Tracton’s

Here’s everything I remember about Tracton’s, a restaurant my family frequented for many years: It was on La Cienega down near Rodeo, across from what was then a Fedco membership department store (we were members) and is now a Target.  The place was friendly inside and they served big hunks of meat.  I usually had the chopped steak, which was basically just a very thick hamburger patty.  I also remember an odd argument with a waitress once when my aunt asked for a doggie bag so she could take the rest of her dinner home and the waitress accused her of not having a dog.  Which was true.  My aunt didn’t have a dog but what business was that of the waitress?

I also remember that when Tracton’s closed, the building became one of those places that’s a different restaurant every time you drive by as one after another goes out of business.  Finally, one closed down and stayed closed for a couple years until the building was torn down.  And that’s all I remember about it.

Research has yielded the info that it was opened and owned by a gent named Harold “Red” Tracton who played host to all sorts of L.A. notables, mobster-types included. There was also a Tracton’s downtown and he operated the Buggy Whip restaurant near LAX (and still in business), the Salem House which was in the Farmers Market and the restaurant at the Fox Hills Country Club. Before that, he had Norm and Red’s Green Lake Cafe out in Pasadena. The most famous of all these — the Tracton’s on La Cienega that my family visited — opened there in 1956, then moved to Encino in ’78. In 1988, that place was sold and is now a Chevys Fresh Mex Restaurant. Red moved to Del Mar and opened a restaurant that’s still open (and quite successful) as Red Tracton’s, operated by his daughter Tracy. Red passed away in 1999 but his tradition of serving big hunks of meat continues.

29 Responses to Tracton’s

  • Bill Warren says:

    Several I liked: Stottlemeyer’s, which was, improbably, in Chinatown. It had a huge menu consisting entirely of sandwiches, most of which (at least those I tried) were very good. It was there in the 60s and 70s, not sure what happened to it.

    On Vermont was Sarno’s, a great Italian place (the sign is still on the roof) with a huge menu, entertaining waiters and waitresses. Everything you could want in an Italian restaurant of that day–checkered tablecloths, garlic bread on the table the moment your butt hit the chair, wine bottles (clad in straw) hanging from the ceiling. It went out of business for one of the worst possible reasons: the husband and wife who ran the place were followed home after work one night–and murdered, apparently in a robbery. Their kids didn’t want to continue the place. The restaurant coyly calling itself vermont (no capital) is where part of Sarno’s once was.

    There was another great Italian place just west of Culver City–Mar Vista, maybe?–called Bruno’s It was spectacular inside, with several levels, lots of tile, lots of wire-legged tables, lots of hustle and bustle. When I worked for nearby for Walt Lee, i went to the place at least once a week and almost always ordered Mushrooms Primavera. At least I think that’s what those wonderful things were called, but recipes for Mushrooms Primavera I Googled were nothing like what Bruno’s served. Theirs were largish button mushrooms (maybe an inch and half across) very VERY lightly breaded, then very quickly deep-fried, with no grease. They were light and when you bit into them, you got a gush of delicious mushroom juice. Blistering hot if you bit into them too soon. They were served with a saucer of lemon wedges for squeezing. The COLUMBO episode, “Strange Bedfellows” (anyway, the one with George Wendt), was shot at Bruno’s. The Bruno’s in Santa Monica is not connected.

  • Craig Printup says:

    BRUNO’S….YES!!!!! I was in Mar Vista, at the SE corner of Venice Blvd & Centinela Ave. I first went there with my dad to pick up pizzas in the late 50’s before the neighborhood was so urban. It was a small restaurant with a dirt parking lot, and big glass windows showing of the kitchen area, where you could watch Bruno himself hand toss pizza crusts by throwing them into the air. It got bigger and fancier as time went on, and I, too, loved the mushrooms primavera. Your description is what I remember, and I almost always ordered them when I ate there. Served on a metal platter so they stayed hot! Yumm….and I have searched for the recipe as well and come up empty. To me, it seemed the crust may have had parmesan cheese in it as well, but not sure. Very sad when it closed, I think it’s a church now.

