Restaurants….. For Me – AN Affliction , A Curse or An Adventure ?

Nov 25


An affliction , a curse or an adventure ? I guess it depends what day it is…what mood I’m in or what year it is . Now I am speaking about

LA Restaurant Row

La Cienega Blvd. 1960’S

myself and not necessarily about others . I have friends and collegues who make their incomes designing , consulting , operating …many facets of the crazy restaurant biz. I don’t think very many of them are quite as oddly connected as I am to the this unique trade .

Even though I have not owned a restaurant for many years , I am guilty of often speaking , “If I won the lottery I would…….” ! Yes , I’d build a restaurant , probably several different kinds of  restaurants . One of my first real introductions to the world of restaurants was in 1964 . I planned a special weekend with my new girlfriend to Hollywood and all the glamor spots .. I wanted to make sure we hit some famous landmark places on LA”s “Restaurant Row “ . Home to many famous celebrity haunts we all heard about from Hedda Hopper , Army Archard , and the movie fan magazines . Los Angeles was full of them , but I wanted to see them…not just read about them . I had driven by many of the more well known on trips from San Diego ; like Scandia , The Islander

The Islander on La Cienega

, Edna Earle’s Fog Cutter , Don The Beachcomber , , Chasen’s , Lawry’s Prime Rib , The Captain’s Table , Mediteranea , The Brown Derby , Tam O’ Shanter , Musso and Frank’s , Perino’s ,  and on and on….; to as many as I could see on a Friday night drive from San Diego .

The trip I had planned for us to Hollywood ! It included a complete new outfit I designed for her and made by my Mom… from head to toe ;and a $12.00 each plane ride to LA on Pacific Southwest Airlines . Taking a shuttle to  Sunset Blvd. where  I rented  a new ’64 red Mustang convertible ; then we had a great lobster dinner at The Captain’s Table  (where I had no idea what I was ordering or what wine  to choose ) . Later we had after drinks at The Islander , McHenry’s Tale O’ the Cock and the kick I got from her surprise at seeing me push on a paneled wall at Ollie Hammond’s Steak House , then being led through the kitchen by a polite and smiling bus boy , down some narrow winding stairs to a secret 10 seat bar with black leather couches and ordering our own personal bartender ! The only downside I remember was at our modest motel later when the evening’s events ended with her having to pay the price for too many International Stingers …it’s understandable  that might transpire when you mix a Metaxa and Galliano herbal liqueur concoction several times over an evening.  That petite 115 lb. gal must have had 8 or 10 of them ! I remember being in a very happening night club with GoGo dancers and a band…the lights changed , black lights were trained on the stage and when the girls turned their backs to the audience , their fringed yellow bell bottom costumes  were completely bare on the backside ! No wonder I couldn’t remember the name of the club . After all , this was 1965 !

It would take me a very thick tome to put down all my experiences , thoughts ….. the stories about restaurants and my fascination with them . I eventually became a cook in the USCG Reserve and was lucky enough to apprentice with a French chef , Bernard Epstein, in Marin County at Le Tonneau restaurant . Travels took me to  being a chef in Boise , Idaho and on to Portland where  Belinda’s Restaurant was opened in 1977 . The industry had places other adventurers for me over the next 15 years that were varied and challenging .

 In the latter 90’S ,  I was left immobile and house bound . To handle the intense pain and boredom , I sat and created restaurant after restaurant , with endless menus and new recipes , promo campaigns , slogans , catch phrases , logos , decor designs , dining room and kitchen layouts and so on etc. etc. all handwritten on yellow legal pads …a whole box of them . I don’t have the will to toss them . They were my way of coping ; and in some ways , wonderful exercises for the work I may have the pleasure of doing for clients these days .

I can sit down , someone may give me a thought or a theme and I’ ll create a completely viable and potentially successful business. If this is a commodity that someone would find valuable , I’m not sure . Why do I say this about such a volatile and difficult business ? ( The intrigue and interest in the field is as intense as it has ever been , these days .) It’s because in my youth ,as many are , I was bound to the lights and the flash…to the romance ; that with time it has been tempered by remembering to adhere to all of the tried and true  formulas . Pay attention to every detail , have all the elements identified and be darn sure the numbers added up to show a profit. Now all you have to do is make it work. HA! People will always say . Bankers will chuckle, laugh and hide the keys to their strong boxes ….and so they should . Only people who really know what they are doing . First timers need the counsel of several experts and advisers close at hand before ever attempting these kinds of undertakings .

I am sure that all of this nostalgia about restaurants , and the resulting need for me to post these thoughts , ideas and memories about my life long passion came directly from a article in the OREGONIAN today , November 25 . It featured a story by their restaurant reviewer Michael Russell about ChefStable… it’s principle and restaurant expert Kurt Huffman , ” Has Portland’s Top Restaurateur Lost His Midas Touch ? “…Table for One . Much of the story resonated for me ; being a student and long time “adventurer ” on the journey . Mr Huffman is riding a wave that the old Island Long Board guys would have loved to see break ; but some of the very best waves just crash  before they reach the beach and turn to shallow froth ! he has the same determination and drive that they needed .  There is one key thing that he was quoted as saying made me like Mr. Huffman immediately . “Because when somebody comes up to me and says they’ve always dreamed about opening something , I’m going to listen , because I’m just a sucker . Story matters !”That is exactly what I would say…every time. Bravo , Mr Huffman !



  1. Milt Stewart /

    Sweet story and memories.

  2. Truly a man who knows how to show a girl a good time!

  3. Fun to read a story that I had never heard before.

  4. Chantal /

    An Affliction , A Curse or An Adventure ?

  5. Peggy Ashford /

    Love your stuff. Thank God for Foodies llike us

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