We’re talking here about a small chain called The Great American Food & Beverage Company. There were a couple of these around Los Angeles in the early seventies…one in Westwood, one in Santa Monica and maybe others. The two things I remember about them are that the portions were huge to the point of being impractical — you’d haul home about 80% of your entree and live off it for days — and that the servers would take turns performing with a small live band. Once, I ordered a hamburger and they brought me this footstool-sized mass of meat and bun surrounded by enough fries to stock a McDonald’s for a month.

But I was sans ketchup, and when I turned to ask our waiter for some, I found him up on a platform, performing what turned out to be the world’s longest version of “Rubberband Man.” I think he did about ninety choruses while I failed to flag down any other employee and my burger cooled to tepid. Finally, long after I’d given up any chance of having the hamburger the way I liked it and had begun to eat it dry, the waiter noted the omission, hopped down from stage and fetched me a bottle of Heinz while still performing “Rubberband Man.” It was one of those moments when you almost feel like you ought to tip.

54 Responses to GAF&BC

  • Roy Mooneyham says:

    Wow this was a blast from the past. I worked at the Santa Monica resturant as a cook. It was located at the corner of 9th and Wilshire. I remember lots from those days. I even got Patti D a oz once. And Chanz once cooked a oz into brownies one night, but ppl didnt believe us untill later, when they got all buzzed. And, And, And, wow. Re : Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, headed by the now famous Hollywood composer Danny Elfman. — Kevin C. we should talk, I set up two concerts for them. One at the old Elks Club, on West Washington Blvd, now called Abbot Kenny, the other was at the Fox Venice Theater on Lincoln Bldv. wow Regina Star wow …… Peter Tork died at 77 RIP. he took The Last Train to Clarksville.

  • Margaret Wynn says:

    With all the mentions of the West Hollywood location, I’m drawing a complete blank on the location. I lived one block east of Santa Monica and La Cienega stating in 1978, and I don’t remember it at all! Even though I must have walked past it over and over. Where exactly was it? On a corner? Midblock? SW corner? Anyone have a photo? I’m guessing it must have been on the SW block but no recollection of what used to be there before the block got demo’ed when they built KooKooRoo. I have never not remembered someplace so badly.

  • Marc D says:

    I worked there around 1981-3. Saul, you had lungs! What happened to Randy? What a crazy, fun scene

  • Victoria Morgan says:

    @bhelmet I am the daughter of the owners and it was my Mom who decorated the restaurant. She told the story of that stolen picture many times, it’s nice to know what really happened to it after all these years. She was not happy about it and noticed it right away. Mystery solved! She is almost 88 now, and I’ll have to tell her about it. I truly laughed out loud when I read your post!

  • Susan Pollard says:

    I came to this site trying to find info on a restaurant my grandfather owned called Jacks in Glendale/Pasadena in the 1930’s. While I didn’t find my info, I found your comments on GAF&BC. I lived in Westwood in the 70’s and loved taking visitors there because it had so much “atmosphere” lol. Unique venue. Wish there was something like it today… Ventura!

  • Jeff Watson says:

    I’m interested in finding anyone who remembers The ‘Great Northern Food & Beverage Company’ in Sacramento in the ‘70s,
    I worked there, and it was a direct replication of the LA GAF&B Co, so looking for memories and details..

  • Steve Maslow says:

    Does anyone have a photo of “The Feast” a meal served on a plank that could be posted? It was a fabulous meal!

  • Lon M. says:

    I seen Jim Croce play at “Hi-Pockets” about a year before he became famous. He was just sitting on a bar stool playing his songs while people were eating their meals. I was about 10 yrs old at the time. Only about a year or so later he ended up playing to sell out crowds a few block away at the famous Greek Theater. Glad to see a post regarding this old great small restaurant.

  • Hal Cohen says:

    Guilty! I was a singing waiter at the Great American F&B Co. from 1977 – 79. I went to work for Poppy at his new spinoff restaurant, too – Poppy’s Star in the early 80’s. I actually wrote about my trek across the country to audition for the job. If you’re nterested, you can read about “My Great American Journey” on my own website. It’s kind of long, but I think you’ll enjoy the read.