  • Blair Roddan says:

    I believe they had a sister restaurant in Westchester called The Buggy Whip. It appears that they are still in business and have that wonderful green goddess salad dressing and of course the prime rib

  • Christopher Allen says:

    Red Tracton’s in Del Mar is still open, and last time I ate there (which would have been when Red was still alive), it was terrific, and gave me the feeling a lot of your L.A. restaurant posts do. It’s located across from the Del Mar Fairgrounds/Racetrack and looks like an old Rat Pack establishment inside, with a piano bar. The menus are big one-sheets and the food put me comfortingly in mind of the ’70s. I want to say they had Beef Wellington, but I know they prepared salad at tableside from a cart, and with a housemade Green Goddess dressing, which isn’t something you can find anywhere else anymore. I would imagine the moneyed Del Mar residents and horse racing enthusiasts keep the place afloat.

  • Norman Drexel says:

    I was pretty young when I ate here. We lived in Inglewood at the time. Did Tracton’s have a model train running through it?

  • Lynn Van says:

    I have a vintage Tracton’s ashtray for sale-anyone interested?

  • The ChocolateDoctor says:

    I was just watching the news tonight where it was reported the Los Angeles City Council voted to encourage residence to celebrate “meatless Mondays.” Here we live in a nearly bankrupt city and they are worried about what we eat. If that was the case in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s you wouldn’t want to go to Tracton’s on Mondays.

    We used to go to the Baldwin Theater most Sundays because adults got in for 50¢ and kids under twelve got in free (it was embarrassing my father claimed I was under twelve until I started shaving). At least once a month we headed off to Tracton’s. My only real memory is the size of the steaks—giant chunks of meat—grilled to perfection. Two years ago I got one of those Groupon deals for Buggy Whip. I didn’t know they were once owned by the same guy. Buggy Whip—stuck in the yesteryear (in a good way)—is still pretty good. Good steaks, strong martinis and waitresses and waiters that have worked there since the beginning of time. The hostess (I think her name is Sue) I remember used to be a waitress at Charley Brown’s in the Marina back in the ‘60’s. Who remembers Charlie Brown’s, Fiasco and the Donkin Inn?

  • Laurie says:

    Oh my gosh, thanks for this nostalgic look at dining in “old” Los Angeles. My Daddy and Godfather were waiters/captains at Tail O’ the Cock and Ollie Hammonds. I recall the McHenry’s actually had a home on the lot of the Tail. I would love to read recollections of The Room At the Top, The Black Whale, Charlie Brown’s and The Velvet Turtle (they had a divine soup – was it cream I chicken & broccoli?). Thank you again.

  • kathrynn bogie says:

    I could not remember the name of this restaurant until the other evening a lady who was from LS (81!) said the name Tracton’s. I have tried to find the recipe for Green Goddess salad dressing but what I’ve found does not resemble Tracton’s. I also ate at Norm’s Green Lake a lot as I first lived in Pasadena when I moved to LA in the 60’s. I have eaten at several times at the Buggy Whip and yes, the above reply about strong martinis and the waitress is right on. I will make a trip to Del Mar if they truly have the green goddess dressing..it will be worth it. In response to the above: there was a restaurant , I think, somewhere in that area with a train running around but I can’t remember the anme of where. I also loved Bruno’s and thought it a one of a kind experience and was sorry when it closed. There was a restaurant in the 60’s on Venice Blvd. just north of La Cienega in an old Moorish looking house. They served the most incredible fried chicken . It must have been pre cooked in some way (no skin as I remember) and then dropped in something like tempura batter. You were served very soon after you arrived and it came all puffy and light like tempura. Was it called King’s?

  • Charles says:

    Tracton’s. Clam Chowder and Prime Rib. Best ever. RIP Red. I remember sitting in your restaurant with my dad and you guy’s yappin’ it up for hours.

  • Bill says:

    Great restaurants, i lived a block away and used to eat there at least twice a month in the late 60s early 70s. I also liked Peppy’s coffee shop across the street.

