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.

148 Responses to The Hungry Tiger

  • Susan Moyer says:

    How can we get a copy of the Dobie’s Delight recipe from Tina (Marchelos) Brennan? My husband and I used to make something that we tried to copy from that dish we ate at the Sepulveda Tiger. Have lost the recipe and never had the original. He has never stopped talking about Hungry Tiger and that “Delight”. Would be so forever grateful!

  • N kindgren says:

    Worked in PV 1968 .. as a waiter , great food, fresh New England lobster , oysters, scrod, abalone, sourdough bread,clam chowder , the only source of fresh eastern fish/ shellfish at that time in LA. Perhaps expansion was their decline. But with three stores they were outstanding, David uMay was a. Tough boss. Wally was nice. Anyone remember resin potatoes?

  • Greg Surfas says:

    I came of age in my profession with the Hungry Tiger Restaurants. I very well remember David May, Wally Hollensteine and Rene as the three pillars of the organization when they first started on Ventura Blvd. I help “do” a couple of locations and was involved essentially until they sold out to WR Grace. I met Bob Prescot a couple of times.
    It was a great organization to work for/with.

  • AndyD says:

    Was there a Hungry Tiger in Marina Del Rey? I have vague memories of spending my 21st birthday there.

  • zambatriste says:

    My mom and I loved HT. We went to the one in San Francisco. Loved Dolby’s Delight and the House dressing. Have the recipes for both. Also ordered the steamed clams every time we went. Perfect! Very sad they are gone……..

  • JESS Kalinowsky says:

    Hungry Tiger in Hollywood was good as far as I am concerned. The BEST institutional seafood around, and at a great price. THE main reason one went there was the historical decorations. A good friend of mine father was a “Flying tiger” WW II. Lots of wonderful history. After going to the one in Hollywood I convinced the owners to open one in Houston, TX. in the middle 70’s and I went work there. The place was super popular. Some staff from the Hollywood location came to Houston to get us up and running. My Dad was a financial backer, and made back all of his investment, and MORE! A little history:

  • CJ says:

    I loved Hungry Tiger! I miss Hungry Tiger. My friends and their kids loved it! My ex loved it! Never had a bad meal, never disappointed! Memories!!!!

  • Adam Walch says:

    All I have to offer, besides gratitude for the site, is that the Hungry Tiger in the Palos Verdes community was an absolute institution, and the building’s architecture itself was magnificent, (originally, the “Hunting Horn.”) Torn down decades ago.

  • Wendy says:

    I remember there was a hungry tiger restaurant here in Fresno when I was in high school.. my friend Michelle had a boyfriend named Victor who was a bartender there! I wasn’t old enough to drink so I never went there unless it was to eat dinner with the folks .. too bad it went out because I love seafood!

  • Rick from MA says:

    Hey Mario Mantilla, my first meal on my first trip to the west coast was at the Hungry Tiger in West Covina. This was early ’79, so right after you became chef. Had red snapper (another first). It was superb.

  • Mario Mantilla says:

    Louis I did worked with your dad when I was transfer to PV Lou trained me in the oyster bar, Louis if your on Facebook look up the group former employees of Hungry Tiger Restaurant your more than welcome to join the group

  • Louis Brennan (Grandson) of Doby says:

    Mr. Mantilla, thank you for the kind thought about my Grandfather (Doby). If you knew him, you might remember my father who also worked at the Palos Verdes location. His name was Lou.

  • Mario Mantilla says:

    Started hungry tiger group on Facebook more than welcome to join if your a former employee any relatives that worked for the restaurant

  • Mario Mantilla p says:

    Worked for Hungry Tiger back in 1975 in West Covina promoted to Chef in 1978 worked with Doby In Palos Verdes alot of memories working with John Sanger Robert Kissinger Lolly my golf buddy great fresh seafood great ftrsh

  • Matin Mantilla says:

    Great memories started as a line cook in West Covina they gave me a opportunity as a chef in Palm Springs Frank Sinatra was a regular there the story was he would pass out twenty dollar bills to the employees than came back to West Covina as the Chef than went to Palo Verdes I did work with Doby and Lou we had a radio personality Name Waco Pat worked for KABC was there Monday Thursday Friday was a fun place to work than I ended up in Pasadena ended up being the end for HT about a year later became Charlie Brown’s worked a lot of great people David May, Alan Redhead. Larry Bitther. John Sanger. Robert Kissinger. Louie Telliman. My golf bubbly Lolly. Joe Rojas. Dexter Houser yes I did work with Mike Franm alot of good times

  • Tina (Marchelos) Brennan says:

    My father was “Doby”. And most of the menu items for the oyster bar were his creation, to include the Doby’s Delight. He also worked at the restaurant at P.V. location. My ex-husband “Lou” worked at the P.V. location as well

  • Ana Hidalgo says:

    My Dad worked the Oyster Bar at the Hollywood Hungry Tiger. His name was Ralph if anyone remembers him. He is 85 and doing well.