  • Kevin C. says:

    I’m doing some exhaustive research on a band from the 1970’s called the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, headed by the now famous Hollywood composer Danny Elfman. Through my research I’ve discovered that the band performed at the Great American Food and Beverage Company several times between 1972 and 1976 but I have no idea when or where these shows actually occurred. If you any stories of the band you could share or have even the faintest recollection of the band performing at one of these locations and can help narrow down the time of year I would love to hear about it and would greatly appreciate your time and effort to recount the story.

    It would also be helpful to know if they advertised special musical guests in newspapers, on a menu or marquee, or had private parties and such. Any details great or small can ultimately lead me in the right direction. Thank you!

  • Merri (Price)Lawson says:

    I worked in W Hollywood store. Tom Killion was the manager. Daniel Navarro worked there and Brennan was a fixture at the bar. Loved working tbere

  • Joe altmark says:

    I ate therein early 70s Everything on the menu was great. Thanks to all involved 🙏❤️

  • Lisa says:

    Yay! This is the place! I always went to the one in Santa Monica . I had lot’s of fun there. Does anyone have a menu they would forward me! I’d also like the recipe for their vegetarian pocket, it had garbanzo beans and veggies with lot’s of garlic. I wish it was still around.

  • Lawson Desrochers says:

    I frequented the one in Santa Monica with my parents in the mid 1970’s, we lived up the street and it was the happening place to go. I was about seven or eight years old, and I loved it. Peter Tork from the Monkees was our waiter/singer a few times. I remember they had “X-Rated” desserts (clever uses of bananas, ice cream, garnish). It was considered kind of an “adult” place, so I was thrilled to be part of the scene. I still have a menu that I framed and gave to my parents as a thank you for such fun memories.

  • Akiko Suzuki says:

    when I was attending a College in L.A more than 36 years ago,
    I used to go there .
    I loved Giant beef ribs and Cichin ginger ! For the party, they served us huge sandwich , beef ribs, fresh fruits and corn on a very big plate.
    Even now, I have a Menue of Grear America Food & beverage.
    I brought back to Japan!

  • Jo Anne VG says:

    I loved this place; I want to do a dinner party w/the Feast theme.
    Can anyone remember what was on the Feast? I remember beef ribs, chicken, pineapple, corn on the cob, whole heads of cauliflower and broccoli. Was there any other meats and/or veggies?

  • Frank Vespe says:

    in the mid-seventies a gorgeous female took me to the Santa Monica location for my birthday in April and the waiter recognized I was of Italian descet and said let’s sing happy birthday in Italian and he started singing happy a birthday to a you a happy a birthday to a you a… it was such a blast

  • Lindsay says:

    I worked at the Santa Monica location in the early 70s. I would collect bags of rib bones for the neighborhood dogs. I could walk on the beach any hour of the night in safety because I always had a pack of dogs,with me. Pre leash law days. It was a very fun place to work. We had tons of after hour partying.

  • Ron Eisemann says:

    I worked at GAFBC when it opened (72?) Amazing experience! does anyone know what happened to Poppy?

  • Kathleen Haskard says:

    I worked at the West Hollywood location (the corner of little Santa Monica Blvd & La Cienega) from early 1978 to March of 1979 with my friends Laurence Cohen, Severin Browne, Dan Navarro and Eric Lowen.
    It was a wonderful concept and I’ve never looked forward to going to work so much before or since! Auditions were held every month and it wasn’t so much your waitressing/catering skills they cared about but your singing and playing an instrument.
    We were all aspiring singer songwriters/actors and the job at “Hi Pockets” not only kept the wolf from the door but lasting friendships and musical partnerships were formed. We tried out our new material and honed our talents. beautiful 3 part harmonies on every song.
    I waited on some of the most interesting seminal people in LA too… Joni Mitchell, Timothy Leary, Eldridge Cleaver and on and on.
    Being directly across the street from Elecktra Asylum was handy too as one day when Jackson Browne was recording Late For The Sky the restaurant emptied and some were included in a backing vocal choir on a couple of tracks.
    Some of the happiest days of my youth!