  • Danielle Flanagan says:

    My VERY favorite restaurant always has been, & (if it’s still there today…) always will be, Lawry’s the Prime Rib, on La Cienega Boulevard, between 3rd Street & San Vicente Road (used to be called, “Restaurant Row” in the 1950’s). We used to live a few blocks away, on Burton Way. My Dad also had an auto repair business on Wilshire Boulevard, just off La Cienega Boulevard (it was behind a Mobile Gas Station & next door to Dolores’ Drive-in Restaurant – great Vanilla or Cherry Cokes there!). Anyway, Lawry’s served Prime Rib, almost exclusively & was owned & operated by the same company that makes Lawry’s Salt & Seasonings! A valet would greet you upon pulling into their driveway, as he opened your car doors & helped you out to their entry curb (seems they wore dressy red jackets & black pants)… He would then grab your keys & whisk your car off to the parking lot like a cyclone! An elegantly-dressed Hostess would then greet you & lead you to your table & waitress. Almost as soon as your order was completed, a chef would appear, rolling in a cart with a huge silver dome on the top (their chefs were always black men, as I recall… & ALWAYS wore white gloves, a tall white chef’s hat, a red bandanna; folded & knotted around the neck, white long-sleeved shirt, white apron & white pants). He would then ask how you would like your prime rib, as he lifted the domed lid… revealing 3 or 4 standing racks of Prime Rib (each rack was progressively cooked, from rare to well done) & how thick you would like it to be? He would then carve your chunk of meat in front of you & immediately serve it all up… still steaming as your plate hit your table! Quite impressive & above all, the best Prime Rib in Beverly Hills! We went there quite often when my Dad’s Racing Career was in full gear!!!

  • elaine glazer says:

    what is the address of the new restaurant ?

  • Tracy says:

    We are now located at 550 Via De La Valle,Solana Beach, CA. Across the street from the Del Mar Racetrack! Same great food, green goddess salad and ambience. Hope to see you soon!

  • Ron Dominguez says:

    Back when I was a kid my parents would take my brother and myself for a nice birthday dinner. I would have their prime rib with their huge baked potato and for a kid with a Roy Rogers I was inked heaven. Great times!!

  • Cynthia Dewey says:

    I worked at Tracton’s in Encino around 1982/83. I can’t quite remember. I do remember that I was very young and the atmosphere was very mysterious and intriguing to me. I learned to toss a Green Goddess salad there. They were delicious!

    I worked there only a short time as I was a college student. But my fondest memory is as follows. One afternoon, a customer was very rude to me for no reason. As she and her daughter were leaving, Red was very friendly to them saying goodbye and thank you. I asked him if he knew them. He didn’t and asked me why. I said the woman was very rude. Without a beat he ran after her and told her never to return to his restaurant!! He never even asked what happened. He just stood by his employees no matter what.

    Thanks Red!

  • John "Dennis" Mancino says:

    Tracton’s was awesome, although my parents used to frequent Red’s Buggy Whip in Westchester quite a lot. I used to go with them sometimes, as did my brothers and sisters. We last ate there around 2006 I believe. Still great steaks. I will now visit his daughter’s place in Del Mar.

  • Mike says:

    I didn’t eat at Tracton’s, but ate many times over the years at the Buggy Whip on La Tijera. Sadly, it changed owners last year and now has closed. Old Restaurants will have to add the Buggy Whip to the list. They had great prime rib and steaks.

  • Gayle Weiner says:

    We are looking for info on Donkins inn in altadena ca in 1960
    Our grandson has opened “pizza of venice” in that location and needs info about donkins inn liquor license in the past…if possible…owners name was Gerry Govan…news about this can be a BIG help
    THANKS

  • Jeff Schneider says:

    I enjoyed reading all of these walks down memory lane. Growing up in LA (and then in the Valley) in the 50’s & 60’s my folks took me to all these places. My first “grown-up” restaurant though was Richelieu’s Mediterranean on La Cienega near Lawry’s. They had a seafood bar where I ordered shrimp cocktails (beginning at about 5 years old) which came with all the crackers and red sauce you could eat! When I was about 10 my dad introduced me to lobster there. I’ve search in vain, for 50 years, for a lobster that matches my memories of that place. Years later, while we were dating, my wife’s family introduced me to Tracton’s, She’s convinced it’s the main reason I married her. Tracton’s in Encino was the old Queen’s Arms, which had been the best eatery in the Valley. Someone mentioned the Mushrooms Primavera at Bruno’s gushing out, when bitten. Oh my. The best ever! I could go on and on…but I’ll end with Emilio’s in Hollywood. Though long gone it remains my favorite restaurant ever.

