This is a bit of a cheat since Lawry’s is still very much in business but I have a certain nostalgic feeling for the building wherein I first tasted their fine, fine prime rib. Originally, Lawry’s was in a building on the east side of La Cienega. Then they outgrew that and in 1947, they moved into the above building on the west side of the boulevard. A few years ago, they rebuilt the old building and moved back into it, and the building depicted above turned into a restaurant called The Stinking Rose, where everything (including — no kidding — the ice cream) is rife with garlic.

As you probably know, when you dine at Lawry’s, your piece o’ meat is served to you by a man in a chef’s outfit with a medallion around his neck. He rolls a hefty, gleaming serving cart filled with cooked cow to your table and slices off the appropriate hunk. When Lawry’s moved across the street, the chefs rolled their carts (presumably empty) out of the old locale, then police stopped traffic on La Cienega and allowed them to push their serving stations across the boulevard and into the new building. Every time I drive up that street, I imagine a traffic sign with a little silhouette of a chef pushing a serving cart and the words, MEAT CROSSING.

Click above to see this picture a bit larger

Here’s a story about Lawry’s — and actually it took place at the other building, the one on the east side of La Cienega. But it could have happened at the one in the photo at the top of this item.

I was dining with a lady who liked milk and usually drank a few glasses of it at every meal. We were down near the end of our consumption. I think I had two more bites to go on my Diamond Jim Brady cut with the mashed potatoes and the creamed corn and I was beyond stuffed. I could feel seams on my skin straining under the stress. My date picked up her glass and suddenly, the bottom exploded and milk flew in every direction.  Our table was covered with it.

But only for about thirty seconds.  Lawry’s has spectacular service.  Instantly, three or four bus boys were upon us with rags.  In less time than seemed humanly possible, they’d removed every single thing on our table, dried the table, put another tablecloth in place and brought in new place settings, salt, pepper, etc.  And while this was happening, unnoticed by us, our waitress hurried over to one of the gleaming carts and had the carver remake our entrees.  Suddenly, it was like time had rolled back twenty minutes: In front of me was a full serving of the Diamond Jim Brady cut with the mashed potatoes and creamed corn and my date had her full dinner all over again.  It transpired so rapidly that I couldn’t say, “No thanks, I couldn’t eat another bite.”

We took a few forkfuls of our refurbished dinners, then had them boxed to go.  As we were leaving, we passed a man in the next booth who had seen it all, even though we hadn’t seen him.  It was Jack Nicholson and he grinned that devilish smile that impressionists can never quite replicate and he said, “Nice trick there with the milk.”

42 Responses to Lawry’s

  • Sam says:

    I’ve been going there for a quarter of a century and we had our wedding there last year. I want to share my “star” sighting. They send out a newsletter to their V.I.P. members and it includes celebrity visits. Denzel Washington used to be in practically every issue. Apparently he and his family went there so much that they once mentioned “Mrs. Denzel Washington!”
    We saw him there once two weeks after he won his Training Day Oscar! I’ve seen a lot of celebrities but seeing him so soon after winning the Oscar made it exciting.
    Just as special are my memories of the hostess Martha. We would come in on a double VIP points Monday night around 7 when there was a two hour wait and she would seat us within 15 minutes!
    BTW, it is interesting that Lawry’s was hiring POC women as servers for decades before they started hiring male servers! However, it seems that a female carver might be the last

  • Felicia Thiel says:

    Hilarious story about Jack Nicholson and his crack about the milk trick! Sometime in the 1960’s my mother started using Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. Our entire family loved it so much, it became incorporated into a countless number of our family recipes. Four generations, soon to be five, of our family still uses Lawry’s Seasoned Salt on a daily basis, although we all now use the kind with 25% less sodium. Hope they never stop making it! Should my husband and I ever make it back out to California, we’ll definitely stop for prime rib at Lawry’s.

  • Al says:

    Gosh I have fond memories of Lawry’s and a Diamond Jim Brady cut. My folks would take me there on my birthday,when I was lucky, and I also recall FIVE CROWNS (Newport?) for some meaty meals and Yorkshire pudding.

  • Denyse says:

    Went there many times in the late 60s, as I did almost every restaurant on Restaurant Row. Those were the days! I “collected”menus in those days and still have them somewhere, including Landry’s.

  • MaryAnn Cackowski says:

    I wasn’t sure if the restaurant was still there. I have wonderful memories of the food and service. My husbands since passed but I have a book of matches which I look at and remember our many visits. We were from NJ and I hope I can visit again and enjoy the fine food. My husband was only a beef eater and loved every minute of the presentation.

