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Did You Know? Five Famous Restaurants That Started in SoCal

In n' Out Meal
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Maybe your parents took you when you were a kid. Maybe your mouth waters whenever you think of them. Whether they produce legendary burgers, crunchy tacos, or masterful flapjacks, these five restaurants all had one thing in common — a birthplace in Southern California.

Click on the images below to read the riveting origin stories of these famous SoCal restaurants.

1) A Grand Slam: Denny's SoCal Success Story

Denny's Open Late

As a hungover college student, vacation-goer, or long-haul trucker, who among us hasn’t eaten at Denny’s? But many people don’t realize that Denny’s was founded right here in Southern California, by a man whose dreams changed the food industry forever.


2) The Triumph and Tragedy of In-N-Out's First Family

In n' Out Las Vegas

Today, the heart of In-N-Out Burger is still located in the same one-mile radius in Baldwin Park where the iconic restaurant began almost seventy years ago.


3) Transforming the Taco: The Origins of Taco Bell

Taco Bell

For the innovative, restless Glen Bell, the opening of the first Taco Bell was simply the idea that finally caught fire, after a decade of working to bring a Mexican-inspired menu to the masses.


4) The Real McDonald's: The San Bernardino Origins of a Fast Food Empire

McDonalds and Speedee Logo

In 1940, the McDonald brothers opened their first fast food restaurant in dusty, suburban San Bernardino and developed a “speedee service system” that soon changed the course of food service around the globe.


5) The Troubling History of Sambo's Pancake House

Sambo's

The first Sambo’s Pancake House opened on June 17, 1957 in downtown Santa Barbara. However, no matter how hard they worked to foster a welcoming atmosphere, there was a large portion of the population who would never feel “at home” at the restaurant.

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An asymmetrical ceramic dish holds a small, bite-sized piece of white steamed fish sitting in a thin, broth-y sauce. The fish is topped with a fine green powder. Additionally, someone is pouring more of the sauce from a small ceramic container.

Jon Yao of Kato Finds Confidence in the Flavors of His Taiwanese Upbringing

Los Angeles' Kato Restaurant, where the dishes are edible mnemonic devices for Asian Americans, is an homage to Chef Jon Yao's Taiwanese heritage.
A coloring page created by the Los Angeles Public Library's Octavia Lab. An illustration of Manuela C. García sitting next to a phonograph. Behind her is a faint sheet music background.

Manuela C. García, the Voice Behind a Treasure Trove of Old Mexican Songs

Born in Los Angeles in the late 1860s, Manuela C. García is the voice behind over 100 songs in Charles Lummis' recordings of Southwest musical heritage. Known mostly by historians specializing in 19th-century Mexican American music, her voice connects California's present musical history with its past.
A sign for Pine Ave Pier in Long Beach, California.

Where to Explore L.A.'s Most Fascinating Piers, Both Past and Present

As Los Angeles heads into the summer, find some time to see this historical piers and beaches across the county.