Victoria Station

At last report, there was only one outlet remaining of this once-proud chain…in Salem, MA stands the last of the railroad-themed restaurants known as Victoria Station.  The first of them, which was opened in San Francisco in the late sixties, was an outgrowth of a graduate project by three students at Cornell University Hotel School, Bob Freeman, Peter Lee and Dick Bradley.  Their new eatery, colorfully decorated with pieces of old trains and London-style phone booths, caught on big and soon there were approximately a hundred of them in existence, including the one I frequented.  It was at Universal Studios, not far from where the famous studio tour commenced.  The Victoria Station there was huge and it was said to be one of the top-grossing restaurants in America.  Based on the crowds, I wasn’t surprised to hear that.

The specialty of a Victoria Station was prime rib but you could also get a steak or ribs or roast chicken or Shrimp Victoria, which was like scampi but without vast amounts of garlic.  The food was all pretty good but I recall some long, long waits for a table and if you weren’t going on the Universal Tour (and I never was) the parking could be quite inconvenient.  It was a place I’d never choose to dine but business associates kept asking me to meet them there for meals, and its banquet room housed many a party I felt I had to attend.

One nice feature of that Victoria Station (and perhaps others) was the employee morale.  The folks who worked there liked working there, and the chain was often written up as one of the more benevolent employers in the country, offering its workers stock options and other unusual benefits.  In keeping with the railroad theme, Johnny Cash did their commercials.

So what happened to this successful chain?  Its one-time Director of Marketing, Tom Blake, authored a whole book on the subject that charged arrogance and mismanagement at the company’s highest levels destroyed the business.  News reports at the time seemed to substantiate his view, which was a shame.  All the folks who worked there seemed so happy to be working there.

72 Responses to Victoria Station

  • Sharon says:

    Victoria Station in University Studios, was among one of my favorite restaurants.

    My boyfriend and I (now my husband of 31 years) would go early around 4:00p.m. have a wonderful dinner and drinks, then go over to Universal Studios Amphitheatre and purchase last minute concert tickets (front row seats) which were the best seats at half the price.

    The food was good, the waiters friendly, the atmosphere very laid back and relaxing.

    I miss Victoria Stations uniqueness riding up to the restaurant level in this sort of cable car straight a straight up steep incline.

    Now these places are gone forever: 1. Victoria Station, Hungry Tiger, Brown Derby, and the Ambassador Hotel, which me and my best friend worked in for several years. Sure wish I would have kept he pictures and menus from these places.

  • John Weeks says:

    Amazing period in my life at VS, ’79-’84. True to Chris Budges’ post, played in the inter-VS softball tourney with West Covina losing to Universal by a run and missing out on Tahoe. Also spent a lot of time covering in Northridge when John Ganley got sick. Had a MAJOR crush on Bonnie Krohn (Crohn?), hope she still remembers it fondly? Worked all over SoCal, but best party stores were West Covina, Laguna Hills and Northridge hands down! Hope you are are well and enjoying your lives/families.

  • Mike says:

    I went to probably the nicest Victoria Station, the one next to Universal Studios, for my parents 25th wedding anniversary in 1979 and my sister worked at the VS in Woodland Hills on Ventura Blvd, up the hill from Winnetka in the late 70’s. Great memories!

  • Mike Roberts says:

    Re: Mike’s comments 3/5: Who was your sister that worked at VS Woodland Hills? I worked there from ’76 to ’81.

  • GabrielS says:

    Remember the Larkspur and San Francisco locations very well, went there many times in the 80’s. Loved the uniqueness and food, was very disappointed in learning of their closing. At least the one in Salem, Mass. remains!

  • John Hurley says:

    I was in the one on Sepulveda in the early 80’s. I wasn’t far from another gone place, the Velvet Turtle.

  • Nancy says:

    I worked at VS Newport Beach for 13 years….it was the best time of my life!! Everyone was like family…we shared our happiness, our pain, our friendship!! Thank you for such a memorable time!!

  • Tom M. says:

    I remember the Victoria Station in Columbus, Ohio on State Route 161. Beside the obvious boxcars – the restaurant waiting area was a rare mixed Cupola and Bay Window Caboose. (A Train caboose was either a Cupola or Bay Window design – NOT both, unless the railroad did the alterations themselves.) I was too young to remember eating in the Victoria Station or what the food was like – being a train buff, I was too engrossed and excited to run through the restaurant looking at EVERYTHING – and probably disturbing some other diners too. I still remember driving by it on many occasions on my way home with my family after going out someplace. I really wish this restaurant would make a comeback and open another location here again. Like Zantigo – the BETTER than Taco Bell restaurant.

