Originally published December 30, 2013 at The Los Angeles Beat
It seems that we are always saying the Long Goodbye here in Los Angeles. Things change and our beloved city is in constant evolution. You might not find yourself on a particular street or in a certain neighborhood for a spell and then when you revisit – poof! – everything is the same, but really quite different. We are always in danger of “progress” wiping out the tried and true, the historic and the places near and dear to our hearts. It’s up to us to appreciate what we have while we’ve still got it. Here is a melancholy memory of some of our treasured local jewels that have been lost to the winds of the year 2013…
Bahooka: A magical tiki-themed restaurant in Rosemead, cherished for 46 years, served its last flaming boozy Bahooka Bowl on March 9th of this year. A kitschy institution that was all about the cool atmosphere and the strong tropical drinks, food was really an after thought. Crammed wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling with enchanting South Seas memorabilia, this dimly lit maze of a place could be an amazing bit of sensory overload. Home to over 100 fish tanks, including a big as a briefcase 36-year-old Pacu fish named Rufus, Bahooka was undeniably one of a kind. Originally opened in 1967 in West Covina it relocated to Rosemead in 1976 where it oversaw countless birthday parties and celebrations, wedging a firm spot into the heart of Angelenos.
The Buggy Whip: A serious old-school steak house, in business since 1949 and closed in September, the Buggy Whip was firmly lodged in an era when a two martini lunch was common and a room’s hazy atmosphere was due to a table full of chain smokers. With cracked red leather booths, dark paneled wood and classic brick, this was the kind of place that time literally forgot. Serving up somewhat pricey cuts of prime rib, pretty ordinary garlic buttered sea food dishes and strong drinks, the ghosts in the air here mattered far more than the food. As a live piano player played requests, you could close your eyes, take a sip of your drink, and imagine life in another time.
El Conquistador: A much beloved part of Silverlake closed its doors on December 22nd after sadly losing its lease. Opened in 1971, this Mexican restaurant had an exciting backstory of thwarted love… Once upon a time, 1966 to be exact, a much in love gay couple, Salvador and Jesse, opened El Chavo restaurant. Although it was Salvador’s business, they ran it together until their break-up in 1971. To make a point, Jesse immediately opened El Conquistador, just a mile down the same street, and the two restaurants became fierce competitors. Known for strong margaritas and a festive atmosphere, El Conquistador will be sorely missed.
Hollywood Park Racetrack: Opened in 1938, this horse racing track in Inglewood dated back to the sport’s golden era. It closed forever on December 22nd in favor of a developer who is building condos and retail space. Hollywood Park’s first Gold Cup winner was the legendary horse Seabiscuit and the infamous poet Charles Bukowski was a well-oiled regular. Read the full story of its history and closing in this Offbeat L.A. article.
And a fortunate reprieve… (Author’s Note: Thankfully the Proud Bird is STILL open at this December 2015 update)
The Proud Bird: Located in the direct flight path of LAX airport, this kitschy aviation-themed restaurant, opened in 1967, was scheduled to shut its doors on November 21st of this year. Luckily, a last minute pardon is allowing it to stay in business for another year. Jam packed with flight memorabilia, it is quite an experience to watch the planes fly so low overhead. They serve a mean Sunday champagne brunch, so visit while you can.