LA: The Wild Side

June 4, 2016

IMG_5710A couple days ago, hunting through my bookshelves for The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, I uncovered this true blast from the past hiding behind my old LA restaurant guides. It’s called LA: The Book, and it’s essentially a subversive artist’s book masquerading as a luxury lifestyle guide.  Published in 1981, it begins: IMG_5705

I can think of few more succinct reminders that a “nice” restaurant usually had to be French. (Although we do find some Italian, a couple nascent California Cuisine restaurants, and two of the first Asian-fusion restaurants in the country.)

There’s this irresistible image of  Rex Il Ristorante (where the famous learning to eat scene in Pretty Woman was shot): IMG_5709

Wolfgang Puck and Michael McCarty on promenade: IMG_5707

And finally, this excerpt from performance artist Rachel Rosenthal‘s 1981 Soldier of Fortune, in which she locates the blackening soul of conspicuous consumption squarely in the fine dining room: IMG_5704IMG_5711


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  • Sue says:

    Those were all the rage and thanks for the trip down memory lane. I loved them all.
    Bruce Marder’s West Beach Cafe….that was a cool place to be too!
    Ahh, L A

  • T. Baker says:

    There are so many of the favorites of my youth! St. Estephe, where the beauty of the Salmon Painted Desert made me swoon; Les Anges, whose piano bar won my heart even before I tasted the wonderful food; Valentino, where Pierro Selvaggio made all the special occasions of my courtship and marriage a lot more special; 385 North, which I loved and mourned when it closed, along with Max au Triangle, Le Ermitage, Le Orangiere, Le Chardonnay, Rex, Trumps and Le Saint Germain. I miss the era of pretty, quiet restaurants that served food I couldn’t dream of making at home. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Stacey Charrow says:

    I lived in LA during the early eighties and I’ve probably eaten at more than half of these restaurants as well as Campanile, Charmer’s Market and 72 Market. Fun times!