The 1950s and '60s saw a construction boom in the San Fernando Valley, Burbank in particular. Armed with newly invented building materials and a sleek car culture aesthetic, soldiers returning from war helped construct businesses and restaurants frequented by their growing families. Some of the classic diners have fallen victim to wrecking balls, but others have lived on, serving food to this very day.
Everyone knows the tasty food at Bob's Big Boy in Toluca Lake, a gem of Streamline Moderne architecture. But what about the other vintage coffee shops that dot the Burbank landscape? Here's a short guide to some of them and why you should go there.
1700 W. Olive Ave.
Open daily 6 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m.
Kind of a Medieval Googie style, the Tallyrand's arches, diamonds and typeface look like they belong in Fantasyland. Painted brick interior walls hung with neo-Tuscan artwork are a little confusing but make for an easy-going atmosphere like Mom's den. An abundance of staff, all wearing shirts declaring "Family, Friends, Tradition," provide fast, confident service.
The Tallyrand is famous for its turkey. They roast 600 pounds every morning. It is good but I prefer the homemade soups. I swear the long, thick noodles in the robust chicken soup were homemade. The waitress couldn't confirm this because "the kitchen likes to keep their secrets."
There's a cute outdoor patio at Tallyrand with a view of the best signage in Burbank: The Safari Inn (est. 1955) just down the street.
Frank's Coffee Shop and Restaurant
Est. circa 1955
916 W. Olive Ave.
Open daily 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Letters big as Pittsburgh make Frank's Coffee Shop hard to miss. The simple word "PIES" beneath the name lures me in like a hooked tuna. The pie is just OK, but the tuna sandwich is great.
What brings me back to Frank's is the internal landscape of this place. Film and TV cinematographers have loved the long row of booths and tall, tall windows. Regular clientele look straight out of Central Casting. Soft rock on the stereo is incongruous, but Frank's is a comfortable spot to drink coffee all day and finish your script.
No one could tell me the exact construction year of Frank's but based on the built-in milkshake mixers (broken), it's got to be mid-'50s.
Harry's Family Restaurant
920 N. San Fernando Blvd.
Open 24 hours, seven days a week
This is where you come for pie. Kyle MacLachlan in "Twin Peaks" kind of pie. Cherry. Apple. Coconut Cream. They're all good with a flaky crust and an interior that holds up, even when warmed.
Maybe it's because they never close, but the folks at Harry's have sadly overlooked the exterior of their restaurant. The lava-rock facade and sleek architectural lines are obscured or in disrepair. The interior is your typical '80s remodel but comfortable for the regulars that love this place.
There's a certain sleepy quality to Harry's. The waiters are all very friendly and the food is solid. Plus you've got to love the fact it's open at 2 a.m.
697 N. Victory Blvd.
Open daily 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. or midnight
Each time I drive by Lancers with its high windows and zig-zag roof, I see every table filled. Lancers is popular with seniors and other clientele who like the easy-going, everybody-knows-your-name vibe of the place. For me, the food is on the under-seasoned side, but the sandwiches are mile-high and the menu has something to please everybody.
Instead of a giant "PIES" sign, a sizable "COCKTAILS" sign beckons at Lancers. The lounge has Happy Hour every day from 3 to 7 p.m. with free appetizers.
All the diners I mentioned have sit-down counters but people seem to actually like sitting at the Lancers counter. The waiters and waitresses chat you up while refilling your coffee. Lancers is not the most cool-looking of the bunch, but it has a great personality.
LISA DUPUY has written about area restaurants since 2008. Send her the name of your favorite diner at LDupuy@aol.com.