Fish Shanty

Located at the messy intersection of La Cienega Boulevard, San Vicente Boulevard and Burton Way, the Smith Bros. Fish Shanty was known to Los Angeles residents as “that place where you walk in through the whale’s mouth.” If you did, you got pretty good seafood served to you by friendly waitresses who seemed to have been there forever. You could always take their word on what was good and fresh that day.

One was always quietly warning me away from a side dish option they had called “Warm Potato Salad with Bacon.” It had once been a specialty of the house but, she said, the current chefs didn’t make it as well as their predecessors. Everything else, she said, was great and she seemed to be right about that. The fried shrimp and the abalone were especially grand. We miss the cuisine and we miss entering via the whale’s jaws and feeling, just for the moment, like Pinocchio.

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32 Responses to Fish Shanty

  • Bill Kaiser says:

    My dad Bill Kaiser managed this restaurant for 35 years. Loved all the people there and their wonderful families!

  • Randy Smith says:

    I’m Randy, & as AuntV monickered me “Hollywood Smith”. I grew up in Port Washington, in the bilge of the original Fish Shanty, long side the ‘dock properties’. I did a bunch of chores: I battered & breaded perch, hosed down the sidewalks & the fish Econo-Van, vacuumed carpets & mopped under the bar mat. I painted the Net Shanty (grey linseed) & sold fish over the counter in Milwaukee (2 locations; one black the other jewish) & also counted the cash & checks after hours to make a deposit in the night slot at the bank acrossed the street from Pig & Whistle on Whitefish Bay Rd. (the Drive-In reputed to be inspiration for Happy Day’s ‘Arnold’s’). & in the mean time I went to college & graduated from University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1982. How did I get to Hollywood? Dad gave me a car & $100 for gas. Outside of a few college friends, I only knew my Aunt Virginia, Uncle Alan & Birdie… Uncle Al helped me to get a bank account so I could cash a check so I could pay rent.

    Since then, outside of my hijinks & shenanigans, I ‘ve become a curator of ‘the lore’ & photos of the Fish Shanty(s). I can write a chapter about the remodel, Milwaukee’s Bill Kaiser & how he worked the celebrity crowd, another one about Lyle Wheeler & Eli Hedley how they re-made the Walteria ‘Indian Village’… & another one about the decline & demise that led to the fire in 1988. & yet another chapter on how the property (leased) has been re-developed into a condominium tower w/ ground floor retail. But, lest I digress, after all I’m just an ornery old owl hoot…

    & I give my regards to my Californian elder relatives that hosted me, Virginia Smith-Haack & Alan Smith, who ran the Fish Shanty & both passed away in 2016. [Hollywood Smith, 2017]

  • Marilyn & David says:

    Wow…….my whole family Loved the Fish Shanty……..Great seafood…..great service and really great desserts. My parents lived on Crescent Hgts and my wife wife and I lived on West Knoll Dr…….very close to Restaurant Row so we dined at the Fish Shanty very often. We still talk about the chowder and lemon meringue pie…….great memories……..

  • Sally "Haack" Atkinson says:

    Our mother, Virginia Smith Haack, managed the Fish Shanty and then the Indian Village in Walteria, which is now a church. Our Uncle Alan managed the La Cienega Fish Shanty after Bill Kaiser. Our grandfather, Oliver H. Smith was a fisherman on the Great Lakes as well as his father. The idea of the restaurant business began during the Depression years which affected the retail fish sales as people couldn’t afford to buy fish and seafood products. This was the time Oliver’s sister Evelyn Smith had an idea to open a Coffee Shop to offset the reductions of fish sales. This was the beginning of the signature items so popular on the menu: the perch sandwich, German potato salad, coleslaw and lemon meringue pie. There were three Fish Shanty restaurants. The two restaurants in California brought our families here from Wisconsin in 1962. Both Virginia and Alan passed away in 2016.

  • Vonda says:

    I am watching an old episode of Diagnosis Murder from l995 and the Fish Shanty was featured in Episode 18, See No Evil. Me being the Google Queen I am, thought I would do a little research to see if the place is still in existence. The stories shared here give a real picture of what the restaurant was like. Sounds like a great place!

  • Stacy says:

    As a kid, I didn’t care if I ate here but just wanted to stop by and stand in the whales mouth.

  • Harvey says:

    I grew up in the South Bay area for a time, and we used to go to the Smith Bros. Indian Village rather often in the early/mid 60s. It was all a Native American theme. The maître de wore a chief headdress, and the waitresses wore a stereotypical Indian squaw outfits. I can’t remember if they were kind of skimpy, though. They had a dish called “Neptune Salad” that was either tuna or salmon, but it was so delicious I still remember it! I think there is a copy of the menu online, I recall seeing it. Fun, fun place for kids!!

  • Barb says:

    My husband, son and I were at a seafood restaurant tonight, and I asked my husband if he remembered the Fish Shanty. He didn’t, so I had to come here to show him what it looks like. I LOVED going to there! The last time I remember specifically was for my junior high graduation in 1974. My dad was an attorney in Beverly Hills and I remember all the Restaurant Row eateries. I still live in L.A. and miss the grand restaurants of yesteryear. Now everyplace is loud with concrete floors. Sad.

  • Pete Murphy says:

    Billie was my Grandmother Margret Marino.Blanch was a waitress. My grandparents and Blanch and her husband both retired to the desert.They have been deceased for a while now.

  • George Romo says:

    I Remeber Macario , he worked with my father Alfonso , he allways was kidding around and would make me laugh all the time as a kid!!