  • Bill Pridemore says:

    Alias “The Starving Pussy” that I frequented was on Sunflower Ave, west of Bristol Str, Santa Ana (southside of the street was Costa Mesa, Segerstrom’s South Coast Shopping Center). Building now contains Morton’s Steak House. Plenty of good times!

  • MarkinTex says:

    I think this chain made it as far as Houston, Texas at one time. I remember as a little kid growing up in Houston in the early 1980s going to a restaurant I only remember as “Flying Tigers”, but something always told me that was not quite the right name. It was my dad’s favorite place to go for his birthday or when we had guests in from out of town, and as described here, I remember there being a lot of Flying Tigers and other World War II-era aviation themed memorabilia all over – wooden propellers and old leather bomber jackets and black and white photos of fighter pilots and P-40s and P-47s and P-51s, etc.

  • Arnetta Guion says:

    Used to work at the Hungry Tiger Hollywood…somewhere I have pictures and will try to find them. Stay tuned and be patient.

  • Rob in Canada says:

    I used to dine frequently at the Hungry Tiger in The Cannery complex at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Locals derided it because it was part of a chain, and worse yet, a chain headquartered, you know, “down there”. It was always empty, so I never needed a reservation, and I could always count on delicious, freshly baked sourdough bread, excellent seafood dishes and good wine at a reasonable price. I never had a bad meal there, and I was very sad to see it close.

  • CPH says:

    According to his obituary, Frank G. Lococo was one of the original “Flying Tigers” and founder of the restaurant. He also purchased the Kopper Kart, a tavern in Southwest Los Angeles (Florence/Van Ness) around 1964, and was involved with the Cockatoo Inn

  • The Management says:

    As I explained on the first page, the restaurants I list on this site are the ones I went to and I never went to a Velvet Turtle.

  • Bob R Hess says:

    Why don’t you list the Velvet Turtle Restaurants and their old locations!

  • Bob R Hess says:

    Do you remember the HT In Costa Mesa, CA?

  • Brian Liggins says:

    I’m on admiralty in Marina Del Rey and I believe that what is now Tony p’s was hungry tiger

  • Richard A Reichsfeld says:

    Does anyone remember one in Hollywood Florida?

  • Geoff says:

    One of my favourite restaurants back in 1977, I was staying in the Thousand Oaks HOJO, just across the freeway from HT. I have the seafood chowder stained napkin to this day.

  • Pat Namanny says:

    I have fond memories of the Hungry Tiger in Rancho Palos Verdes. It’s where I proposed to my wife, and about a year later, where we held our wedding reception following our marriage ceremony at the Wayfarer’s Chappel in Palos Verdes Estates. As I recall, they had excellent steaks and teriyaki chicken.

  • George Thurston says:

    I was on an assignment for an upstate New York capacitor company looking to purchase special machines to quickly increase our capacity due to increased business. One evening, Owners of the business took me to the Hungry Tiger in the San Fernando valley to see and hear a great piano player. We were seated on stools at the piano bar when the waitress came to take our orders. This lady was dressed like ladies in the” Terry And Pirates” comic strip, long black close fitting dress with a slit from the upper thigh to the ankle.
    She placed her hand on my knee and spread my legs and stepped between my my knees, leaned against my thigh and asked for my order. I was caught wordless but finally said ‘Singapore Sling’, a drink I had never had. She then took the rest of our groups orders while still leaning against my thigh.

    When she left I asked the piano player about someone taking advantage of her when she did that. The piano player handed me a laminated news paper story about this waitress which pictured her with her knee in the back of a gunman face down on the floor. She had disarmed the gunman, breaking his trigger finger in the encounter. No one messes with lady. I really think I was set-up.
    A little later in the evening four or five of the original “Flying Tigers” came in and ordered a round of drinks for all present. It’s been about fifty years, an evening I will never forget.

  • Will Snelling says:

    After reading the comments of visitors to the Hungry Tigers in the LA area I just felt compelled to add my thoughts. I was a bartender at the Bakersfield Hungry Tiger and was glad that I got the opportunity to work in this great restaurant. I could always depend on great food done correctly, service given as an art and no mistakes. I could always take my dates there with no worrys and after dinner, drinks and dancing in the lounge. The H.T. always had great music in the lounge and was a hotspot in town. I certainly miss all the staff, customers and musicians. I have no idea why this location closed other than because the company closed. This place jumped and had a reputation for a great evening
    to remember. Will

  • 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:


  • 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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