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.
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.”