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.

54 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.

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