Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: Beverly Hills | KCET
Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: Beverly Hills
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Ever since Beverly Hills first became a city in the early 1900s, it has been a haven for the rich and famous of L.A. The city as it is today was first developed in 1907 by Burton Green, owner of the Amalgamated Oil Company. Searching the land for oil, he instead discovered a wealth of water, runoff from the three nearby canyons, Franklin, Coldwater and Benedict. Giving up on oil, Green decided to develop the area and named it Beverly Hills after Beverly Farms, a small town in Massachusetts where he had many fond memories. Green hired landscape architect Wilbur D. Cook to design the city. His plans for the curving streets and beautiful gardens of Beverly Hills were inspired by the works of Frederick Law Olmsted, known for designing both Central Park in New York and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.
Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford were two of the first movie stars to build their home, the famous Pickfair mansion, in Beverly Hills in 1919. Many more stars soon followed suit, including Buster Keaton, Will Rogers and Charlie Chaplin. Today, Beverly Hills is still home to many of the country’s biggest celebrities, such as Taylor Swift, Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry to name a few.
Hollywood has had a big influence in making Beverly Hills what it is today. Shows and films like The Beverly Hillbillies, Clueless and Beverly Hills 90210 have provided the world with an image of the city as the ultimate in beauty and wealth. It is a city rich in Hollywood history and nothing tells that story quite like the restaurants and bars that have served its famous inhabitants for decades.
Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel
It was the late 1940s and Charles Wrightsman had just led his polo team to victory in the National Championships. Not wanting the trophy to be hidden away in his house, he asked his good friend Hernando Courtright if he could display it in the bar of his hotel, which was in the process of being renovated. Courtright, who ran the Beverly Hills Hotel in the ‘30s and ‘40s, agreed. Thereafter, the bar was known as the Polo Lounge.
Since its opening, the Polo Lounge has been one of Hollywood’s most popular meeting spots. There wasn’t a Sunday Brunch without a full reservation list of high-powered actors and executives. That is until 2014 when Hollywood decided to boycott the hotel after the current owner, the Sultan of Brunei, chose to institute Sharia law in his country. This led to increased discrimination and the violent stoning deaths of gays in Brunei. People immediately began cancelling their reservations and soon after the hotel and lounge were a ghost town.
Two years later, Hollywood is slowly letting go of its grudge and trickling back into the Polo Lounge. Today, the restaurant is once again a constant bustle of actors, producers, musicians and, of course, average Joes. It is the perfect place to people watch while dining on the popular Neil McCarthy salad, named after the famous millionaire who loved polo.
Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel: 9641 Sunset Blvd., (310) 887-2777
La Dolce Vita
In 1966, after years of working as waiters together at the Villa Capri in Hollywood, Jimmy Ullo and George Smith opened La Dolce Vita in Beverly Hills. A traditional Italian restaurant with no windows and plenty of dark corners, La Dolce Vita quickly became a favorite watering hole for the Hollywood elite. In fact, Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack were some of the restaurant’s most frequent visitors. Other regulars included Sammy Davis Jr. and Gregory Peck as well as Nancy Reagan and her husband, Ronald.
After falling into disrepair in the early 2000s, the restaurant was revitalized by Allesandro Uzielli and Ben Myron. Uzielli had grown up in the restaurant business in New York and had a soft spot for history. When he found himself dining alone at this Beverly Hills icon one day, he decided to take it upon himself to bring it back to its former glory. Due to Uzielli and Myron’s efforts, La Dolce Vita has reclaimed its old school charm and its title as one of Hollywood’s favorite spots.
La Dolce Vita: 9785 Santa Monica Blvd., (310) 278-1845
Nate ‘n Al of Beverly Hills Delicatessen
Nate ‘n Al has been a family owned-and-operated Beverly Hills favorite since 1945. The deli was opened by Al Mendelson and Nate Rimer, two big dreamers who moved to Los Angeles from Detroit in the early 1940s, intent on opening their own business. The original kitchen and dining room only had enough room for thirty customers, but despite its size the deli quickly drew the interest of Beverly Hills natives. Frequent customers included Doris Day and Nancy Sinatra among others. Soon enough, the restaurant was so popular that they had to expand. Rimer eventually left the business, but Mendelson’s family continued on. Today, the restaurant is run by Mark and David, both grandsons of Al, whose recipes are still used today.
Nate ‘n Al’s all-beef hot dogs are self-proclaimed world famous, so much so that they offer shipping nationwide. The late Hollywood director and screenwriter Nora Ephron (best known for Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally) once told the New York Times that if she could choose her final meal, it would be a Nate ‘n Al hot dog. Other popular menu items include the Pastrami Sandwich, served with a heaping pile of fresh pastrami, as well as the classic Matzo Ball Soup.
While Nate ‘n Al doesn’t have the same glitz and glam that some of the other restaurants on this list do, it is still a Hollywood hotspot, catering not to the extravagance of Beverly Hills, but instead the friendly faces and hungry bellies.
Nate ‘n Al of Beverly Hills Delicatessen: 414 N Beverly Blvd., (310) 274-0101
La Scala Beverly Hills
Like the original owners of La Dolce Vita, La Scala’s Jean Leon began his career in the restaurant business at Hollywood’s Villa Capri. Leon opened La Scala in 1956 and like any great Beverly Hills restaurant, it has served since then an array of Hollywood moguls and even six U.S. presidents.
The restaurant is quiet and cozy, with brick walls and red booths. And while you’d think an Italian restaurant with the fame of La Scala would be known for their pasta, instead they are most well known for their salads. The restaurant claims to be the inventor of the chopped salad and offers the traditional menu item today with a choice of turkey, chicken, tuna or salami.
La Scala Beverly Hills: 434 N Canon Dr., (310) 275-0579
Lawry’s The Prime Rib
Lawry’s The Prime Rib was opened in 1938 on La Cienega Boulevard among what is now referred to as Restaurant Row. The restaurant was started by Lawrence Frank and his brother-in-law Walter Van de Kamp after their successful first endeavor into the restaurant business, the Tam O’Shanter Inn in Atwater Village. When first opened, Lawry’s featured a full menu, but soon every entrée had been removed with the exception of their famous prime rib. At the time, a “Lawry cut,” a heaping slab of roast prime rib, would go for only $1.25.
While the prices may have increased over time, not much else has. In the mid-1940s, the restaurant did move across the street to the building, which now holds The Stinking Rose, but it moved back to its original building in 1993. The uniform worn by the waiters have also remained the same and are lovingly referred to as the “Brown Gown.” Prime rib is still cut to order tableside on extravagant, Art Deco carving carts, weighing in at nearly 700 pounds each.
Today, there are Lawry’s restaurants all over the world including Las Vegas, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. However, there’s nothing quite like the original.
Lawry’s The Prime Rib: 100 N La Cienega Blvd., (310) 652-2827
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