  • Buz Williams says:

    Tracton’s and the Buggy Whip were great restaurants. Red Traction’s in Del Mar carries on the the tradition. Red was a great guy and a good friend of my dad and mom. Red’s daughter, Tracy learned the business from her dad and knows how to run a first class establishment.

  • RJ House says:

    Tracton’s, Ollie Hammonds, The Black Whale . . . all fond memories of my time at University Stereo headquarters in Culver City. Does anyone remember Lafitte’s in Culver City? A cajun/pirate themed restaurant catering to the Black community of Culver City and Baldwin Hills. All of these restaurants not only served wonderful old school meals, but were also willing to ignore the t-shirts and long hair of the “hi-fi people.”

  • John Hindsill says:

    One fondly remembers those restaurants, as well as University Stereo (one of my biggest customers was the CalStereo chain contemporaneous with US).

    Re the Black Whale: I met my youngest brother for the first time ever over a meal there in the mid-90s.

    As to Lafitte’s, I ate there many times, especially when the craving for the spinach salad w/ hot bacon dressing hit us. I don’t remember it catering particularly to the Black community (or any other special group), and we ate there both before and after the Watts Riots of 1965…a period of high racial tension/awareness in Los Angeles.

  • DICK SHELDON says:

    I WAS A BUS BOY IN 63&64 AT THE BUGGY WHIP, I WAS 17 AND 18 . MADE VERY GOOD MONEY ON TIPS WORKING WITH THE #1 WAITRESS MARY KAY. GLOMMED ON TO ALOT OF FREE WHISKEY ALSO, GOT TO SEE LIZ TAYLOR, R. BURTON, MIKE LANDON, DEAN JONES ( HE WAS A VERY NICE MAN, THINK HE CAME IN ON TUESDAYS) DON RICKLES, BUDDY HACKET AND THE JERK ROCK HUDSON, WHAT A DICK HEAD.

  • Bob Brown says:

    Growing up, (1950s and 1960s living up on the top in Baldwin Hills)) I ate dinner out with my parents at least five nights a week, and all of the restaurants were on LaCienega (restaurant row). Two nights a week at Richlors (I loved the planked hamburger steak and the shrimp cocktail with the Louie sauce). Our favorite waitress at Richlors was Tilly Hoeffs and the manager (Mr. Wynne) was a personal friend (I went to school with his son Danny). There was also a gentleman who from time to time would stop by our table while we were waiting for our food — his name was Mr. Frank (owner of Richlors and Lawry’s), sit down and draw me cartoons (I think he liked doing art more than running the restaurant — I might still have a couple of his drawings tucked away some place). We also ate frequently at Lafyette’s, Traction’s, Stears, Lawry’s, Tail of the Cock and the Frascati Inn. The Buggy Whip came a little later after we moved to Westchester/Playa del Rey.

  • Mike Roberts says:

    Regarding Dick Sheldon’s comments on the Buggy Whip, that was my favorite prime rib restaurant growing up as my Dad took us there a lot over the years. Dick probably bussed our table in ’63-’64. My Dad was in the aerospace business and this was a big hangout for the Hughes Aircraft crowd. I remember Mary Kay and Judy. Don Pores (spelling?) was the owner at the time and we always got a booth in the bar area. Great salads with green goddess dressing and excellent prime rib/steaks. Too bad they closed! What is in the old building on La Tijera?

  • Tom Sheldon says:

    My brother Dick helped get me a job as a busboy at the Buggy Whip. I worked there in ’66-67….Free Prime Rib for dinner every night and free cocktails…Thanks bro’

  • Craig Printup says:

    I remember Lafitte’s very well, a New Orleans Creole style restaurant, very dark and mysterious inside. When did it go out of business?

  • Dulcy says:

    Cynthia I too worked at Tractons in the late 70s. The one in Encino.
    I worked the front door with Bobby Walker the Manager.
    I’m still afraid to tell you what he did to a customer who was once rude to me.
    I was fascinated by the goings-on at that place. Lots of stars lots of famous people and many infamous. Mr. Walker used to empty his pockets of all of his tip money every night and stuff it into my purse. It was like money grew on trees.

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