  • Gary Fox says:

    Mary Ann McGarry, I remember Pauls’ Seafood Galley very well. In 1969, I was working on the Redondo Pier for a place called Western Smoked Fish. The chef would step over every now and then (right next door) and make the best halibut I’ve ever tasted! I watched him make it; a beautiful slab of halibut, butter, garlic, and parsley. NOTHING ELSE! Thank you for remembering!

  • Bob Brown says:

    My parents and I ate dinner at Lawry’s several times a year from the mid 1950s to the early 1970s. However, we frequented one of Lawrence Frank’s other restaurants far more often (at least two or three times a week)…..Richlors which was across the street, home of the famed planked hamburger steak. We were regulars at Richlors, so much so that Lawrence Frank would join us at our table when he was there. Being only six or seven years old at the time, Mr. Frank had a talent for sketching and drawing cartoons. He would take out his pen and a cocktail napkin and begin sketching me a picture. Wish now I had kept some of those drawings,

  • Mitch Roberts says:

    Lawry’s was a family favorite from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. They didn’t take reservations, so we’d gather in the bar prior to the meal. Scotch and water for dad, a Whiskey Sour for mom and Roy Rodgers and Shirley Temples for the kids. When our table was ready, the hostess would appear with a small tray for the drinks and escort you to your table. As you approached the dining room, the view appeared as if there were a master conductor orchestrating the scene–silver carts traversing the aisles, waitresses spinning the salad bowls and a diners in animated conversations at all decibel levels. I can still hear the hostess saying, “it’s three steps down,” as you descended into the dining room. Superb meal, best Prime Rib ever! They used to have a dress code and on one Sunday evening when we didn’t have a chance to go home and dress for dinner, they provided complimentary jackets for my father, brother and me. We also would frequent the Frank’s other restaurants on La Cienega, Stears for Steaks and the Mediterranea, but Lawry’s was the best.

  • Jon Stock says:

    Still is and will always be my favorite eatery! Prime rib to die for, Yorkshire pudding, crack! And the cream corn is the best on earth! And you have to order a bottle of Moet, Dom or some premium champagne with your dinner!

  • carole Morrison says:

    My father operated The Tournament of Thrills auto stunt show back in the day. He took me to Lawry’s when I was about 15 (I’m 73 now) his favorite place to dine. I LOVED the green goddess salad dressing! Another fave was Edna Earle’s Fog Cutter. We once dined side-by-side with Sal Mineo and his date. Ms. Earle had a thing for my handsome single father, so we got special treatment such as allowing me to have a Brandy Alexander when I was underage–ha–ha!!!

  • Thom says:

    I ate at the old restaurant, I felt like a king. The restaurants on La Cienega were so grand. We would drive in from the South Bay for special occasions or when we had out of town visitors. The Restaurants were like being in a movie…

  • James Cimarusti says:

    Used to go to Tonio’s all the time. I had my first holy communion party there. I miss their desserts :( Building is now Robin’s BBQ restaurant: Lots of details from when it was Tonio’s still visible.

  • Norm G says:

    Mel Karp, Thanks for the info about Edna Earle’s The Fog Cutter. I was only there once, when I was 13, for a party in my honor, but have fond memories.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    A menu from Lawry’s….Ah yes, seems like just the other day when Prime Rib was only $3.75!!!

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos (NM) says:

    Just for chuckles, I called the BH store (as people are wont to say nowadays) to ascertain if they still serve a Sorbet between the salad and entree to cleanse one’s palate which really impressed me per having come from staid New England to school, i.e. USC, when treated by my GF’s folks back in the early ’60s. With great aplomb, the Gal who answered the phone accepted my ‘cover’ of it being a weird request while unintentionally acknowledging it was well before her time (i.e. I heard a stifled giggle). After checking it out, she noted they do serve it nowadays but only at Special Events, e.g. a wedding, business confab, etc. upon request!
    – Certainly would like to hear hearin if anyone gets it while dining in Chicago, Dallas, Vegas, etc. Whoa…anyone have any comments about using Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, apparently about which there are attempts at cloning, e.g. !? E.g. I think it is a ‘change of pace’ alternative besides Liquid Smoke, for seasoning when BBQing.

  • John Hindsill says:

    Glenn, you lose on the the honor and esteem scale. Many of my friends served their hitch during that time…some in Viet-Nam, and they didn’t want to be there either. But you let the other guy do it! Feh!

