I’m always suspicious of restaurants that claim to have invented some item that you now find on menus everywhere. In Philadelphia, there are at least three places that will swear to you the Philly steak sandwich was first served on their premises, and there are two in L.A. alone (Phillipe’s and Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet) that insist they originated the French Dip.
Legend has it that the hot fudge sundae was the creation of one Clarence Clifton Brown, serving patrons a dish of ice cream with a little apply-it-yourself flask of molten chocolate. This supposedly occurred in his parlor in downtown L.A. in 1906. In 1929, his son Cliff moved the business to 7007 Hollywood Boulevard, just down the street from Grauman’s Chinese Theater. There it stood for decades, serving sundaes to celebrities and to tourists who came by to watch the celebrities eat sundaes. Its lush interior — mahogany booths with pink leather seats — was seen in several movies including Minnie and Moscowitz.
I went there the first time as a kid in the mid-sixties and the sundae was delicious but a bit of a disappointment. From all I’d heard about it in advance, I was expecting something that would put your basic Baskin-Robbins sundae to shame…and the one at C.C. Brown’s was only marginally better. Which is not to say it was anything but delicious. I just imagined the world’s greatest hot fudge sundae, as I’d long heard it was, would do something more than just taste good.
The establishment on Hollywood Boulevard finally closed in 1996, its final days marked by a stampede of patrons who acted like they might never taste a decent hot fudge sundae again. The company seems to still exist, franchising the name and selling fudge and yogurt and (I think) ice cream, as well. In many a restaurant, you can still find the assertion that they’re serving a C.C. Brown hot fudge sundae indistinguishable from the original…but I’ll bet most of those places microwave the fudge.