Lawry’s

This is a bit of a cheat since Lawry’s is still very much in business but I have a certain nostalgic feeling for the building wherein I first tasted their fine, fine prime rib. Originally, Lawry’s was in a building on the east side of La Cienega. Then they outgrew that and in 1947, they moved into the above building on the west side of the boulevard. A few years ago, they rebuilt the old building and moved back into it, and the building depicted above turned into a restaurant called The Stinking Rose, where everything (including — no kidding — the ice cream) is rife with garlic.

As you probably know, when you dine at Lawry’s, your piece o’ meat is served to you by a man in a chef’s outfit with a medallion around his neck. He rolls a hefty, gleaming serving cart filled with cooked cow to your table and slices off the appropriate hunk. When Lawry’s moved across the street, the chefs rolled their carts (presumably empty) out of the old locale, then police stopped traffic on La Cienega and allowed them to push their serving stations across the boulevard and into the new building. Every time I drive up that street, I imagine a traffic sign with a little silhouette of a chef pushing a serving cart and the words, MEAT CROSSING.

Click above to see this picture a bit larger

Here’s a story about Lawry’s — and actually it took place at the other building, the one on the east side of La Cienega. But it could have happened at the one in the photo at the top of this item.

I was dining with a lady who liked milk and usually drank a few glasses of it at every meal. We were down near the end of our consumption. I think I had two more bites to go on my Diamond Jim Brady cut with the mashed potatoes and the creamed corn and I was beyond stuffed. I could feel seams on my skin straining under the stress. My date picked up her glass and suddenly, the bottom exploded and milk flew in every direction.  Our table was covered with it.

But only for about thirty seconds.  Lawry’s has spectacular service.  Instantly, three or four bus boys were upon us with rags.  In less time than seemed humanly possible, they’d removed every single thing on our table, dried the table, put another tablecloth in place and brought in new place settings, salt, pepper, etc.  And while this was happening, unnoticed by us, our waitress hurried over to one of the gleaming carts and had the carver remake our entrees.  Suddenly, it was like time had rolled back twenty minutes: In front of me was a full serving of the Diamond Jim Brady cut with the mashed potatoes and creamed corn and my date had her full dinner all over again.  It transpired so rapidly that I couldn’t say, “No thanks, I couldn’t eat another bite.”

We took a few forkfuls of our refurbished dinners, then had them boxed to go.  As we were leaving, we passed a man in the next booth who had seen it all, even though we hadn’t seen him.  It was Jack Nicholson and he grinned that devilish smile that impressionists can never quite replicate and he said, “Nice trick there with the milk.”

23 Responses to Lawry’s

  • Grace Alexander says:

    I remember going there in 1955 for my first “grown-up” dinner date, and it was an unforgettable event. I don’t remember what we ate, but it was delicious!

  • Andrew says:

    Grace…odds are you ate prime rib! LOL

  • Yvette says:

    I had dinner there several times. Once I had dinner with girlfriend on New Year’s Eve and Al Jarreau walked in. I said, “Carolyn, Al Jarreau just walked in.” She didn’t believe me, because I was always saying I saw Danny Thomas. hahaha Oy. Anyway giggle I love the service and atmosphere and food. Gosh this is fun looking at all the places I’ve been. I didn’t think I went much of anywhere, I guess I did. :)

  • Len B. says:

    I used to take my dates there in the 50′s and once I took a girl there and she turned out to be a vegitarian … A cheep date.. she only had a house salad

  • Bob Los Ranchos, NM says:

    Was to that one about ’60 and “gentrified” per being introduced to ‘sorbet’ to cleanse my apparently horrid palate!
    Can’t imagine that your pic of the gal in her ‘fur wrap’ salivating while waiting for her slice of ‘prime rib’ being carved off, is not a Poster Pic hanging in the offices of PETA!!!!

  • Harrison Hine says:

    Our family always used to take our out of town guests to Lawry’s. It was always a big treat for the kids in the family. My favorite memory was when the waitress was serving our salads. The salad preparation was also at the table and was almost as big a deal as the serving of the Prime Rib. This night the waitress started shaking the bottle of dressing and to top flew off covering our entire party with the wonderful Lawry’s salad dressing.

  • Lucy says:

    I have wonderful memories of eating at Lawry’s. The drive from our house in Whitter seemed to take forever but it was always a great meal. Last time I ate at a Lawry’s was in Las Vegas and even tho the food was good, was not the same as the place on LaCienega

  • Kathleen says:

    My big brother took me there when I was a young girl to show me how a date is supposed to be! He set the bar very high for me, and I’ve truly enjoyed all the wonderful venues of our beautiful Los Angeles!!

  • John says:

    My grandmother used to take us all to Lawry’s for a treat on birthdays. I loved going there because the food was excellent and the service a bit theatrical. The server making the salad and shaking the bottle of dressing in the air, and, the chef deftly carving the exact doneness of Prime Rib that you wanted. Oh, and it was delicious! The other two memories were of the giant gong being hit when fresh coffee was ready, and the perfect popovers!

  • William says:

    The spinning salad and the thick prime rib carved for you at your table, nothing like it!

