The Hungry Tiger

The Hungry Tiger was a chain of seafood restaurants around Southern California.  At one point, there were forty-one of them, including one in Westwood Village, another one on Sepulveda near LAX, and yet another on La Brea just South of Hollywood Boulevard.  Those were the ones I went to, and I’m not sure why because I never particularly liked the food at them and insofar as I could tell, neither did anyone else.  The secret of their success seemed to be location, location, location.  They were the only “nice” places to take a date or client in certain areas.  For instance, if you picked up someone at the airport and drove south, the Hungry Tiger on Sepulveda was the first “decent” place to dine you encountered.  They got a lot of post-funeral traffic from the nearby Hillside Memorial Park, too.

The chain was started in 1962 by, the story goes, a group of former Flying Tigers’ combat pilots.  Some of the first outlets resembled hangars more than restaurants and all were decorated with photos of old planes and aviators.  I’m not sure many patrons understood the connection.

In the early eighties, business fell off substantially, apparently due to an influx of strong competitors into the marketplace.  The Hungry Tiger chain needed to remodel and upgrade but lacked the funds to do this so in 1985, a new management team was brought in, some of the less profitable outlets were closed and a general relaunch was attempted.  It failed to turn around public abandonment of the eateries so in the years following, most of them closed and a few went independent.  There are still Hungry Tiger restaurants around but not as part of a large chain.

The last time I was in one, it was the one in Westwood.  This would have been around 1980.  My date and I were going to a play at the Westwood Playhouse and with parking being as difficult and expensive as it was up there, it seemed logical to dine at the Hungry Tiger that was in the same block as the theater.  We could park once for both, get validated at the restaurant and…well, you get the idea.

We both ordered the broiled shrimp and when it came, it turned out to be the kind served in the shell…not my favorite way of having shrimp.  When they serve it that way, you always seem to spend forever digging the meat out and there isn’t very much of it.  These had almost none.  My lady friend and I were amazed at how little edible shrimp flesh you got in a serving of Hungry Tiger broiled shrimp.  It was barely one mouthful.  We mentioned this to our server who called over a manager who basically told us, “That’s our broiled shrimp.  If you didn’t get enough to eat, order something else and pay for an additional entree, heh heh.” Those weren’t the precise words he used but they were close.  There was definitely no concern that we weren’t happy with our meals.  We would have done what he suggested if there had been time before the play, except that (of course) we would have done it at another restaurant.

After the play, we decided to go somewhere and actually eat, rationalizing that at least the hefty tab I’d played at the Hungry Tiger had gotten us our parking at a discount.  It turned out that despite the posted signs, the lot no longer honored Hungry Tiger validations and I had to pay full price to get out.  The next day, I wasted about an hour calling the restaurant and the corporate offices of Hungry Tiger to complain.  The attitude I encountered was along the lines of “If you don’t like it, eat somewhere else.”  Thereafter, I did…and wasn’t surprised that so many other people did, as well.  Beware any business that names itself after a voracious predator.

43 Responses to The Hungry Tiger

  • LaRonda Haley says:

    I miss your restaurant I moved to las vegas for several years and when i came back i could not find you , so do you have another location somewhere i can visit. Thank You

  • Mark Fontes says:

    I ate at the one in Lake Forest in 1984 or 85 as a little kid. I remember it took FOREVER for my food to come. The restaurant did have a slightly elegant feel to it. Shortly after that I think the place was renamed HT. Needless to say it’s not there at all anymore. Today an Outback or Bonefish Grill would put it to shame anyway.

    This website is great by the way. ;)

  • Robert Delgado Jr says:

    For sometime I was a regular at the La Brea location. There was a chef at the oyster bar named Ralph, what a craftsman. I especially enjoyed a dish called Dolby’s Delight and the Chioppino was to dye for. Tommy at the bar made the best Bloody Mary’s in California. I miss that place.

  • Tom Peters says:

    I was a regular customer at the Pasadena Hungry Tiger, and I loved the place. Our food was consistently excellent, and service was over the top excellent every time, both in the lounge and the dining room.

    It was my understanding that the chain was created by Flying Tiger Airlines as a subsidiary, and was sold to WR Grace Restaurants when the parent company was in financial trouble. This resulted in at least the Pasadena location being converted to one of Grace’s existing brands, I forget which one. Grace later sold it off, largely because Grace is a lousy company.

    I miss that restaurant still, especially when Maine lobsters are in season, and on special.

  • Lola says:

    Hungry Tiger was our favorite eatery as a young married couple – (late 60’s early 70’s?) We invariably sat at the oyster bar at the Westchester location on Sepulveda. The chef at the oyster bar was Dobby. “Dobby’s Delight” was seafood sauted in a wine sauce before your hungry eyes: shrimp, scallops, sliced mushrooms and more. With crusty bread and a cocktail it was an excellent light dinner. We still miss this venue.

  • Jeff says:

    When I lived in Costa Mesa they had an old one across the street in South Coast Village for years that was one of the locations they re-vamped and re-opened as HT I think that was the name I never visited it but it failed and closed soon after the re-opening I’m not sure of the exact time line but it was a fast close up. If I remember they tried to upscale the place like a fine dining restaurant I remember it was very fancy looking compared to what it was originally.

  • Bob Barnett says:

    We ate many times in the 60s at the Westchester location. They had the freshest lobster in LA bc they flew it in themselves.

  • Meja says:

    I was a regular at the hungry tiger in Westwood and I loved it.
    it was a very elegant restaurant, and the service was always super.
    nothing like today’s restaurants where everything is fast fast fast even a relaxed restaurant.
    in Westwood after going to a play or to a movie you could always go to the hungry tiger get an excellent steak seafood desserts cetera also in Westwood at their bar they had a bartender named David who always remembered your drink even if you came there just wants and no matter how many people are in your group he never forgot what you ordered it was fantastic I really miss the tiger! and the Outback Steakhouse in the others like it cannot compare that to me

  • AndyS says:

    In 1972 I used to take my girlfriend out to the location in Sherman Oaks for fancy dates nights. We could each have a whole lobster, though I eventually began to enjoy king crab legs more, with all the trimmings. Salad or a really, really good clam chowder, loafs of sourdough bread. We we’re old enough to drink so it was just a soda. Their lobster was always a $5.95 special. With tax and tip, we had an elegant meal, great food, a romantic setting and it only cost me less than $15.

    Score!

  • cijithegeek says:

    I remember the Hungry Tiger fondly. The Sepulveda one was near our house. But then again, I was about 6yo when they closed. Toddlers don’t have refined palates I suppose.

  • Larry DuBois says:

    I lived fairly close to the Hungry Tiger on Ventura Blvd. My folks didn’t make a lot of money in the 60s and 70s, but once or twice a year, they would always take my sister and I for lobster. A memory I’ll never forget.

  • Alan says:

    Back in the late 70’s I attended a management seminar at UCLA. I was there for 3-4 days and had my girlfriend fly in to stay with me. The first night, we were exploring Westwood and decided to eat at the Hungry Tiger. I remember that the place was nice, the food was good, and we both enjoyed it. But I guess the most important thing for me was the time spent with my wife (then girlfriend), who I have now lost to cancer. Maybe the restaurant was not that good, but my memories are……

  • Joann Colan says:

    We had a Hungary Tiger here in Fresno, CA. It was absolutely fantastic! They baked their own bread daily and served the best stemmed vegetable medley I’ve ever had. The clam chowder was always fresh and the salads were wonderful. It was the only place in Fresno that you could order fresh Main lobster. In fact, it was the only place in Fresno to obtain lobster. At that time you could not purchase lobsters in grocery stores, no tanks and Red Lobster had not hit California yet. Hungary Tiger had a Midori Margareta that was out of this world. To this day, I ask bartenders to make them for me. Then Red Lobster hit town with their lower prices, pre-fab food and the rest is history. One hung on in Moro Bay for awhile and another near Gilroy. Then, they were gone. I don’t know about the food or service in L.A., but, it wasn’t like that here, Moro Bay or Gilroy. My favorite restaurant then, now and always!

  • Sam D says:

    Hungry Tiger restaurants served an outstanding New England clam chowder. Fortunately the recipe was published in a 1971 book called L.A. Gourmet and we can still enjoy it.

  • MIGUEL GARCIA says:

    I LOVED HUNGRY TIGER. MY FATHER WORKED IN THE ONE IN SHERMAN OAKS C.A.,ON VENTURA BLVD SINCE 1970-1985 HE LOVED HIS JOB THERE VERY GOOD FRIENDS, GREAT TIPS HIS NAME WAS ANTONIO ”TONY” GARCIA. GREAT MEMORIES OF AN EXCELLENT RESTAURANT!!

  • Michelle Heinrich says:

    As a child, I loved these restaurants, perhaps not as much for the food as for the tiger motif. I was obsessed by tigers, so this place was always my destination of choice. My father was also a former fighter pilot and actually knew some of said Flying Tigers. I think we even had a set of cocktail classes (highballs and old-fashioneds) with the logo on the side. How I loved those glasses!

    That said, I remember the food fondly, as well, including the above-mentioned broiled shrimp. I also recall loving the lobster and the “surf-in-turf.” (Yes, even as a little kid, I ate like an adult.) My family went out to dinner fairly often, and this was always my destination of choice. Granted, were it still in existence, I might not remain as enamored, I will always remember it fondly.

  • gary says:

    my sunday dinner spot….the best clam chowder….good bar also…culver city and hollywood

  • ed mcelwee says:

    The first time i had dinner near lax they were serving 2 for 1 lobsters, and the rosin baked potato that folks are now giving cracker barrell credit for, but they are 50 yrs behind the tiger. greatfood and service….

  • John says:

    The Hungry Tiger Restaurant chain was started by two executives from Flying Tigers Airline, a air cargo business. Notice how the original locations were near LAX, well that is no coincidence as Flying Tiger Air Transport flew in and out of LAX. One of the main themes of the restaurant chain was that they flew in fresh lobster daily, most likely on the aircraft owned by Flying Tigers Airline. Flying Tigers Airline was started by some AVG Flying Tigers, but the name for the restaurant came from the airline, not the China theater flying group. I guess some folks still miss the connection to the name of the restaurant and the air transport company it was named for.

  • Sondra says:

    Where is a Flying Tiger Restaurant located today?

  • Tim says:

    I ate quite often at the Hungry Tiger on Sepulveda Blvd. just north of LAX in the mid to late 1960’s. Both the food and service were great. Young people can’t believe a lobster dinner was ever around $5.00, and you got two Australian tails or one Maine lobster. Ah, those were the days!

  • Dan I says:

    We went to the Pasadena restaurant, and it was good. The food was always good, but there was this one waiter that made the experience great. We always asked for him. One can find good food, or you can find good service, but when you lose one, you get disappointed. We never returned when he left the restaurant.

  • Robert says:

    John- Your not making sense. Didn’t the Flying Tiger pilots start the airline? They started the whole concept of flying fresh fish to inland restaurants. That’s why you can get fresh lobster in Colorado. There was one in Bakersfield that I frequented in the early eighties that was superb. My friend was the manager and after the bars closed he, myself and a couple of his co-workers would open the kitchen and bar for ourselves. When you turned the light on in the pantry you could hear the oyster slam their shells. The seafood was the best. Lots of great memories. Long live Hungry Tiger.

  • David says:

    I have no memory of eating there as a child in the 70s, but evidently my parents did. Yes, for suburbia, it was a “nice” restaurant. Fancy by middle class standards. In my personal collection I have a piece of glassware, what bartenders refer to as an “old fashioned” or “rock” class. It has the name of the chain on the side, and a printer of a tiger’s face on the bottom.

  • David says:

    … I did some research. Specifically, it was the HT in Palos Verdes. Which makes sense. PV was considered upscale to folks in the South Bay.

  • Phil A. says:

    For David and fans of the web mapping sites,
    Flying Tiger @ 6531 S. Sepulveda Blvd. LA ( at the Culver City border )
    also; 27300 Hawthorne Blvd. Palos Verdes.

    Question; If all seafood restaurants buy live lobsters from their vendors and then keep them in salt water tanks until the point of sale, how is it that Hungry Tiger would have fresher lobster than ” Joe Blows ” down the street ? Hungry Tiger might say that their lobster were in captivity for a shorter time, but so what ? It does not make them ” fresher “.
    Phil Ankofski

  • Jan says:

    My boyfriend & I used to go to the Hungry Tiger in Westchester on Sepulveda at least once a week in the late 70ls. The ‘Dolby Delight’ appetizer was fantastic! & cheap. I crave it to this day, & have tried in vain to mimic the dish myself. Wish I knew the secret to the wine sauce! Anyone know? They also had a piano bar a the time, which was new to me as a hippie then disco kid. We had a blast there partying after eating a huge appetizer!

