Wil Wright’s

wilwrights

Wil Wright’s was a chain of ice cream parlors that dotted the Southern California landscape up until the mid-seventies.  There was one in Beverly Hills at the corner of Beverly Drive and Charleville, and another in Westwood Village at the corner of Glendon and Lindbrook.  (There were others but those were two I frequented.)  They were the perfect place to take a date after the movie.  The delicate pink and red decor and little marble tables and wire-frame chairs made you feel like you were seated inside a Valentine’s Day card.

I believe there was one over on San Vicente in the Pacific Palisades area. I recall stopping in there one night after a movie with a date and the place was short-handed. There were about twelve tables and all the vacant ones still had the remnants of the previous diners…dirty dishes, slightly-filled glasses, etc. We sat at one for quite a while before a waitress came over to us…and when she did, she began scolding us for sitting at a non-clean table. As if lecturing the entire room, she began ranting about, “Why do people insist on sitting down at dirty tables before we have a chance to clear them?” Well, maybe because there was nowhere else to sit or stand and you were taking your own sweet time about cleaning the tables. I think we got up and went to find a Baskin-Robbins rather than to let that person wait on us.

But usually, a Wil Wright’s was a fun place to be. I seem to recall that my dates would always order the banana split while I wondered about the Freudian implications of their orders.  I would either have a milk shake or a dish of Wil Wright’s unique orange ice which resembled frozen orange juice more than any orange ice or sorbet I’ve ever had anywhere else.

It was excellent ice cream made (apparently) on what I’m told is the Haagen-Dazs principle of ice cream: Make the same ice cream as every0ne else but ratchet up the sugar and butterfat content.  The L.A. Times at one point did an article on local ice cream parlors and suggested that Wil Wright’s product had a notably higher calorie content than, say, the 10-cent cones at your neighborhood Thrifty Drug Store…also darned good places to eat ice cream if you just wanted a cone.  I wonder if that harmed sales at Wil Wright’s and perhaps contributed to the chain’s demise.  There is still a Wil Wright’s brand of ice cream sold in some stores — perhaps not the same recipe — but I think the parlors are all gone.

This is a scan from a menu I found on eBay.  I have no idea of the year.  There was also a faded insert page with ditto printing listing sandwiches for 35 cents each…

wilwrightsmenu01a

Click above to enlarge

105 Responses to Wil Wright’s

  • Dan says:

    We would go to the beautiful modern Baldwin Hills Theater for a movie and stop at the Will Wrights afterwards. Nesselrode Bula was our favorite with nuts, fruit and a hint of rum. All gone now sadly.

  • Dan says:

    For Wil Wright’s Nesselrode Bula aficionados, here is probably the best recreation of the original recipe :

    http://gourmetcentric.com/2011/08/re-creating-nesselrode-bula-ice-cream/

  • Eric Jessen says:

    February 22, 2016
    For us kids who grew up in El Segundo, our favorite Wil Wright’s was located at Sunset Blvd. & King’s Road where my grandmother, who lived in nearby Hancock Park, used to take me as a child. In 1962 I had my California driver’s permit and I’d cruise my high school chums around in the Hollywood Hills on Friday and Saturday nights hoping to spot Igor Stravinsky and his wife Vera I (we were musicians and adored his modern classical compositions). Instead of Igor, one night we encountered Bette Davis there. Seated at the table next to us, Bette was taken aback when she heard me order coffee ice cream and a cup of fresh coffee grounds to sprinkle atop it. My recollection is that William Wilder and another movie mogul were seated with her. The place had tiny 20″ diameter white marble-topped tables, petit gold-leaf metal chairs with dark green cushions. Bette was gracious in conversing with us 10th graders from El Segundo High School. We went there dozens of times, where my buddy, Gabe, usually ordered Nesselrode Bula. I always stuck to coffee ice cream with fresh coffee grounds sprinkled atop. When I moved to Laguna Beach in 1966, we were delighted to have the Wil Wrights in Newport Beach located at the intersection of Coast Highway and Dover Drive. I vaguely think there was also one on Hwy. 111 in Palm Springs. Eric Jessen, Laguna Beach, CA.

  • Melinda says:

    I remember stopping at the one in Westwood, back in the 70’s, for an ice cream cone after spending the day at Santa Monica beach. My friend and I (both us about 16 at the time) were the only customers in the store, so we started flirting with the guy scooping our cones. But when I looked into the wall mirror, that was behind the counter, I couldn’t believe who I thought was standing next to me. I turned slowly to see if it was who I thought it was and sure enough, Robert Wagner was standing 6 inches away from me browsing at the ice cream menu. Needless to say I was thrilled. I tried to not be too obvious, which was more obvious, and he just smiled, winked, and placed his order. My friend and I giggled the whole way home. Oh and they had the best Peach Ice Cream ever.

  • Bob Marlowe says:

    And let’s remember Mr. Eversole, who built it – http://articles.latimes.com/1991-10-16/news/mn-474_1_los-angeles-mission

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