The Viking’s Table

The Viking’s Table was a chain of all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants scattered around L.A.  The main one I visited (just once) was located in Culver City.  On the front, a huge, you-can’t-miss-it sign proclaimed “Smorgasboard,” which along with some artwork conveyed images of luscious carved meats, steaming trays of rotisseried fowl, hearty portions of fresh veggies.  Inside, you learned it meant a steam table full of the kind of thing you’d find in your high school cafeteria and say, “Uh, I think I’ll go outside and get a sandwich from the machine.”  I recall a lot of creamed items…what I guess was creamed chicken, though you could never be sure.  I don’t know if the places were ever any good — I’m guessing they’d have to have been once — but by the time I got to one, forget about it.  I gave up on the Viking’s Table and so did everyone else.  They all closed…I thought.

Years later, going to an Egghead Software store (remember them?) on Pico at Bundy, I parked down the block and found myself in front of small restaurant that called itself The Viking’s Table and promised all I could eat for five or so bucks.  As much out of curiosity as hunger, I went in and found that an Asian family was operating the place and that while the decor was travel posters of Sweden, the repast was Chinese — mostly “filler” foods like fried hollow won tons, rice and soft noodles.  There was meat on the steam table but not much…and if you looked like you might be inclined to go get some, a small, Oriental child would be sent to your table to deliver a basket of bread.  She would stare at you with eyes like a Walter Keane painting, silently pleading with you not to eat much…and you wouldn’t.  Not because of the little girl but because there just wasn’t much there worth eating.

That one closed, too.  I think they’re all gone.  So are the Vikings, probably because if that’s what they have on their tables, they all starved to death.

24 Responses to The Viking’s Table

  • Brad Schlain says:

    My dad created The Vikings Table with his girlfriend Sina in the 1960’s. It was at Pico and Barrington. It was not part of a chain. I remember Milly very well, she was a friend of Sina. My dad was a motion picture and TV costumer and worked on the TV show Family Affair so that is how Sebastian Cabot happened to be a customer there. He sold the Vikings Table and opened the Nordic Inn in The Valley

  • Eileen says:

    I know exactly the place you’re talking about. It was a Smorgasbord at the corner of Jefferson and Sepulveda. My sister used to drop me off there when I was a teenager after ice skating at the Ice Rink down the street in the mid 70’s. That place had the best ribs. I used to get ribs, mashed potatoes and peas. I don’t remember the name of the place though.

  • Matt says:

    I remember this place but I am certain it was just east of Barrington, not east of Bundy. The old Egghead software store mentioned in the story was in a mini mall on the south-east corner of Pico and Barrington and while Egghead is long gone the mini mall is still there. I ate there just once (@ 1986 or ’87), just because I couldn’t pass up a place advertising itself as a “Chinese smorgasborg.”

  • Virginia THOMPSON says:

    After reading all these fond memories of smorgasbords, does any one remember the one called the Royal Swede on Wilshire Blvd on the west side of town?

  • John says:

    My mother was one of the owners for a time at the Pico location early 70’s when cornell was the chef. Her name was milly but people also called her sandy. She was icelandic. I used to wash dishes after school there. I remember the back patio had a little waterfall. I remember Mr.French (Sebastian Cabot) used to eat there. Good times

  • NARVO says:

    When you say Culver City, do you mean the one at the intersection of Sepulveda and Jefferson Blvd.? It’s across the street from Toys ‘R’ Us, and I believe Petco occupies that space now. I remember the huge sign proclaiming Smorgasbord, but I also remember a large cartoony character of a Swedish girl with big eyes, rosy cheeks and blonde hair. Was that the same place?

  • wac says:

    We LOVED “The Viking” (as we called it) on Pico and ate there often during our impecunious years of the 70s. It was a mix of Scandinavian and Chinese and unidentifiable food — but it was all good, as far as I was concerned! The “mural” on the outside WAS rather offputting (to say the least!).

  • Steve says:

    I remember the Pico & Bundy location, when it had Scandanavian food, not Chinese. It was quite good as I remember. Miss it from that era. Loved the salads & lingonberry suace with crepes for dessert.

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

    Whoa Will, As I’d never been, didn’t comment before. Happen to read your recollections of a year ago today, and must pass on Two Thumbs Up to the Spirit/Ethos of your Folks! So sad it has waxed/waned given the world we live in today!

  • Howard Perry says:

    If you remember Viking’s Table and your wife sold meats to them, do you happen to remember or know of “The Original Barbecue” on Vermont and 8th, I think? They had the best cole slaw (vinegar-based) and excellent barbecue beef sandwiches. Also, they had chickens broiling on rotating spits in the window beside the entrance. Didn’t have chicken almost ever – I always wanted the sandwiches and a extra, side serving of cole slaw.

  • Carl Darett says:

    I worked at the Vikings Table back in 1965. At that time it was owned by a German family (first name Fred). It was located on Pico Blvd. It had authentic smorgasbord food. The owner would cringe when the football team from either USC or UCLA would arrive. The cook (Cornell) was fantastic and treated everyone well. Ah, fond memories! Fact: my wife’s father was the supplier of the meats and cheeses sold there.

  • Eric M. says:

    I have pictures of a matchbook cover from the location on W. Pico if you want me to email them to you!

  • Will says:

    My parents owned The Viking’s Table for over twenty-five years. It’s good to see comments from people here who have some fond memories of it. I have some fond memories myself, even those of working there as a kid, along with my sisters and brother. The food wasn’t what you could consider authentic Chinese food by any means, or Swedish for that matter, but it was the best Chinese-Swedish combination you could find lol!

