Chasen’s

The legendary dining place of the stars was over at the corner of Beverly Boulevard and Doheny in a building that is now a Bristol Farms market.  Perhaps, once upon a time, the food was the star attraction but by the time I began going there from time to time in the eighties, the star attraction was the star attraction…being able to say, “Gregory Peck was dining right across the room.”  My own most memorable experience there (recounted here) was a meal with Jimmy Stewart.  I also lunched there the last day it was open and Nancy Reagan was in the next booth.

For this, one paid about twice the price of similar food almost anywhere else.  I never found the meals worth the price and the service, if you weren’t a regular or famous, could be downright curt.  I observed the striking contrast when I dined there with Mr. Stewart as opposed to someone who wasn’t famous.  I didn’t expect to be treated as courteously when not with Mr. Stewart as with, but the difference was greater than it had to be.  The Stewart-less time, we were seated at a table the size of a Cheerios box and the waiter had the attitude of, “Why do I have to wait on you?” with the “you” dripping in dismissal.  It must not have been typical of the hospitality there or the place would have closed long before it did.

When it did finally shut down, there were many “end of an era” articles and tributes, all recounting the glory days when you might see Bogart pop in for a bowl of chili.  No doubt the fact that it ceased to be “The Place Where the Stars Eat” contributed to its demise but I also think the price/value ratio and catering to the famous had an awful lot to do with it.  If you wanted to overpay for London Broil, there were better places to do that. Especially if they didn’t know who you were.

25 Responses to Chasen’s

  • Michael Loveland says:

    My father, Jack Loveland, was General Manager of Chasen’s from 1950-something until he passed in 1967. Now, I never ate in the dining room (yep, it was sure expensive) but the food was excellent. The service was excellent (believe me, I heard about every incident when it was any less). Chasen’s had take-out and delivery and catering, though little known. Chasen’s was a place “to see and be seen”. Not bad for a fellow who started out with a chili cart! I, myself, spent my childhood behind the scenes, learning to crack crab from Joe in the pantry, getting lost in the labrythine wine cellars (where my dad spent time talking with Peter Lorre as he spent his movie money on expensive wine). I saw Chateaubriand hanging to age. I helped perform inventory and went downtown at dark o’clock to buy fresh vegetables and seafood. The meat chefs taught me to carve beef and turkey and chicken.
    Perhaps it was overpriced and stodgy and vanished with the Rat Pack; but it was a terrific place to grow up – behind the scenes.

  • The ChocolateDoctor says:

    My first really grown-up meal (suit, tie and shined shoes) was at Chasen’s for my brother’s graduation. He had to choose between Chasen’s and Richlor’s on La Cienega Boulevard. Richlor’s was one of the Frank Family’s restaurant across from their Lawry’s another Lawrence Frank restaurant. He made the right choice with Chasen’s. My father was a friend of Maude and Dave Chasen. Even though he wasn’t in the entertainment industry the table-side service and the food was always impeccable. It remained that until the day it closed.

    Yes, it was a bit pricy, but few went there just for the food. It was a real treat for me. Where else could I go to ease drop on conversations from Gregory Peck, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Richard Nixon (when he was running for governor of California) , Jimmy Stewart, Don Rickles (who called me Captain Fatty—it must have been to many pieces of Chasen’s cheesecake), Milton Berle, Kirk Douglas and Ronald Reagan (when he was the host of Death Valley Days)? My favorite sighting was Marilyn Monroe who pinched my cheek and called me a “Qutie.” I was old enough to want to pinch her as well, but resisted. Every restaurant has it time and place and as fickle Hollywood stars move on, their old restaurant haunts were shuttered. Chasen’s had a great run.

  • Rolly Doucet says:

    I read a lot about WC Fields when I was younger, and the frequent mentions of Chasens, restaurant interested me. On a trip to California in the early eighties, a friend and I visited Chasens one evening for dinner. The meal and the atmosphere didn’t dissapoint. I was in awe, thinking of the history of that place, and the thoughts of all the famous people who once frequented it. Earlyer, I had noticed the glass showcase in the entrance that contained a top-hat , gloves, and a cane that was once owned by the legendary Fields, and I joked to the waiter that I would take the items with me when we left. I guess the waiter took me seriously, because the items weren’t in the showcase when we were leaving. The staff was kind enough to let me keep the menu, which is framed and hangs in my home to this day.