  • Donna Gayle says:

    We had a lot of fun at the one in Torrance, Ca. It was the only place to get prime rib. It was great we really miss it.

  • Jon Stock says:

    I don’t know how the food was there but the Nightclub up at the Universal location Studios was the shit back in the late 80’s early 90’s!

  • Mike Stipher says:

    I started working at VS Cincinnati & then transferred to Newport Beach, CA in May 1974. All three owners used to frequent VS/Nwpt. Sometimes Johnny Cash would stop by to say hey. Met so many fun folks & celebrities. It was a blast!!! I noticed one comment above from Deacon Brown. He was a great Manager and good guy. I see Tom Blake all the time. Tom wrote a best seller book about VS. Hope everyone is doing well. Maybe they will have another reunion soon. Peace.

  • Debbie says:

    Does anyone remember a waiter at the Universal City Victoria Station restaurant by the name of Tom Panella? Probably about 1979-80 era.

  • Barbara D. says:

    I never went to the restaurant in Universal City but I did go to the one that they had in Westminster, CA in the late 70’s early 80’s. The retailer my husband worked for was taken there by one of the manufacturers of one of the products they sold in their store for being the top seller of their product in the USA. The date we were suppose to go, the manufacturer had to cancel so the boss took the managers of all the stores out anyway and the following month we went again all at the expense of the manufacturer. It was the best prime rib I ever had. I was saddened when they closed that location as I would have went back many more times.

  • Roy says:

    I moved to the US from London and was delighted to find the Victoria Station chain. As a British railway fan, I felt very much at home there, in addition to the decor and the very friendly staff, When the local VS closed in Framinghamd MA I tried to negotiate with the manager to purchase one or two of the hundred or so enamel signs in the restaurant. He said that some company had signed a contract to buy them all. I tried several other locations before they closed, but the story was the same.
    I often wonder where they all ended up – in private collections rather than another restaurant or other for the public to enjoy.

  • Bob Finnigan, Salem, OR says:

    I often visited the VS at Boston harbor. I had and lost a Flying Scotsman repro mirror bought at VS. Does anyone have any idea how/where I might replace it.

  • Kevin Kelley says:

    How funny to stumble across this site! I was involved in opening 5 VS locations from Washington DC area to New Brunswick NJ, then Westchester County NY. ’76 to ’79, approx. Had a blast, nice to hear that others felt the same sense of camaraderie that I remember fondly. Easy to blame management for the demise of this chain, but I’d guess it had more to do with changing tastes, away from hearty prime rib/steak.

  • Ron Michael says:

    My wife & I used to go to the Victoria Station @ Universal Studios. They had the very best fresh seafood salad I’ve ever had. My wife used to laugh at me when I would take a bite of prime rib with their fresh killer horseradish. It used to make my glasses immediately fog up!!! Great memories…

  • Sam Archer says:

    I opened up the first Houston VS in December of ’73 as a bus boy. Worked my way into the kitchen and eventually became KS, Kitchen Supervisor. Got to go to San Fran for training afew times to Corp….way cool facility. Transferred to Kansas City in May of ’74. I met my wife of 45 years the first week in town. Eventually left and went to work cutting steaks for Williams Meats, who we bought our meat from, to get away from working nights. That began a 45 year carreer in Meat Managment and Deli/Bakery Managment before retiring in ’12. The fun times I had at VS are what I miss the most. A funny side story: One night we had an after party for a Manager that was transferring to a different city. These parties were both frequent and legendary. Got way drunk and ended up waking up the next morning, blurry eyed, looking at 5 or 6 figures in white robes kneeling in front of lit candles. I was SURE I had gone, but to where? Ended up that a fav busboy, Hindu, drove my GTO and took me home with him to the apartment he shared with the other busboys at the store. Man, I was sure that I was gone! What fun days.

  • Sam Archer says:

    A sidenote: I recently found one of our VS Menus from ’73 in Houston when they were deco paged onto the wooden planks. Man what I’d give for a Track 3 right now with a side of Mushrooms! Draggin’ a Mush!

  • Ron Smith says:

    Hey-Bob Finnigan-I have a Flying Scotsman mirrored artifact…408-366-1900-Ron

  • SPENCER FROST says:

    The were 2 in Denver/Lakewood, CO. Loved to going there with my Dad. The cheese spread & crackers were awesome. Wish VS & my Dad were still around!

  • John M Clark says:

    After dining at the VS in Atlanta, I was delighted when one opened near my home in Southfield/Detroit MI. Kids loved playing in the caboose. Adults loved the beautiful “Dead Red” display cases. It was a fanciful experience to dine there. Had one of the last dinners with my mother there. I guess all we have left is Lawry’s The Prime Rib now. So sad…

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