Alvin Simon dies at 82; owner of premier L.A.-area restaurants


Alvin Simon, a restaurateur who helped spark the revitalization of Old Pasadena in the 1980s with the upscale Cafe Jacoulet, died Feb. 23 at his home in Mount Washington from complications of lymphoma and radiation treatment, said his sister Flame Simon. He was 82.

Simon later operated the Cal-Asian restaurant Cinnabar in Glendale for 11 years. His son Robert, who was a partner in Cafe Jacoulet, now owns Bistro 45 in Pasadena.

Cafe Jacoulet, on North Raymond Avenue, opened in 1984 when the neighborhood’s historic storefronts were being transformed into chic retail stores and gourmet restaurants.

Simon, a businessman, was looking for new challenges and decided on a restaurant featuring the emerging California-French cuisine. His partners were chef Hideo Yamashiro and son Robert, a maitre d’ who had worked with Yamashiro at Les Anges in Pacific Palisades.

They built a loyal following with such menu items as baked goat-cheese salad, grilled duck salad and Japanese-inspired appetizers, in an elegant setting far from the Westside.

The owners sold the restaurant in 1990. Yamashiro moved on to Shiro in South Pasadena and, later, Orris in West Los Angeles. By early 1993, Simon had launched a new project with chef Hisashi Yoshiara.

Cinnabar was in an old Bekins building on South Brand Boulevard in Glendale. It had high ceilings, huge plate-glass windows, an ornate bar that had been salvaged from Yee Mee Loo in Chinatown and a pan-Asian menu. The restaurant, a success with critics and customers, closed in 2004.

Alvin Simon, born Feb. 15, 1928, in the Bronx borough of New York, liked to say he was two-thirds of the Chipmunks (the squeaky-voiced animated singing trio of Alvin, Simon and Theodore). He attended the City College of New York and UCLA, then served in the Army in Korea.

After returning to the States, he started a plastics company called Advanced Chemical Technology, his family said. He sold the firm when he set his sights on the restaurant business.

Survivors include his companion, Artie Morris; sons Robert and Steven; two grandchildren; and his sister.

A celebration of life is being planned.