“Every day of the past year has been an exercise of beating the odds and finding new ways to persevere,” says Patti Röckenwagner, co-owner of iconic Culver City steakhouse, Dear John’s. This is the sort of tenacity displayed by restaurant owners across the city who were lucky enough to weather the storm that was 2020 and the first quarter of 2021. The restaurant industry was drastically affected by COVID-19 shutdowns and as a result, we saw many of our favorite LA restaurants close, like Pacific Dining Car, Bäco Mercat, Cliff’s Edge, and Dialogue, to name just a few. But it’s those classic LA institutions that were particularly hard-hit. Many didn’t have the space or staffing to quickly build out an outdoor dining solution (for the first time in their restaurant’s history). For those that stayed in business, they dealt with swift changes in regulations, often without much notice.
“It changed every day. New system. New restaurant,” commented Christian Kneedler, Maitre’d at Dan Tana’s. As a workaround to regulations that temporarily prohibited indoor dining, restaurants like Dan Tana’s and Dear John’s converted their parking lots, sidewalks, and any available adjacent outdoor space into outdoor patios. In order to maintain ambience, they thought outside of the box, painting parking lot walls to mirror dining rooms, hanging hooks for masks, and making branded blankets to keep outdoor diners cozy and comfy.
“We flexed our creative muscles to try to make the best of the situation,” Röckenwagner said.
And while this was a welcomed treat to some customers, it wasn’t quite the same as curling up in a familiar booth inside of your favorite restaurant. After all, these are eateries that are beloved for their incomparable atmospheres, the charm of their dining rooms, and their attentive staff as much as the quality of their food. Less than 300 years old, Los Angeles is still a young city, and our classic restaurants represent some of the best venues for reveling in the past. In the absence of dining inside these establishments, so much local history is lost.
While things aren’t quite back to business as usual, LA’s effort in keeping COVID numbers low and distributing vaccines has allowed our city to progress to the yellow tier-the final tier before the state fully reopens in mid-June-and many of our favorite dining destinations are ready to welcome diners back inside. Be mindful that indoor dining capacity is still limited to 50% and diners must wear masks when approached by restaurant staff or whenever they leave their table, and remember to be patient as we’re all adjusting to new and frequently changing rules. Here are 13 classic restaurants that you have to experience indoors:
Hollywood This Hollywood stalwart celebrated 100 years of operation in 2019, but we’re still raising our martini glasses in recognition of the restaurant’s recent reopening despite a complete halt on service over the last year. Not that we blame them-Musso & Frank’s is a one-of-a-kind experience that we’re thankful they didn’t attempt to translate to takeout or al-fresco. Renowned as Hollywood’s oldest restaurant and a once-favorite of screen legends like Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, and Marilyn Monroe, everyone who enters this storied building can expect the same high level of service from waiters outfitted in red tuxedo jackets, amidst a dining room with white tablecloths and a long bar that’s perfect for babysitting a classic cocktail while eavesdropping on calls between Hollywood execs. You can’t go wrong with the daily featured entree, or go with Chaplin’s favorite Musso meal of roast lamb kidneys. How to book: Reservations can be made via their website.
Sherman Oaks LA’s old-school Mexican-American restaurant collection is vast, but this gem in the Valley is an all-time great. Opened in the late 1950s and the interiors haven’t changed much, although framed photos of their famous clientele now decorate the walls. Burgundy tablecloths match tufted leather booths, with string lights and hanging chandeliers providing a dim romantic atmosphere, and also making it easy to lose track of time. Quentin Tarantino even used it as a backdrop for a scene in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. When longtime owner Ray Vega passed away in January of this year, his daughter Christy quickly rose to the occasion by launching a drive-thru and pop-up collaboration dishes with various celebs. Now that their indoor dining room is reopened, you can once again take advantage of one of the Valley’s favorite happy hour deals (with $6 margaritas, $4–5 beers, and $5 bites from 2:30–6 pm Monday–Friday) from the vantage point of one of Casa Vega’s plush burgundy booths. How to book: via Tock or Resy. Walk-ins accepted.
Eagle Rock You don’t come to Colombo’s for the food alone, you come for the kitschy interiors, the neighborhood feel, and the friendly staff. The Italian steakhouse has been in Eagle Rock since 1954, serving up classic Italian-American red sauce fare and steaks the size of your face. While it may be best known for live jazz performances, which are currently on hold, you will still want to get a seat in one of their large booths and dine among large portraits of famous Italians like Sophia Loren and Frank Sinatra. How to book: via OpenTable. Walk-ins accepted.
