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President Roosevelt ate here in 1903 & later DW Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Marlena Dietrich, Clark Gable, John Wayne & Frank Sinatra.It is a traditional diner/cafe, with bar attached, featuring wood paneled walls and both counter and booth seating.My criteria for the restaurants here is that they are at least 35 years old (1983) or older, although there are a few exceptions, and that they are within about an hour’s drive from downtown L. You will find classic steakhouses, Googie diners, pastrami delicatessens, walk-up hamburger stands and more. As of April 2018 the list is at just 426 places, spread as far south as the bottom of Orange County, east to San Bernardino and north to Santa Clarita. In nearly 3 years since I published this list, it has received over half a million reads!When the restaurant has a web page I provide that, but if not I share a link to Yelp. That shows me how much people care about our vintage restaurants.I have also been working hard at photographing everything on this list and have a Google Map in the works broken down by type of restaurant, location and descriptions.
For years Watson’s had a fun, kitschy mid-century vibe with booths and a long stainless steel counter with stools.(1915) Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain originally opened in 1915 as the South Pasadena Pharmacy at the same location that it still stands today on Mission Street, then known as Route 66.The soda fountain and lunch counter, serving ice cream treats and diner food, was added in the when the business became Raymond’s Pharmacy in the 1920s, and is one of the very few surviving soda fountains in the area.We are lucky in Los Angeles to have a lot of spectacular vintage restaurants, but we are still losing many every year to owners who retire, sell out for money or lose their long-held lease to nasty gentrification.I’m a sucker for a joint with history, charm, character and stories.