Ontra Cafeteria

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There were several Ontras around L.A. but we used to go to the one in Beverly Hills. It was on Beverly Drive at Dayton Way. Back in 1968 when comedian Pat Paulsen waged a mock presidential campaign, he held his big fund-raising dinner there and personally rang up the cash register, charging each diner 49 cents. That wasn’t that much below what you’d normally pay for a meal there.

At an Ontra, you could get a great hot turkey sandwich carved right off the bird, right in front of you. I usually did but sometimes I went for the fried chicken, especially on “all you could eat” night. As you went through the line, they gave you enough for a normal person, plus a little flag you could put on your plate to indicate you were entitled to more. They had a young lady dressed in gingham like a farm girl who strolled the cafeteria (a pretty large place) with a basket of more fried chicken and a pair of tongs. You could signal her to come over and give you another thigh or two…and it was pretty good fried chicken.

You could get great side dishes and an incredible selection of breads and other baked goods. They had all sorts of wonderful cakes, pies and other desserts but I usually went for the orange Jell-O, which was in cubes.

They don’t make cafeterias like that anymore. Hell, they don’t make cafeterias at all. The Ontras were all huge places with pretty good food at pretty good prices and I keep waiting for that kind of establishment to make a comeback. When they do, I’ll be first in line…with my tray.

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58 Responses to Ontra Cafeteria

  • Richrd Burda says:

    Judy Scott Dunn, I have a copy of the photograph of Christmas breakfast held about 1945. I have identified my family Eugene Burda, Helen Moore Burda, Susan Burda and myself. I also see my mother’s brother, George Moore; her sister Lois Moore Vance, husband Neil Vance, and son Roy Vance. My mother’s uncle Scotty is standing against the wall with his wife and daughter (?). His two daughters are on either side of the table down near the front. My mother’s aunt Haddie is somewhere among the crowd. My mother told me the story of how her Uncle Scotty saved her family when their car broke down in the desert on the way to California from Indiana.

  • Javier flores says:

    I remember my grandmother Aurora taking me when I was about 4 years old

  • Fred Stratton says:

    I remember the Ontra cafeteria in Beverly Hills so well. My mother worked down the block at a French bookstore, “St. Germain des Pres”, in the late 1960’s, and my grandmother Georgette used to take me to Ontra. I too remember the delicious jellos, orange or green cubes and delicious whipped cream on top. This was a wonderful place to go, and the price was right as well.

  • Don of the Dead says:

    My mom and dad used to take me to the Ontra Cafeteria in Torrance, located in the old Del Amo Center, right next door to the long gone — but still very missed — Woolworth’s. More than 50 years have come and gone since those long-ago, childhood feasts, but I can still taste that wonderful, open-faced turkey sandwich, with all that rich turkey gravy. And then there was the hot beef sandwich with brown gravy. And I always got black-eyed peas as a side, as mom insisted that I eat at least one vegetable. And what WAS it about that orange Jello? I was usually a “lime kid,” but there was just something about that “Ontra orange.” Great memories; thanks for sharing them!

  • Mark Samuel says:

    I would go to the one at the Fallbrook Center in Woodland Hills. They had a little kids room with classroom desks where we could put our trays and eat. They would show cartoons for us to watch. I remember on the side of the restaurant they had a long contraption you would put your trays that would that them in the back.

  • Lynn Wheeler says:

    I worked as a cook in the Ontra Cafeteria in 1969 anfd 1970 in Pasadena just off of Rosemead and Hastings Ranch Road. They had a fancy side Restaurant called The Crest Room that I started as a buss- boy in 1969. Great food! We catered to the tour busses heading into Hastings Ranch to see the Christmas lights every year. It was a great place to work and very busy. The food was better than any cafeteria food place today. Sorry Hometown Buffet, it is true.

  • Diane says:

    We went to the Ontra Cafeteria in Van Nuys Ca, right on Van Nuys Blvd, across the street from Bob’s Big Boy, Friday night drag night. How wonderful it was to be 16 in 1962.

  • Wilhelmina Harris says:

    Crenshaw – I want some duck with orange sauce and stuffing. This was my favorite.

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