  • Mari says:

    My father Macario usted to work there and we used to live on a small apartment on the second floor of the restaurant. The best restaurant of the Old LA

  • Brooke Wheeler says:

    My father was legendary film Art Director and Architectural Designer Lyle R. Wheeler. Lyle designed a number of themed restaurants Mid Century era into the 1960’s. Smith Brothers revolving sign at the famed Fish Shanty location was one of his hand designed logos.
    The Smith Brothers Indian Village was a fun place too. Great themed places, not just a restaurant. He also designed Aloha Jhoe’s in Palm Springs circa early 1960’s.
    Thank you

  • Dave Grosch says:

    Great reading about the Fish Shanty in Walteria. I lived about two blocks blocks from there. I was actually reading about the Begonia Farm and the Bird Farm that was located in the same shopping mall. BTW. After the Indian village it became the Calgary Church. Does any one remember the miniature golf course that was about one block west of the Fish Shanty?

  • Joseph Torke says:

    I live in Port Washington WI where the Smith Brothers original was located. The only thing left is the famous neon sign. For a long time the only places to go for a great meal was Smith Brothers and the Port County Club which are both long gone.

  • george romo says:

    Does anyone know the people that used to work there? As a kid i remember Mr.Kaiser,a lady named Billy i believe my dad would mention her , and what happened to them? Mr Kaiser had a very cool Buick Riviera i used to admire every time i would see it .. please advise thanks..

  • Audrey says:

    Mr. Nash, the whale and the sign are long gone, only artifacts from inside were kept by family members.

  • BM says:

    I got fish shanty matches never been used if anyone is interested

  • G & D says:

    My love and I went there in 1978 when we first met. Always had Great food ! It was a time and place I’ll never forget !

  • Mark Kraus says:

    Wow I keep making typos. One more thing…these aforementioned appetizers were served with rye bread. Y’know…as a kid I really loved this place! No typo’s this time I hope.

  • Mark Kraus says:

    As a kid we went to the Torrance location each year in the mid 60s on Thanksgiving weekend. The Indian Village image was really played up with waitresses dressed as Indian maidens. The complimentary 1st course on Thanksgiving was served from a rolling cart called the Pocahontas Platter. Here’s a kicker… one of these appetizers was…CHOPPED LIVER! Another was SOUR CREAM HERRING! And a mother was smoked salmon aka LOX!! And all were good. Was there a connection with Canter’s and Fish Shanty? Oh we’ll go figure. Happy memories.

  • Wiley Nash says:

    Does anyone know of any architectural antique collectors who may have preserved the entrance or the sign from the top of the building?
    IF they exist, I want them and I have a PERFECT home for them.

  • Chris says:

    Thanks, Mary for the name Indian Village restaurant.
    Chris

  • Mary Letendre says:

    The Torrance restaurant was named “Smith Bros. Indian Village Restaurant”. I grew up in Wisconsin and Smith Bros. Fish Shanty is a famous place in the town of Port Washington. When my sister and I were kids and got good report cards, our treat was a Sunday drive up Lake Michigan to dine at Smith Bros. Many years later, I moved to the LA area–imagine my surprise when I saw the restaurant on LaCienega! Sad to say I never checked it out.

  • Chris says:

    The one in Torrance (Walteria) was on PCH, just west of Hawthorne.
    It was converted to some kind of an American Indian Restaurant, I believe, in the mid sixties. If anyone can remember the name of that, please, fill us in.
    Thanks,
    Chris

  • Jim Gannon says:

    We lived in Long Beach and on Friday night would drive north on PCH into Torrance to eat at Smith Brothers Fish Shanty right around Western I think. It was the best!

  • Art says:

    I never ate there, but I remember watching it burn from my condo up the hill. Very sad to see it go.

  • CynDS says:

    The whale’s mouth entrance was used for a brief moment as the entrance to a British club in the 1962 (or was it 1964?) black comedy, “The Loved One”. That scene always brings back fond memories of the whole Fish Shanty experience.

  • Laura DeMarco says:

    My father’s name was Pete DeMarco. He worked for Dohrmann Hotel Supply in Culver City back in the 50′-70….He had every account on Restaurant Row (and then some) he used to make me wait as a kid in front while he got the weekly kitchen order. I used to count the little mosaics on the fish while I waited. I was there with him when the cart transfer was done from one ide of the street to the other…my dad also was integral in the rolling roast beef carts…etc. etc……great days!!

  • g smith fijan says:

    This was my Father’s restaurant, as was the one in Torrance on PCH. Great memories, a classic restaurant on “Restaurant Row” in Beverly Hills. The food was amazing, the ambiance was classic and I often meet people that frequented one or both of the restaurants and still carry fond memories of their experience. Lots of famous Hollywood people enjoyed the Fish Shanty..it stood on one of the most valuable corners of real estate still to this day..in Beverly Hills.

  • george romo says:

    My father was the chef there…. fond memories of going there with him and going through the restaurant on an expedition…went to several christmas parties their for employees…his bosses were exceptional to him and his family….My uncle bartended there…Mr. Kaiser was his boss and my dad still remembers him at 92 years old he has nothing but good things to say about that restaurant family…..

  • Blair Roddan says:

    As a kid our parents would take us to the location they had in the South Bay. I remember my mother always ordered the sand dabs. My brother and probably had fish sticks. I remember they cooked the fish over a flame in what looked like a tennis racket. For dessert we always got that inverted ice cream cone with a necco wafer face of a clown on it.

  • Yvette says:

    Loved going through the fishes mouth, even when I was an adult. Love photo’s of Los Angeles long gone. Was reminiscing last night about this specific restaurant, now I can direct him here. Thank you for sharing…

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