go there because there are so many different types of hot dogs in Chicago (likewise, for pizza). There’s the classic Chicago dog “dragged through the garden” that is a steamed all-beef frankfurter on a poppy-seed roll with sliced tomato, raw chopped white onions, yellow mustard, bright green sweet relish, pickled sport peppers, celery salt, and a pickle spear (but never ketchup), reportedly invented at Fluky’s in 1929 (sadly, the only Fluky’s left is at a Wal-Mart in Niles, IL). Then there’s the char-grilled “char-dog”, which is terrific at Weiner’s Circle, where they only serve hot dogs cooked that way. And until it closes this October, the always busy Hot Doug’s serves dozens of hot dog specialties.


photo by The Jab, 2003

photo by The Jab, 2003

My favorite hot dog stand in Chicago is Superdawg. My Chicago friends may not agree, and I admit the hot dogs at Weiner Circle and Gene and Jude’s are great also (Wolfy’s is another one that comes out on top in polls), but I love the all-original drive up with car hops that is SUPERDAWG! Opened in 1948 by Maurie and Flaurie Berman, who have been represented on the roof of the restaurant as caveman and girl “dogs” since the beginning, it hasn’t changed much and, amazingly, it is still owned by the Berman’s, who run it with their children. They still have the same ordering system as in 1948: you drive in to the parking lot, order from your car into a mic/speaker, and your meal is brought to you on a tray in a very cute vintage looking box, which you will want to take home as a souvenir (mine still sits in my kitchen). This is one of the last restaurants in America that still has car hop service.


Superdawg with fries - photo by The Jab, 2007

Superdawg with fries – photo by The Jab, 2007


In addition to the Superdawg™, which is a spicy dog that comes fully dressed and includes a pickled green tomato wedge, they also offer a Whoopskidawg®, which is a Polish-type sausage on a roll with special sauce, grilled onions, and pickle, and several other sandwiches. Their crinkle-cut super fries are excellent.


photo by The Jab, 2003

photo by The Jab, 2003


In New York City your best sources for hot dogs are the many hot dog carts around the city and the bargain Papaya-drink-and-two-hot-dogs stands which started in 1932 when Papaya King opened on the upper East Side of Manhattan (still on the same street corner of 86th St and 3rd Ave, and in several other locations in NYC). Although it originally only sold fruit drinks it started serving hot dogs because the neighborhood was predominantly German-American at the time. In the 1970s and 1980s Gray’s Papaya and Papaya Dog copied the concept, but Gray’s is down to only one location. Which is the best? I’ll let you be the judge as I’ve only been to the original Papaya King.


photo by The Jab, 2005

photo by The Jab, 2005


If you’re in Georgia, the town of Macon is worth a detour for Nu-Way Weiners, open since 1916 (their sign was misspelled in 1937 and they kept it that way to this day) and still in the same location (plus several other locations). Their specialty is chili dogs, which are made with their special homemade chili sauce (no beans, just the way I like a chili dog).


photo by Carrie Swing on Flickr

photo by Carrie Swing on Flickr


My favorite hot dog stand in greater Los Angeles closed and was demolished in 2011. Papoo’s Hot Dog Show (yes, it was more than just a stand, it was a SHOW!) opened in 1949 in Burbank, across the street from Bob’s Big Boy designed by Wayne McAllister in the Googie style in the same year (and still open).



photo by Terry Guy on Flickr


You can see Papoo’s in the original version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).




Inside Papoo's - photo by Carrie Swing on Flickr

Inside Papoo’s – photo by Carrie Swing on Flickr


Lastly, in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, I’ve been disappointed by most of the hot dogs I’ve had (they are usually lukewarm, not hot). My favorite was the old Kasper’s on Telegraph Ave at Shattuck Ave, which closed “for remodeling” way back in 2002 and never re-opened. Kasper’s was started by Kasper Koojoolian, from Armenia, in 1930 at the corner of Fruitvale Ave and MacArthur Blvd (old US 50). Partners invested and It expanded into other locations in the 1940s, but in 1955 Kasper’s brother Paul split off, continuing as Kasper’s, while the rest of the partners started a chain of hot dog restaurants called Casper’s. Today there is still a Kasper’s on MacArthur Blvd (not in the same location as the original), in addition to others in Castro Valley, Hayward, and Pleasanton.


Kasper's, MacArthur Blvd., Oakland - photo by The Jab, 2013

Kasper’s, MacArthur Blvd., Oakland – photo by The Jab, 2013


Casper’s continues with 8 Bay Area locations, and most have the original 1960s modern look in bright oranges and browns. Since 1989 the company has made its own frankfurters under the Spar Sausage name. I like the hot dogs at both Kasper’s and Casper’s, but Casper’s has the edge for taste and for decor.


photo by The Jab

Casper’s, Telegraph Ave., Oakland – photo by The Jab, 2013


I leave you, dear readers, with this photo I took on the road in Georgia in 2005, and a video of an amazing neon sign at Taylor Brothers Hot Dogs in Visalia, CA (where I need to go!). Please check the linked web sites for location, addresses, and open hours of the above establishments.


photo by The Jab, 2005

photo by The Jab, 2005