The Kosher Burrito once stood on 1st Street between Los Angeles City Hall and Little Tokyo. (Yep, that’s the New Otani in the background.) I snapped this shot with my old 2 1/4 Spartus in the 90’s before it was gone for good in 2002.
Picture a simple lunch counter/ burger stand with a few stools that offered up a cross between Mexican and deli food such as the famed Kosher Burrito which was filled with pastrami, mustard, chili, pickles and onions. Word has it they had pretty good burgers too.
All in the backdrop of Little Tokyo. Only in Los Angeles. Just archive it in the ever expanding file of terrific things that aren’t here anymore.
We are still left with a few “Mexicatessens” around town– joints that serve Mexican food and hamburger style grub. While amusing and promising in name, the reality is a far cry from the Kosher Burrito.
In this 2012 Los Angeles world of revived dive bars (King Eddy’s), dive cafeterias (Clifton’s) and dive everything else (Cole’s), a few joints that left the scene decades ago remain long forgotten. One that begs for memory revival is The Playboy, a bar next to Nickodell Restaurant, both at one time straddling Paramount Studios on Melrose Ave.
I only took a few slides of the place moments before it was crushed by the dozers back in ’98, but I imagine it was once a classy cocktail lounge inhabited by Sinatra and Paramount execs. I say this because of the top hat, white gloves and black cane painted on the back door.
Perhaps back in the ’70’s a few New Wave Hollywood directors (DePalma & pals) threw back shots of whiskey while Gulf & Western’s Paramount Studios behind the bar struggling to redefine itself. You can see a glimpse of the studio in the top right corner of the shot of The Playboy below, the bar boarded up and stripped of its glowing neon. Maybe it’s a good thing that nothing remains for a LA Revivalist to polish up and charge 12 bucks for a cocktail that once sold for $2.50 back when The Playboy was living up to its name.
Want a bit of Hollywood history in your own home bar? Find a Playboy Photo print here.
I must have known they would disappear from the landscape because my early fascination with signs led to the purchase of a camera to snap photos of them. Sometimes I took careful symmetrical aim like with Jack & Hy which in my memory was a small juice bar with awning, four chairs and a counter. A straightforward joint that squeezed juices in place of grilling burgers. I pictured it on a small garment district street south of the downtown center. An internet search references such a juice joint on 754 S Olive Street & 8th. It was last inspected by the city health department in 2009 when the lack of hot water and a parade of rats and roaches closed it down.
Another sign in the photographic memory bank is a bar on Hollywood Blvd. I was probably on the bus when I snapped this shot because there’s no art nor symmetrical science to the tilt and crop of the shot. It’s just a document and barely that. A quick check on google just now finds another reference shot of the Side Show for purchase, which never came up in countless searches before. http://www.hollywoodphotographs.com/detail/6022/side-show-bar-and-drakes-mens-store-on-hollywood-blvd-west-of-highland-ave/
If you look closely at the sign by the left of the entrance you’ll see that the Side Show opens at 7am. I was never smart enough to venture inside.
The other side of memory is discovering a photograph I don’t recall taking. Maybe I was in the backseat of a car, drunk and on my way to being drunker. How better to explain no memory of a joint with a name that describes my college years and beyond. Perhaps in that is the loss of memory. No book nor internet site references that any such bar ever existed in Los Angeles (or else where).
Several decades before the reinvention of downtown Los Angeles into a loftified art walk circus, the place was dead at night. Dead and scary with zombie crack addicts and also sad and lonely with one of America’s most populated tent city homeless encampments. Today every classic joint has been purchased and reinvented by well-oiled club magnates and skid row is planted with 8am-midnight parking meters. But back then, few ventured downtown at night. There was Al’s Bar, a spotty arts district and Gorky’s. Gorky’s, a 24 hour restaurant serving hardy eastern European soul food and their own brew. Craft beer in the heart of downtown LA decades before the term craft beer was even thought of my a few yuppie entrepreneurs. But downtown Los Angeles got a lot worse before it got better and Gorky’s didn’t make the cut. All the facts are contained in a long ago published article in the LA Times that’s still available if you follow this link.
Sometimes I wonder if Gorky’s even existed. But then I found this shot hidden away in an old box of negatives. Someone wearing a Gorky’s tee shirt. That sight inspired a mind’s eye vision of visiting Gorky’s late one night for the stew. It was freezing outside, my breath a frozen cloud in front of my face. Long Live Gorky’s! Long Live deserted downtown LA, where the produce market bar rocked and rolled every morning until 9am. Now that was some good time.