  • Phil Ehrens says:

    @Lois Cary – Every Wednesday, during the 60’s, every dentist in Palm Springs would play golf in the morning and then meet at Mawby’s for a six Martini lunch.

    The real food attraction in Palm Springs was the O-L-D Howard Manor Sunday Brunch.

  • Lenita says:

    Oh that place was a blast in Santa Monica! Dad would take us there in our High School Days and you could just make a complete pig out of yourself grabbing Ribs and Chicken off the Feast platter! Then take about a week to digest it! What Fun!

  • Linda Miller says:

    I would love to see this restaurant re-open!

  • Linda Miller says:

    Most memorable restaurant I’ve ever been to.

  • Patricia "Sunshine" Rodriguez says:

    I worked at the West Hollywood location as a cook & server at the same time Severin Browne worked there. Some of the people I waited on included Danny Bonaduce when he was a child, Jack Webb & Kirk Douglas. There was always something interesting going on in there. The “pocket” sandwiches (mostly meats & cheeses stuffed into 2 halves of pita bread) were always a challenge to stuff. The ones with the melted mozzarella were affectionately (?) referred to as “napalm pockets” & would scald the crap out of us. The manager Marilyn’s husband was Billy Joel’s first drummer

  • Jim Dickinson says:

    Loved this place! Lived out in Ventura but would come in once in a while for a special treat. I remember the waiter responding to our question (“what is your talent?”) replied with “I am an incredible waiter!”. Corny as hell and probably his go to reply but we laughed and were charmed.

  • Lois Cary says:

    I think they had one in Palm Springs too. There was also a nightclub called Mawbys in PS. Anyone remember that?

  • James says:

    Thank you! Someone else DOES remember this place!

  • George thomas says:

    Always remember this place as a “Hippy” style Restaurant. Whatever style it was, it was awesome ! I remember ordering the Barbecue Beef Ribs. This was a huge pile of 12 in. Beef ribs covered with tangy sauce. If I remember correctly, it was served with a large wedge of watermelon . The place was located on Wilshire in Santa Monica, across the street from “Tex’s Tennis Store”.

  • David Barber says:

    Hey Saul and Char. Charlene you were the best. You and Vernon were the reasons I went into the food biz. Probably not for the right reasons. Thanks for the rides home all the way to hollywood too.

  • Char says:

    Worked there late 70s through early 80s. Worked there as one of the cooks. What a blast! You had to be crazy (I still am!). If you think it was wild in the front…you should have been in the kitchen! Would do it again!! It is nice to hear people had a good time!

    No need to send cards or letters. I will accept no complaints or praise. peace.

  • Annette Gallardo says:

    My sister Tori worked as a hostess/cashier at GAF&B Hipockets in W Hollywood in the early/mid 70’s. I was much younger than her and ate there often. The Polsaki Pocket was my favorite–I think you could get a rib as a side. My other sister Alice (Apple) hung out there and both of them sang all the time there. It was magical to a 15 year old to even go there. What about those insane ice cream sundaes!!! The Demi Devil. When I was just out of high school, I auditioned at the SM one…I performed right in between some of the most amazing musicians/singers–I didn’t have the chops they did.

  • Stevo says:

    Anybody here remember a guitarist named “English Red” who would frequent HiPockets? An older fellow from england who was rumored to have a stint with Django Reinhardt?

  • Lorenzo B says:

    A neighbor told me about GA circa 1975, and how to prepare. Following her instructions, I fasted for a day and a half. My GF and I ate at the Santa Monica location. I ordered and consumed The Feast. It’s all in the pacing; I think that it took me two hours or so. I had difficulty walking afterwards.

  • B. Helmet says:

    I loved it there. We used to go to the Santa Monica location. I’ll never forget, it was the only place in the world that had a 5 dollar hamburger! Back when a Big Mac was 50 cents. Wow! I was poor then, but somehow found the money for it. Will also never forget, this idiot I knew and went with one night, STOLE a painting off the wall in back of him. I was so nervous and embarrassed. He walked out with it under his coat. Had to be around 1973, 1974 or so. Cool place.

