Ultimate Classic L.A. Summer Weekend: Historic Hot Spots
From hot-rod envy in Burbank to old-school Hollywood bar-hopping, three days of throwback adventures.
This story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Travel back to the 1950s at the midcentury-mod Bob's Big Boy (4211 W. Riverside Drive) in Burbank, where every Friday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. hot-rod hotshots line up with their rides to compare carburetors in a scene right out of American Graffiti. No surprise: Big-time car collector Jay Leno has been known to roll up. Afterward, drop by the nearby SmokeHouse (4420 Lakeside Drive), a steak spot just outside the lot at Warner Bros. -- the studio's execs have been coming since it opened in 1946. Garry Shandling frequently name-checked it on The Larry Sanders Show, and George Clooney and Grant Heslov named their production company Smoke House after their favored hang. Once stomach-lined, head to under-the-radar throwback The Blue Room lounge (916 S. San Fernando Blvd.), a popular scene-setter in neo-noir films including Memento and Heat.
For breakfast, take a counter seat downstairs amid the iconic banana-leaf wallpaper at the Beverly Hills Hotel's Fountain Coffee Room (9641 Sunset Blvd.) for retro basics such as corned beef hash and silver-dollar buttermilk pancakes. Then cross the city to stroll downtown L.A.'s reviving Broadway corridor on a walking tour run by preservation group L.A. Conservancy (laconservancy.org). Built in the 1910s and '20s, the historic theaters on the tour once premiered the films of Charlie Chaplin and other silent film stars, and hosted acts like the Marx Brothers. In the early afternoon, gather a group for lunch at Pizzeria Mozza (641 N. Highland Ave.); book the rustic table and Gothic-style red leather chairs in what was Jack Warner's private dining room, located just off the main entrance. Afterward, take a hike from the base of Griffith Park, beginning across from The Trails Cafe (2333 Fern Dell Drive) and leading up to the 78-year-old art deco Griffith Observatory, site of James Dean's famous knife fight with rivals in Rebel Without a Cause. For dinner, visit that most old-school of grill rooms, Musso & Frank (6667 Hollywood Blvd.), where Valentino and Fairbanks ate and Fitzgerald and Faulkner drank. For late-night drinks, head down the boulevard, first to the neon sign-bedecked Frolic Room (6245 Hollywood Blvd.) -- which doesn't just look like a Charles Bukowski-esque dive but really was frequented by the author -- and then to No Vacancy (1727 N. Hudson Ave.), a new throwback lounge from the folks behind nightlife period pieces Pour Vous and La Descarga. The revivalist '20s and '30s decor may be an amalgamation, but the property -- the last Victorian house along Hollywood Boulevard -- is the real deal.
Get up early to browse Pasadena's Rose Bowl Flea Market (1001 Rose Bowl Drive), the mother of all vintage bazaars in Southern California, with 2,500 vendors and such fans as Madonna, Gwen Stefani and Maria Shriver. The earlier you go, the better the finds. (The market takes place the second Sunday of every month.) Next, visit the angular, '60s-styled House of Pies (1869 N. Vermont Ave.) in Los Feliz for brunch. The selection of fresh, house-made namesake desserts -- apple, peach, cherry, Bavarian chocolate banana -- are made from recipes that date back to an era before the city became obsessed with frozen yogurt and cupcakes. If you haven't had enough treasure-troving, hunt for retro spectacles across the Eastside. Gentleman's Breakfast (1101 Mohawk St.) in Echo Park is renowned for everything from antique monocles to vintage aviators, while Russ Campbell's Old Focals (45 W. Green St.) in Pasadena is the exclusive go-to for Mad Men. "Russ is endlessly resourceful -- digging through his warehouses for the perfect Pucci sunglasses for Megan [Don Draper's wife] or making six new pairs of an old style for Harry [Crane], working only from a photograph of Michael Caine," says the show's prop master, Ellen Freund. "Utilizing vintage eyewear is tricky as it can be very fragile, but Russ seems to be a magician at restoring these fragile treasures."
See more perfect summer weekends below: