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.