The Hungry Tiger

The Hungry Tiger was a chain of seafood restaurants around Southern California.  At one point, there were forty-one of them, including one in Westwood Village, another one on Sepulveda near LAX, and yet another on La Brea just South of Hollywood Boulevard.  Those were the ones I went to, and I’m not sure why because I never particularly liked the food at them and insofar as I could tell, neither did anyone else.  The secret of their success seemed to be location, location, location.  They were the only “nice” places to take a date or client in certain areas.  For instance, if you picked up someone at the airport and drove south, the Hungry Tiger on Sepulveda was the first “decent” place to dine you encountered.  They got a lot of post-funeral traffic from the nearby Hillside Memorial Park, too.

The chain was started in 1962 by, the story goes, a group of former Flying Tigers’ combat pilots.  Some of the first outlets resembled hangars more than restaurants and all were decorated with photos of old planes and aviators.  I’m not sure many patrons understood the connection.

In the early eighties, business fell off substantially, apparently due to an influx of strong competitors into the marketplace.  The Hungry Tiger chain needed to remodel and upgrade but lacked the funds to do this so in 1985, a new management team was brought in, some of the less profitable outlets were closed and a general relaunch was attempted.  It failed to turn around public abandonment of the eateries so in the years following, most of them closed and a few went independent.  There are still Hungry Tiger restaurants around but not as part of a large chain.

The last time I was in one, it was the one in Westwood.  This would have been around 1980.  My date and I were going to a play at the Westwood Playhouse and with parking being as difficult and expensive as it was up there, it seemed logical to dine at the Hungry Tiger that was in the same block as the theater.  We could park once for both, get validated at the restaurant and…well, you get the idea.

We both ordered the broiled shrimp and when it came, it turned out to be the kind served in the shell…not my favorite way of having shrimp.  When they serve it that way, you always seem to spend forever digging the meat out and there isn’t very much of it.  These had almost none.  My lady friend and I were amazed at how little edible shrimp flesh you got in a serving of Hungry Tiger broiled shrimp.  It was barely one mouthful.  We mentioned this to our server who called over a manager who basically told us, “That’s our broiled shrimp.  If you didn’t get enough to eat, order something else and pay for an additional entree, heh heh.” Those weren’t the precise words he used but they were close.  There was definitely no concern that we weren’t happy with our meals.  We would have done what he suggested if there had been time before the play, except that (of course) we would have done it at another restaurant.

After the play, we decided to go somewhere and actually eat, rationalizing that at least the hefty tab I’d played at the Hungry Tiger had gotten us our parking at a discount.  It turned out that despite the posted signs, the lot no longer honored Hungry Tiger validations and I had to pay full price to get out.  The next day, I wasted about an hour calling the restaurant and the corporate offices of Hungry Tiger to complain.  The attitude I encountered was along the lines of “If you don’t like it, eat somewhere else.”  Thereafter, I did…and wasn’t surprised that so many other people did, as well.  Beware any business that names itself after a voracious predator.

117 Responses to The Hungry Tiger

  • Marlren says:

    Dose anyone know the recipe of a salad that was made shrimp and mushrooms. Next to no lettuce. It was so good. I do not remember what the other ingredients were

  • Ted mehous says:

    Dobie was my uncle I believe his last name was Marchelos . He worked at the Sepulveda location i’m trying to find out more about him any info appreciated

  • Scotty Glickman says:

    My favorite dish was at the oyster bar at the Hollywood location. Ralph’s Special. It was so amazing and pretty sure $5.95… Does anyone have the recipe for that wonderful dish that Ralph the chef made.

  • DavidC says:

    Our author needs to learn the art of eating seafood. Shrimp cooked in the shell have better flavor. Removing the meat from the shell is easy with one or two moves. Slide you knife along the inside of the shell next to the meat. When you reach the inside stand the knife up and peal the shell off the shrimp in one piece.
    One of my favorite Tiger dishes was the Surf and Turf with the shrimp

  • Lynette Acosta says:

    I went to The Hungry Tiger restaurant in Westwood on my first date with my future husband on July 10, 1980 after a Westwood Playhouse performance.

    He unfortunately left the table after eating bacon wrapped scallops that weren’t cooked thoroughly. Picked up some Pepto Bismol on the way home.

