When poker players arrive in Los Angeles for WPT Legends of Poker, they will be coming not only to enjoy the world-class poker offered at the Bicycle Casino but also the chance to experience the culture and entertainment Los Angeles has to offer. While playing in this historic event (WPT Legends of Poker was one of the original stops on tour and has been on tour every season for the past 11 years), poker players will also have the chance to sample some of the historic, original eateries that have made LA a gastronomic destination for decades.
To those who know, and have maybe played this event before, Los Angeles is a city made of cities and as such is very spread out. To be succint, it’s a driving town. So, when in LA, do what Angelenos do and jump in your car to sample some of these landmark restaurants. Here are our Top 10 LA originals and historic eateries:
Canter’s Deli – 419 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, California
The first of two delicatessens on our list, the name should be familiar to those in the poker world who make their home in Las Vegas either permanently or for the summer months as there is a branch of Canters located inside TI on the Las Vegas Strip. However, Canter’s Deli is originally one of California’s oldest delis and is located in Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile District – the heart and soul of the entertainment industry. Canter’s began in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1924. After losing a deli in the 1929 stock market crash, Ben Canter and his two brothers moved to California with just $500 in their pockets. They opened up a Canter Brother’s Delicatessen in 1931 in Boyle Heights and moved to Fairfax in the early 1950s. They are famous for their fresh in-house baked bread and the deli meats they cure on site.
Langer’s Deli – 704 South Alvarado Street, Los Angeles, CA
Opened in 1947 with just 12 seats, Langer’s has been serving what many consider to be the best pastrami sandwich in America for more than 60 years. In the 1960s, the deli expanded into space just south of the original location, allowing for 58 seats and then up to 135 seats, the way it is currently set up. Located across the intersection from famous MacArthur Park, Langer’s has thrived in the pedestrian-friendly area but is not limited to dine-in customers, offering curbside delivery and delivery via overnight Fed-Ex for those who have a craving anywhere in the country.
Pink’s Hollywood – 709 North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
Paul Pink started his hot dog stand in 1939. It was only a large-wheeled pushcart in those days. The depression was on and money was scarce. Pink’s chili dogs, complete with a large warm bun, oversized hot dog, mustard, onions and thick chili sold for 10 cents each. His hot dog wagon was located in “the country”, the rolling hills of weeds and open spaces also known as the corner of La Brea and Melrose 71 years ago. In 1946, Pink traded his hot dog wagon in for a small building and the rest is history. Best known for those original chili dogs, Pink’s is open until 2am for the late night post-poker tournament crowd.
Encounter Restaurant – 209 World Way, Los Angeles, CA
What started as an architectural project has become one of the most iconic restaurants in Los Angeles. The Theme Building, where the restaurant is located, was part of an overall $50-million “Los Angeles Jet Age Terminal Construction” project begun in 1960. The building itself was completed in August 1961 at a cost of $2.2 million. The interior of the restaurant was designed by Ed Sotto and Ellen Guevara for Walt Disney Imagineering. On December 18, 1992, the Los Angeles City Council designated the Theme Building a City Cultural and Historical Monument. Encounter Restaurant, with it’s ground-breaking steel parabolic arches (the first building to use this design) and colorful exterior lighting, opened in January 1997. So, sit back, relax and, literally, watch the world go by from their Observation Deck.
Lawry’s – 100 North La Cienega Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA
Located in the heart of La Cienega Boulevard’s Restaurant Row, Lawry’s is perhaps most famous for the annual Beef Bowl, where the competitors for the Rose Bowl game square off to see who can eat the most beef. However, this is where many Angelenos go when they want prime rib, carved right from the roast at their own tables and served with traditional Yorkshire pudding, creamed corn and the chance to rub elbows with celebrities, all since the 1920s.