  • Tim Wells says:

    I ate at the one in Santa Monica until it closed. The food and service was great. The food was simple, but well prepared with good presentation. The severs took turns entertaining, and many were excellent performers. It’ was about the most fun I’ve had at a restaurant, and the staff seemed to be having as munch fun as the patrons. I always got the “Planked Feast” and the “Ice Cream Orgy”. I’ve seen else nothing like it since, and that’s too bad.

  • Michael Eissinger says:

    When I was 18 I had just moved to LA and I was out one night driving around looking for a place to eat. I stopped into the Great American Food and Beverage Company on Sta Monica and La Cienega. When I walked in, the hostess said, “How you been… it’s been awhile. Great to see you again” and she led me to a table that shared a bench seat with all the other tables on that side of the small dining room. I instantly fell in love with the casual nature of the place, the great pita pockets, omlettes, ribs, corn on the cobb, cappuccino, and (of course) the Ice Cream Orgy.

    But, back to my first night… later the hostess came back over and we talked (it was fairly slow for a weeknight) and she was very friendly. Suddenly, she stopped and looked at me, again, and said, “You’re not him, are you?” I admitted I must not have been since I’d never been there before, but we continued to talk and I became a regular, eating there every few weeks. Several months later, she came up to me and said, “He came in, the other night.” We laughed and I continued to enjoy the comfortable party that went on around me… I think the waiter broke out into another round of “Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette” and the staff proved the postings on the two signs by the door, “Seat yourself. Hostess having a ball.” and “Don’t be in a hurry, be hungry!”

    Many a birthday party, date, and single dinner spent in that place well into the late 70s.

    Did the one in Westwood several times, but it wasn’t the same. Although my girlfriend at the time was at UCLA we usually made the trek to the SM/LC store because it was just “better.”

  • Severin Browne says:

    I worked at Hi-Pockets, the West Hollywood location of G.A. from 1976 to 1978, mostly as a busboy. Formative years for sure, and many of the crazy people I met there are still dear friends. As for the food, I would love to know if someone saved some of those recipes, like the ribs (spectacular) or some of the “pockets”… There are a few times in my life that I would rate as being in the running for the greatest in my life, and my time at GA was definitely one of those. Magic!

  • Art says:

    The Feast was fabulous. Those big beef ribs were the most succulent in my memory. Time to bring this one back!

  • H Wolf says:

    GAF&BC brings back such fun memories! My family would go there once in a while for dinner. The best memory for me was that I had my Sweet 16 party there (the Santa Monica location). I think there were about 15 of us, and we had the Planked Feast. I don’t remember if any of my other friends had ever been there, and I am so glad I still have the photos, you should see the looks on their faces when the servers set down the plank with all the food! I distinctly remember all of us sitting there for a long, astounded moment of complete silence, and then everyone started grabbing food from that plank like there would be no tomorrow! We all had a great time at my Sweet 16.

  • Janice Hubbard Lindsay says:

    I worked at the GAF&BC in my early twenties and it was a fabulous, formative experience. It was amazing to have a job where everybody was a kindred spirit. I couldn’t wait to get to work to sing and play with my friends! It was 1974 when I moved to California from New York and got the job after just a few months. I remember being in constant motion all night between waiting tables and performing, but it was a good workout. If I could pop back there and live it over again, I would. The tips were notoriously bad – often just $.50 – but it didn’t matter. Many of the people who worked there (Ricky Lee Jones, Katie Segal, Severin Browne, Mark Tanner, Barry Cowsill among others) became name performers.

