The Captain’s Table

Located at the end of Restaurant Row — on La Cienega near 3rd Street — The Captain’s Table had a glorious history as one of the city’s best places to eat fish. Alas, by the time I dined there in the early seventies, it had become a rather mediocre and overpriced establishment that sold you a lobster with the same grandeur and price tag of Tiffany’s delivering your new diamond tiara. The decor had that “men’s club” feel with a maritime flavor and chairs that had uneven legs so they made you seasick. I don’t think that was deliberate.

Apparently, competition did the place in. It was not far from the Smith Brothers’ Fish Shanty, which was a much better seafood restaurant, and it was a few blocks from Alan Hale’s Lobster Barrel. Some people apparently got confused and went to The Captain’s Table thinking they were going to get to meet the Skipper. The last year or so of its existence, I lived one block from the place and never ventured in. My friends and I would walk right past it to get to the Fish Shanty.

The main thing I recall about it is that at some point in the mid-seventies, a group of local Star Trek fans decided they wanted to meet William Shatner and take him to dinner. The Captain’s Table seemed like the appropriate place to sup with Captain Kirk so they all pledged the necessary funds and bombarded Shatner — at every conceivable address — with invites to dine there with them. For months, they could get no response and the invitations grew ever more militant. I knew one of the Trekkers involved in the plan and she was beginning to lose her love for Mr. Shatner due to him not extending them even the courtesy of a reply.

Finally, as the story was told to me, some publicist for the star called the ringleader and said, in effect, “Knock it off with all these invitations or we’ll call the police and report you all as stalkers. Shatner’s not going to dine with you anywhere and if he did, he especially wouldn’t eat at The Captain’s Table. He hates that restaurant and people are always trying to drag him to it.” Two days after I heard this, I noticed The Captain’s Table was out of business and the building was being sprayed with psychedelic colors, long after they were fashionable, and transformed into a discotheque, long after anyone was going to them. It was like the place was so ashamed at being rejected by William Shatner that it had turned to drugs.

13 Responses to The Captain’s Table

  • Mardi Dauphine says:

    This commentary on the Captain’s Table is a sad reflection on what was once a great place to dine and entertain friends.

    My first experience there was to enjoy lunches with my step-dad, Don Jensen. He was the Commander of the local power squadron at the time and the members met at the Captain’s Table. This was in the late fifties.

    During my visits I would always order the cold prime rib plate and the owner would bring it out to me personally. If my memory serves me, the owner’s name was Cal.

    Thanks for the website.

    Mardi Dauphine

  • Jeffrey Tohl says:

    Just to set the record straight, my father owned The Captain’s Table on Restaurant Row. His name is Bernard. Always a consummate host I am sure he would have been happy to serve you. He also operated Alan Hale’s Lobster Barrel as well. The Skipper enjoyed his involvement with the restaurant as host during the restaurant’s run. I think in general, a decline began with “continental cuisine” (traditional dinner houses,etc) with the evolution of MaMaison, Spago, pacific fusion and the celebrity chef. Restaurant Row had a long and nostalgic history as Restaurant Row with a diversity of restaurants and clubs. It was the happening place of it’s time. It was the place to go for dark interiors, classic bars, dark mahogany Naugahyde booths, captains and waiters suited up and food prepared table side. Everyone seems to have an early memory of a life event being celebrated at the Captain’s Table. Enjoy and Bon appetite!

  • Jeffrey Tohl says:

    ps: the article’s author is incorrect. The building he described as painted in psychedelic colors was the adjacent Metropolis which was originally a club covered by a mural by the LA Art Squad. During the 70’s, the club, next to The Captain’s Table, was graffiti’d and eventually torn down and replaced by Loehmans. The Captain’s Table fell victim to the times and was bull-dozed in a day. The Fish Shanty likewise closed and was replaced with the current ultra high-end apartment building with Trader Joe’s. Real estate always trumps food.

  • Mark Kraus says:

    Went with parents in 1960. I leRned what Lobster Tail was that night and loved it. And it was served by a very elegant waiter who reminded me of a perfect Mr French from “Family Affair.”

  • Sally Willingham says:

    I have an ashtray from The Captain’s Table restaurant in Los Angeles. I’m selling it on ebay and thought you might like a picture for you blog?
    Sally/Users/robertwillingham/Music/Pictures/Pictures/captains table .jpg

  • Scott Linet says:

    As a young teen I was thrilled to shake hands with Alan Hale. The Bouillabaisse was the best I ever had. It was more than just a restaurant to me. It is a wonderful memory. Thank you Allan. Rest in peace.