  • Glenn Steinberg says:

    I owe my life to Lawry’s….
    When I got drafted during Vietnam I lied and claimed I had been a cook at Lawry’s. They made me a cook which kept me out of the infantry. Thank you so much Lawry’s. Sorry for lying America but that war SUCKED ! It was every man for himself back then !

  • Edward Vanegas says:

    I opened the California Center as a busboy in 76 . 16 years old and no experience.. Stayed with Lawrys for 8 years, graduated BS in Hospitality from Cal Poly Pomona on a Lawrys scholarship.. Was MaitreD at California Center for summer nights and La Cienega for the off season. The classic movie stars would walk in nightly with no notice.. Great family company… Really miss the Frank Family and all they offered a young no experience busboy..I now own my own small chain of Thai bistros in Colorado…

  • John Twiss says:

    Most memorable time at Lawry’s was dinner with a gentleman from an important political dynasty from the Middle East. He was horrified when we were ordering our pre-dinner drinks to hear me ask the waitress for a Sloe Screw and was taking me to task for being so familiar when the giggling waitress explained to him that it was perfectly respectable cocktail made with Sloe Gin!

  • Bill Stevens says:

    i always wondered how they get away with being a sexist restaurant (no male waiters) until they finally got sued and have male waiters.

    oh, the menu has expanded to include frozen lobster tails and C.C. Brown Hot Fudge sundaes for dessert.

    My favorite story was my parents always got their car parked just outside the front door on the street level…and getting extra rib bones for the dogs..and collecting all those $25 off coupons (we had many a free dinner off that frequent diner coupon program)…BUT, one Christmas all my brothers wet our wine glasses and we all started rubbing the lips of the glasses, at the same time, which (for those that know) started a “humming” noise that had everyone glancing around trying to figure out where that organ-like “music” was coming from. Those holiday pranks were truly moments of hysterical laughter.

  • Mel Karp says:

    Edna Earle’s Fog Cutter steak house was on La Brea, just south of Hollywood Blvd & the old red car RR track road. The menu was a wood plank with 3 different cuts of meat. The patron selected the cut he wanted, everything else was standard: baked potato, salad, roll. Edna was a lovely pretty lady. The bar was always busy. My brother & I, newly arrived from NY in the 1950’s, lived nearby & ate there frequently. I believe I last ate there in the 1970’s .
    At the southern end of that street, at the corner of La Brea Blvd
    & Sunset was Tiny Naylors hamburger drive in, but I usually ate inside at the counter & was served by Bonnie, a great looking gal.

  • Larry Van Kuran says:

    Am a 3rd gen SCal kid (born downtown LA, 1946), in the SF Valley since 1949.

    First time at Lawry’s was with my Grandfather & parents when I was 5 (1951). Have eaten at Lawry’s on La Cienega at least once a year since that time, both sides of the boulevard.

    Now I make it literally a family mission to go after Dec. 1 with as big a family & friends group as we can collect, so that we can see and hear the Dickensian-style carolers. My favorite, from my 1st grade teacher Ms. Whitcomb at Sylvan Park Elementary in Van Nuys: Jolly Old St. Nicholas.

    Also did the California Center often while it was open – great open-air spot for staff lunches.

  • Mary Ann McGarry says:

    Does anyone remember any of these others: The Mediterranea (La Ciengea), The Fogcutter (Fairfax), Paul’s Seafood Galley (Redondo Beach)?

  • Leigh says:

    I do so miss the original location. Just not the same.

  • Alan Maretsky says:

    This will always be my favorite restaurant. We ate there with our parents when we were kids. This is when the restaurant was on the west side of La Cienega. We we such regulars that when the GM, Sheldon saw us, we would just stand off to the side and within minutes we would be at our table. I’ve been to the east side location and although the food is stupendous, the patrons show up in cutoffs and flip flops.

  • Mike Kassel says:

    My son is a senior High School football player who will going to college to play in the fall. I recently took him there for the first time after spending years telling him how great it is. On the way home he told me if he could ever request a last meal it would be at Lawrey’s… I knew he’d love it.

  • Will Hamblet says:

    I don’t believe the California Center was operated by Lawry’s. However, it was a great place to eat in the summer before going to The Greek…. or whatever.

  • Judy Goodman says:

    Love this place. Had dinner with Per many times here

  • Jesse Silver says:

    My Ex and I went to the California Center on their last day for a final visit. We had a nice meal and bought a few items from the store. We continued to go to Lawry’s on La Cienega.
    The center still exists and houses several organizations, including the Santa Monica Mountain conservancy. I happen to teach at an Industry based vocational school located on the grounds. The grounds are a beautiful park.

