These LA restaurants have stayed open for some 100 years

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Sarah Sweeney

The entrance of Canter’s Deli, built in 1931, features a big neon sign advertising that the restaurant is open all night. Credit: Shutterstock.

Los Angeles is one of the world’s premiere food cities, where street taco stands are equally as important as fine dining establishments run by some of the most famous chefs. Today’s culture can be traced back more than a century. Chef George Geary talks about it in his new book, “L.A.’s Landmark Restaurants: Celebrating the Legendary Locations Where Angelenos Have Dined for Generations.”

Cole’s vs. Philippe’s

Who invented the French dip? These Downtown LA rivals have duked it out for decades.

“If you go to Cole’s today, it's a bar, and you've got a few little things you can buy — one is a French dip sandwich. Philippe’s? A lot of French dip sandwiches go out of there,” Geary explains. “Cole’s originally was a place where commuters went in and out through the red car line, the train station in the 1900s. And it was a buffet. And so I'm looking at it as they saw that the sandwiches were very, very popular across the street. So they started making them and then they said that they were the founder,” Geary says.

Pacific Dining Car

While this landmark was an unfortunate casualty of COVID-19, the original train car restaurant opened in 1921. Prior to the pandemic, it was open 24/7. 

“They had five menus during the day. They'd have the breakfast menu, a brunch menu, a lunch menu, afternoon tea menu, and then all-night menu. And the waiters were actually waiters, not trying to be actors, which I think is fascinating. When you go to certain restaurants like Musso and Frank’s in Hollywood, it’s actual waiters.”

The Original Pantry Cafe

This former 24/7 diner in Downtown LA opened in 1924. Due to the pandemic, it’s cut its hours and now closes at 3 p.m. most days of the week. Years ago, a rumor said its employees were former inmates. 

“When people would get out of jail, they'd go there thinking they could get a job and they weren't former inmates. Even today, if you've been there, some people will say, ‘So how long were you in jail?’ to the people working there. They're like, ‘I’ve never been in jail.’ They never understood.”

El Cholo

The Mexican restaurant in Koreatown goes back seven generations and used to be located in Downtown LA.

“A lot of family members still work there. You go in and you feel like you're in a museum. Everywhere you look on Western [Avenue], there's got little things framed and old menus framed. Even in the bathroom, they have menus framed. And the original name of it, they changed it to El Cholo, the name after about three years. They had a different name. And a guy came in and made this little drawing of a little man, and he called him el cholo and the owners liked the name and they thought, ‘Let's change the name’ of our place.” 

Canter’s Deli

This deli in the Fairfax district is just one of LA’s Jewish delis. It’s among the ranks of others including Langer’s and Nate n’ Al’s. 

“That was an old theater back in the day where it is now. And they have a pickle room that I didn't even know about. They make pickles. They make their own and they do the whole thing. And they go through a lot of pickles. You sit down, a tray of pickles come to your table, almost like the tortilla chips and salsa in the Mexican restaurants.” 



  • George Geary - chef and author of “L.A.’s Landmark Restaurants: Celebrating the Legendary Locations Where Angelenos Have Dined for Generations”


Michell Eloy