    While I still remember the food (baked chicken, bbq pork ribs, wonton soup, chow mein, fried fish, egg foo young, Swedish pancakes and of course, Jell-O), most of my memories center around the interactions with customers, many of whom were regulars for years.

    I remember as a small kid (I was probably only about seven years old), sitting at a table for two that was near the front of the restaurant. I didn’t go to pre-K, and spent my days sharing this small table with a lone diner who didn’t mind eating his/her meal with a little kid seated next to them, drawing on a small pad of paper. One of the regulars who would sit at the table with me was a police officer. I don’t remember his name, but he would come in quite often, and I would be in awe of his uniform and stature. I think I asked him to see his gun once and he kindly turned me down, but he did show me his hand cuffs.

    I also remember the actor who played Captain Marvel on Shazaam! He was a regular and it wasn’t until months of seeing him when I finally got the nerve to say to him “You’re Shazaam!” He said, “Yes, I am” and asked if I wanted to go with him to his car so he could give me a photo. I shudder to think of letting one of my kids following a stranger two blocks to his car nowadays, but back then, it wasn’t a big deal. At least it wasn’t to my mother lol. We went to his green Dodge Rambler, he popped his trunk and signed two publicity shots from the stack of photos in an old box.

    While the hours were long and the work was hard (my siblings and I were expected to regularly put in at least a couple of hours working there everyday, even after school), it instilled a work ethic in us all that helped each of us grow up to have successful careers. From our humble beginnings, my sisters are now a lawyer and teacher. My brother is a landscape architect and I am an advertising creative director. My parents didn’t have college educations and didn’t even finish high school, but they managed to put us all through college without financial aid. I believe it’s small mom and pop restaurants like this nowadays where this story still plays out.

    I’m writing this now, with the encouragement of my eleven and nine year-old daughters. The only connection they have to The Viking’s Table are the wontons that I still make for them. They are getting pretty good at making them too.

  • Grace says:

    I remember going with my family in the 70s to Griswold’s in Claremont, I was a kid, not sure if it was Swedish, but good.

  • John Hurley says:

    Drove by the one in Culver City many times. Went in once about 1984. I cannot remember how the food was.

  • Ari Hansson says:

    Lola: As a Swede, it surprised me that some people in other countries actually go to IKEA to eat in the restaurant. To Swedes, it’s just a place to sit down and get something to eat after you’ve spent hours shopping furniture. And if the meatballs at the international stores are anything like they are at the Swedish IKEA, they’re just mass produced frozen meatballs, kind of like the ones you buy at Swedish supermarkets, and the same that are usually served in public Swedish schools (at least when I went to school in the 80’s).

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

    Yo Lola of 3/22/13
    Yes! Yes finally found someone re Konditori!!! But my memory places it in Westwood, given we Trojans had to keep that fact to ourselves. Alas, all I remember were ostentatious desserts and coffee on sleek white china in a rather narrow setting.
    My Squeeze, who dared sit side saddle in a tight skirt on my Vespa when, let us say, we went to see e.g. ‘Carry on Nurse’ to giggle about the daffodil at one of the nouveau art theaters in the area, had a staunch Danish Dad who fortunately would treat us to Scandia’s as well. Lifting a virtual glass of Aquavit to you…Skol! Salud! Na Zdrowie! Slainte!

  • Sherry says:

    I remember this restaurant very well especially some of the non-Swedish food offerings including red J-ELLO and white bread with pats of butter. What I really liked was the colorful shield decor on the wall. Plus, there was a sliding glass door leading to a patio. The patio had astroturf and a waterfall outside. It was all very exciting for a little kid such as myself.

  • T. Scalese says:

    We used to go here all the time. My daughter was born on November 15, 1971. We went here for thanksgiving dinner a week or so after her birth because my wife didn’t feel like cooking a big dinner. We put my baby daughter in the middle of the table in her baby carrier, so this was her very first experience in a restaurant. Sorry its gone…

  • HITITLONG says:

    We could find out their buffet selection on any particular day by looking in the window at their buffet table. A friend and I would only eat there if they were including egg rolls. There was a pretty good roasted chicken and chow mien, but that was about it.

  • Steve says:

    Lola, I wish there were such places still as well. I never went to the BH place you mention (out of league) but I used to go to one on La Cienega which was near where I used to work in the early 70’s. Don’t remember the hot foods much, but I liked all the marinated salads and for dessert, crepes with lingon berry preserves. Yumm… it’s all franchise garbage.

  • Lola says:

    Does anyone else remember Konditori Scandinavia? In the 1950-60s it was in Beverly Hills, between SM Blvd and Wilshire – on Camden – I think. This was the best place for lunch. Real scandinavian. open-face sandwiches. I had been to Denmark and had similar fare there – and this compared favorably with the genuine article. Everything tasted amazing and was delicately prepared and served… fit for a high tea. Simply delicious.

    I wish there were such places here now. Today every place seems to be part of a chain… and people think that the meatballs at IKEA are “to die for”. Hmmmff!

  • Steve says:

    In the 60’s/early 70’s, it was an actual swedish smorgasbord. I remember when it got taken over by Asians in the early 70’s, they re-painted the Viking picture, making it look more hostile….

  • Adam Gold says:

    I remember the location on Pico at Bundy and I used to go there all the time when in college, in the late 70s/early 80s. At that time it was indeed mostly Chinese steam table food but it was actually quite good. They had a great lo mein and some exquisite roasted chicken that was always flavorful and moist and juicy. And of course cheap. A buddy and I used to go two or three times a week when we were at UCLA.

    I’m guessing the last time I ate there was in 1982 or 3.

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