  • Adam Gold says:

    Remains one of my favorite places ever, and whenever I’m back in my home town I make it a point to eat there and bring the kids.

  • The ChocolateDoctor says:

    With background as a motion picture and television art director, I was hired by Lawry’s to work on what was soon to become known as Lawry’s California Center. Little did I know that I would spend five years of my life working for the company on a variety of different restaurant projects–more on those later. Lawry’s The Prime Rib was and still is one of the best designed restaurants in the world. Lawrence Frank had this crazy idea that guest would love to come into a restaurant that specialize in doing one thing, superbly well—prime ribs of beef. He was the one he dreamed up the stainless steel prime rib carving trolley, the spinning salad, the third shaker… Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and the gong letting customers know there was a freshly brewed urn of coffee made every twenty minutes.

    Richard N. Frank, the founder’s son perfected the concept. I still make my prime rib at home the same way as the restaurant did on a bed of rock salt–the old English method. Lawry’s was never duplicated until the early 1970’s when Richard found the perfect location on Rush and Ontario Streets in Chicago. It has thrived as well as the Beverly Hills location allowing flocks of prime rib lovers to enjoy the great Yorkshire Pudding, Creamed Spinach, Bake Potato (eat the skin and all), real roasted (not steamed and held) prime rib and a secret, never written on the menu dessert, Meringue Chocolate-Pecan Pie. While the restaurant has crossed from one side of La Cienega to the other three times and the environment updated, the prime rib and side dishes remain pretty much the same as during the rein of Lawrence Frank.

    During my tenure at Lawry’s, before I opened my own restaurant company, Lawry’s created Tonio’s, The Great Scott (Arcadia), The Ben Jonson (San Francisco) and, of course, Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Chicago and Lawry’s California Center. I had the pleasure of on working on them all.

  • Don West says:

    Always a special occasion when we went to Lawry’s. Sorry I never got to see Jack Nicholson there! I seem to recall that whenever a fresh pot of coffee was brewed they’d hit a big gong. To this day when I hear a gong, I think coffee’s ready :)

  • William says:

    The spinning salad and the thick prime rib carved for you at your table, nothing like it!

  • John says:

    My grandmother used to take us all to Lawry’s for a treat on birthdays. I loved going there because the food was excellent and the service a bit theatrical. The server making the salad and shaking the bottle of dressing in the air, and, the chef deftly carving the exact doneness of Prime Rib that you wanted. Oh, and it was delicious! The other two memories were of the giant gong being hit when fresh coffee was ready, and the perfect popovers!

  • Kathleen says:

    My big brother took me there when I was a young girl to show me how a date is supposed to be! He set the bar very high for me, and I’ve truly enjoyed all the wonderful venues of our beautiful Los Angeles!!

  • Lucy says:

    I have wonderful memories of eating at Lawry’s. The drive from our house in Whitter seemed to take forever but it was always a great meal. Last time I ate at a Lawry’s was in Las Vegas and even tho the food was good, was not the same as the place on LaCienega

  • Harrison Hine says:

    Our family always used to take our out of town guests to Lawry’s. It was always a big treat for the kids in the family. My favorite memory was when the waitress was serving our salads. The salad preparation was also at the table and was almost as big a deal as the serving of the Prime Rib. This night the waitress started shaking the bottle of dressing and to top flew off covering our entire party with the wonderful Lawry’s salad dressing.

  • Bob Los Ranchos, NM says:

    Was to that one about ’60 and “gentrified” per being introduced to ‘sorbet’ to cleanse my apparently horrid palate!
    Can’t imagine that your pic of the gal in her ‘fur wrap’ salivating while waiting for her slice of ‘prime rib’ being carved off, is not a Poster Pic hanging in the offices of PETA!!!!

  • Len B. says:

    I used to take my dates there in the 50’s and once I took a girl there and she turned out to be a vegitarian … A cheep date.. she only had a house salad

  • Yvette says:

    I had dinner there several times. Once I had dinner with girlfriend on New Year’s Eve and Al Jarreau walked in. I said, “Carolyn, Al Jarreau just walked in.” She didn’t believe me, because I was always saying I saw Danny Thomas. hahaha Oy. Anyway giggle I love the service and atmosphere and food. Gosh this is fun looking at all the places I’ve been. I didn’t think I went much of anywhere, I guess I did. :)

  • Andrew says:

    Grace…odds are you ate prime rib! LOL

  • Grace Alexander says:

    I remember going there in 1955 for my first “grown-up” dinner date, and it was an unforgettable event. I don’t remember what we ate, but it was delicious!

Leave a Reply

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

Recent Comments