  • Duane Jorgenson says:

    I ate at Chasen’s every time I was in Beverly Hills. As you stepped out of your car at the green and white striped canopy that strecthed to the street you knew you in for a delightful evening. As you walked in the door you were in a resturant like no other, such warmth and hospitality. You were seated at one of the wonderfully comfortable booths. You would order your martini and then the waiter would come and take your order. You would then look up and Maude would be walking over so graciously to say hello and chat awhile. The food was always the best and the service top notch. I would eat slowly and enjoy my evening knowing that I was having the most wonderful meal. As I finished and paid my tab and was on my way out I would already be thinking of my next visit to this wonderful resturant. As I was leaving I would hear Maude say Thank you I’ll see you next time. Thank you Maude and the entire staff of Chasen’s for such fond memories that I will never forget for there will never be another place like Chasen’s.

  • Ben Pine says:

    I had a friend, Gretchen Adamson, her husband, Hal Adamson, wrote the music to Around the World in Eighty Days among many other songs. Gretchen and I shared the same birthday and she and her husband always ate at Chasen’s on her birthday. I always called her at Chasen’s on her birthday and in those days they would bring the phone to your table and plug it in. It always made her feel so important. The food, atmosphere, service was always the very best.

  • Frederick A Polizzi Jr says:

    I live in the Hollywood area for 10 yrs. I was both a waiter and bartender. In town a year and working at the Toluca Lake tennis club M-F 11-3 on the bar and Barones italian family Rest–5 nights on riverside..I got a call from a friend Id met a year before… New to town then I took a job for 2 nights and met my now 36 yr friend Alex..He come to the tennis club see,s I,m doing nice….Hey Freddy you wanna work in Beverly Hills at Chasens , I,ll get you an interview..It,s up to you from there….Well for the next 9 years when I could fit Chasens in I worked in the Rest and all over on the catering team …. The protocol, the homes, the parties..I was good at both Bartending and waiting from day one..So figure 20 parties a year…I mention where I worked I get hired…It was a slice of life, from a Viet Nam era veteran with manners…Thank for the memories….Freddy Polizzi. NYC 60yrs. old last week….

  • Bob hoelscher says:

    It makes me sad to realize that my daughter and grandchildren will never know the wonderful experience that was Chasens,it was part of Americas finest hour.
    What i would give if only to go back for one more evening.

  • Myra Armstrong says:

    Back in the 1930s when I was a little girl (between the ages of 5 and 8) I would go with my mom and dad to Chasen’s. I would order frog legs (absolutely yummy) and spinach salad. Of course I had desert, but it was the frog legs that I loved. When I was finished I would go and thank the chef.

  • Shelly Sloan says:

    For me it was the “Flame of Love” martinis made by Pepe at the bar, followed by a Steak Diane or a Hobo Steak on a cake of salt. We ate almost always at Tommy Gallagher’s stgation, on the right as you entered.

    Julius, the Maitre’d was king during the hours of operation. Make him happy and you sat in the fun; make him mad and you sat in Siberia.

    Our parents took us there as kids, we took our kids all the time. It was the ultimate family restaurant early, and, if you cared about that stupidity, the ultimate starwatching site after.

    My favorite Governor and President loved it there and ate there often.

    It is one of the places I really miss.

  • Michael B. Shane says:

    I had dinner here with Jill St. Johns decades ago.

  • Vic Baron says:

    i ate there once with a date… they looked at me like they wanted to direct me over to the shoe shining box…. to start working!!
    obviously not a good experience

  • G.A. Vidal says:

    When I moved to the westside in the mid 70’s from further south of the city….one of my new friends ‘educated’ me on the fine dining places in Beverly Hills and “adjacent” areas. So when I married a young lady from Toronto in 1978…our 1st year Anniversary was at Chasen’s. He drove us there…and when we were seated he then entered and asked “Where is Mr & Mrs Vidal ..The American Airline executive?” (I was then working in the reservation office on San Vicente and Crescent Heights at the time)..as he snapped some photos of us…then he had arranged for the Captain and our 2 waiters to sing “Happy Anniversary” to us when the dessert tort arrived…as we were finishing our dinner many TV actors were seen coming in after the Emmy award show that same evening…sadly both my wife ANd Chasen’s are gone ….but not the happy memories ^/^

  • Keith Jacobson says:

    Chasens will always have a bright memory for me. It was Aug 5th 1988 and all of Los Angeles had a heavy desire to be there that night. A hockey player named Gretzky and an owner named McNall threw a lavish bash that would attract the who’s who of Southern California. A thirty something account executive, who was hired three days previous, was on that list.