  • Don West says:

    Always a special occasion when we went to Lawry’s. Sorry I never got to see Jack Nicholson there! I seem to recall that whenever a fresh pot of coffee was brewed they’d hit a big gong. To this day when I hear a gong, I think coffee’s ready :)

  • The ChocolateDoctor says:

    With background as a motion picture and television art director, I was hired by Lawry’s to work on what was soon to become known as Lawry’s California Center. Little did I know that I would spend five years of my life working for the company on a variety of different restaurant projects–more on those later. Lawry’s The Prime Rib was and still is one of the best designed restaurants in the world. Lawrence Frank had this crazy idea that guest would love to come into a restaurant that specialize in doing one thing, superbly well—prime ribs of beef. He was the one he dreamed up the stainless steel prime rib carving trolley, the spinning salad, the third shaker… Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and the gong letting customers know there was a freshly brewed urn of coffee made every twenty minutes.

    Richard N. Frank, the founder’s son perfected the concept. I still make my prime rib at home the same way as the restaurant did on a bed of rock salt–the old English method. Lawry’s was never duplicated until the early 1970′s when Richard found the perfect location on Rush and Ontario Streets in Chicago. It has thrived as well as the Beverly Hills location allowing flocks of prime rib lovers to enjoy the great Yorkshire Pudding, Creamed Spinach, Bake Potato (eat the skin and all), real roasted (not steamed and held) prime rib and a secret, never written on the menu dessert, Meringue Chocolate-Pecan Pie. While the restaurant has crossed from one side of La Cienega to the other three times and the environment updated, the prime rib and side dishes remain pretty much the same as during the rein of Lawrence Frank.

    During my tenure at Lawry’s, before I opened my own restaurant company, Lawry’s created Tonio’s, The Great Scott (Arcadia), The Ben Jonson (San Francisco) and, of course, Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Chicago and Lawry’s California Center. I had the pleasure of on working on them all.

  • Adam Gold says:

    Remains one of my favorite places ever, and whenever I’m back in my home town I make it a point to eat there and bring the kids.

  • Jesse Silver says:

    My Ex and I went to the California Center on their last day for a final visit. We had a nice meal and bought a few items from the store. We continued to go to Lawry’s on La Cienega.
    The center still exists and houses several organizations, including the Santa Monica Mountain conservancy. I happen to teach at an Industry based vocational school located on the grounds. The grounds are a beautiful park.

  • Judy Goodman says:

    Love this place. Had dinner with Per many times here

  • Will Hamblet says:

    I don’t believe the California Center was operated by Lawry’s. However, it was a great place to eat in the summer before going to The Greek…. or whatever.

  • Mike Kassel says:

    My son is a senior High School football player who will going to college to play in the fall. I recently took him there for the first time after spending years telling him how great it is. On the way home he told me if he could ever request a last meal it would be at Lawrey’s… I knew he’d love it.

  • Alan Maretsky says:

    This will always be my favorite restaurant. We ate there with our parents when we were kids. This is when the restaurant was on the west side of La Cienega. We we such regulars that when the GM, Sheldon saw us, we would just stand off to the side and within minutes we would be at our table. I’ve been to the east side location and although the food is stupendous, the patrons show up in cutoffs and flip flops.

  • Leigh says:

    I do so miss the original location. Just not the same.

  • Mary Ann McGarry says:

    Does anyone remember any of these others: The Mediterranea (La Ciengea), The Fogcutter (Fairfax), Paul’s Seafood Galley (Redondo Beach)?

  • Larry Van Kuran says:

    Am a 3rd gen SCal kid (born downtown LA, 1946), in the SF Valley since 1949.

    First time at Lawry’s was with my Grandfather & parents when I was 5 (1951). Have eaten at Lawry’s on La Cienega at least once a year since that time, both sides of the boulevard.

    Now I make it literally a family mission to go after Dec. 1 with as big a family & friends group as we can collect, so that we can see and hear the Dickensian-style carolers. My favorite, from my 1st grade teacher Ms. Whitcomb at Sylvan Park Elementary in Van Nuys: Jolly Old St. Nicholas.

    Also did the California Center often while it was open – great open-air spot for staff lunches.

  • Mel Karp says:

    Edna Earle’s Fog Cutter steak house was on La Brea, just south of Hollywood Blvd & the old red car RR track road. The menu was a wood plank with 3 different cuts of meat. The patron selected the cut he wanted, everything else was standard: baked potato, salad, roll. Edna was a lovely pretty lady. The bar was always busy. My brother & I, newly arrived from NY in the 1950′s, lived nearby & ate there frequently. I believe I last ate there in the 1970′s .
    At the southern end of that street, at the corner of La Brea Blvd
    & Sunset was Tiny Naylors hamburger drive in, but I usually ate inside at the counter & was served by Bonnie, a great looking gal.

  • Bill Stevens says:

    i always wondered how they get away with being a sexist restaurant (no male waiters) until they finally got sued and voila..now have male waiters.

    oh, the menu has expanded to include frozen lobster tails and C.C. Brown Hot Fudge sundaes for dessert.

    My favorite story was my parents always got their car parked just outside the front door on the street level…and getting extra rib bones for the dogs..and collecting all those $25 off coupons (we had many a free dinner off that frequent diner coupon program)…BUT, one Christmas all my brothers wet our wine glasses and we all started rubbing the lips of the glasses, at the same time, which (for those that know) started a “humming” noise that had everyone glancing around trying to figure out where that organ-like “music” was coming from. Those holiday pranks were truly moments of hysterical laughter.

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