  • Steve Schulman says:

    There was also a Hungry Tiger in Sherman Oaks on Ventura Blvd. At one time it was the place for a young couple to go to dinner.

  • Dave says:

    I worked at the Tiger in West Covina ….. great tips and many celeb’s ( and back in the 70’s they were TRUE celeb’s ) had an afair with the male manager I wonder if his wife ever found out

  • Marc says:

    I ate at the HT often…All over SoCal and never had a bad meal or bad service…Their fresh baked bread was the best and predated the other restaurant that now use this feature…Sad they became Charlie Browns after their demise…Great food,Great service and Great prices is what I remember….

  • Brenda says:

    Wonderful Memories of Father/Daughter Time! I grew up at the Hungry Tiger in Palos Verdes… My father was a fine gentleman and a drinker, so we spent many a time at the bar, where there was a “Seafood Bar” attached at the end of the main bar in the lounge. (Thus a child of 7 to 10 years of age was aloud to sit :) The chef behind the bar was named Louie and I would have order upon order of either: Mini Lobster Tails or a Bucket of Steamed Clams with a lot of Garlic Bread. Oh not to mention a Shirley Timple with extra cherries for every Vodka and Water my father drunk! It was a beautiful PV Stone building on the corner of Hawthorn & Silver Spur. I can’t believe they tore that beautiful building down. I will always remember it!

  • Steven Gross says:

    I enjoyed going to the location on Sepulveda near Westchester/LAX many times over the years. Two memories: The chef at the oyster bar was named Doby and Doby’s Delight was one of the dishes he served at the bar. He showed me how he shucked oysters and even gave me an oyster knife which I still have some 30+ years later. Second, I have only broken one bone in my life – my right jaw which I managed while eating some crunchy French bread at the H.T. It wasn’t their fault. I had just had some oral surgery which weakened the bone. I loved Hungry Tiger!

  • John "Dennis" Mancino says:

    I liked in Westchester as a kid and worked at the Chevron gas station across the street from the Sepulveda restaurant. Doby’s Delight was simply awesome and the Maine lobster was so good. Don’t know about the others in the chain, but Sepulveda was fantastic.

  • Gary Rosen says:

    I don’t remember the exact date, but it was about 1976 when an incident at the Hungry Tiger closed down our little business enterprise. We were broke ‘surfers’ from Redondo Beach and had devised a plan to spend our little money on a set of nice clothes and become ‘professional’ yahoo’ers. A yahoo’er was someone who would eat, drink and be merry and when the check came, they’d YAHOO out of there-stiffing the restaurant. I’m not proud of this accomplishment and period in my life but it was interesting. We started out at some of the nicer places, Chasens, The Proud Bird, Cattlemans, the Hungry Tiger, etc.

    So, it was about 1977, just after a $60.00 dinner (a lot of money back then), a few nice drinks afterwards … and I was sitting at the table waiting for my YAHOO clue from my partner. While waiting for him to fire up my old beat up Datsun 1600 (red) sports car, I was scanning over the Westchester News … a local newspaper. Still waiting for his clue (a double tap on the horn), I was on the back pages of this paper and there was an article about two men who were YAHOO’ing local restaurants. It went on about seeing two ‘perp’s in a red sports car, unidentified, and to watch out for these impeccably dressed gentleman who had this plan. Apparently one guy would go to the bathroom, then to the car and sneak up to the front, beep his horn twice, and the other gentleman would run out, skipping on the meal. It had everything but a picture. It had interviews with waiters and service folk at various restaurants and most said the gentlemen were very nice, folksy and friendly, and ….. well, need I say more – we were frauds.

    After bailing out that one last time, I told Doug (partner) that I was through. He couldn’t understand it until I told him that the servers were responsible for paying for anyone that skipped out on a meal. I was shocked. Since when does an employee have to pay for someone skipping out? It made no sense – but struck a nerve in me – I was being a real jerk.