Spago Beverly Hills – 176 North Canon Dr. Beverly Hills, CA
From its opening day in 1982, Spago was an instant success and culinary phenomenon, putting Chef Wolfgang Puck firmly on the map for his now famous style of “haute cuisine.” His early signature dishes, such as pizzas topped with smoked salmon and caviar and Sonoma baby lamb with braised greens and rosemary, put him and Spago at the forefront of the culinary world. Wolfgang and Spago earned many accolades during its popular eighteen years in West Hollywood, including winning the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef of the Year, twice, in 1991 and 1998, and the James Beard Foundation Award for Restaurant of the Year in 1994. Puck is the only chef to have won the Outstanding Chef of the Year Award two times.
Philippe the Original – 1001 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles, CA
Philippe’s was established in 1908 by Philippe Mathieu, who claimed the distinction of having created the “French Dipped Sandwich.” One day in 1918, while making a sandwich, Mathieu inadvertently dropped the sliced french roll into the roasting pan filled with juice still hot from the oven. The patron, a policeman, said he would take the sandwich anyway and returned the next day with some friends asking for more dipped sandwiches. And so was born the “French Dipped Sandwich,” so called either because of Mathieu’s French heritage, the French roll the sandwich is made on or because the officer’s name was French. The world may never know. Either way, Philippe’s has survived through a couple of management changes, a move of a few blocks when the 101 was being built, and still prepares and serves close to 300 pounds of pigs feet and prepares 80 gallons of their own hot mustard every week.
Musso & Frank Grill – 6667 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood, CA
The oldest restaurant in Hollywood dates to 1919 and Musso’s exclusive, storied Back Room opened in 1934. Guarded by a discerning and austere maitre d’, the Back Room was a legendary private space reserved for the Hollywood elite. Eventually, the lease on the Back Room expired. Today, the restaurant’s New Room holds the Back Room’s original famous bar, light fixtures and furniture from 1934. Hollywood film deals were made on the old pay phone — the first pay phone to be installed in Hollywood – and movie greats like Greta Garbo, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Steve McQueen, Jimmy Stewart, Rita Hayworth and Groucho Marx along with literary giants F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner T.S. Elliot, William Sorayan, Aldous Huxley, Max Brand, John Steinbeck, John O’Hara, Dorothy Parker, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut and Charles Bukowski have all called the Back Room their second home or office. The restaurant is truly a piece of Hollywood history and still offers the food, and discretion, that has drawn celebrities through the doors since the 1920s.
Yamashiro – 1999 North Sycamore Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
For 88 years, Yamashiro has watched over the history of Hollywood. It has witnessed the birth of the film industry, the glamour of Hollywood’s “Golden Age”, the difficult times of war with Japan, and the current period of intense interest in Eastern cultures. Yamashiro started as a fabulous private estate and is now open to the public as a unique restaurant and public gardens. Yamashiro means “Mountain Palace” in Japanese and is an exact replica of a palace located in the “Yamashiro” mountains near Kyoto, Japan. In the late 1920’s Yamashiro served as headquarters for the ultra-exclusive “400 Club”. Created for the elite of Hollywood’s motion picture industry during its Golden Age, Yamashiro gave Hollywood its first celebrity hangout. Here Bebe Daniels, Frank Elliott, Lilian Gish, Ramon Navarro, and the Who’s Who of actors, writers, directors and celebrities in Hollywood formed their first social institution as a monument to their achievement. Two years ago, a complete management change instituted renovations inside the building and an elegant yet contemporary new direction in service and food, resulting in the creation of the restaurant’s highly praised CalAsian cuisine, complementing classic Japanese favorites.
Original Tommy’s – 2575 W. Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
On May 15, 1946, Tommy Koulax opened a burger stand on the corner of Beverly and Rampart Boulevards in Los Angeles, serving fresh fast food all served with his famous chili unless otherwise requested. Years later, L.A.’s love affair with his chili-topped creations is still going strong and the restaurant has expanded to multiple locations all over Southern California, but the original location still serves thousands of customers every week.