1940s Archive

Along the Boulevards

Originally Published June 1948

Los Angeles revisited a few weeks ago, for the first time in two years, revealed more conclusively than almost anything else that the gastronomic highlight of the current moment is an arrangement called Caesar's Salad and that its consumption is constant, universal, and something to make the public prints in any fountainhead of good living like GOURMET, as it has. Caesar's Salad, which is only infrequently encountered in restaurants in the East, but which will inevitably arrive in New York one of these fine days, is based on romaine instead of lettuce, chopped-up anchovies, a liberal inclusion of heavily garlic-flavored croutons, French dressing made slick by the inclusion of a couple of whole raw eggs, and the whole thing liberally showered with grated Parmesan.

At Romanoff's, where we were taken to luncheon by GOURMET's own Stephen Longstreet, with an assortment of local characters which included Bob Hope, Gregory La Cava, Barbara Stanwyck, and Hedda Hopper at adjacent tables, we were introduced to Caesar's Salad. At Dave Chasen's, where we dined that evening with Robert Hanley, the newly discovered and flourishing decorator of the County Strip, we were immediately advised that Caesar's Salad was the thing to have. The next evening at Hansen's Scandia Restaurant in Sunset Boulevard, the assembled chivalry to a man commanded Caesar's Salad, and subsequent skirmishes with the menus at Perino's, the Vine Street Brown Derby, the garden restaurant of the Town House, and other ranking restaurants of the City of Angels evolved the conviction that Caesar's Salad is as much of a part of the Hollywood pattern as swimming pools or the new look.

Something else new and enjoying a stupendous vogue among teen-agers and, for that matter, film folk engaged in the actual screening of pictures and hence on the wagon, are the two super chic ice cream parlors inaugurated by Will Wright, one located right smack dab in the middle of the Strip and the other in Beverly Hills, and both upholstered in sumptuous elegance by the abovementioned Hanley. Wright has given Los Angeles what appears, from the excitement it causes, to be the first real French ice cream it has ever encountered and is furnishing it forth in terms that Hollywood can understand—banana splits are a dollar flat—so that the carriage trade, at the moment represented by half-pint cars of English or Continental manufacture, draw up to his premises in droves.

Hanley, a former Broadway actor in the years before the wars, has also latched onto the snob appeal inherent in fantastic prices and necessary to the success of any product of any sort whatsoever in California, and simply won't look at the client who doesn't push a metaphorical wheelbarrow filled with currency in the door ahead of him. No new shop in the California Southland is happy about itself unless Hanley has invested it with pastel banquettes, white satin tufted furniture, and goose feathers generally.

The gastronomic pattern of Hollywood and Los Angeles varies extraordinarily little with the years. To the mind of this department, the best of everything can be encountered at the perennial Chasen's, an establishment reputedly underwritten by the New Yorker's Harold Ross, if one is possessed of no greater resources than, say, the Bank of America. This fiscal circumstance is partly mitigated by the habit of the management of buying about one drink out of two on the house so that by ten in the evening Chasen himself is giving a creditable imitation of Leon Errol, now and then assisted in the impersonation by Leon Errol himself. There's never a dull moment for either the gourmet or the sightseer and celebrity-hunter, and the press of business is so intense that the management was forced to demolish its Finnish bath, which once handily adjoined the bar, and turn it into more dining space. “Take your baths at home,” says Chasen.

Second on this reporter's dossier of eating places would come the Scandia, a new Scandinavian eating house with a charmingly robust menu and prices that don't scare the pants off the customers. A really wonderful sirloin there is $2.75, which, compared to most Hollywood tariffs, is ridiculously cheap, and the cracked crab is a splendid complement to the Aalborg Akvavit, which, naturally, flows across the bar in Niagaras. There are attractions to the south California scene which, in a measure at least, compensate for the films, the chamber-of-commerce double talk, and the preposterous geographic diffusion of the town.

Now and then in even what pass for the best-run hotels and restaurants and with unhappily increasing frequency, it is possible to encounter nowadays some device of gyp, extortion, and cheating of the customers which makes one wonder if, after all, it isn't the business of the state to protect the patron by the summary jailing of a few managing directors of hotels for long terms and the closing of restaurants for keeps. Ever since the war the practice has been growing in otherwise presumably respectable hotels of charging for ice served in rooms anywhere from two bits to half a dollar and, for all we know, maybe more.

Subscribe to Gourmet