  • Julie Scarine says:

    My father, Joe Kassai, worked as a waiter at The Captain’s Table from the mid 1950’s until 1978 when he retired. He earned a decent living and entertained me as a child with stories of the different celebrities who came there to dine (Elizabeth Montgomery, Dean Martin and Michael Landon were regulars); he even secured an autograph for me on a restaurant napkin from Mr. Landon when I was about 13. I can’t comment on the food; we couldn’t afford to eat there. But they treated my father (who passed in 1982) well during his time as an employee of this “icon” of Old Restaurant Row ” in L.A….

  • Ross Pullen says:

    My one visit to The Captain’s table in 1962 was a really special occasion for me and my date. We drove up to Beverly Hills from San Diego for a weekend of dining and music’ plus to see the sights. At that dinner there was some firsts for both of us. I especially remember she said she didn’t like fish ordinarily and ordered chicken breast. After tasting my Grilled Swordfish she decided that maybe she would be seafood lover after all. I ordered the Green Godess salad and the waiter politely, but firmly, suggested that since it was a substantial portion and had strong flavors i should really choose a green salad instead. I did and had it with blue cheese dressing……new to me and loved it. Why do I bother telling these stories? Because we had a lovely time at The captain’s Table that evening ( there were many more places I recall ) and I miss these places of times passed. The advent of the celebrity chef has almost stamped out the most important aspect of fine dining establishments. They should exist to serve wonderful and consistent menus within a memorable ambiance by qualified and professional servers. The diner and his/her satisfaction is of prime importance. I do not really care if the chef is a rock star and is of a temperamental nature; plus their unrelenting recipes that contain an odd collection of too many foreign ingredients to recall. OK…..they get their baby turnips from a little 2 acre farm in Tulare farmed by a former Beverly Hills brain surgeon who is now dedicating his life to his new career. Just prepare the turnips well and hope that I will want to return and order them on my next visit. In closing, I owned, managed and was chef of restaurants for over 30 years. I know what the rewards, the pitfalls, and incredibly long hours require. The whole commitment of total dedication is noting new to me.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Great write-up, Ross…loved the humor. Lest I’m wrong, it seemed to me that waitstaff could make a career back in the day and enjoyed being discrete (vs haughty) mentors to those of us learning what dining vs eating was all about.
    While “Restaurant Row” was indeed Grand, the Garden Room, ‘downstairs’ in then only one of ‘a half dozen’ casinos in Vegas, The Tropicana, was most memorable for me. Except for “busboys” in tunic-like shirts, everyone from the Maitre’D, the Captain of the table, the Salad, Entree, Dessert Servers were tuxed and most remembered, along with Rose d’Anjou served by the Sommelier, the to-die-for Filet with Bernaise, the periodic sweeping of the tablecloth with a silver “dust pan and brush”, the placing of a ‘saucer’ between the cup and Guest while coffee was poured, the strolling violinist, the gypsy-like gal who was allowed in to share her basket of roses, and the lanky “showgirl” who occasionally appeared offering her tray of cigars & cigarettes given there was never a dirty ashtray on one’s table! Oh, let us not forget the palate cleansing sorbet after the Roquefort (not Blue Cheese) or table side Caesar salad! (Is it true that when strapless eveningwear came on the scene, the Captain or the Master Server carried a large, warm serving spoon to assist/accommodate any “fortuitous” events?)
    Kudos for your Labors in this most challenging of risky adventures!

  • Roger Swadish says:

    I was a bartender at the restaurants the Family owned , the Captains Table, the Lobster Barrel and the Islander later known as the Banana Boat. As Jeff Tohl mentions in an earlier post, the restaurants were all wonderful and the hot spots of Hollywood. It’s good to see others have fond memories of the Captains Table, it brings back many great memories

  • tim says:

    My uncle was the accountant for them and I believe he even had an ownership percentage. Remember going as a little kid and they had a George Washington greeter who let me try on his wig in the bathroom. Always remember my uncle referring to this place only as The Table.

  • Les Spiegel says:

    Tim indicated that his uncle was the accountant for the Captain’s Table. I worked for the accountant back in the early 60s. That firm was Hal Zivetz’s and I spent many hours working on both the Captains Table and The Islander’s books. Back then I could work on the books but could not afford to dine at either. I had just married and times were tough.

  • Mark Nowak says:

    Not sure if this was a franchise; In 1986 we spent our honey moon in Victoria B.C. There was a captains table near the old landing spot of the Princess Margarite (next to the undersea garden).

    I remember the mushroom caps, They were cooked in some kind of Bourdeau and beef broth. I am not embarrassed to say I am a captains table mushroom cap junkie. (Sadly I was not able to find the captains table in Victoria, the last time I visited.)

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