  • Amy Barlow (Liberatore) says:

    My cousin, Gregg Laughlin, managed the GA on Wilshire, and he convinced me to drop everything in NYS and come west. I was one of the only jazz singers there. The list of performers/waiters was awesome – Joe Turano, Chuck Francour, Cyndi Wolf (an amazing blues singer), Hal Cohen (still in the biz), Mark Newman, a dancer named Regina Star (still dances, sometimes with snakes), one of those cats who performed as brothers even though one was British and one was German – I think the one who didn’t marry Bette Midler!!), and Jamie (Louis) Chalif (his performances of his ‘Heartbreak City’ were legendary), Saul Fineman (mentioned above), Peter Tork (ex-Monkee, playing banjo and really loved), Patti Davis (yes, THAT Patti Davis, and I sang backup with her frequently), Doug Boyd, DJ Barker (Shanz Boilini, a great comedian, and I and another person went on the Gong Show with Deej to sing “What’s Your Name?”, got paid, but never aired. We weren’t good enough to win but not crappy enough to air), and my cuz whose specialty was Fats Domino. Anyone who ever went to the GAFB in those days and remembers, come to my blog and search “GA” or “Amy: The Lost Years” (gives you some idea of what we were up to!) and catch up on some great memories. Apologies to all not listed. Oh yes, and the fairy goddess, Sidnie Hoyle, general good vibes and tambourine!

    The GA changed me life. Peace, Amy Barlow (now Liberatore)

  • Donna Hilgert says:

    I love the stuffed zucchini at the Old World Restaurant in Beverly Hills. I would give anything to figure out how to make it now. I haven’t been in BH since the late 70’s so I doubt the place is even there anymore. Any one have a clue how they made it?

  • Saul says:

    I worked at the Santa Monica G.A. from 1978 through 1982. It was a blast to work there. Lots of behind the scenes shenanigans that I won’t go into here – suffice it to say it was a trip to play and sing there.

  • Carmen says:

    The West Hollywood one was on Santa Monica & La Cienega. I loved this place as a kid and used to order the stuffed zucchini… imagine a 10 year-old jonesing for stuffed zucchini! I still haven’t had one as good! Other restaurants I loved to go to around there were Café Figaro on Melrose, Yellow Submarine on Santa Monica & Harper, and The Old World on the Sunset Strip.

  • Larry says:

    Went to dinner with some college friends on the nite Nixon resigned The place went crazy when the showed the news conference

    Great place!

  • Ed W. says:

    Just a general comment about all these old restaurants. The unexpected moments both good and bad, the wrinkles in the experiences at them, nowadays are all smoothed over by the internet, by Yelp, by any place online where pictures, videos, writings, and way too much information is exposed. In many ways things were better when we knew less. Today’s Yelp reviews should be held in moderation for at least 30 years.

  • Sandi Sylver says:

    Down from San Francisco for the weekend, I went to the Santa Monica Blvd. location in West Hollywood for dinner with friends. They dared me to get up and play (a waiter lent me his guitar), and I was offered a job. I took it, and worked there for a year: May 1974-May ’75, and what a trip it was. I played guitar and sang when I wasn’t busy with the serving aspect and, for the most part, had a pretty good time. Met many fine people, a few of whom were famous, and a few who were famous and not very fine. I probably would’ve stayed longer, but didn’t get along with the manager, plus I was ready to leave LA (not my kind of town).
    If anyone reading this is interested in more, drop me a line.

  • Corwin Zechar says:

    I frequented the Great American Food & Beverage Co. in Hollywood and the one in Santa Monica every couple of months during the early 80’s. Our most memorable occasion happened at the Santa Monica location. We walked in and sat down in the bar to wait for a table. I ordered a beer for myself and an iced tea for my girlfriend (now wife). The bartender assumed we wanted a Long Island iced tea, and whipped up the best rendition of a fake iced tea I have ever tasted. My girlfriend finished most of the drink before realizing she was blitzed, and must be drinking something stronger than tea.

    Since that night, we have searched the world over, but have never found a Long Island iced tea that came close to the one served to us back in 1983.

  • Tom Minton says:

    The Great American Food and Beverage Company offered a show-stopping item on the menu known as “The Feast,” which was a ridiculously abundant display of food, served by two waiters who carried it out on a wooden plank that was about 15 feet long. The Feast was intended to be enjoyed by a party of several. GAF&BC sported a palpable 1970’s vibe that probably wouldn’t fly today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Comments