    The names that come to mind were Neil Diamond, John Candy, Jerry Buss, Rogie Vachon, Jim Hill, Stu Nahan, Bob Miller, Nick Nickson Michael J Fox, and roving cameras than I’ve ever seen before. Food, as I recall it was a buffet line. Don’t remember any chili at all. What a great night.

  • Don says:

    What great memories! Jimmy Stewart’s booth from Chasen’s is now on display at the Jimmy Stewart Museum in his hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania. It’s a wonderful museum, by the way, with a surprisingly extensive collection of Jimmy’s personal belongings and memorabilia, including the front door from his Beverly Hill’s home. The museum’s website is jimmy.org if you would like to learn more or plan a visit – highly recommended.

  • Karen says:

    I never ate at Chasen’ s but I did used to drive around the back to pick up an order of chili to go for my boss. He never bought me a bowl and I can’t think why I didn’t buy one for myself. I met Maude Chasen on many occasions, and she was very much a lady.

  • Bob Paine says:

    ……..I never dined at Chasen’s but I worked there decorating their upstairs dining room for a private party being given by Ross Hunter to celebrate when he signed Carol Channing for Thoroughly Modern Millie. It was in October so the decor was Halloween and as elegant as we could make it. The room became a haunted dining room with gold lame tablecloths overdraped with cobweb.The centerpieces were dead flowers. Dave Chasen didn’t know what to make of it.

  • Trish Weems says:

    When I opened a cookie store on the corner of Sweetzer and 3rd St, in October, 1980, three years later, a local baker Dennis who owned Delights by Dennis told the catering manager of Chasens about my brownies. Chasens wanted peanut butter brownies for their western party theme. I had never made peanut butter brownies, but used the chocolate chip cookie batter, added chunky peanut butter with extra toasted peanuts, then topped them of with peanut butter cream frosting…Chasens was ordering quite often and brought me a lot more business through word-of-mouth, now called social media.

  • Bill Stevens says:

    Take me back to the 60’s and a senior in high school. how well i recall special dinners in the back T.V. room. Dave Chasen approved my first charge account. In those days you tipped the Capt AND the waiters. I remember the cigarette girl coming around with a display of smokes for sale but my favorite story was that I always ate in the TV room which was a sanctuary from the front end noise. Depending on my guests the table linen and napkins and candles were always of their favorite colors and somehow, at the last minute, matchbooks appeared with whoever was the “special” guest.

    It was one summer and warm and I only had shorts on but David let me and my party in and quickly schooed me into the TV room. It was always a special place where my right-of-passage played out from being a teenager to adulthood. Going there was an escape from reality and I loved every moment and cherish the memories!

  • Kristie mckeel-Gonzales says:

    My son was named after your restaurant as my husband and I works in Beverly Hills. He is now 29 years old.

  • Anne Murphy says:

    Did not have the chance to experience the legendary resteraunt but would have loved to! I am looking for recipes if they are available. Specifically Hitchcock’s recipe for fish.

  • George Geary says:

    Trish Weems.. Delights By Dennis.. I worked on 3rd at The Cake Walk. What was your place called? Dennis still around?
    George ggeary@aol.com

  • Roy Saenz says:

    I was working there late 80 and boy what events they had Lucille Ball birhday , Color of Money , Jay kantors b-day party, Share event star studded Chasens

  • Caress Savage says:

    Hello The only recipe I have is Chasen’s Chili Recipe. My Brother In Law gave it to my Chef Husband 32 years ago

  • Caress Savage says:

    Anne Murphy, Savage1982@msn.com for the Chile recipe

  • Susan Callaway says:

    In 1980 my husband inherited some money and we decided to splurge so we rented a limo and took four of our friends to Chasens. We loved it. It was so fancy and we really enjoyed the food, especially the “Cherries Jubilee”. It was a memory I will never forget.

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