  • Joyce Larned says:

    I was visiting friends in the early 70’s and they were renting a not so nice place in Laurel Canyon or on the way to Laurel Canyon. When they went to work I decided to go for a downhill walk into the city. After getting to the bottom of the hill while walking facing on coming traffic a car pulled along side of me and the driver asked if we could talk. I finally agreed and told him I would meet him somewhere near by on foot. He gave me directions to the Hungry Tiger. My first experience at the Hungry Tiger was all good. He was very nice and told me that he was in movies and asked me to pursue a career in Hollywood making a long story short. The food and beverage were all good. I reconnected with my friends and continued to enjoy the Hungry Tiger whenever I visited California. There was a Hungry Tiger in Arizona at one time too. Good Hungry Tiger memories to all.

  • Charly Abraham says:

    I loved hanging out at the bar at the Hollywood & La Brea location. I lived right down the street, so it was sort of a neighborhood place for me. All the major league umpires would visit there during baseball season, since most of them stayed at the Roosevelt. I also met Stevie Wonder there, as a friend of his was the piano player for a while. I hated to see it close. I liked the oyster bar, but I never ate in the restaurant proper.

  • T Nolan says:

    Oh, what memories! Our Hungry Tiger was in Thousand Oaks at the Los Robles Golf Club. It was very elegant, on the second floor looking out large windows out at the beautiful golf course. This was in 1980. My wife and I were just married and rarely had the money to eat at a “fancy” restaurant like HT…so once a week HT had an all you can eat crab legs special, and my wife would take a large purse with nothing in it except a very large Ziplock bag, which we would fill with shelled crab meat. The waiters never knew what we were up to when we kept ordering another round, just thought we really liked our crablegs…lol. Not long after, a Charlie Browns opened nearby next to the 101 freeway. Charlie Browns was an awesome restaurant, as elegant as the Hungry Tiger with a much better lounge and the best prime rib in town. It didnt take long for HT to close its doors after that.

  • Kim noon says:

    I’m not here to comment on the food or prices. I’m here to comment on the management that I worked with at The Hungry Tiger in Redlands, 1983-1984? There was intense sexual harassment by a short, Hispanic/ samoan man who was married. He kept claiming they had an open relationship but I was a young 19 or 20-year-old, I so wasn’t interested and only wanted to work. When I told him that, I lost my job the next few days. Not long after the restaurant closed. I have to say, that was my first induction to sexual harassment on the job

  • BONNIE FRAHM says:

    MY HUSBAND WORKED AT THE HUNGERY TIGER IN PALOS VERDES , CA. THAT WAS ONLY THE BEGINNING, GRADUATED TRADE TECH COLLEGE AND WAS PROMOTED T O SUPERVISOR CHEF, HE WORKED AND TRAINED EMPLOYES AT DIFFERENT LOCATION OPENINGS. THE MENU WAS A COLLABRATION OF THE CHEFS AND SUPERVISOR CHEFS, WAS ALWAYS ENJOYED BY FAMILY AND FRIENDS, ONLY BRINGS BACK THE FONDEST OF MEMORIES UNTIL IT WAS BOUGHT OUT BY W.R. GRACE. THEY SPECIALIZED IN HIGH QUALTY STEAK AND SEAFOOD, LOVED THE OYSTER BAR

  • Richard Markus says:

    Went to Don Martin’s school of Broadcasting on LaBrea & Hollywood. The same building that housed the Hungry Tiger. After school a bunch of us would go for drinks and shrimp scampi. That was in the late 70’s.

  • Leslie Stem says:

    The “Hungry Tiger” was a character in the Oz books.

  • Marilyn Blanck says:

    My husband was one of the group of Flying Tiger commercial pilots (NOT the military group called Flying Tigers) that owned this restaurant. The first one was in the San Fernando Valley and specialized in Maine Lobster, flown in daily (free) by the airline, some of whose pilots owned the restaurant. They had free shipping, so their lobster dinners could be served at quite reasonable prices and still be the “real thing” from Maine, not those waterbugs from the West Coast. We went there quite a bit in the 60s when Wally H. was the manager. He did a great job and went on to own his own restaurant.

  • Jenny Peterson Higdon says:

    I LOVED this place

    Lived on Eastvale Rd in Palos Verdes growing up & dad
    Had business dinners here.. with his Radio station KFAC
    we loved going for Steak & shrimp
    Great memories!

  • Bob Mull says:

    I have peasant memories of the HT on Hollywood Blvd., one of the nicer places we enjoyed on our trips into the city.

  • R Lewis says:

    Frequented the LaBrea/Hollywood Blvd location. Loved the seafood bar, didn’t know there were that many variations of shrimp or scallop scampi’s. Also thought the instructions on how to eat a whole lobster was a good idea for beginners like me.

  • Rien van leeuwen says:

    Back in 1981, we would like to eat in the hungry tiger restaurant in la canada flintridge. Good memorues. Still looking for pictures

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