West Hollywood If you’re looking for a taste of old-school Hollywood, look no further than the iconic Dan Tana’s, which has been welcoming celebs and civilians alike since the 1960s. Ironically, LA’s legendary restaurant is the antithesis of the new LA stereotype. Minimalism? Dan Tana’s doesn’t know her. From food to decor it’s all about living life to the max. The dishes are cheesy, saucey, carby Italian-American fare. The interiors are dark with red vinyl booths, red and white checkered tablecloths, and Chianti bottles hanging from the ceilings. Embrace the mid-century dining experience and order a Caesar salad, made tableside, and the chicken parmesan. A bottle of chianti for the table is a must. How to book: Call 310-275-9444 for reservations.
Culver City Anemoia is a term for feeling nostalgic for a time you’ve never known and is the perfect descriptor for what Dear John’s does to you. It leaves you longing for a time when servers wore tuxedos, dressing up to dine was a must, and food didn’t have a mission statement. This is the second iteration of Dear John’s, which originally opened in 1962 by Johnny Harlowe at the insistence of Frank Sinatra. The restaurant became the West Coast spot for the Rat Pack and the like. It closed, then was reopened by acclaimed restaurateurs Hans Röckenwagner, his wife Patty Röckenwagner, and Josiah Citrin (Mélisse, Charcoal Venice) in 2019 to resemble the restaurant’s heyday with an interior that feels straight out of a movie and a menu full of upscale classic American foods. Try their Frank’s spaghetti and clams that we’re sure Sinatra would sign off on. Pair it with a martini, naturally. Right now, the future of Dear John’s is up in the air due to a lease agreement, so get there fast! How to book: via Tock or Resy.
Koreatown Possibly the most difficult dining experience to recreate at home or outdoors is LA’s beloved Korean BBQ, due to the nature of cooking all the food right at the table. Luckily Koreatown spots like Hae Jang Chon are open and ready for us to put the phrase “all you can eat” to the test. Here you can make up for lost time and dig into plates of brisket, pork belly, and perfectly marinated bulgogi while intermittently taking chopsticks full of banchan. How to book: Walk-ins accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations not available.
Westchester Perhaps no other food establishment is as welcoming and familiar as a diner, and no place does the diner experience quite like Pann’s. Open since 1958, Pann’s is an iconic Los Angeles eatery known for its retro decor, distinctive mid-century modern architecture, and delicious diner classics. It’s the type of place that makes you feel like a regular even if it’s your first time there-an experience that could never be replicated at home. And if we’re being honest, fried foods (which are the best diner foods) don’t travel well. While outdoor seating is available, there’s nothing like a diner burger eaten in a vinyl booth. Celebrate the reopening of indoor dining by ordering one of their famous Dreamburgers, a classic burger with American cheese and a side of onion rings. How to order: Walk-ins accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations not available.
Koreatown Walking into The Prince is like setting foot in Hollywood history. Originally called The Windsor, the restaurant opened in the 1940s and once served Tinseltown’s elite. It can be seen in LA’s classic film Chinatown and more contemporary examples like the show New Girl. While the name and menu may have changed since its opening, the nostalgic decor, which includes red booths, ostentatious red-and-gold wallpaper, and oil paintings, are holding on strong. Treat yourself to a night at The Prince and order the tong dak (Korean fried chicken) as a nod to their updated menu and a Manhattan as an ode to their past. How to book: Walk-ins accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Little Ethiopia If you’ve had Ethiopian food before, you know it’s best enjoyed in a communal setting with loved ones while swapping stories and dishes. Which is why we are happy to see Rosalind’s Ethiopian, Little Ethiopia’s oldest restaurant, reopen their indoor dining area. The interior of Rosalind’s is vibrant and lively, decorated with Ethiopan art, and the walls have thatched “roofs” above the tables. While there, try to snag a mesob, a traditional Ethiopian table, and order their legendary doro wot-a rich, cozy spicy chicken stew, and scoop it up with spongy injera bread. How to book: Walk-ins accepted or call the restaurant at 323-936-2486 for reservations.
Monterey Park This Monterey Park favorite is among the last of a dying breed of cart-pushing dim sum spots. It’s that old-school ambiance that had us rejoicing when NBC Seafood reopened their indoor area. Not to mention their superb dishes like shrimp dumplings, char siu (BBQ pork), and pot stickers that come served in metal dishes. On-site dining simply does what takeout cannot, offering a charming cart-to-table dining experience. How to book: Walk-ins accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Beverly Grove It feels like everyone in LA has a story of stumbling into Swingers after a late night. When news that the legendary diner was closing, the hearts of longtime Angelenos and fans of late-night dining were crushed. Luckily, the former GM/new owner was able to collect enough funds from regulars, friends, and family to buy the restaurant (hoorah!). With that sort of fan support, you undoubtedly should support them and dine indoors. Acquaint yourself with their massive menu that includes lots of vegan and vegetarian options. While the late-night diner hasn’t resumed their pre-pandemic hours quite yet, they recently extended their daily hours to 11 pm, and just launched a Friday and Saturday night lounge from 11 pm–2 am featuring a DJ, limited food menu, and new cocktails. How to book: Walk-ins accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
Echo Park This French restaurant, operating in Echo Park since the 1960s, is so iconic that when it was under threat of being turned into a mixed-use building, locals fought for it to be added to the city’s list of Historic-Cultural Monuments. The current owners are against this move, which means the building’s future remains unclear and is all the more reason to get to Taix as soon as possible to support this piece of LA history. And, if you’re going to eat French classics like mussels in white wine and steak frites you should do it in their ornate and absurdly large dining hall. How to book: via the restaurant’s website.
