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Iconic Neighborhood Restauarants: Westlake

For many Angelenos, the wide stretch of Wilshire Boulevard that runs through L.A.’s Westlake neighborhood near MacArthur Park has long been mired in violent stories of criminal activity brought over by Central American gangs during the 1980s. Huge efforts have been made since to lower crime rates in the area, boosting the local economy. But while large-scale developers may now be grabbing at opportunities to shape their own plans for the re-gentrification of Westlake, they’re being met with push back from local activists.

Walk through the streets of Westlake today, and you might not realize how different the neighborhood was a century ago. The early 1900s saw the rise of the Westlake district as a magnet for wealthy Jewish businessmen who developed grand, luxury hotels and fashionable apartment buildings along the Wilshire corridor. Many of whom also built their own sprawling homes throughout the neighborhoods. Situated conveniently between Downtown, Koreatown, Echo Park and Silver Lake, Westlake was one of the city’s most desirable areas in which to live.

However, as urban sprawl brought with it more jobs and a consequent influx of Filipino and other immigrant workers who settled along the outer edges of the district like “Filipino Town,” many of the original Jewish residents moved further west. According to the 2010 US Census, Westlake is now the second most densely populated neighborhood in LA County after Koreatown.

From local street vendors to long-standing iconic eateries, each of these immigrant communities that have passed through, as well as those who still call Westlake home, has contributed to the vibrant social fabric and culinary melting pot that make up Los Angeles.

 

Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant

Founded in 1947 by Russian immigrant Al Langer, this Westlake anchor has witnessed the turning of the tide from a time when the MacArthur Park neighborhood was one of L.A.’s most affluent neighborhoods. To this day, Langer’s remains a destination spot for locals and tourists with a hankering for corned beef or the Pastrami #19 sandwich served with Russian dressing on warm, toasted rye bread. With the Westlake/MacArthur Park Metro Rail station conveniently located just one block from this James Beard-awarded restaurant, it’s an easy jaunt to get to for a satisfying lunchtime fix.

Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant: 704 South Alvarado, Street, Los Angeles, CA 90057 | (213) 483-8050

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Photo by Camellia Tse

 

Original Tommy’s Hamburgers

If you’ve ever driven past the intersection of Beverly Boulevard and Rampart Boulevard after-hours, you’ve undoubtedly noticed The Original Tommy’s Hamburgers “Shack” ablaze with fluorescent lights like a beacon in the night, beckoning hungry eaters on their way to and from bars or clubs. This original Westlake hot spot has been serving up its famously messy double-chili all-beef patty burgers 24 hours a day since it was first opened in 1946 by a Greek immigrant by the name of Tom Koulax. This popular chain now has more than 30 locations throughout Southern California, a roving food truck and a handful of restaurants in Nevada. Tommy’s fast food empire is the perfect example of an all-American dream come true.

Original Tommy’s Hamburgers: 2575 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90057 | (213) 389-9060

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Tommy’s Original Hamburgers by Mr. Littlehand Flickr Creative Commons License

 

Pacific Dining Car

Although it was never a real railway car intended for transportation, the Pacific Dining Car was designed as a high-end dining establishment in 1921 by its original owners, Fred and Grace Cook. Moved only once in its storied history to its current location at Sixth and Witmer Street, the dining car has been passed down through three generations of family ownership. In 1990, Wes Idol II opened a second location in Santa Monica for those Westsiders with a taste for old world luxury in a fine dining car, prime aged steaks and seafood, which are still available at both locations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Pacific Dining Car (LA): 1310 West Sixth Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017 | (213) 483-6000

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Pacific Dining Car. Photo by Camellia Tse

 

La Fonda de Los Camperos

Fans have hailed the return of Mariachi Los Camperos earlier this year to its rightful home at La Fonda along the Wilshire corridor. In 1969, Jalisco-born, NEA National Heritage Fellow “Nati” Cano elevated mariachi music to the world stage by giving his band a permanent home in the ornately decorated Spanish Revival-style building. However in 2007, new building ownership forced out Nati’s band and the restaurant despite a protracted legal battle. Mariachi Los Camperos has finally returned nine years later to La Fonda, though unfortunately without its legendary leader at its helm. Nati passed away in 2014 at the age of 81, but the mariachi spirit that he championed lives on at La Fonda.

La Fonda de Los Camperos: 2501 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90057 | (213) 380-5055

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Photo by Camellia Tse

 

Bernie’s Teriyaki

Unassuming Bernie’s Teriyaki may be one of the youngest iconic Westlake restaurants to make this list, but it holds its own title as the oldest Filipino-owned establishment in Westlake. Begun in 1977 by owners August and Fely B. Cruz, Bernie’s still serves the same no-frills, tender grilled meat skewers over heaping plates of fried rice for a pittance, making this place a favorite among locals. Nowadays, it’s surprising to find LA eateries like Bernie’s that refuse to raise their menu prices, but rumor is that they’ve also turned down pricey offers from eager developers hungry to cash in on Bernie’s land. #Respect.

Bernie’s Teriyaki: 318 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026 | (213) 250-8413

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Photo by Camellia Tse

 

TiGeorges’ Chicken

To end our list of Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants in the Westlake, we need only to turn our gaze across the street from Bernie’s Teriyaki to TiGeorges’ Chicken. In an unfortunate sign of the times amidst the onslaught of gentrification, LA’s only dedicated Haitian restaurant will shutter its doors this month after 15 years in its current location on Glendale Boulevard, just south of the 101 Freeway. For years, owner “TiGeorges” Laguerres’ spit-fire rotisserie chicken, poisson rouge, legumes, Haitian coffee and colorful stories about his past have drawn many who come to bask in the warmth of his character and space, which has served as a gathering place for the local Haitian community. Having survived many things—a near-death accident as a child, the devastation of the earthquake in Haiti, and an electrical fire at his restaurant back in 2010—TiGeorges has decided that it’s time to pack up the LA chapter of his life and head to Miami.

TiGeorges’ Chicken: 309 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026 | (213) 353-9994

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Photo by Camellia Tse

 

Top image: Photo by HanSangYoon Wikimedia Commons

 

 

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