    From that time on, I made sure the bill was paid and the server was tipped well. To all those hard working service personnel … I apologize and if I had only known you had to pay the bill – I would’ve never done this.

  • Morgan says:

    I’m doing a spot of research and I hope you can help. My wife’s aunt has been holding onto several bottles of liquor for god knows how long. As such, she gave us a bottle of Hungry Tiger Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey. I cracked it open the other night and it’s still pretty ok. The bottle says it’s “Distilled Especially for the Hungry Tiger Restaurants.” Do you know anything about it?

  • John Sanger says:

    The Hungry Tiger label whiskey was bottled for Hungry Tiger Restaurants use in Restaurants only, not sold in package stores. It had to come from a former employee. Perhaps when all Hungry Tigers closed, they had additional product stored in their warehouse (Westchester, CA). That could have been sold to individuals, however unlikely. Not sure if that would have been legal.
    Whiskey, once bottled doesn’t really change in taste / flavor, it’ll be good for 50 years +, assuming no contamination….only aging in oak casks for a longer period would change the flavor.

  • Chuck Reasor says:

    The one in Morro Bay was great. The food was consistent in quality and the service good. Had a great view overlooking the Bay. Was sorry to see them leave.

  • Jeanie says:

    Oh how I loved the Hungrey Tiger. I worked at the Buggy Whip for years, and after the shift some of us girls would haul butt over there. We couldn’t get enough of Doby’s Delight or Doby himself. Doby would give us a litle vodka and have us feed it to the live lobsters. They loved it and would try to escape (boy they could move). I have the recipe for their White Clam Chowder. Yummy….

  • Adrienne says:

    I was a cocktail waitress at the Hungry Tiger on Highland for a couple
    of years. A and M records was behind it….later it became a Hamburger
    Hamlet. My roomates worked there too in cocktails and hostessing.
    I have good memories of the place. It had a classy clientele and many
    politicians would eat there for lunch. I also worked at the one in Newport
    Beach and on Ventura Blvd…..this was in the 70’s. The food was always
    fresh and delicious! The piano lounge was always full and people enjoyed
    the atmosphere :)

  • greg says:

    Everone has brought back some great memories for me about the HT on Ventura Blvd . I lived and worked in NY but had to come to Ca. Several times a year. I would stay at the Sportsman’s Lodge and for dinner would get over to the HT. I would sit at the oyster/clam bar and savor a Doby’s Delight. Every night if I could. NY had great seafood but no Doby’s Delight. I brought many friends there to savor with me through the years. Have missed it forever. Let’s find Doby or the recipe. W O W what flavor and taste. I’m hungry already for the Tiger.

  • Jon says:

    I worked for Hungry Tiger from 1981 to 1984, first as an oyster bar chef in the Reno restaurant, then as a management trainee and assistant manager in the Sacramento and Oxnard locations (Oxnard was a Castagnola’s). I wish I had written down and saved some of the recipes, especially for the clam chowder, cioppino, and linguine with clam sauce.
    I think the key to the fresh lobster gimmick for the chain was that HT was the first to do it. Many others copied the lobster tanks afterwards, but being able to select a live Maine lobster to dine upon on the West Coast in those days was kindof a big deal.

  • Ellezee says:

    We used to eat at the Hungry Tiger on “Chalk Hill” (Ventura Blvd) in Woodland Hills. Like some other folks mentioned, my favorite item was the clam chowder, which had green bell pepper in it (if I remember correctly).

  • Sharon says:

    I very fondly remember going to the Hungry Tiger off La Brea, on Hollywood Blvd. My boyfriend (who is now my husband of 31 years) would take me there before going to the movies, plays, and concerts in the area, and I looked forward to the restaurant experience above all else.

    The Steak and lobster was our favorite entrée. The Clam Chowder and fresh hot sour dough bread were excellent. The décor clean white table cloths with your napkin folded inside your water glass, how elegant. We loved the service and the attention they gave each customer. Their drinks were never watered down like the kind you get from todays restaurants. The cost was very reasonable.

    Wow the memories I have of The Hungry Tiger are all good. Wish there were more restaurants like that nowadays. I sure miss fine dining at fast food prices. They were the best.

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