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Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: Atwater & Los Feliz

Rancho Los Feliz, a 6,647-acre lot that now makes up much of Griffith Park, Los Feliz and Silver Lake, was one of the first land successions from the Spanish in California. It was granted to Corporal Jose Vicente Feliz in 1795 and his family resided there until the late 1800s. The land had various owners after the Feliz family, the most notable of whom was Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, who gifted his portion of the land, which would become known as Griffith Park, to the city. By the early 1900s, there were only 23 houses in the Los Feliz and Griffith Park area.

On the other side of the river, in the early 1900s, Rancho Santa Eulalia was being divided and sold to homebuilders. One portion closest to the Los Angeles River was aptly named Atwater; the "Village" part was added later in 1986. Unlike Los Feliz, which was known as a home for the Hollywood elite, Atwater was a middle-class town, housing mostly employees of the nearby DWP substation.

Today, both Atwater and Los Feliz are some of the most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods of Los Angeles. An influx of young affluent professionals has brought much change and growth to the area. However, there is still a wealth of history in some of the well-known and well-hidden venues that these neighborhoods have to offer.

 

TamOShanters

The Tam O'Shanter Inn | Photo:Chris/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The Tam O'Shanter Inn: Opened in 1922 by Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp, Tam O'Shanter proudly advertises itself as the oldest restaurant in Los Angeles still owned and operated by the same family in the same location. The originator of the well-known Lawry's franchise, this historic establishment was once a favorite haunt of Walt Disney himself. For two decades, Disney worked out of the Los Feliz area, which became known as the birthplace of Mickey Mouse, and he would often frequent Tam O'Shanter and sit at his favorite table, #31. The building itself is something out of a fairytale, built with the aid of movie studio carpenters and decorated with medieval Scottish weapons, kilts and Coats of Arms. If you stop by, be sure to try some classic British fare like the Yorkshire pudding or their famous toad in the hole. The food and the atmosphere together surely won't disappoint. 2980 Los Feliz Blvd, (323) 664-0228

 

Yuca's: In 1976, the Herrera family bought a small property in Los Feliz and opened Yuca's, a tiny taco hut serving classic Mexican fare. In 1978, they expanded by adding the wooden patio awning where the family matriarch, Soccoro Herrera, still sits today taking customers' orders. Yuca's is the very definition of a family business; the small taco stand put the Herreras' daughter through college and today she, along with her father and a longtime coworker, staffs the restaurant's closet of a kitchen. An affordable and authentic Mexican experience, Yuca's has become a staple for locals and visitors alike; the James Beard Award doesn't hurt either. If you're looking to visit, keep your eyes wide open -- this gem is so tiny you might blink and miss it. 2056 Hillhurst Ave, (323) 662-1214

 

Ye Rustic Inn: A landmark dive bar in Los Feliz since 1971, Ye Rustic Inn was once frequented by the hippies and Hollywood elite that made up the area's residents throughout the end of the 20th century. Nowadays you can expect fewer bell-bottoms, but perhaps more mustaches and beards, as this medieval themed haunt is sought after mostly by the area's younger population. Ye Rustic Inn may not look like much from the outside, but inside you can find some of the most drool-worthy buffalo wings in Los Angeles. In fact, Ye Rustic Inn was once featured on Esquire's Best Bars in America and often tops the lists of best dive bars in L.A. If you're lucky enough to be one of the bar's regulars, you can even participate in the full Turkey Dinner that the chef cooks for his patrons every Thanksgiving. 1831 Hillhurst Ave, (323) 662-5757

 

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The Dresden Restaurant: Perhaps best known from the movie Swingers (1996), the Dresden has made numerous appearances in films, including the 1996 Tom Hanks flick That Thing You Do and the Mel Gibson romantic comedy What Women Want. The Dresden's website proudly states that it is "the Hollywood place to be and be seen," and the restaurant has a hall full of headshots featuring celebrities like Dolly Parton, Jay Leno, and Jon Hamm to prove it. The décor hasn't changed one bit since the early days and neither has the ambiance. Known for live music and stiff cocktails, every Tuesday through Sunday at 9 you can still catch Marty and Elayne, who have been the resident jazz performers since 1982. 1760 N. Vermont Ave, (323) 665-4294

 

Photo: Victoria Eliot.JPG

Photo: Victoria Eliot

House of Pies: House of Pies has been a staple in Los Feliz for almost 60 years, but what many don't know is that it was once part of a very interesting, if short-lived franchise experiment. The International House of Pies franchise was started in the late 1960s by Al Lapin Jr., creator of the International House of Pancakes (IHOP). By 1971, there were 32 locations across Southern California and more throughout the country. However, lawsuits by franchisees cost International Industries -- IHOP's parent company -- $62 million that year. Lapin stepped down as CEO and President at the end of 1973 and the company proceeded to cut their ties with House of Pies, leaving the franchisees to fend for themselves. By 1980, the Los Feliz location was the only House of Pies left in Los Angeles; there is only one other in existence today located in Houston, Texas. Open until 2 in the morning, this unique diner is still the perfect spot for late night pie cravings. 1869 N. Vermont Ave, (323) 666-9961

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