Atwater Village It doesn’t make a lot of sense for a restaurant that looks like it belongs in Edinburgh in the early 1900s to be located in Atwater Village across from Costco, but that’s where Tam O’Shanter is and has been for over 90 years. Inside, the Scottish restaurant looks virtually unchanged since the 1920s, with carpeted floors, stone fireplaces, wood accents, and stained glass. It’s exactly the type of place you have to see to believe. While the interior alone provides feast for the eyes, this family-owned restaurant also serves up memorable Scottish comfort dishes like Scotch rabbit and pan-seared Scottish salmon. We recommend trying their famous prime rib that comes with horseradish, a side of mashed potatoes, and creamed spinach. If you want a stiff drink, they have a wall of common and hard-to-find Scotches for you to choose from. How to book: via the restaurant’s website.
Many cannabis brands describe themselves as “lifestyle brands” and “cultural disruptors.” Few of them actually impact lifestyles or broader cultural trends. Only one of them has figurines up on Stock X right now.
“For OG Terp Crawford to be featured amongst Nike, Jordans, Supreme, BAPE, and PS5s is really sick,” says Hope Lord, co-founder of cannabis lifestyle brand Talking Terps. “Stock X is not taking everyone who makes a toy and putting it up there.”Between their psychedelic graphics, cannabis-adjacent accessories, and famous OG Terp Crawford figurine, Talking Terps has established a cult following amongst cannabis enthusiasts, hypebeasts, and beyond. On paper, it’s a lifestyle brand interested in both cannabis and psychedelics. In action, Talking Terps is an alternative universe that bridges the gaps between toy culture, cannabis culture, psychedelic culture, and American pop culture.
The brand was established as a concept in 2015 by Leor Feit aka Hope Lord, Flatbush Zombies member Antonio Lewis aka Zombie Juice, and Flatbush Zombies spiritual adviser Phil Annand aka PTA Haiti 3000. One year later, the phrase “talking terps” popped in a Flatbush Zombies song, referring to terpenes, a compound found in cannabis.
“We had a show at Red Rocks in Colorado,” Lord recalls. “I had a friend that was part of Blue River Terpenes who brought us the first sample of cannabis-derived terpenes. Then Juice and Erick made a song with it in the chorus.”
Once Talking Terps emerged as a phrase, the graphics, accessories, apparel, events, and, of course, toys were soon to follow. By 2017, the phrase was spotted on one of Snoop Dogg’s t-shirts. In 2019, the concept of Terp Crawford was born, launching the brand towards the collectible toy game.
While the first Terp Crawford was technically a plush pillow, the first toy-named OG Terp Crawford-came in March 2020. The 6-inch tall vinyl sculpture of a humanized weed nug with a joint in his hand and a smile on his face is meant to embody everything Hope, Juice and PTA stand for.
“Our message is to love each other and be happy,” Lord says. “Tread lightly and disrupt nothing.”OG Terp Crawford drops sell out in actual seconds and resell on sites like Stock X for over double their retail price. More than a simple toy, he’s a figure that Talking Terps hopes will evolve into a full-on cartoon character.
“As time goes, the idea for Terp Crawford is for him to be a Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny type figure from our world that can cross over,” Lord says. “There should be no reason one day that Terp Crawford’s not throwing a football in some skit on Monday Night Football.”
That’s not just a high aspiration-the team is currently working with 3 Hearts Entertainment to develop a TV show around him. The goal is for Terp Crawford to go global and for Talking Terps to go meta. With their vast graphic library and club of TT enthusiasts, virtual collectibles like NFTs only make sense (though the team can’t let the terp out of the hat just yet).
“I can see Terp Crawford in Japan, speaking in Japanese on TV,” Lord muses. “Once we take him somewhere else, we could do big sculptures, like at KAWS level, maybe. I think we’ll get a TV show. I can’t speak too much on what we’re working on for the metaverse, but it’s got a lot of components. I can say that we’re building a whole new platform called the meta-forest.”